Nigel Davenport



Nigel Davenport

Nigel Davenport

Davenport as Peter with Angela Lansbury as Helen in A Taste of Honey on Broadway, 1960.
Born Arthur Nigel Davenport
(1928-05-23)23 May 1928
Great Shelford, Cambridgeshire, England, UK
Died 25 October 2013(2013-10-25) (aged 85)
Gloucester, Gloucestershire, England, UK
Years active 1953-2003
Spouse(s) Helena White
(m. 1951; div. 1960)

Maria Aitken
(m. 1972; div. 1981)
Children 3, including Jack Davenport

Arthur Nigel Davenport (23 May 1928 – 25 October 2013) was an English stage, television and film actor, best known as the Duke of Norfolk and Lord Birkenhead in the Academy Award-winning films A Man for All Seasons and Chariots of Fire, respectively.

Early life and education

Davenport was born in Great Shelford, Cambridgeshire, to Katherine Lucy (née Meiklejohn) and Arthur Henry Davenport. His father was a bursar at Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge. He grew up in an academic family and was educated at St Peter's School, Seaford, Cheltenham College and Trinity College, Oxford. Originally he chose to study Philosophy, Politics and Economics but switched to English on the advice of one of his tutors.


Davenport first appeared on stage at the Savoy Theatre and then with the Shakespeare Memorial Company, before joining the English Stage Company, one of its earliest members, at the Royal Court Theatre in 1956. He began appearing in British film and television productions in supporting roles, including a walk-on in Tony Richardson's film, Look Back in Anger (1959). Subsequent roles included a theatre manager opposite Laurence Olivier in the film version of The Entertainer and a policeman in Michael Powell's Peeping Tom (both 1960).

In the 1962 last episode of the first season of the TV seriesThe Saint tilted "The Charitable Countess" with Roger Moore as Simon Templar and Patricia Donahue as Countess Rovagna, Davenport played a supporting role as Countess's confidant Aldo Petri.

He made an impression as Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk in A Man for All Seasons (1966), costarred with Michael Caine in the war movie Play Dirty, and had a major role as Lord Bothwell in Mary, Queen of Scots. In 1972, he appeared as George Adamson, opposite Susan Hampshire in Living Free, the sequel to Born Free.

During the production of Stanley Kubrick's 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey, Davenport read the lines of HAL 9000 off-camera during the computer's dialogues with actors Keir Dullea and Gary Lockwood. Canadian actor Douglas Rain was ultimately chosen for the role of HAL's voice. Davenport took the leading role in the off-beat Phase IV (1974), which failed to find an audience. In 1979 he portrayed King George III in Prince Regent.

In February 1997, Davenport was the subject of This Is Your Life when he was surprised by Michael Aspel at David Nicholson's stables near Cheltenham.

He was president of Equity from 1986 to 1992.

Personal life

Davenport was married twice, first to Helena Margaret White whom he met while he was studying at Oxford University. They married in 1951 and had a daughter, Laura and a son, Hugo. His second wife was actress Maria Aitken with whom he had a second son, Jack, also an actor, best known for co-starring in Pirates of the Caribbean. According to Jerry Bruckheimer, producer of the Pirates of the Caribbean films, Jack was cast as the James Norrington character, partly because of Nigel's involvement in A High Wind in Jamaica.



Year Title Role Ref.
1959 Look Back in Anger 1st Commercial Traveller
1960 Peeping Tom Det. Sgt. Miller
The Entertainer Theatre Manager
1962 Mix Me a Person Juke's Stepfather
1963 Ladies Who Do Mr Strang
1964 The Third Secret Lew Harding
1965 A High Wind in Jamaica Mr Thornton
Sands of the Kalahari Sturdevan
1966 A Man for All Seasons Duke of Norfolk
1968 Play Dirty Captain Cyril Leech
2001: A Space Odyssey HAL(replaced)
1969 The Virgin Soldiers Sergeant Driscoll
1970 No Blade of Grass John Custance
The Mind of Mr. Soames Dr Maitland
1971 Mary, Queen of Scots Lord Bothwell
1972 Living Free George Adamson
1973 Bram Stoker's Dracula Van Helsing
The Picture of Dorian Gray Sir Harry Wotton
1974 Phase IV Dr Ernest D. Hubbs
1975 The Regent's Wife
1976 Death of a Snowman Lt. Ben Deel
1977 The Island of Dr. Moreau Montgomery
Stand Up, Virgin Soldiers Sgt. Driscoll
1979 The London Connection / The Omega Connection Arthur Minton
1979 Zulu Dawn Colonel Hamilton-Brown
1980 Cry of the Innocent Gray Harrison Hunt
1981 Chariots of Fire Lord Birkenhead
Nighthawks Peter Hartman
1984 A Christmas Carol Silas Scrooge
Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes Major Jack Downing
1986 Caravaggio Giustiniani
Lord Mountbatten: The Last Viceroy Lord Ismay
1988 Without a Clue Lord Smithwick
1997 The Opium War


Year Title Role Notes ! Ref.
1957-1958 The Adventures of Robin Hood St Peter Marston, Claude the Seneschal, Barty and others 7 episodes
1966-68 The Avengers Lord Barnes / Robertson
1974 South Riding Robert Carne 11 episodes
1975 Oil Strike North Jim Fraser 13 episodes
1979 Prince Regent King George III 8 episodes, TV mini-series
1981 Masada Sen. Mucianus Part 1
A Midsummer Night's Dream Theseus
1982 Bird of Prey Charles Bridgnorth
1982-83 Don't Rock The Boat Jack Hoxton 12 episodes, TV mini-series
1985-1990 Howards' Way Sir Edward Frere 29 episodes
1991 Trainer James Brant 13 episodes
1993 Keeping Up Appearances ("The Commodore") The Commodore 1 episode
1994 Woof! Mr. Wellesby 1 episode
1996 The Treasure Seekers Lord Blackstock
2000 David Copperfield Dan Peggotty TV movie
Midsomer Murders William Smithers 1 episode

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