Martin Benson (actor)

Martin Benjamin Benson (10 August 1918 – 28 February 2010)[1][2] was an English character actor, who appeared in films, theatre and television. He appeared in both British and Hollywood productions.[3]

Martin Benson
Martin Benjamin Benson

(1918-08-10)10 August 1918
London, England, UK
Died28 February 2010(2010-02-28) (aged 91)
Markyate, Hertfordshire, England, UK
Years active1942–2005
Spouse(s)Joan Oliver (?–?) divorced
Joy Swinson-Benson (?–2010) (his death)

Early life

Benson was born in the East End of London, into a Jewish family,[4] the son of a Russian-Jewish grocer and his Polish-Jewish wife who had left Russia at the revolution.[1] After attending Tottenham Grammar School on a scholarship, he served in the 2nd Searchlight, Royal Artillery, during World War II. Stationed in Cairo, Egypt, he and Arthur Lowe founded the repertory company Mercury Theatre.[1]


He is remembered for his role as the Kralaholme in the original London production of The King and I, a role he recreated in the Oscar-winning film version.[5]

Appearing in films for over six decades, Benson played mostly supporting characters or villains.[6] His films include The Blind Goddess (1948), Wheel of Fate (1953), Interpol (1957), The Strange World of Planet X (1958), Once More, with Feeling! (1959), Exodus (1960), Five Golden Hours (1961), A Shot in the Dark (1964), Pope Joan (1972), The Sea Wolves (1980) and Angela's Ashes (1999).[7]

He also had an uncredited role in MGM's hit historical film, Ivanhoe, and in 1963 he acted in another historic film, as Ramos in Cleopatra (which also starred Elizabeth Taylor). Benson played both serious roles, such as Ali in Killers of Kilimanjaro (1959) and comic roles, such as Maurice in A Shot in the Dark.[3]

In 1964, he appeared as Mr. Solo, the gangster who is killed by Goldfinger's henchman Oddjob in the James Bond film Goldfinger.[5]


He appeared in many roles on television. He appeared as a barrister, using his own name, in the unscripted series "The Verdict is Yours" which ran for several years in the 1950s. Cases were shown and the previously unknown verdict was given by jury of viewers.[2] In 1957 he made a guest appearance on The Jack Benny Show.[8] In the same year he played the recurring character the Duke de Medici in the children's adventure series Sword of Freedom.[9] In 1981 he appeared in the television production of The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy, albeit unrecognisable under the heavy make-up and costume of Prostetnic Vogon Jeltz, leader of the Vogon fleet sent to destroy Earth.[6] His last appearance was in the TV series Casualty in 2005.[10]

Personal life

Benson died in his sleep on 28 February 2010, from natural causes.[2]



  1. "Martin Benson". The Daily Telegraph. UK. 29 March 2010. Archived from the original on 28 December 2016.
  2. "Martin Benson obituary". The Times. UK. 4 March 2010. Martin Benson passed away peacefully in his sleep on Sunday 28th February 2010.
  3. "Martin Benson". BFI.
  4. William D. Rubinstein, Michael Jolles, Hilary L. Rubinstein, The Palgrave Dictionary of Anglo-Jewish History, Palgrave Macmillan (2011), p. 75
  5. Gaughan, Gavin (6 May 2010). "Martin Benson obituary". The Guardian. UK. Archived from the original on 28 March 2016. Retrieved 23 April 2017.
  6. "Martin Benson".
  7. "Martin Benson - Movies and Filmography". AllMovie.
  8. III, Harris M. Lentz (21 March 2016). "Obituaries in the Performing Arts, 2010". McFarland via Google Books.
  9. "Martin Benson - Biography, Movie Highlights and Photos". AllMovie.
  10. "Actor Martin Benson dies". The Stage.
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