James Saxon (actor)

James Saxon (12 June 1954 2 July 2003) was an English television and theatre character actor. He began his career in British television productions in the early 1980s, and as the decade progressed he became an in-demand charismatic support actor with the plump physique and expressive moon face that he developed in his thirties, noted for his acting range, from frenetic intensity and garrulousness through to refined genteel introspection. To the mid-1980s generation of British children he was known for his role as Roland Rat's inept agent, D'Arcy DeFarcy, who would mistakenly refer to his client as "Reynard".

James Saxon
William James Smyth[1]

(1954-06-12)12 June 1954
Swindon, Wiltshire, England
Died2 July 2003(2003-07-02) (aged 49)
Mere, Wiltshire, England

Early life

Saxon was born William James Smyth on the 6 April 1954, in the town of Swindon in the county of Wiltshire. He trained to be an actor at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, in London.[2]


He began his career on television in the series Jukes of Piccadilly in 1980. As the decade progressed he appeared in numerous television productions in England, playing the role of the American airman Sergeant Elmer Jones in the series We'll Meet Again (1982), and appearing in three episodes entitled The Two Doctors in the Doctor Who series (1985). In 1986 he played the character of Phillip Crane in the BBC series Brush Strokes, and in the same year performed in several episodes of the children's television series Roland Rat: The Series, in the guise of Darcey De-Farcey. In 1986 he played the character of Bertie in his first foray into cinema in the historical science-fiction adventure film Biggles: Adventures in Time. In 1987 he played the role of Ellerman in the crime thriller cinema film A Prayer for the Dying, and in the same year performed in as Joseph Sedley in a television adaptation of Vanity Fair. In 1988 he played Sir Toby Belch in an English television film adaptation of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night (1988). He appeared in the role of a police officer in several episodes of the television crime series The Paradise Club (1989). In 1990 he played the character of Morris Hardacre in a period-piece social comedy series set in 1940s Northern England entitled Brass.[3]

In 1991 Saxon played the role of Victor Crosby, a Thatcherite Tory Member of Parliament, in an episode of the highly successful political satire television series The New Statesman entitled A Labour of Love alongside Rik Mayall as Alan B'Stard. Continuing to work through the 1990s in a multiplicity of dramatic roles regularly in English television, he appeared, among other productions in this period, in the role of Major Vaughan in the Napoleonic era television film Sharpe's Honour (1994). He performed as a support player in the biopic of Henry Purcell in the cinema film England My England (1995). The next year he played the Prince Regent in the television film Poldark. In 1998 he voice acted the part of Captain Pugwash in a cartoon television series. From 1997-1998 he appeared as the character Fuzzy Brightons in several episodes of the Scottish television crime series McCallum. In 1998 he played the part of Chabouillet in the cinema film Les Miserables. In 1999 he played the character of Pothinus in the two episodes of the period piece drama series Cleopatra.[4]

With the beginning of the new century there was a decline in the regularity of Saxon's appearance in television as he began to concentrate more upon his theatrical career. He performed in a support part in the American television film The Prince and the Pauper (2000). His final appearance on English television was in the role of Inspector Bullstrode in an episode of the BBC crime/mystery series Jonathan Creek in 2001. His last filmed performance was in the television film Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde (2003), playing the role of Dr. Johnston.[5] In late 2002 Saxon performed at The Strand Theatre [6] in London's West End theatre in the play Mrs Warren's Profession.[7]


Saxon died on 2 July 2003 from a heart attack at the age of 49 whilst holidaying at Mere in Wiltshire, during a season of performances by him at the Chichester Festival Theatre.[8]


Year Title Role Notes
1981The NestingEarl
1987A Prayer for the DyingEllerman
1995England My EnglandVyner
1998Les MiserablesChabouillet


  1. Find My Past/Ancestry
  2. IMDb biographical entry for James Saxon. https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0768330/bio
  3. Biographical entry for Saxon in 'Obituaries in the Performing Arts, 2003', by H.M. Lentz III (Pub. MacFarland & Company. Inc. 2004).
  4. Saxon's production biographical entry. IMDb database. https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0768330/
  5. IMDb database. https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0758330/
  6. Review of the play, 'Variety', 25 October 2002. https://variety.com/2002/legit/reviews/mrs-warren-s-profession-3-1200545197/
  7. Obituary for Saxon, 'Doctor Who News', 10 July 2003. http://www.doctorwhonews.net/2003/07/james-saxon_10.html
  8. 'Doctor Who News' website, obituary notice for James Saxon, 10 July 2003. http://www.doctorwhonews.net/2003/07/james-saxon_10.html

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