David Kossoff
David Kossoff.jpg
Born(1919-11-24)24 November 1919
Hackney, London, England[1]
Died23 March 2005(2005-03-23) (aged 85)
Hatfield, Hertfordshire, England
Years active1952–1994
Margaret Jenkins
(m. 1947; died 1995)
Children3; including Paul Kossoff

David Kossoff (24 November 1919 – 23 March 2005) was a British actor. In 1954 he won the BAFTA Award for Most Promising Newcomer to Leading Film Roles for his appearance as Geza Szobek in The Young Lovers.[2] He played Alf Larkin in TV sitcom The Larkins and Professor Kokintz in The Mouse that Roared (1959) and its sequel The Mouse on the Moon (1963).[3]

Because of the drug use of his son Paul, a blues rock musician, who subsequently died, he became an anti-drug campaigner. In 1971 he was also actively involved in the Nationwide Festival of Light, an organisation protesting against the commercial exploitation of sex and violence, and advocating the teachings of Christ as the key to re-establishing moral stability in Britain.[4]

Early life

Kossoff was born in Hackney, London, the youngest of three children, to poor Russian-Jewish[5] parents, Annie (née Shaklovich) and Lewis (Louis) Kossoff (1882–1943).[6] His father was a tailor. His older brother Alec changed his name to Alan Keith. The middle sister was named Sarah Rebecca (Sadie).

He attended the Northern Polytechnic, leaving in 1937 to work as a draughtsman and then a furniture designer for a year before becoming an actor.[7]


Kossoff started working in light entertainment on British television in the years following World War II, during which he briefly served in the military.[7] His first stage appearance was at the Unity Theatre in 1942 at the age of 23.[8] He took part in numerous plays and films. He was a Member of the Society of Artists and Designers. In addition to this, he was a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.

His best-known television roles were the hen-pecked husband Alf Larkin in The Larkins, first broadcast in 1958, and a Jewish furniture maker in A Little Big Business.[9] Film credits included his role as Soviet diplomat Geza Szobek The Young Lovers (1954 – for which he won a British Academy Film Award as Most Promising Newcomer to Film), A Kid for Two Farthings (1955), his role as Morry in the Oscar-winning The Bespoke Overcoat (1956), Professor Kokintz in The Mouse that Roared (1959), starring Peter Sellers, and its sequel The Mouse on the Moon (1963) with Bernard Cribbins. He played Sigmund Freud's father in Freud: The Secret Passion (1962) with Montgomery Clift in the lead.[10][11]

He was also well known for his story-telling skills, particularly with regard to reinterpreting the Bible. His best-known book, also a television series, is The Book of Witnesses (1971), in which he turned the Gospels into a series of monologues. He also retold dozens of Old Testament and Apocrypha stories in Bible Stories (1968).[7]

In 1953, he played the character Lemuel "Lemmy" Barnet in the British sci-fi radio series Journey into Space.[12]

Personal life

He married Margaret (Jennie) Jenkins and had two sons, Paul and Simon. Following the death in 1976 of his son Paul, guitarist with the band Free, Kossoff established the Paul Kossoff Foundation which aimed to present the realities of drug addiction to children. Kossoff spent the remainder of his life campaigning against drugs. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, he toured with a one-man stage performance about the death of his son and its effect on the family.[13][14]


He died in 2005 of liver cancer at age 85.[15] He was cremated and interred at the Golders Green Crematorium.[16]

In its obituary, The Scotsman wrote that David Kossoff was "a man of deep convictions and proud of his Jewish origins".[17]



  1. ^ "Index entry". FreeBMD. ONS. Retrieved 27 March 2011.
  2. ^ "Film in 1955". bafta.org.
  3. ^ Hal Erickson. "David Kossoff – Biography, Movie Highlights and Photos – AllMovie". AllMovie.
  4. ^ Green, Jonathon; Karolides, Nicholas J. (14 May 2014). Encyclopedia of Censorship. ISBN 9781438110011.
  5. ^ "Variety Club – Jewish Chronicle colour supplement "350 years"". The Jewish Chronicle. 15 December 2006. pp. 28–29.
  6. ^ ""You have a minute, Lord?": The Papers of David Kossoff". University of Southampton Special Collections. 22 November 2019. Retrieved 30 September 2020.
  7. ^ a b c Dennis Barker (24 March 2005). "Obituary: David Kossoff". The Guardian.
  8. ^ "David Kossoff". Telegraph.co.uk. 24 March 2005.
  9. ^ "A Little Big Business". Nostalgia Central. 20 June 2014.
  10. ^ "David Kossoff – Movies and Filmography – AllMovie". AllMovie.
  11. ^ "David Kossoff". aveleyman.com.
  12. ^ "JOURNEY INTO SPACE". britishdrama.org.uk.
  13. ^ "Home". Paul Kossoff Official Website. Archived from the original on 17 February 2014. Retrieved 21 November 2017.
  14. ^ "All Right Now: Remembering Guitar Great, Free's Paul Kossoff". gibson.com. Archived from the original on 5 March 2016.
  15. ^ "David Kossoff". BFI. Archived from the original on 13 January 2009.
  16. ^ "David Kossoff (1919-2005) - Find A Grave Memorial". www.findagrave.com. Retrieved 30 September 2020.
  17. ^ Alasdair, Steven. "David Kossoff: Actor", The Scotsman, 5 April 2005. Accessed 1 September 2011. "As an actor David Kossoff brought a refined and quick-witted quality to his roles. But he was also a man of deep convictions and proud of his Jewish origins, though he had a delightfully self-deprecating way of telling rambling Jewish jokes."