James Booth

James Booth (born David Geeves); (19 December 1927 – 11 August 2005) was an English film, stage and television actor and screenwriter. Though considered handsome enough to play leading roles, and versatile enough to play a wide variety of character parts, Booth naturally projected a shifty, wolfish, or unpredictable quality that led inevitably to villainous roles and comedy, usually with a cockney flavour. He is probably best known for his role as Private Henry Hook in Zulu.

James Booth
David Geeves

(1927-12-19)19 December 1927
Croydon, Surrey, England
Died11 August 2005(2005-08-11) (aged 77)
Other namesDavid Geeves-Booth
Years active1958–2005
Paula Delaney
(m. 1960)

Early life

He was born in Croydon, Surrey, on 19 December 1927, the son of a probation officer. He was educated at Southend Grammar School, which he left aged 17 to join the army. He rose to the rank of Captain. He spent several years working for an international trading company. However, his interest in acting soon took priority. He was trained at RADA and he made his first professional appearance as a member of the Old Vic company, before joining Joan Littlewood's Theatre Workshop at the Theatre Royal, Stratford East in 1958. The Workshop's musical Fings Ain't Wot They Used T'Be became a hit and Booth, who played its most pungent character, looked poised for stardom.[1] Producer Irving Allen signed Booth to an exclusive contract with Warwick Films.


The early 1960s represented the most active period of Booth's film career, with Zulu being the film for which he is best remembered. Joseph E. Levine put him under contract.

Though many observers expected Booth to become a major star, his acting career stalled and nearly stopped. In interviews, Booth was forthcoming about the reasons for his professional difficulties. These included his appearance in the flop stage musical Twang! in 1965, the flop film The Secret of My Success opposite such popular actresses as Honor Blackman and Shirley Jones, his alcoholism, his unaggressive approach to selling himself, his lack of connections and his own failure to work hard because everything came so easily to him at first. Booth also turned down the lead role of Alfie. By 1974 he was bankrupt, heavily in debt and was forced to return to the stage.

When no one would offer Booth an acting job, he tried his hand at screenwriting and found opportunities in Hollywood.[2] From the mid-1970s to sometime in the 1990s, Booth lived in southern California and worked primarily as a screenwriter, making occasional film or TV appearances, including a cameo appearance in the second series of Twin Peaks.[3] He played a pornography baron living in enforced exile in Spain in series 2 of Auf Wiedersehen, Pet in 1986.[4]

In later life Booth moved back to Britain. He never retired from performing.

Personal life

He married Paula Delaney in 1960 and they had two sons and two daughters and lived in Hadleigh, Essex[5] where he died on 11 August 2005 aged 77.[6] His last film - Keeping Mum - was dedicated to his memory.



Year Title Role Notes
1956 The Narrowing Circle Bit Role Uncredited
1957 The Girl in the Picture Office boy Credited as David Greever
1960 Jazz Boat Spider Kelly
Let's Get Married Photographer
The Trials of Oscar Wilde Alfred Wood
In the Nick Spider Kelly
1961 The Hellions Jubal
In the Doghouse Bob Skeffington
1963 Sparrows Can't Sing Charlie Gooding
1964 Zulu Private Henry Hook VC
French Dressing Jim
1965 Ninety Degrees in the Shade Vorell
The Secret of My Success Arthur Tate
1967 Robbery Inspector George Langdon
1968 The Bliss of Mrs. Blossom Ambrose Tuttle
1969 Fräulein Doktor Meyer
1970 Adam's Woman Dyson
Darker than Amber Burk
Macho Callahan Harry Wheeler
The Man Who Had Power Over Women Val Pringle
1971 Revenge Jim Radford
1972 Rentadick Simon Hamilton
1973 That'll Be The Day Mr MacLaine
Penny Gold Matthews
1974 Percy's Progress Jeffcott
1975 Brannigan Charlie the Handle
1976 I'm Not Feeling Myself Tonight S.J. Nutbrown
1977 Airport '77 Ralph Crawford
1978 Evening in Byzantium Jack Conrad
1980 Caboblanco John Baker
The Jazz Singer Paul Rossini
1981 Zorro, The Gay Blade Valasquez
1985 Pray for Death Willie Limehouse
1986 Bad Guys Lord Percy
Avenging Force Admiral Brown (also co-wrote)
1987 The Retaliator Dr Brock aka Programmed to Kill
1988 Deep Space Dr Forsyth
1990 American Ninja 4: The Annihilation Mulgrew
1994 Inner Sanctum II Detective Hooper
2001 The Breed Fleming
2004 The Pool Patrick
2005 Keeping Mum Mr Brown (final film role)


Year Title Role Notes
1958-59 The Adventures of William Tell Various 3 episodes
1964 First Night Newton Episode: Stray Cats and Empty Bottles
1971 Shirley's World Edmund Remberg Episode: A Mother's Touch
1972 Bonanza Reverend Episode: "Second Sight"
1975 The Sweeney Vic Labbett Episode: Poppy
1978 Wheels Sir Phillip Sturdevant Miniseries
1982 The Fall Guy Ian Graham Episode: Child's Play
1985-93 Minder Godfrey and Toby 'Jug' Johnson 2 episodes: Give Us This Daley's Bread and Gone with the Winchester
1986 Auf Wiedersehen, Pet Kenny Ames 8 episodes
1990-91 Twin Peaks Ernie Niles 5 episodes
1991 Lovejoy Mordechai Frobel 1 episode
2000 The Bill Freddy Walker Episode: Crime and Punishment


Year Title Role Notes
1956-57 Richard III Old Vic, London
1958 The Hostage IRA officer Joan Littlewood's Theatre Workshop
A Christmas Carol Bob Cratchit For the Theatre Workshop
1959 Fings Ain't Wot They Used T'Be Tosher Theatre Royal, Stratford
The Hostage IRA officer Wyndham's Theatre
1961-62 The Fire Raisers Royal Court Theatre
1962 The Caretaker Mick
The Comedy of Errors RSC, Stratford-on-Avon
King Lear Edmund RSC, Stratford-on-Avon
1965 Twang! Robin Hood Shaftesbury
1973 The Entertainer Archie Rice [7]
1975-76 Travesties James Joyce RSC & Noel Coward Theatre, London & Ethel Barrymore Theatre, New York
1987-88 Peter Pan Mr Darling/Captain James Hook Tyne Theatre, Newcastle upon Tyne and Opera House[8]

Further reading

  • Hall, Sheldon. Zulu: With Some Guts Behind It. Tomahawk Press, 2005.
  • Noble, Peter. British Film and Television Yearbook: 1960/61. British and American Film Press, 1961.
  • Walker, John. The Once and Future Film: British Cinema in the Seventies and Eighties. London: Methuen, 1985.


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