Denholm Mitchell Elliott was a distinguished British character actor, well known for his stage, film & television work. He specialized in playing slightly sleazy/slightly eccentric & flawed upper middle class English gentlemen. His career spanned nearly 40 years, becoming a well-known face both in UK & the USA.
Denholm Elliott was born in London & made his film debut in 1949. He went on to play a large range of parts in films as diverse as Alfie, Trading Places, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Brimstone & Treacle, Maurice, & my favorite film of all time- A Room with a View. He was nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Academy Award for his role as Mr.Emerson in my favorite film.
Although gay, Elliott was married 2 times (the first time to the British actress, Virginia McKenna) & starting in 1962, he had an open marriage to actress Susan Robinson, with whom he had 2 children.
Susan had long since become reconciled to her husband's boyfriends, & seldom felt jealous.On one occasion when he brought one of them, a young Moroccan, home to London; as a gesture of defiance she enjoyed an affair with a famous French actor while on vacation on Ibeza, & was reassured to find herself still attractive & desirable, & with no feeling of guilt. Her own sex life with her husband remained active. Susan Elliot:"Between us, he was always 100 percent masculine, both in bed & in taking decisions in our home life."
For his part, Denholm Elliott never inhibited Susan's own affairs ("as long as you don't fall in love & as long as you don't have anyone else's baby"), mainly because, as explained, it made him feel less guilty about his own indiscretions.
The assignations increased in number & frequency as the years passed until, as Susan noted in her biography- Denholm Elliott, Quest For Love, her husband's promiscuity became "almost a psychological disorder". Denholm Elliott was diagnosed with HIV in 1987, & died in 1992 of AIDS-related tuberculosis at his home on Ibiza, Spain. He was cremated. His widow set up a charity, the Denholm Elliott Project, in a hotel complex on Ibiza called Can Bufi, where people who are HIV positive could enjoy a free holiday.
Susan Elliott died in a fire at her home in London on April 12, 2007.
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