Reginald Denny (actor)

Reginald Denny (born Reginald Leigh Dugmore, 20 November 1891 – 16 June 1967) was an English stage, film and television actor as well as an aviator and UAV pioneer. He was once an amateur boxing champion of Great Britain.

Reginald Denny
Denny in 1924
Reginald Leigh Dugmore

(1891-11-20)20 November 1891
Richmond, Surrey, England, UK
Died16 June 1967(1967-06-16) (aged 75)
Richmond, Surrey, England, UK
OccupationActor, aviator
Years active19151966
Spouse(s)Irene Haisman (1913–1928; divorced); 1 child
Betsy Lee (1928–1967; his death); 3 children

Acting career

Born in Richmond, Surrey, England, Denny (sources differ on his birth name giving variously Reginald Daymore,[1] Reginald Leigh Daymore[2] and Reginald Leigh Dugmore Denny,[3] but he is listed in birth records as Reginald Leigh Dugmore) began his stage career at age seven in The Royal Family. At age 16, he appeared in The Merry Widow. That year he left the Jesuit school which he had been attending, St Francis Xavier College, Mayfield, Sussex.

Years later he joined an opera company as a baritone, and toured India. After continuing his stage career in the United States, he began his film career in 1915 with the World Film Company and made films both in the United States and Britain until the 1960s. He came from a theatrical family which went to the United States in 1912 to appear in the stage production Quaker Girl. His father was the actor and singer W.H. Denny. Reginald appeared in John Barrymore's 1920 Broadway production of Richard III; the two actors became friends.

Denny was a well-known actor in silent films and with the advent of talkies, he became a character actor. He played the lead role in a number of his earlier films, generally as a comedic Englishman in such works as Private Lives and later had reasonably steady work as a supporting actor in dozens of films, including The Little Minister (1934) with Katharine Hepburn, Anna Karenina (1935) with Greta Garbo, Alfred Hitchcock's Rebecca (1940) and the Frank Sinatra crime caper film Assault on a Queen (1966). His last role was in Batman (1966) as Commodore Schmidlapp. He made frequent appearances in television during the 1950s and 1960s.

Aviation career

He served as an observer/gunner in the First World War in the Royal Flying Corps,[4] and in the 1920s he performed as a stunt pilot. In the early 1930s, Denny became interested in radio controlled model aeroplanes. He and his business partners formed Reginald Denny Industries and opened a model plane shop in 1934 known as Reginald Denny Hobby Shops.

He bought a plane design from Walter Righter in 1938 and began marketing it as the "Dennyplane", and a model engine called the "Dennymite".[5] In 1940, Denny and his partners won a US Army contract for their radio-controlled target drone, the OQ-2 Radioplane. They manufactured nearly fifteen thousand drones for the US Army during the Second World War. The company was purchased by Northrop in 1952.[6][7]

Marilyn Monroe was discovered working as an assembler at Radioplane. A photographer assigned by Denny's friend, Army publicist (and future US President) Captain Ronald Reagan, took several shots and persuaded her to work as a model, which was the beginning of her career.[8][9]


Denny died on 16 June 1967 at the age of 75, after suffering a stroke whilst visiting his home town of Richmond in England. His body was buried at Forest Lawn-Hollywood Hills Cemetery in Los Angeles, California.[10]

Personal life

He and his wife Betsy, who died in 1996 aged 89, had three children; Reginald Leigh Jr., Joan and Deborah. Denny was preceded in death by his daughter (from his first marriage to Irene Haisman (m. 1913–1928), which ended in divorce), Barbara Denny-Simmons, who died of poliomyelitis in 1948, at age 32.

Partial filmography


  • Niobe (1915) as Cornelius Griffin
  • The Melting Pot (1915) as Undetermined Role (uncredited)
  • The Red Lantern (1919)
  • Bringing Up Betty (1919) as Tom Waring
  • The Oakdale Affair (1919) as Arthur Stockbridge
  • A Dark Lantern (1920) as Prince Anton
  • 39 East (1920) as Napoleon Gibbs Jr.
  • Paying the Piper (1921) as Keith Larne
  • The Price of Possession (1921) as Robert Dawnay
  • Experience (1921)
  • Disraeli (1921) as Charles, Viscount Deeford
  • Footlights (1921) as Brett Page
  • The Beggar Maid (1921, Short) as the Earl of Winston / King Cophetua
  • Tropical Love (1921) as the Drifter
  • The Iron Trail (1921) as Dan Appleton
  • Let's Go (1922, Short) as Kane Halliday / 'Kid' Roberts
  • Round Two (1922, Short) as Kane 'Kid Roberts' Halliday
  • Sherlock Holmes (1922) as Prince Alexis
  • Payment Through the Nose (1922, Short) as Kane Halliday / Kid Roberts
  • The Leather Pushers (1922) as Kane Halliday / Kid Roberts
  • A Fool and His Money (1922, Short) as Kane Halliday / Kid Roberts
  • The Taming of the Shrewd (1922, Short) as Kane Halliday / Kid Roberts
  • Whipsawed (1922, Short) as Kane Halliday / Kid Roberts
  • Never Let Go (1922, Short) as Campbell - the Mountie
  • The Jaws of Steel (1922, Short) as Cpl. Haldene, N.W.M.P.
  • Plain Grit (1922, Short)
  • The Kentucky Derby (1922) as Donald Gordon
  • Young King Cole (1922, Short) as Kane Halliday / Kid Roberts
  • He Raised Kane (1922) as Kane Halliday / Kid Roberts
  • The Chickasha Bone Crusher (1923, Short) as Kane Halliday / Kid Roberts
  • When Kane Met Abel (1923, Short) as Kane Halliday / Kid Roberts
  • Strike Father, Strike Son (1923, Short) as Kane Halliday / Kid Roberts
  • Joan of Newark (1923, Short) as Kane Halliday / Kid Roberts
  • The Abysmal Brute (1923) as Pat Glendon, Jr
  • The Wandering Two (1923, Short) as Kane Halliday / Kid Roberts
  • The Widower's Mite (1923, Short) as Kane Halliday / Kid Roberts
  • Don Coyote (1923, Short) as Kane Halliday / Kid Roberts
  • Something for Nothing (1923, Short) as Kane Halliday / Kid Roberts
  • Columbia, the Gem, and the Ocean (1923, Short) as Kane Halliday / Kid Roberts
  • Barnaby's Grudge (1923, Short) as Kane Halliday / Kid Roberts
  • The Thrill Chaser (1924) as Cameo appearance
  • Sporting Youth (1924) as Jimmy Wood
  • The Reckless Age (1924) as Dick Minot
  • The Fast Worker (1924) as Terry Brock
  • Oh Doctor! (1925) as Rufus Billings Jr.
  • I'll Show You the Town (1925) as Alec Dupree
  • Where Was I? (1925) as Thomas S. Berford
  • California Straight Ahead (1925) as Tom Hayden
  • What Happened to Jones (1926) as Tom Jones
  • Skinner's Dress Suit (1926) as Skinner
  • Rolling Home (1926) as Nat Alden
  • Take It from Me (1926) as Tom Eggett
  • The Cheerful Fraud (1926) as Sir Michael Fairlie
  • Fast and Furious (1927) as Tom Brown
  • Out All Night (1927) as John Graham
  • On Your Toes (1927) as Elliott Beresford
  • That's My Daddy (1927) as James 'Jimmy' Norton
  • Good Morning, Judge (1928) as Freddie Grey
  • The Night Bird (1928) as Kid Davis (his last silent film)



  1. David Quinlan (1981). The Illustrated Directory of Film Stars. Hippocrene Books. p. 128. ISBN 978-0-882-54654-4.
  2. "Halliwell's Filmgoer's companion, 1980 cited by "Library of Congress".
  3. Kevin Brownlow (1968). The Parade's Gone by ... University of California Press. p. 448. ISBN 978-0-52-003068-8.
  4. Black Cats
  5. Denny plane
  6. Reginald Denny profile at (PDF) Archived 6 November 2005 at the Wayback Machine
  7. Parker, Dana T. Building Victory: Aircraft Manufacturing in the Los Angeles Area in World War II, pp. 129-30, Cypress, California, 2013.
  8. Smart Weapons:Top Secret History of Remote-controlled Airborne Weapons, by Hugh McDaid and David Oliver, 1997, Barnes & Noble Books
  9. Parker, Dana T. Building Victory: Aircraft Manufacturing in the Los Angeles Area in World War II, p. 130, Cypress, CA, 2013.
  10. Resting Places
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