David Langton

David Muir Langton (born Basil Muir Langton-Dodds; 16 April 1912 – 25 April 1994) was a British actor who is best remembered for playing Richard Bellamy in the period drama Upstairs, Downstairs.

For the fictional television character, see David Langton (General Hospital)
David Langton
David Langton as Richard Bellamy
Basil Muir Langton-Dodds

(1912-04-16)16 April 1912
Died25 April 1994(1994-04-25) (aged 82)
Years active1955–1993
Spouse(s)Mona Rosemary Copeman (1940–1966) (divorced) (3 sons)
Claire Green (1975–1994) (his death)
ChildrenSimon Langton, Andrew Langdon, Robin Langdon

Early years

David Langton was born Basil Muir Langton-Dodds to a middle-class family in Motherwell, Lanarkshire in 1912. His father was a wine merchant and Langton's family moved to England when he was four years old. He attended a prep school in Bath, Somerset and left education at the age of 16. Langton's father had always encouraged him to go into acting and got him his first job touring with a small Shakespearean company.

At 19 years old, Langton left the theatre and went to live on Yell, a remote island in Shetland, and became a sheep farmer while attempting to become a writer. However, he later admitted this was a "disaster",[1] and when he went back to the mainland when his mother was ill, he realised he did not want to return. In 1938, Langton returned to working full-time in theatre. It was at this time that he changed his name to David Langton, as there was already an actor called Basil Langton, and his legal name was David Muir Langton.[2] However, in 1939 the war broke out and Langton soon enlisted. He first served in the Royal Artillery ending up a sergeant and was later commissioned in the Northumberland Hussars and ended up a major. Langton served in France, Germany and Belgium. He married his first wife, Rosemary, in 1940. When the war ended, they realised that the marriage had been a mistake, but stayed together for the sake of their three sons, Simon, Andrew and Robin. The eldest, Simon, a director, would later work with his father on the set of Upstairs, Downstairs. Langton and his first wife divorced in 1966.[3]

After the war

Within four days of leaving the Army following the end of the war, Langton was cast in a play called Fifty Fifty and in 1950, following some periods of unemployment, he got a part in Seagulls Over Sorrento.[3] Following the death of his father, Langton went missing and was discovered in New York City, where he was en route to see his brother Donald in Canada. He later explained that he needed a break, and soon returned to Seagulls Over Sorrento,[1] which finished its run in 1953. Following Seagulls Over Sorrento, he acted in many plays, including Agatha Christie's Rule of Three and The Devil's Disciple, where he met and formed a friendship with Tyrone Power.

Television fame

David Langton had started his television career in the 1950s and went on in the 1960s to appear in The Troubleshooters, Out of the Unknown, The Avengers, The Champions, Dr. Finlay's Casebook and Special Branch. He also appeared in films such as The Trials of Oscar Wilde (1960), A Hard Day's Night (1964) and The Liquidator (1965).

In 1968 director Douglas Camfield chose Langton to portray Colonel Lethbridge-Stewart in the Doctor Who serial "The Web of Fear", but Langton dropped out to perform in a TV play before production began, so Camfield gave the part to Nicholas Courtney, who had originally been cast in different role.[4] As played by Courtney, the character of Lethbridge-Stewart (better known as the Brigadier) returned to Doctor Who the next year and became one of its most recognisable supporting characters, appearing in Doctor Who irregularly until 1989 and making a final appearance in spin-off The Sarah Jane Adventures in 2008.

Langton achieved international fame in 1971 playing family patriarch Richard Bellamy in the popular historical serial drama Upstairs, Downstairs. He was given the role after a chance encounter with producer John Whitney at the Garrick Club in London.[1] During some of Upstairs, Downstairs's run, Langton actually lived in Eaton Place, the square in Belgravia where Upstairs, Downstairs was set and where exterior scenes were filmed.

Later years

Following the success of Upstairs, Downstairs, Langton appeared in the 1972 BBC Television adaption of Dorothy L. Sayers's Lord Peter Wimsey mystery Clouds of Witness, as the Duke of Denver, older brother to Lord Peter Wimsey, the 1976 film The Incredible Sarah, and Robert Altman's sci-fi film Quintet (1979) starring Paul Newman. In the 1980s, he appeared on television in The Spoils of War and Witness for the Prosecution (1982), and played Sir Charles Baskerville in the 1983 TV film of The Hound of the Baskervilles, Earl Mountbatten of Burma in Charles & Diana: A Royal Love Story (1982), and H.H. Asquith in Number 10. He played Victor Frankham in Hammer House of Mystery and Suspense (1984), and appeared in the film The Whistle Blower (1986), opposite Michael Caine. His final television appearances were in The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes (The Illustrious Client) and Absolutely in 1991, and The Good Guys in 1992. Langton had also continued to appear on stage, including appearances in Night and Day, Ross and Beyond Reasonable Doubt.

In May 1975, Langton married his second wife, Claire Green, the former wife of TV host Hughie Green. In 1994, he suffered a fatal heart attack and died in Stratford-upon-Avon.[5] The subsequent obituaries revealed that he was in fact 82, not 72 as was his "official age". The obituaries also paid tribute to a "popular and easy going man" who always "behaved like a gentleman".[1]


Year Title Role Notes
1937Alibi BreakerPeter Bradfield Under his real name Basil Langton
1955The Ship That Died of ShameMan in Coastal Forces Club BarUncredited
1957Seven Waves AwayJohn Hayden
1957Saint JoanCaptain of Warwick's Guard
1960The Trials of Oscar WildeFrankUncredited
1960The World of Suzie WongPolice InspectorUncredited
1964The Pumpkin Eater1st Man in BarUncredited
1964A Hard Day's NightActor in Dressing RoomUncredited
1965The LiquidatorStation Commander
1976The Incredible SarahDuc De Morny
1978L'Amour en questionSir Geoffrey
1982Witness for the ProsecutionMayhew
1983The Hound of the BaskervillesSir Charles Baskerville
1986The Whistle BlowerGovernment Minister


  1. "Inside UpDown – The Story of Upstairs, Downstairs". Kaleidoscope Publishing. 2005.
  2. "England & Wales, Death Index:1984–2005". Ancestry.co.uk. 2007.
  3. "The Best of Upstairs, Downstairs". TV Times. 1976.
  4. IMDb – David Langton – biography
  5. "David Langton, British Actor, Is Dead at 82". The New York Times. 30 April 1994.
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