Henry Daniell in The Four Skulls of Jonathan Drake (1959)
Charles Henry Daniel
5 March 1894
|Died||31 October 1963 (aged 69)|
Santa Monica, California, U.S.
|Burial place||Woodlawn Memorial Cemetery, Santa Monica|
|Years active||1913-1963 (stage)|
Charles Henry Daniell (5 March 1894 - 31 October 1963) was an English actor who had a long career on stage as well as in films. He is perhaps best known for his villainous roles in films like The Great Dictator, The Philadelphia Story and The Sea Hawk. Daniell was given few opportunities to play a 'good guy', including a supporting part as Franz Liszt in the biographical film Song of Love (1947). His name is sometimes spelled "Daniel".
He made his first appearance on the stage in the provinces in 1913, and on the London stage at the Globe Theatre on 10 March 1914, walking on in the revival of Edward Knoblock's Kismet. He followed it with Monna Vanna and The Sphinx.
In 1914 he joined the 2nd Battalion of the Norfolk Regiment during World War I, but was invalided out the following year after being severely wounded in combat. Thereafter he appeared at the New Theatre in October 1915 as Police Officer Clancy in Stop Thief!, and notably, from May 1916, at the Theatre Royal, Haymarket.
In April 1921, Daniell appeared at the Empire Theatre in New York City, as Prince Charles of Vaucluse in Clair de Lune, and subsequently toured for the next three years, reappearing in London at the Garrick Theatre in August 1925 as Jack Race in Cobra.
Daniell returned to Broadway in The Woman on the Jury (1923) and The Second Mrs. Tanqueray (1924).
He again went to New York for the first six months of 1929, appearing at the Morosco Theatre in January as Lord Ivor Cream in Serena Blandish, returning in July to London where he played John Carlton in Secrets at the Comedy Theatre.
He again toured America in 1930-31, this time appearing on the Pacific Coast at Los Angeles as well as New York once more. He returned to London for another packed programme of stage performances, which he continued in Britain and the United States while also beginning his film career in 1929 with The Awful Truth, with leading lady Ina Claire.
MGM used him in The Unguarded Hour (1936), Camille (1936) with Greta Garbo (as the sleazy Baron de Varville), Under Cover of Night (1936), The Thirteenth Chair (1937), The Firefly (1937), and Madame X (1937).
He followed it with We Are Not Alone (1939), All This, and Heaven Too (1940), and The Sea Hawk (1940). In the latter, directed by Curtiz, he played the treacherous Lord Wolfingham (no relation to Francis Walsingham), fighting Errol Flynn in what is often considered one of the most spectacular sword fighting duels ever filmed. When Michael Curtiz cast him in this film, Henry Daniell initially refused because he could not fence. Curtiz accomplished the climactic duel through the use of shadows and over-shoulder shots, with a double fencing Flynn with ingenious inter-cutting of their faces.
Charlie Chaplin borrowed him for a part in The Great Dictator (1940) (playing Garbitsch, to sound like "garbage", a parody of Joseph Goebbels), then he went back to MGM for The Philadelphia Story (1940), and A Woman's Face (1940).
Daniell played a major character in the Basil Rathbone-Nigel Bruce Sherlock Holmes film Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror (1943) at Universal. At that studio he was in Nightmare (1942), and The Great Impersonation (1942).
At MGM he was in Reunion in France (1942) then he returned to Universal for another Sherlock Holmes film, Sherlock Holmes in Washington (1943). At Warners he was in Mission to Moscow (1943) playing Minister von Ribbentrop. He returned to Broadway for a revival of Hedda Gabler (1942).
On Broadway he was in Murder Without Crime (1943) and Lovers and Friends (1943-44) with Katherine Cornell.
Daniell did some more swashbucklers, The Secret of St. Ives (1949) and Buccaneer's Girl (1950), and begin appearing on television shows such as Repertory Theatre, Studio One in Hollywood, Armstrong Circle Theatre, and Lights Out. He continued to appear on stage in The Cocktail Party (1951), Remains to Be Seen (1952) and My 3 Angels (1953-54).
Daniell appeared in some big screen epics such as The Egyptian (1954) (directed by Curtiz), The Prodigal (1955) and Diane (1956), but was increasingly in television: Lux Video Theatre, Jane Wyman Presents The Fireside Theatre, TV Reader's Digest, Producers' Showcase (an adaptation of The Barretts of Wimpole Street), and Telephone Time.
He had a rare contemporary part in The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit (1956) and was in Lust for Life (1956). In 1957 he played the instructing solicitor to Charles Laughton's leading counsel barrister in Witness for the Prosecution (1957).
Daniell claimed one of his favourite roles was as Tony Curtis's supervisor in the Blake Edwards film Mister Cory (1957) at a time when his career was clearly slowing down, but he spoke some of the best and most memorable lines in the movie, "A gentleman never grabs. Manners, Mister Cory. I find them a prerequisite in any circumstance."
Daniell was also in Studio 57, Schlitz Playhouse, Matinee Theatre, Kraft Theatre, Alcoa Theatre, Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse, Playhouse 90, The Californians, Lux Playhouse, Maverick, Riverboat, and Startime (an adaptation of My Three Angels). He continued to be in demand for features such as The Sun Also Rises (1957), Les Girls (1957), The Story of Mankind (1957) (AS Pierre Cauchon), From the Earth to the Moon (1958), and The Four Skulls of Jonathan Drake (1959).
He could also be seen in the films Madison Avenue (1961), Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea (1961), The Comancheros (1961), The Notorious Landlady (1962), Five Weeks in a Balloon (1962), The Chapman Report (1962) and Mutiny on the Bounty (1962).
His last role was a small uncredited appearance as the British Ambassador in the 1964 film My Fair Lady directed by his old friend George Cukor. The scene in which he appears takes place at the embassy ball. He is seen as Eliza arrives and when introduced to her shakes her hand and says "Miss Doolittle". Later, Daniell presents Eliza to the Queen of Transylvania with the one line, "Miss Doolittle, ma'am." In the commentary on the DVD, at the moment he appears on-screen in the role, it is mentioned that the day he shot the scene was "his last day on earth", as he died from a heart attack that very evening on the set of My Fair Lady on 31 October 1963 in Santa Monica, California.
Daniell married Ann Knox and, in the years following World War II, lived in Los Angeles, California. He and Ann were involved in a Hollywood sex scandal in the late 1930s, as reported by visiting author P. G. Wodehouse, who wrote to his stepdaughter Leonora about the couple:
Apparently they go down to Los Angeles and either (a) indulge in or (b) witness orgies - probably both ... there's something pleasantly domestic about a husband and wife sitting side by side with their eyes glued to peepholes, watching the baser elements whoop it up. And what I want to know is - where are these orgies? I feel I've been missing something.
An obituary distributed by United Press International and datelined Hollywood reported, "Daniell was stricken yesterday from Halloween day at his home in nearby Santa Monica a few hours before he was due to report on the set of the film version of My Fair Lady at Warner Bros. studio." He died of a myocardial infarction.