John Abbott (actor)

John Albert Chamberlain Kefford [1] (5 June 1905 24 May 1996) was an English character actor professionally known as John Abbott. His memorable roles include the invalid Frederick Fairlie in the 1948 film The Woman in White and the pacifist Ayelborne in the Star Trek episode "Errand of Mercy". He also played Sesmar on an episode of Lost in Space, "The Dream Monster", in 1966.[2] Abbott was known as a Shakespearean actor.

John Abbott
John Albert Chamberlain Kefford (on the right)

(1905-06-05)5 June 1905
Stepney, London, England
Died24 May 1996(1996-05-24) (aged 90)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Years active19361984


Abbott was born in the district of Stepney in London on 5 June 1905.[3] He had two siblings: a sister, Ivy Skeates of Cambridge, and a brother, Harold Kefford.[2]

In 1934 he began his career in show business when he made his professional stage debut in a revival of Dryden's Aureng-zebe with Sybil Thorndike. He then joined the Old Vic Company and appeared in Shakespearean roles, including Claudius in a production of Hamlet at Elsinore Castle in Denmark with Laurence Olivier, Vivian Leigh and Alec Guinness. His first Broadway role was that of Count Mancini in He Who Gets Slapped in 1946. He also appeared on Broadway in Monserrat and The Waltz of the Toreadors. He made his film debut in Mademoiselle Docteur in 1937 and went on to act in scores of films in the next 30 years. Among his film credits are Mission to Moscow, Jane Eyre, A Thousand and One Nights, Humoresque, and The Greatest Story Ever Told. His television appearances in that time were even more numerous, beginning with pioneering broadcasts by the BBC before the Second World War.[2]

In the early days of the Second World War, Abbott worked at the British Embassy in Stockholm. When the time came to leave, he had to by way of the United States. While in the U.S., he was offered a part in Hollywood in 1941[4] and ended up living there for the rest of his life.

On American television between the 1950s and 1970s, Abbott had roles on a wide variety of series such as Kraft Television Theatre, Studio 57, Gunsmoke, Matinee Theatre, Bonanza, Thriller, Star Trek, Mannix, Iron Horse, and Bewitched.[5] Although he was blacklisted during the Red Scare of the 1950s, a producer who wanted to hire him eventually succeeded in getting the actor removed from the list.[6] In his final years, Abbott taught acting to students free of charge.

Abbott died at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center from natural causes on 24 May 1996 at the age of 90.[2]


Year Title Role Notes
1936 Conquest of the Air Jean-François Pilâtre de Rozier
1937 Mademoiselle Docteur Armand Uncredited
Return of the Scarlet Pimpernel Flower Seller Uncredited
The Importance of Being Earnest John Worthing BBC Television (live)
Under Secret Orders Armand
1938 This Man Is News Hood with Foreign Accent Uncredited
Richard of Bordeaux Simon Burley BBC Television (live)
1939 The Tempest Prospero BBC Television (live)
The Saint in London Count Stepehn Duni
The Great Commandment Starving Beggar Uncredited
1940 Ten Days in Paris André
1941 The Shanghai Gesture Poppy's Escort Uncredited
1942 Joan of Paris English Spy
This Above All Joe Uncredited
Mrs. Miniver Fred
Rubber Racketeers Dumbo
Get Hep to Love Professor Radowsky
Nightmare Karl / Charles
1943 The Gorilla Man Dr. Ferris
London Blackout Murders Jack Rawlings
They Got Me Covered Gregory Vanescu
Hangmen Also Die! Hostage (scenes deleted)
Mission to Moscow Grinko Uncredited
Dangerous Blondes Roland X. Smith Uncredited
The Cross of Lorraine Baked Uncredited
Jane Eyre Mason Uncredited
1944 Once Upon a Time Reporter Uncredited
The Mask of Dimitrios Mr. Pappas
Summer Storm Lunin - Public Prosecutor
Abroad with Two Yanks Salesman
U-Boat Prisoner Alfonse Lamont
Secrets of Scotland Yard Mortimer Cope
Cry of the Werewolf Peter Althius
End of the Road Chris Martin
The Falcon in Hollywood Martin S. Dwyer
1945 The Power of the Whistler Kaspar Andropolous
Honeymoon Ahead Welles
The Vampire's Ghost Webb Fallon
A Thousand and One Nights Ali
Crime Doctor's Warning Jimmy Gordon
Pursuit to Algiers Jodri
Saratoga Trunk Roscoe Bean
1946 The Notorious Lone Wolf Lal Bara
The Bandit of Sherwood Forest Will Scarlet
One More Tomorrow Joseph Baronova
Anna and the King of Siam Phya Phrom Uncredited
Deception Bertram Gribble
Humoresque Rozner
1947 Time Out of Mind Max Leiberman
The Web Charles Murdock
Adventure Island Huish
If Winter Comes Mr. Twyning
1948 The Woman in White Frederick Fairlie
Dream Girl (scenes deleted)
1949 Addio Mimí! Orchestra Conductor
Madame Bovary Mayor Tuvache
1950 Sideshow Pierre
1951 Navy Bound Pappa Cerrano
Thunder on the Hill Abel Harmer
Crosswinds Algernon 'Mousey' Sykes
1952 The Merry Widow Marshovian Ambassador
Thunder in the East Nitra Puta
1953 Rogue's March Herbert Bielensen
Sombrero Don Daniel
Cavalcade of America Col. Barton Season 2, Episode 2
The Steel Lady Mustafa el Melik
1955 Front Row Center Dr. Franz Gregorovious Season 1, Episode 10
1955–1956 Crusader Gustave / Igor Borovin 2 Episodes
Science Fiction Theatre John Bowers 2 Episodes
1956 Jane Wyman Presents The Fireside Theatre Barrett Season 1, Episode 35
Telephone Time Schliemann's Russian assistant Season 1, Episode 9
Studio 57 Season 2, Episode 36
The Adventures of Hiram Holliday Thief Season 1, Episode 2
1957 Public Pigeon No. One Dipso Dave Rutherford
Omar Khayyam Yusuf Uncredited
1955–1958 Matinee Theatre Jasper Purdy 5 Episodes
1958 Gigi Manuel
Studio One Travers Season 10, Episode 44
The Further Adventures of Ellery Queen Season 1, Episode 6
1959 The Ann Sothern Show Carter Season 1, Episode 14
Peter Gunn Blakenship Season 1, Episode 28
Goodyear Theatre Stefan Season 3, Episode 1
Have Gun - Will Travel Winston Ainslee Season 3, Episode 5
1956–1959 General Electric Theater Nathan / Professor Meyerdal 2 Episodes
1956–1960 Gunsmoke Eddie / Professor Lute Bone 2 Episodes
1960 Tightrope Gideon Season 1, Episode 19
The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis Professor Dobkin Season 1, Episode 20
The Rifleman Dr. Henniken Season 2, Episode 26
Shangri-La Chang TV movie
Shirley Temple's Storybook Uncle Venner 1 episode
1961 The Islanders Harwood Gones 1 episode
The DuPont Show with June Allyson Professor Brent 1 episode
Hong Kong Alec Borg 1 episode
Thriller Kriss Milo 1 episode
Adventures in Paradise Murdock 1 episode
Great Ghost Tales Mr. Arcularis 1 episode
Ichabod and Me Jeremy Lockhart 1 episode
Bonanza Zachariah Wickham 1 episode
1962 Perry Mason Professor Carlos Muntz Season 6, Episode 1
1963 Who's Minding the Store? Mr. Orlandos
1964 Flipper "Professor" Marvello Season 1, Episode 9
The Beverly Hillbillies Sir Trevor Gielgud Burton-Guinness Season 3, Episode 1
1965 The Greatest Story Ever Told Aben
1966 The Munsters Dr. Victor Frankenstein IV Season 2, Episode 26
Lost in Space Sesmar Season 2, Episode 14
Gambit Emile
1967 Star Trek Ayelborne Season 1, Episode 26: "Errand of Mercy"
Bewitched Leonardo da Vinci Season 4, Episode 17
The Jungle Book Akela, the Wolf Voice
1968 Three Guns for Texas Banker Irwing
Land of the Giants Professor Gorak Season 1, Episode 4
1969 2000 Years Later Gregorius
1975 The Black Bird DuQuai
1976 Sherlock Holmes in New York Heller TV movie
Holmes & Yo-Yo Montecito 1 episode
1978 Outside Chance Coroner TV movie
1982 Slapstick of Another Kind Dr. Frankenstein
1983 Cracking Up Surgeon

See also


  1. A Chronicle of Two Villages: Bassingbourn & Kneesworth 1894–1994 (PDF). Bassingbourn cum Kneesworth Local History Group. June 1994. p. 16. Retrieved 26 December 2016.
  2. "John Abbott, 90. Was English Actor". The New York Times. 2 June 1996. Retrieved 2 December 2014. John Abbott, an actor in films, theatre and television, died on 24 May at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. He was 90. Mr. Abbott, who was born in Britain, began his long career in show business in 1934, when he made his professional stage debut in a revival of Dryden's "Aureng-Zebe" with Sybil Thorndike. ...
  3. "John Abbott". British Film Institute. Retrieved 26 December 2017.
  4. Palmer, Scott (1981). A Who's Who of British Film Actors. Metuchen, N.J.: The Scarecrow Press. ISBN 978-0-81081-388-5.
  5. "John Abbott". IMDb. Retrieved 5 May 2017.
  6. Abbott had no idea why he was blacklisted until around 1990 when he was watching a documentary on Dalton Trumbo, discovered that the author had used Abbott's name as an alias.
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