Henry Daniell

Active - 1929 - 1964  |   Born - Mar 5, 1894   |   Died - Oct 31, 1963   |   Genres - Drama, Adventure, Romance, Mystery, Comedy

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Biography by Hal Erickson

With his haughty demeanor and near-satanic features, British actor Henry Daniell was the perfect screen "gentleman villain" in such major films of the 1930s and 1940s as Camille (1936) and The Great Dictator (1940). An actor since the age of 18, Daniell worked in London until coming to America in an Ethel Barrymore play. He co-starred with Ruth Gordon in the 1929 Broadway production Serena Blandish, in which he won critical plaudits in the role of Lord Iver Cream. Making his movie debut in Jealousy (1929)--which co-starred another stage legend, Jeanne Eagels--Daniell stayed in Hollywood for the remainder of his career, most often playing cold-blooded aristocrats in period costume. He was less at home in action roles; he flat-out refused to participate in the climactic dueling scene in The Sea Hawk (1940), compelling star Errol Flynn to cross swords with a none too convincing stunt double. Daniell became something of a regular in the Basil Rathbone-Nigel Bruce Sherlock Holmes films made at Universal in the 1940s--he was in three entries, playing Professor Moriarty in The Woman in Green (1945). Though seldom in pure horror films, Daniell nonetheless excelled in the leading role of The Body Snatcher (1945). When the sort of larger-than-life film fare in which Daniell specialized began disappearing in the 1950s, the actor nonetheless continued to prosper in both films (Man in the Grey Flannel Suit [1956], Witness for the Prosecution [1957]) and television (Thriller, The Hour of St. Francis, and many other programs). While portraying Prince Gregor of Transylvania in My Fair Lady (1964), under the direction of his old friend George Cukor, Daniell died suddenly; his few completed scenes remained in the film, though his name was removed from the cast credits.

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