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Dennis Price (23 June 1915 - 6 October 1973) was an English actor, remembered for his suave screen roles, particularly Louis Mazzini in Kind Hearts and Coronets, and for his portrayal of the omniscient valet Jeeves in 1960s television adaptations of P. G. Wodehouse's stories.

Early life

Price was born Dennistoun Franklyn John Rose-Price in Twyford in Berkshire, son of Brigadier-General Thomas Rose Caradoc Price and his wife Dorothy, née Verey. He attended Copthorne Prep Schoolmarker, Radley Collegemarker and Worcester College, Oxfordmarker. He studied acting at the Embassy Theatre School of Acting.


Price made his first appearance on stage at the Croydonmarker Repertory Theatre in June 1937, followed by a London debut at the Queen's Theatremarker on 6 September 1937 in Richard II. He served in the Royal Artillery from March 1940 to June 1942 but quickly returned to acting after discharge, appearing with Noël Coward in This Happy Breed and Present Laughter, and later as Charles Condomine in Blithe Spirit, which he later named in Who's Who in the Theatre as one of his two favourite parts along with the title role in André Obey's Noah. In the 1950s, Price appeared in London and New York in new plays and revivals of classics. In 1957 he made his debut in South Africa in lead roles in Separate Tables.

His first film role was A Canterbury Tale in 1944, and he went on to enjoy a chequered film career, the high point of which was his performance as the suave murderer Louis Mazzini in Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949). Other films included Tunes of Glory and The Amorous Prawn.

As a broadcaster, Price was the original "No. 1" in charge of the crew of HMS Troutbridge in the first series of the long-running radio comedy series The Navy Lark in 1959, but unable to continue the role in the second series because of other work commitments, he was replaced by Stephen Murray. In 1965, Price became popular with television audiences for his performance, described by The Times as "an outstanding success" as Jeeves opposite Ian Carmichael as Bertie Wooster in The World of Wooster based on the novels and short stories of P. G. Wodehouse.

Price later appeared in a series of 'B movie' horror films such as Horror Hospital, Twins of Evil and Theatre of Blood. Although some of these films have acquired a cult following, they are far from the more intellectual roles with which he was originally associated. However, one of his last film appearances was in a starrily cast 1972 version of Alice in Wonderland with Ralph Richardson, Robert Helpmann, Peter Sellers and Dudley Moore, among others.

Personal life

Price was married to the actress Joan Schofield from 1939 to 1950. They had two daughters. He struggled to lead a conventional life during a period in British history when homosexuality was still a criminal offence. In April 1954 he tried to commit suicide by attempting to gas himself in a London guest house. Public sympathy led to a resurgence in his popularity and the offer of film roles. However, his private life, which included heavy gambling and an increasing reliance upon alcohol, began to affect his health, looks and career. Price's private anguish may have led to his role in the film Victim (1961), controversial at the time, which portrayed the dilemma faced by a group of gay men who were being blackmailed for their sexuality.

In 1967, Price was declared bankrupt and moved to the tax haven island of Sarkmarker. This coincided with an escalation in his alcoholism. He died of heart failure resulting from a hip fracture in Guernseymarker at age 58 in 1973. He is buried on Sark.


Further reading

  • Gaye, Freda (ed). Who's Who in the Theatre, Fourteenth edition. Pitman Publishing, London, 1967


  1. The Times, 25 October 1949, p. 1
  2. "Mr Dennis Price - An actor of style", The Times, 8 October 1973, p. 19
  3. Gaye, p. 1076
  4. Gaye, p. 1076
  5. "Alice in Studioland", The Guardian, 10 June 1972, p. 8
  6. The Guardian, 8 October 1973, p. 6
  7. The Manchester Guardian, 20 April 1954, p. 12

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