Nigel Green

Nigel McGown Green (15 October 1924  15 May 1972) was an English character actor. Because of his strapping build, commanding height (6 feet 4 inches) and regimental demeanour he would often be found playing military types and men of action in such classic 1960s films as Jason and the Argonauts, Zulu, Tobruk and The Ipcress File.

Nigel McGown Green
Born(1924-10-15)15 October 1924
Died15 May 1972(1972-05-15) (aged 47)
Cause of deathDeath by misadventure following a barbiturate overdose
Years active1952–1972
Spouse(s)Patricia Marmont
(m. 1952; div. ??)
Pamela Gordon
(m. ??)

Early life and stage career

The son of a professor, Green attended King's College School, Wimbledon and the University of London, followed by the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. During the Second World War he trained as an Observer in the Royal Navy's Fleet Air Arm.

Among early stage appearances, he was at London's New Theatre (now the Noël Coward Theatre) in October 1948, playing multiple roles in John Burrell's Old Vic company revival of The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus. At the Stratford Memorial Theatre in 1950, he was cast as Sir Thomas Lovell in Henry VIII (directed by Tyrone Guthrie), Abhorson in Peter Brook's production of Measure for Measure (which also went on tour in Germany), Decius Brutus in Julius Caesar (directed by Anthony Quayle), and - most notably - Edmund in King Lear, starring and co-directed by John Gielgud.[1]

Subsequent West End appearances included Come Live With Me (directed by Roy Rich: Vaudeville Theatre, June 1951),[2] Heloise (directed by Michael Powell: Duke of York's Theatre, November 1951),[3] Vernon Sylvaine's As Long as They're Happy, opposite Jack Buchanan (directed by Roy Rich: Garrick Theatre, July 1953),[4] Félicien Marceau's The Egg (directed by Charles Frank: Saville Theatre, October 1957))[5] and Agatha Christie's Go Back for Murder (directed by Hubert Gregg: Duchess Theatre, March 1960).[6]

In his second volume of autobiography, Michael Powell pointed out that, though the play they collaborated on was a failure, "Nigel Green, with his great face and towering figure, would soon make a name for himself in movies. Who could ever forget him in Zulu? He was an almost mythical figure, like Harry Andrews and Victor McLaglen, and later John Wayne, all of them genuine and generous artists. Among other men they were like Norse gods, mythical, large and gentle, suddenly exploding into rage and performing fabulous feats of strength."[7]

Screen career

Early film roles included Reach for the Sky (1956), The Criminal (1960), The League of Gentlemen (1960) and Beat Girl (1960). His large physique led to his being cast as Little John in the film Sword of Sherwood Forest (1960).

He had one of his most memorable roles as Hercules in Jason and the Argonauts (1963), followed by his co-starring role as Colour Sergeant Frank Bourne in Zulu (1964). He had a leading role as Inspector Sir Denis Nayland Smith in The Face of Fu Manchu (1965) and the supporting role of Major Dalby in The Ipcress File (also 1965). Other roles include Carl Petersen in the Bulldog Drummond film Deadlier Than the Male (1967), as McCune, a devious Australian in the 1967 comedy-adventure The Pink Jungle, Count Contini in the Matt Helm film The Wrecking Crew (1969), and 'Lord Ashley's Whore' in John Huston's The Kremlin Letter (1969). His many military roles included parts in Khartoum (1966), Tobruk (1967), Fräulein Doktor and Play Dirty (both 1969).

Green also appeared in a number of horror films, including Corridors of Blood (1958), The Masque of the Red Death (1964), The Skull (1965), Let's Kill Uncle (1966) and Countess Dracula (1971). His penultimate role was as McKyle the 'Electric Messiah', a mental patient believing himself to be God, in The Ruling Class (1972).

His television appearances included The Adventures of Sir Lancelot, The Adventures of William Tell, The Other Man, Danger Man, The Power Game, The Avengers, Sherlock Holmes, Jason King, The Protectors and The Persuaders!.

Personal life

Green's first wife was the actress Patricia Marmont. His second wife was the actress Pamela Gordon, with whom he had one daughter.

Green died following an overdose of sleeping pills in 1972, aged 47. It is unknown if his death was intentional. Peter O'Toole said on his commentary on The Ruling Class that he believed Green was very depressed, and that his death shortly after filming ended was a suicide, although Green's family believed it to be accidental. He was separated from Gordon at the time.



Year Title Role Notes
1954 Meet Mr. Malcolm
Stranger from Venus Second Police Officer
The Sea Shall Not Have Them Met Officer Howard
1955 As Long as They're Happy Peter Pember
1956 Reach for the Sky Streatfield
Find the Lady Photographer Uncredited
1957 Bitter Victory Private Wilkins
1958 The Gypsy and the Gentleman Game Pup
Corridors of Blood Inspector Donovan
1959 Witness in the Dark The Intruder
1960 League of Gentlemen Kissing man in truck Uncredited
Beat Girl Simon
Sword of Sherwood Forest Little John
The Criminal Ted
1961 Man at the Carlton Tower Lew Daney
Gorgo Bulletin Announcer Uncredited
Pit of Darkness Jonathan
The Queen's Guards Abu Sibdar
1962 The Spanish Sword Baron Breaute
Playback Ralph Monk
The Durant Affair Sir Patrick
1963 Mystery Submarine Chief ERA Lovejoy
Jason and the Argonauts Hercules
The Man Who Finally Died Sergeant Hirsch
1964 Zulu Colour Sergeant Bourne
Saturday Night Out Paddy
The Masque of the Red Death Ludovico
1965 The Ipcress File Major Dalby
The Face of Fu Manchu Sir Denis Nayland Smith
The Skull Inspector Wilson
1966 Khartoum General Wolseley
Let's Kill Uncle The Uncle-Major Kevin Harrison
1967 Tobruk Lieutenant-Colonel John Harker
Deadlier Than the Male Carl Petersen
The Queen's Traitor John Hawkins
Africa Texas Style Karl Bekker
1968 The Pink Jungle Crowley
The Wrecking Crew Count Massimo Contini
1969 Play Dirty Colonel Masters
Fräulein Doktor Colonel Mathesius
1970 The Kremlin Letter The Whore
1971 Countess Dracula Captain Dobi the Castle Steward
1972 The Ruling Class McKyle
1973 Gawain and the Green Knight Green Knight (final film role)


Year Title Role Notes
1952 Suspense Mr Williams
1953 Broadway Television Theatre Prince Sirki of Vitalba Alexa
1956 The Adventure of Robin Hood Prival
1956-57 The Adventures of Sir Launcelot Jailer/2nd thief/farmer
1958 Ivanhoe Timon
1958-59 William Tell Fertog (The Bear)
1959 The Flying Doctor Haggerty
World Theatre Recruiting officer mini series


  1. Shakespeare Memorial Theatre 1948-1950: A Photographic Record (Reinhardt & Evans 1951), pages unnumbered
  2. Frances Stephens, Theatre World Annual (London) # 3 (Rockliff 1952), page 20
  3. Frances Stephens, Theatre World Annual (London) # 3 (Rockliff 1952), page 21
  4. Frances Stephens, Theatre World Annual (London) # 5 (Rockliff 1954), page 38
  5. Frances Stephens, Theatre World Annual (London) # 9 (Rockliff 1958), page 66
  6. Frances Stephens, Theatre World Annual (London) # 11 (Barrie & Rockliff 1960), page 23
  7. Michael Powell, Million Dollar Movie (Random House 1995), page 162


  • Sheldon Hall (2014). "Green, Nigel McGown (1924–1972)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/94147.
  • David McGillivray (1988). "Now you know". Films and Filming. London. 34 (April 1988): 47. ISSN 0015-167X.
  • Terence Pettigrew (1982). British Character Actors (Rowman & Littlefield).
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