Long-faced, emaciated-looking character actor with a thin mustache and an impeccable English accent, Anthony Dawson was typecast in a variety of villainous roles in the 1950s and 1960s.
He was born Anthony Douglas Gillon Dawson in Edinburgh, Scotland, to Ida Violet (Kittel) and Eric Francis Dawson. His father was Scottish and his mother was of German and English descent. Dawson made his greatest impact in the Alfred Hitchcock classic Dial M for Murder (1954). He was excellent as Lesgate, seedy ex-Cambridge classmate of would-be wife murderer Wendice (Ray Milland). In the scene where Wendice blackmails him to commit the killing (“There were times I felt you belonged to me”), he is nervous and visibly torn between fear and avarice. Dawson gave similarly sinister performances in the thriller Midnight Lace (1960), where he menaced hapless Doris Day, and the Terence Fisher-directed Hammer horror The Curse of the Werewolf (1961) as Count Siniestro. In another film by this director, the James Bond classic Dr. No (1962), Dawson played the geologist Prof. R.J.Dent, a henchman of the title character who attempts to assassinate the hero, then finds out to his cost what Bond’s “license to kill” really means.
Dawson was also the first screen incarnation of Bond villain Ernst Stavro Blofeld (in From Russia with Love (1963) and Thunderball (1965)), though the viewer only sees his hands stroking a white cat and hears the voice of Austrian actor Eric Pohlmann. A highly capable, immediately recognizable actor, Dawson deserved better roles than came his way after the mid-1960s. He eventually ended up playing small parts in minor Italian films and European co-productions, but should not be confused with the Italian horror director Antonio Margheriti who sometimes used the pseudonym ‘Anthomy M. Dawson’.
An interesting footnote to Dawson’s career are his unpublished memoirs, “Rambling Recollections”, in which he vividly recalls meeting Hitchcock after first arriving in Hollywood. This took place at a dinner party given by the director at Perino’s Restaurant in Los Angeles. Also present were ‘Dial M’ co-stars Grace Kelly and English actor John Williams. Dawson later escorted Kelly to her residence at Chateau Marmont, an apartment bloc on Sunset Strip. Dawson then intimated that an affair took place, which, however lasted just until Ray Milland arrived on the scene.
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