Denholm Elliott

Actor
One of the most accomplished character actors of the 20th century, Denholm Elliott was an award-winning performer who embodied the extraordinary lives of ordinary men in films ranging from "Nothing But the Best" (1964) ... Read more »
Born: 05/30/1922 in London, England, GB

Filmography

Actor (87)

Noises Off 1992 (Movie)

Selsdon Mowbray (Actor)

Bangkok Hilton 1990 - 1991 (TV Show)

Actor

Scoop 1990 - 1991 (TV Show)

Actor

Scorchers 1991 (Movie)

Howler (Actor)

Toy Soldiers 1991 (Movie)

Headmaster (Actor)

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade 1989 (Movie)

Marcus Brody (Actor)

Killing Dad 1989 (Movie)

Nathy Berg (Actor)

Return to the River Kwai 1989 (Movie)

Colonel Grayson (Actor)

Stealing Heaven 1989 (Movie)

Canon Fulbert (Actor)

Blade on the Feather 1988 (Movie)

(Actor)

The Bourne Identity 1987 - 1988 (TV Show)

Actor

Maurice 1987 (Movie)

Dr Barry (Actor)

September 1987 (Movie)

Howard (Actor)

A Room With A View 1986 (Movie)

Mr Emerson (Actor)

Bleak House 1985 - 1986 (TV Show)

Actor

Defence of the Realm 1986 (Movie)

Vernon Bayliss (Actor)

The Whoopee Boys 1986 (Movie)

Colonel Hugh Phelps (Actor)

Transmutations 1986 (Movie)

Dr Savary (Actor)

Camille 1984 - 1985 (TV Show)

Actor

The Happy Valley 1985 (Movie)

Sir Henry Broughton (Actor)

Past Caring 1984 (Movie)

Victor (Actor)

The Razor's Edge 1984 (Movie)

Elliott Templeton (Actor)

A Private Function 1983 (Movie)

Doctor Swaby (Actor)

Trading Places 1983 (Movie)

Coleman (Actor)

Marco Polo 1981 - 1982 (TV Show)

Actor

The Hound of the Baskervilles 1982 (Movie)

Dr Mortimer (Actor)

The Wicked Lady 1982 (Movie)

Sir Ralph Skelton (Actor)

Brimstone and Treacle 1981 (Movie)

Tom Bates (Actor)

Raiders of the Lost Ark 1981 (Movie)

Marcus Brody (Actor)

Sunday Lovers 1981 (Movie)

Parker (Actor)

The Missionary 1980 (Movie)

Bishop of London (Actor)

Bad Timing 1979 (Movie)

Stefan Vognic (Actor)

Cuba 1979 (Movie)

Skinner (Actor)

Rising Damp 1979 (Movie)

Seymour (Actor)

Saint Jack 1979 (Movie)

William Leigh (Actor)

Zulu Dawn 1979 (Movie)

Colonel Pulleine (Actor)

Game For Vultures 1978 (Movie)

Raglan Thistle (Actor)

It's Not the Size That Counts 1978 (Movie)

Emmanuel Whitebread (Actor)

Shooting the Chandelier 1977 - 1978 (TV Show)

Actor

Sweeney 2 1978 (Movie)

Jupp (Actor)

The Boys From Brazil 1978 (Movie)

Sidney Beynon (Actor)

Watership Down 1978 (Movie)

(Voice)

La Petite fille en velours bleu 1977 (Movie)

Mike (Actor)

The Hound of the Baskervilles 1977 (Movie)

Stapleton (Actor)

Robin and Marian 1976 (Movie)

Will Scarlett (Actor)

Voyage of the Damned 1976 (Movie)

Admiral Canaris--Head of German Counter-Intelligence (Actor)

Partners 1975 (Movie)

John Grey (Actor)

Russian Roulette 1975 (Movie)

Commander Petapiece (Actor)

To the Devil, a Daughter 1975 (Movie)

Henry Beddows (Actor)

The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz 1973 (Movie)

Friar (Actor)

A Doll's House 1972 (Movie)

Krogstad (Actor)

The Vault of Horror 1972 (Movie)

Diltant (Actor)

The Rise and Rise of Michael Rimmer 1970 (Movie)

Peter Niss (Actor)

Too Late the Hero 1970 (Movie)

Captain Hornsby (Actor)

Percy 1969 (Movie)

Emmanuel Whitbread (Actor)

The House That Dripped Blood 1969 (Movie)

Charles (Actor)

Here We Go 'Round the Mulberry Bush 1968 (Movie)

Mr Beauchamp (Actor)

The Night They Raided Minsky's 1968 (Movie)

Vance Fowler (Actor)

The Sea Gull 1968 (Movie)

Dorn (Actor)

Maroc 7 1966 (Movie)

Inspector Barrada (Actor)

Alfie 1965 (Movie)

Mr Smith (Actor)

King Rat 1965 (Movie)

Lieutenant Colonel Denholm Larkin (Actor)

The Spy With a Cold Nose 1965 (Movie)

Pond-Jones (Actor)

Nothing But the Best 1964 (Movie)

Charlie Prince (Actor)

The High Bright Sun 1964 (Movie)

Baker (Actor)

Station Six Sahara 1961 (Movie)

(Actor)

Scent of Mystery 1959 (Movie)

Oliver Larker (Actor)

A Tale of Two Cities 1957 - 1958 (TV Show)

Actor

The Lark 1956 - 1957 (TV Show)

Actor

The Man Who Loved Redheads 1955 (Movie)

Denis (Actor)

The Night My Number Came Up 1954 (Movie)

Flight Lieutenant McKenzie (Actor)

They Who Dare 1954 (Movie)

Sergeant Corcoran (Actor)

Lease of Life 1953 (Movie)

Martin Blake (Actor)

The Heart of the Matter 1953 (Movie)

Wilson (Actor)

A Murder of Quality (TV Show)

Actor

Codename: Kyril (TV Show)

Actor

Hotel du Lac (TV Show)

Actor

James Clavell's Noble House (TV Show)

Actor

Madame Sin (TV Show)

Actor

Marco Polo (TV Show)

Actor

One Against the Wind (TV Show)

Actor

The Cruel Sea (Movie)

Sub-Lt. Morell (Actor)

The Fear Is Spreading (TV Show)

Actor

The Invincible Mr. Disraeli (TV Show)

Actor

The Love She Sought (TV Show)

Actor

Biography

One of the most accomplished character actors of the 20th century, Denholm Elliott was an award-winning performer who embodied the extraordinary lives of ordinary men in films ranging from "Nothing But the Best" (1964) and "The Doll House" (1973) to "Raiders of the Lost Ark" (1981), "Trading Places" (1983) and "Room with a View" (1985), which earned him an Oscar nomination. Elliott's stock in trade was his enormous capacity to strike an emotional chord within his characters, which tended towards officious professionals or outsiders contending with past regrets. He rose to fame in the early 1960s as a wayward aristocrat in "Nothing but the Best" and soon established himself as a versatile character actor on television and in numerous films. Elliott reached his apex in the early 1980s with a string of high-profile hits including "Raiders," "Trading Places" and "Room" before he was diagnosed with the HIV virus in 1987. He would spend the remaining years of his life active in features and TV before his death in 1992, which brought to a close a remarkable and well-respected career.

Denholm Mitchell Elliott was born May 31, 1922 in London, England, the son of Myles and Nina Elliott. Educated at Malvern College, he began training at the Royal Academy of Art but dropped out shortly before World War II. While serving as a radio operator and gunner with the Royal Air Force, his plane was downed near Sylt, Germany. He would spend the next three years in a prisoner of war camp, where he passed the time by organizing an amateur theater group called the No Name Players. Shortly after being freed by Allied forces, he was discharged and returned to London, where he joined a stock theater company. His feature film debut came in 1949 with a supporting role in the comedy "Dear Mr. Prohack."

In 1950, Laurence Olivier chose him to play his son in a production of Christopher Fry's comedy "Venus Observed," which put his stage career into high gear. He was soon treading the boards in New York in "Ring Round the Moon" while making the rounds of American live television anthologies. Elliott returned to British cinema in 1952 as Ralph Richardson's craven son in David Lean's "Breaking the Sound Barrier," and settled into a prolific career in features and television. He enjoyed a brief if unremarkable tenure in leading roles, most notably in "The Cruel Sea" (1953) and "Pacific Destiny" (1956), but fared better in character roles, where he displayed an uncanny knack for imbuing even the smallest parts with subtle grades of emotional depth.

Elliott's best roles often involved a sense of world-weariness; his characters bore their lots in life with varying degrees of cynicism, aloofness or sadness, which he depicted in small but telling expressions or gestures. He first captured the attention of critics as the forgotten black sheep of an aristocratic family who took Alan Bates' sociopathic social climber under his wing, with tragic results in Clive Donner's "Nothing But the Best" (1964). He made his American feature debut as an embittered British POW in Bryan Forbes' "King Rat" (1965), and then gave a shocking turn as a back-alley abortionist in "Alfie" (1966). From that point on, Elliott was in demand as a character actor in all manner of features, from highbrow productions like Sidney Lumet's adaptation of Chekov's "The Sea Gull" (1968) and "The Doll House" (1973) as the scheming bank official determined to unseat Anthony Hopkins, to nonsense like "Percy" (1971), a sex comedy about a penis transplant, and Hammer Films' appallingly tasteless "To The Devil, A Daughter" (1976), with Elliott as the father of a young nun (Nastassja Kinski) chosen by Satanists to carry a demonic fetus. However, he could be counted upon to deliver professional, polished turns that frequently rose above the material.

After spending much of the 1970s on British television and in undistinguished features like "The Boys from Brazil" (1978) and "Zulu Dawn" (1979), Elliott experienced a career flourish that led to an Oscar nomination and three consecutive BAFTA awards. After enjoying a brief but notable turn as Indiana Jones' friend Marcus Brody in "Raiders of the Lost Ark" (1981) - his first bona fide blockbuster film - he earned his first BAFTA as Dan Aykroyd's acerbic butler in John Landis' breezy comedy "Trading Places" (1983). A second came the following year with "A Private Function" (1984), the Alan Bennett-penned comedy about social niceties gone to seed during World War II food rationing, with Elliott as a prickly small town doctor who persecuted meek chiropractor Michael Palin. This extraordinary streak continued the following year with an Oscar nomination for his turn as the free-thinking Mr. Emerson in the Merchant-Ivory production "A Room with a View" (1985) and a third BAFTA for the political thriller "Defence of the Realm" (1985), where Elliott's turn as a dissolute journalist was informed in part by his own real-life struggles with alcoholism. The quartet of honors solidified Elliott's status as one of the film industry's most respected actors, as well as its most notorious scene stealers, a notion his "Realm" co-star Gabriel Byrne underscored by stating that the actor's cliché of never working with children or animals should be amended to include Elliott on that list of upstaging forces.

But as Elliott's screen career enjoyed its finest hours, his personal life had descended into tragedy. Privately bisexual, his second marriage, to actress Susan Robinson, was an open one, and he indulged in numerous affairs with both men and women during the course of their 20-year marriage. But in 1987, he was diagnosed with the HIV virus. He would spend much of the next half-decade working at a frenetic pace on projects like "Maurice" (1987), his second collaboration with the Merchant-Ivory team, and "September" (1987), a rare non-comedic feature by Woody Allen, who cast Elliott as a lovelorn French teacher pining for Mia Farrow's troubled heroine. There was also a reprise of his "Raiders" character, though with a stronger comic streak, in "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" (1989), and scores of quality television appearances, including a 1987 adaptation of Dylan Thomas' "A Child's Christmas in Wales" (HTV), the Australian prison drama "Bangkok Hilton" (10 TV, 1989) with Nicole Kidman, and "A Murder of Quality" (Thames Television, 1991) as John Le Carre's master spy, George Smiley.

Elliott's final film appearance was largely unseen by audiences. Cast as a doddering, alcoholic stage veteran in Peter Bodgdanovich's adaptation of Michael Frayn's hit play "Noises Off" (1992), he was joined by an all-star cast, including Michael Caine, Carol Burnett and John Ritter, but the film failed to find viewership during its brief theatrical release in March of that year. By the fall of 1992, Elliott's health had deteriorated dramatically, and he was flown to Ibiza, where he had owned a bar in the late 1980s. On Oct. 6, 1992, he died of AIDS-related tuberculosis. Soon thereafter, Susan Robinson memorialized her husband by establishing Can Bufi, a hotel complex on the island where HIV-positive visitors could enjoy a free holiday.

By Paul Gaita

Relationships

Myles Layman Elliott

Father

Nina Elliott

Mother

Jennifer Elliott

Daughter
mother, Virginia McKenna

Mark Elliott

Son
mother, Virginia McKenna

Virginia McKenna Actor

Wife

Susan Robinson

Wife
Married 1962 until his death 1992

EDUCATION

Malvern College

Royal Academy of Dramatic Art

London , England 1939
studying when war broke out

Milestones

1992

Final feature film, "Noises Off"

1986

Received an Oscar nomination as Best Supporting Actor for "A Room With a View"

1951

Broadway debut, "The Green Bay Tree"

1949

Film debut, "Dear Mr. Prohack"

1946

London debut, "The Guinea Pig"

1944

Stage acting debut in "The Drunkard" in Amersham, Bucks., England

Joined RAF bomber command during WWII; was captured in action and held as POW in Germany (1942-45)

Bonus Trivia

.

Named Commander of the British Empire.

SIMILAR ARTICLES