Denholm Elliott CBE

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It's quite difficult to categorise Denholm Elliott except to say that he was a "scene stealer." He could play alcoholics, professors, clerics, soldiers, butlers and just about everything else. Denholm was born in London on May 31, 1922, educated at Malvern College, and like many of his contemporaries, studied at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts but dropped out. He joined the Royal Air Force during World War II but his plane was shot down and he was captured. He was then imprisoned in Stalag 8B POW camp in Silesia for three years where he organised a theatrical group. After the War he immediately joined a stock theatre company and was discovered by Laurence Olivier which then led onto to a distinguished stage and film career.


A much loved character actor he performed in over 100 films during the course of his long career. He specialised in playing pleasant but ineffectual types during the 1950s, switching to dignified and slightly stuffy characters as he grew grayer. In 1964, he made a major impression on international audiences by playing the tattered gentleman who teaches Alan Bates the tricks of social and financial climbing in' Nothing but the Best' eventually to be strangled by Bates with his old school tie. With tight lips and taciturn glances, Elliott was the official who closed down Elliott Gould's burlesque house in The Night They Raided Minsky's (1968).

During the 1970's he played in a range of TV roles and some films including 'To the devil a daughter' with Christopher Lee in 1976 and Zulu Dawn in 1979. But it was to the 80's that Denholm would find his stride in a whole range of roles.


The decade would start well for him as Malcolm Brody in the Indiana Jones trilogy. He would play the bumbling english archeologist another three times with Harrison Ford and later Sean Connery. Elliott (in not too much of a departure from Brody) portrayed Dan Aykroyds butler in 'Trading Places' (1983). This film won him his first British Academy Award (he would go on to win another two tin quick succession).


In 1984 he was unforgettably waspish as the dying social lion who dictates his own death notice in 'The Razor's Edge' (the role played by Clifton Webb in the 1946 version). As good material kept coming his way he took another BAFTA, this time coming (in the same year) through the vehicle of Malcolm Mowbrays 'A Private Function' where he played a self centred cynic in perhaps the finest acting amongst a talented group of peers. The next year he would win another BAFTA for his excellent portrayal of the journalist Vernon Bayliss in 'Defence of the Realm' (1985).

In 1986, he played one of his most endearing roles, that of the free-thinking Mr. Emerson in 'A Room with a View' - this would earn him an Oscar nomination.




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