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Price, Dennis (1915-1973)


Main image of Price, Dennis (1915-1973)

Radley- and Oxford-educated, from a military background, Dennis Price (born Dennistoun Rose-Price in Twyford) made his stage debut in 1937, was in the Royal Artillery in World War II (1940-42), and starred in many films without ever, paradoxically, being a star.

He was introduced to films in A Canterbury Tale (d. Powell & Pressburger, 1944), as the sensitive young soldier, former cinema organist who realises an ambition to play in the Cathedral. Mercilessly used by Gainsborough in one unsuitable role after another (hopeless at costume heroes, better as villains such as Sir Francis in Caravan, d. Arthur Crabtree, 1946), he had his one great role at Ealing.

This was as the lynch-pin of the plot of Kind Hearts and Coronets (d. Robert Hamer, 1949), where the brilliance of his contribution to the passionate but coolly satirical com├ędie noire has often been overshadowed by praise for Alec Guinness's octet of roles. Price's elegance, wit and sense of just-contained rage inform one of the most fully achieved roles in British film.

He was a hopeless Bad Lord Byron (d. David MacDonald, 1949), though it is hard to know who might have played that script; looked and - thanks to Ivor Novello - sounded ridiculous in The Dancing Years (d. Harold French, 1950) and settled into smoking-jacket roles from the early 1950s, though Dear Murderer (d. Arthur Crabtree, 1947) had surely indicated that this was how it would be.

He parodies himself as a vain film star in Lady Godiva Rides Again (d. Frank Launder, 1951), has a good snooty bit in The Intruder (d. Guy Hamilton, 1953), as a snobbish and cowardly officer, is enjoyably snooty and corrupt as Bertram Tracepurcel in Private's Progress (d. John Boulting, 1956) and I'm All Right Jack (d. John Boulting, 1959), has some telling moments as an upper-class gay in Victim (d. Basil Dearden, 1961), and was the quickly disposed of drama critic in Theatre of Blood (d. Douglas Hickox, 1973).

He soldiered on to the end, totting up over 100 credits, sometimes seeming to lift a weary eyebrow at the rubbish he found himself mired in, returned occasionally to the stage, and found a niche on TV as Jeeves in The World of Wooster (1965-68).

Brian McFarlane, Encyclopaedia of British Cinema

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Thumbnail image of Canterbury Tale, A (1944)Canterbury Tale, A (1944)

Weird and fascinating tale of modern-day pilgrims in WWII

Thumbnail image of Caravan (1946)Caravan (1946)

Flaming passions, treacherous gypsies and Stewart Granger

Thumbnail image of Good-Time Girl (1948)Good-Time Girl (1948)

Gainsborough melodrama about a girl's descent into ruin

Thumbnail image of I'm All Right Jack (1959)I'm All Right Jack (1959)

Peter Sellers is a militant trade unionist in this peerless workplace satire

Thumbnail image of Jassy (1947)Jassy (1947)

Technicolor melodrama about a gypsy girl with second sight

Thumbnail image of Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949)Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949)

Deliciously dark comedy, featuring no fewer than nine Alec Guinnesses

Thumbnail image of Magic Bow, The (1946)Magic Bow, The (1946)

Stewart Granger (and Yehudi Menuhin) as the violinist Paganini

Thumbnail image of Magic Box, The (1951)Magic Box, The (1951)

Star-studded biopic of British film pioneer William Friese-Greene

Thumbnail image of Oh... Rosalinda!! (1955)Oh... Rosalinda!! (1955)

Powell & Pressburger musical comedy based on 'Die Fledermaus'

Thumbnail image of Rebel, The (1960)Rebel, The (1960)

Tony Hancock's big-screen debut stars him as a talentless but ambitious artist

Thumbnail image of School for Scoundrels (1959)School for Scoundrels (1959)

Alastair Sim teaches Ian Carmichael how to be a cad like Terry-Thomas.

Thumbnail image of Song of Paris (1952)Song of Paris (1952)

Comedy about a French cabaret star falling for a passing Englishman

Thumbnail image of V.I.P.s, The (1963)V.I.P.s, The (1963)

Assorted celebrities are stranded in an airport when fog hits the runway

Thumbnail image of Victim (1961)Victim (1961)

Dirk Bogarde stars in the first serious British film about homosexuality

Thumbnail image of World of Wooster, The (1965-67)World of Wooster, The (1965-67)

Ian Carmichael and Dennis Price give P.G.Wodehouse the sitcom treatment

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