Nigel Davenport: actor's gaze made guys 'wilt', girls 'sigh'
Stage and screen stalwart dies at 85 after 50-year career playing 'rakish toffs and scowling villains'
VETERAN British actor Nigel Davenport, who has died at the age of 85, will be remembered for playing "dark, strong, rakish toffs, aggressive heroes and scowling villains", says the Daily Telegraph.
While younger movie fans may be more familiar with his son, Jack Davenport – who starred in the Pirates of the Caribbean films and recent ITV drama Breathless – Nigel deployed his "expressive gaze" during a 50-year career that encompassed plays, films and TV productions.
The Davenport gaze "could be even more striking in close-up", the Telegraph says. "Amiable or disturbing, it caused tough guys to wilt and pretty girls to sigh."
It was caused, in part, by a "gleaming" left eye that was the result of a childhood operation to correct a squint, The Guardian explains. "It only added to his raffish singularity, which made him ideal casting for hirsute, frequently moustachioed, villains as well as the large roster of high-ranking soldiers, aristocrats and monarchs."
Born into an upper-middle class family in Cambridgeshire, Davenport was educated at Trinity College, Oxford where he got a taste for acting as part of the drama society. His first professional job was as an understudy at the Savoy Theatre in a 1952 production of Noel Coward's Relative Values.
He appeared in more than a dozen plays as a founding member of the English Stage Company at the Royal Court, but became a household name as a film and TV actor. His movie credits include A Man for All Seasons and Chariots of Fire and he played a tycoon in the TV yachting drama Howards' Way.
While he was "never quite a star", says The Times, but "he was an unmistakable presence".
Davenport was twice married and divorced. He had two children with his first wife Helena White; Jack was the product of his second marriage to the actor and director Maria Aitken.
Words such as "imposing" and "heavyweight" were often applied to his acting, says the Guardian. But they do not do "sufficient justice to his lightness of touch and comic energy". ·