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Reginald Denny (actor)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Reginald Denny
Reginald Denny in Stars of the Photoplay, 1924.jpg
Denny in 1924
Reginald Leigh Dugmore

(1891-11-20)20 November 1891
Died16 June 1967(1967-06-16) (aged 75)
Richmond, London, England
Occupation(s)Actor, aviator, inventor
Years active1915–1966
Irene Haisman
(m. 1913; div. 1928)
Isabelle "Betsy Lee" Stiefel
(m. 1928)
Reginald Denny autograph.jpg

Reginald Leigh Dugmore (20 November 1891 – 16 June 1967), known professionally as Reginald Denny, was an English actor, aviator, and UAV pioneer.

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Acting career

Born Reginald Leigh Dugmore on 20 November 1891 in Richmond, Surrey, England (part of Greater London since 1965), he came from a theatrical family; his father was actor and opera singer W.H. Denny.

In 1899, he began his stage career in A Royal Family and starred in several London productions from age seven to twelve. He attended St. Francis Xavier College in Mayfield, Sussex, later known as Mayfield College, but, at 16, he ran away from school to train as a pugilist with Sir Harry Preston at the National Sporting Club. He also appeared in several British stage productions touring the music halls of England of The Merry Widow.

In 1911, he went to the United States to appear in Henry B. Harris's stage production of The Quaker Girl, then joined the Bandmann Opera Company as a baritone touring India and the Far East India where he performed for Krishna Raja Wadiyar IV.[citation needed]

Although he worked in "flickers" during 1911 and 1912, Reginald officially began his film career in 1915 with the World Film Company and made films both in the United States and Britain until the 1960s. Among the numerous stage productions in which he starred, Reginald appeared in John Barrymore's 1920 Broadway production of Richard III; the two actors became friends and starred in several films together including Sherlock Holmes (1922), Hamlet (1933), Romeo and Juliet (1936), and Paramount's Bulldog Drummond series (1937–1938).[citation needed]

Denny and his daughter in 1922
Denny and his daughter in 1922

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 (1931) 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). He made frequent appearances in television during the 1950s and 1960s. His last role was in Batman (1966) as Commodore Schmidlapp. In 2020, Kino Lorber released 4K restorations on DVD and Blu-ray of three of Denny's silent comedies: The Reckless Age, Skinner's Dress Suit, and What Happened to Jones? in The Reginald Denny Collection.[1]

Aviation career

Denny, 1918
Denny, 1918

Denny served as an observer/gunner during the First World War in the new wartime Royal Air Force.[2]

In the 1920s he performed as a stunt pilot with the 13 Black Cats and loaned his WWI Sopwith Snipe biplane to Howard Hughes for use in Hell's Angels (1927). In the early 1930s, Denny became interested in free-flight model airplanes. In 1934, he and oil tycoon Max Whittier's son, Paul Whittier, formed Reginald Denny Industries and opened a model plane shop, which became a chain known as the Reginald Denny Hobby Shop, now California Hobby Distributors.

He designed his "Dennyplane" with its signature model engine "Dennymite" developed by engineer Walter Righter, in addition to the "Denny Jr." which child actors would enter in model plane competitions at Mines Field, which later became Los Angeles International Airport.

In 1935, Denny began developing his remote controlled "radioplane" for military use. In 1939, he and his partners won the first military United States Army Air Corps contract for their radio-controlled target drone, the Radioplane OQ-2. In July 1940, they formed the Radioplane Company and manufactured nearly fifteen thousand drones for the U.S. Army during the Second World War. It was here that he employed a teenage girl by the name of Norma Jeane Mortensen (later known as Marilyn Monroe) who is recorded as having said it was "the hardest work I ever had to do".[3] The company was purchased by Northrop in 1952.[4][5]

Denny had a great deal in common with Robert Loraine, an older actor/airman. They had been in a West End production together in 1902 in London,[6] they were both veterans of the Royal Flying Corps (and its successor, the Royal Air Force) and were both still flying and making films in Hollywood in the 1930s.

Personal life

Denny married actress Irene Hilda Haismann on 28 January 1913 in Calcutta; both were with the Bandmann Opera Company. They had one daughter but were divorced in 1928. Denny married actress Isabelle "Betsy Lee" Stiefel in 1928 and they had three children.


Denny died on 16 June 1967, aged 75, after suffering a stroke whilst visiting his sister in his home town of Richmond, England. He was interred at Forest Lawn-Hollywood Hills Cemetery in Los Angeles, California.[7][8] His four children and wife Isabelle (died 1996, aged 89) survived him.[citation needed]

Partial filmography




  1. ^ Reginald Denny Collection: The Reckless Age, Skinner's Dress Suit, What Happened to Jones?, retrieved 30 October 2020
  2. ^ Black Cats
  3. ^ Spoto 2001, pp. 83–86; Banner 2012, pp. 91–98.
  4. ^ Reginald Denny profile at (PDF) Archived 6 November 2005 at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ Parker, Dana T.: Building Victory: Aircraft Manufacturing in the Los Angeles Area in World War II, pp. 129–30, Cypress, California, 2013.
  6. ^ "The Dawn of the Drone" Steve Mills 2019 Casemate Publishers.
  7. ^ Resting Places
  8. ^ Pucci, Kimberly: Prince of Drones: The Reginald Denny Story, October 2019.

Works cited

External links

This page was last edited on 30 May 2023, at 09:59
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