October 16, 2003 by

Denis Quilley

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Categories: Actors

Denis Quilley, a British stage actor, died on Oct. 5 from liver cancer. He was 75.
Born in north London, Quilley won a scholarship to attend Bancroft’s at Woodford Green in Essex. There he met Don Francombe, a professor who introduced him to “Shakespeare, Mozart, civilization and the meaning of democracy.” Thanks to Francombe’s influence, Quilley informed his parents that he planned to skip college and become an actor. They were less than pleased.
Quilley first performed at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre. He had long runs on London’s West End during the 1950s in “Wild Thyme” and “Grab Me a Gondola,” and won his first SWET Award (London’s equivalent of the Tony) in 1977 playing camp soldier Terri Dennis in the play, “Privates on Parade.” He also appeared in its film adaptation with John Cleese in 1982.
After performing in dozens of plays, including “Macbeth,” “Long Day’s Journey Into Night,” “Deathtrap,” “La Cage aux Folles”and “Hamlet,” Quilley found his favorite role in the murderous barber in Stephen Sondheim’s “Sweeney Todd.” The part earned him another SWET Award.
Quilley was awarded an Officer of the British Empire in 2001. His final stage performance occurred last March in the National Theatre Company musical, “Anything Goes.” He was writing his autobiography in the months before he died.

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