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.
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).
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.
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).
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.