Reginald Denny (actor)

Reginald Leigh Dugmore (20 November 1891 – 16 June 1967), better known as Reginald Denny, achieved success both as an English stage, film and television actor, and as an aviator and UAV pioneer. He was also once amateur boxing champion of Great Britain.[citation needed]

Reginald Denny
Reginald Denny in Stars of the Photoplay, 1924.jpg
Denny in 1924
Reginald Leigh Dugmore

(1891-11-20)20 November 1891
Richmond, Surrey, England
Died16 June 1967(1967-06-16) (aged 75)
Richmond, Surrey, England
OccupationActor, aviator, inventor
Years active1915–1966
Irene Haisman
(m. 1913; div. 1928)

Isabelle "Betsy Lee" Stiefel
(m. 1928)
Reginald Denny autograph.jpg

Acting careerEdit

Born as Reginald Leigh Dugmore on 20 November 1891 in Richmond, Surrey, England, he came from a theatrical family; his father was actor and opera singer W.H. Denny. In 1899, Master Reginald Denny began his stage career in A Royal Family and starred in several London productions from age seven to twelve. At sixteen, he ran away from a boarding school and trained as a pugilist with Sir Harry Preston at the National Sporting Club; he also appeared in several British stage productions touring the music halls of England of The Merry Widow. In 1911, he went to the United States to appear in Henry B. Harris's stage production of The Quaker Girl, then joined the Bandmann Opera Company as a baritone touring India and the Far East India where he performed for Krishna Raja Wadiyar IV.[citation needed]

Although he worked in "flickers" during 1911 and 1912, Reginald officially began his film career in 1915 with the World Film Company and made films both in the United States and Britain until the 1960s. Among the numerous stage productions in which he starred, Reginald appeared in John Barrymore's 1920 Broadway production of Richard III; the two actors became friends and starred in several films together including Sherlock Holmes (1922), Hamlet (1933), Romeo and Juliet (1936), and Paramount's Bulldog Drummond series (1937-1938).[citation needed]

Denny and his daughter in 1922

Denny was a well-known actor in silent films, and with the advent of talkies he became a character actor. He played the lead role in a number of his earlier films, generally as a comedic Englishman in such works as Private Lives (1931) and later had reasonably steady work as a supporting actor in dozens of films, including The Little Minister (1934) with Katharine Hepburn, Anna Karenina (1935) with Greta Garbo, Alfred Hitchcock's Rebecca (1940) and the Frank Sinatra crime caper film Assault on a Queen (1966). He made frequent appearances in television during the 1950s and 1960s. His last role was in Batman (1966) as Commodore Schmidlapp. In 2020, Kino Lorber released 4K restorations on DVD and Blu-ray of three of Denny's silent comedies: The Reckless Age, Skinner’s Dress Suit, and What Happened to Jones? in The Reginald Denny Collection.[1]

Aviation careerEdit

Denny, 1918

Denny served as an observer/gunner in the First World War in the new wartime Royal Air Force.[2]

In the 1920s he performed as a stunt pilot with the 13 Black Cats and loaned his WWI Sopwith Snipe biplane to Howard Hughes for use in Hell's Angels (1927). In the early 1930s, Denny became interested in free-flight model airplanes. In 1934, he and oil tycoon Max Whittier's son, Paul Whittier, formed Reginald Denny Industries and opened a model plane shop, which became a chain known as the Reginald Denny Hobby Shop, now California Hobby Distributors.

He designed his "Dennyplane" with its signature model engine "Dennymite," developed by engineer Walter Righter, in addition to the "Denny Jr." which child actors would enter in model plane competitions at Mines Field, which later became Los Angeles International Airport. In 1935, Denny began developing his remote controlled "radioplane" for military use. In 1939, he and his partners won the first military United States Army Air Corps contract for their radio-controlled target drone, the Radioplane OQ-2. In July 1940, they formed the Radioplane Company and manufactured nearly fifteen thousand drones for the US Army during the Second World War. The company was purchased by Northrop in 1952.[3][4]

Denny had a great deal in common with Robert Loraine, an older actor / Airman. They had been in a West End production together in 1902 in London,[5] they were both veterans of the RFC (and its successor, the Royal Air Force) and were both still flying and making films in Hollywood in the 1930s. It is possible that Denny's interest in radio controlled aircraft was influenced by his old RFC colleagues and the British unmanned aircraft developments.

Personal lifeEdit

Denny married actress Irene Hilda Haismann on 28 January 1913 in Calcutta, both were with the Bandmann Opera Company. They had one daughter but were divorced in 1928. Denny married actress Isabelle "Betsy Lee" Stiefel in 1928 and they had three children.


Denny died on 16 June 1967 at the age of 75, after suffering a stroke whilst visiting his sister in his home town of Richmond in England. His body was buried at Forest Lawn-Hollywood Hills Cemetery in Los Angeles, California.[6][7] His wife Isabelle survived him until 1996, living to age 89.

Partial filmographyEdit


  • Niobe (1915) as Cornelius Griffin
  • The Melting Pot (1915) as Undetermined Role (uncredited)
  • The Red Lantern (1919)
  • Bringing Up Betty (1919) as Tom Waring
  • The Oakdale Affair (1919) as Arthur Stockbridge
  • A Dark Lantern (1920) as Prince Anton
  • 39 East (1920) as Napoleon Gibbs Jr.
  • Paying the Piper (1921) as Keith Larne
  • The Price of Possession (1921) as Robert Dawnay
  • Experience (1921)
  • Disraeli (1921) as Charles, Viscount Deeford
  • Footlights (1921) as Brett Page
  • The Beggar Maid (1921, Short) as the Earl of Winston / King Cophetua
  • Tropical Love (1921) as the Drifter
  • The Iron Trail (1921) as Dan Appleton
  • Let's Go (1922, Short) as Kane Halliday / 'Kid' Roberts
  • Round Two (1922, Short) as Kane 'Kid Roberts' Halliday
  • Sherlock Holmes (1922) as Prince Alexis
  • Payment Through the Nose (1922, Short) as Kane Halliday / Kid Roberts
  • The Leather Pushers (1922) as Kane Halliday / Kid Roberts
  • A Fool and His Money (1922, Short) as Kane Halliday / Kid Roberts
  • The Taming of the Shrewd (1922, Short) as Kane Halliday / Kid Roberts
  • Whipsawed (1922, Short) as Kane Halliday / Kid Roberts
  • Never Let Go (1922, Short) as Campbell - the Mountie
  • The Jaws of Steel (1922, Short) as Cpl. Haldene, N.W.M.P.
  • Plain Grit (1922, Short)
  • The Kentucky Derby (1922) as Donald Gordon
  • Young King Cole (1922, Short) as Kane Halliday / Kid Roberts
  • He Raised Kane (1922) as Kane Halliday / Kid Roberts
  • The Chickasha Bone Crusher (1923, Short) as Kane Halliday / Kid Roberts
  • When Kane Met Abel (1923, Short) as Kane Halliday / Kid Roberts
  • Strike Father, Strike Son (1923, Short) as Kane Halliday / Kid Roberts
  • Joan of Newark (1923, Short) as Kane Halliday / Kid Roberts
  • The Abysmal Brute (1923) as Pat Glendon, Jr
  • The Wandering Two (1923, Short) as Kane Halliday / Kid Roberts
  • The Widower's Mite (1923, Short) as Kane Halliday / Kid Roberts
  • Don Coyote (1923, Short) as Kane Halliday / Kid Roberts
  • Something for Nothing (1923, Short) as Kane Halliday / Kid Roberts
  • Columbia, the Gem, and the Ocean (1923, Short) as Kane Halliday / Kid Roberts
  • Barnaby's Grudge (1923, Short) as Kane Halliday / Kid Roberts
  • The Thrill Chaser (1924) as Cameo appearance
  • Sporting Youth (1924) as Jimmy Wood
  • The Reckless Age (1924) as Dick Minot
  • The Fast Worker (1924) as Terry Brock
  • Oh Doctor! (1925) as Rufus Billings Jr.
  • I'll Show You the Town (1925) as Alec Dupree
  • Where Was I? (1925) as Thomas S. Berford
  • California Straight Ahead (1925) as Tom Hayden
  • What Happened to Jones (1926) as Tom Jones
  • Skinner's Dress Suit (1926) as Skinner
  • Rolling Home (1926) as Nat Alden
  • Take It from Me (1926) as Tom Eggett
  • The Cheerful Fraud (1926) as Sir Michael Fairlie
  • Fast and Furious (1927) as Tom Brown
  • Out All Night (1927) as John Graham
  • On Your Toes (1927) as Elliott Beresford
  • That's My Daddy (1927) as James 'Jimmy' Norton
  • Good Morning, Judge (1928) as Freddie Grey
  • The Night Bird (1928) as Kid Davis (his last silent film)



  1. ^ Reginald Denny Collection: The Reckless Age, Skinner's Dress Suit, What Happened to Jones?, retrieved 30 October 2020
  2. ^ Black Cats
  3. ^ Reginald Denny profile at (PDF) Archived 6 November 2005 at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ Parker, Dana T.: Building Victory: Aircraft Manufacturing in the Los Angeles Area in World War II, pp. 129-30, Cypress, California, 2013.
  5. ^ "The Dawn of the Drone" Steve Mills 2019 Casemate Publishers.
  6. ^ Resting Places
  7. ^ Pucci, Kimberly: Prince of Drones: The Reginald Denny Story, October 2019.

External linksEdit

  • Prince of Drones: The Reginald Denny Story by Kimberly Pucci (Bearmanor Media, 2019) [1]