Dennis King
King circa 1927
Dennis Pratt

(1897-11-02)2 November 1897
Coventry, Warwickshire, England
Died21 May 1971(1971-05-21) (aged 73)
Years active1919–1969
SpouseEdith Wright (?–1963) (her death)
ChildrenJohn Michael King
Dennis King Jr. (1921–1986)

Dennis King (born Dennis Pratt,[1] 2 November 1897 – 21 May 1971) was an English actor and singer.

Early years

Born on 2 November 1897 in Coventry,[2] Warwickshire, or Birmingham, England, King was the son of John and Elizabeth King Pratt. He chose to use his mother's maiden name for his career.[3] He had one sister and three brothers. King described his father as "a man of tremendous vision but little initiative", resulting in the family's being "very poor".[4]

His first involvement with the stage was working as a call boy at the Birmingham Repertory Theater when he was 14 years old.[3] He first performed on stage at age 16.[5] He served in the Oxford Bucks Infantry during World War I. Injured in battle, he spent a night in a "muddy shell hole" before stretcher-bearers took him to a first-aid station for initial treatment.[4] Two days later he was moved to a field hospital, where plastic surgeons repaired the damage that shrapnel had done to his face. He was discharged, and he returned to London.[4]


King had a stage career in both drama (including Shakespeare) and musicals. He immigrated to the US in 1921 and went on to a successful career on the Broadway stage. Among his most notable performances was his role in the original production of Rudolf Friml's Rose-Marie, in which he introduced the songs "Rose-Marie" and "Indian Love Call",[6] and the role of Captain Fairfax in the Donaldson Award and Outer Critics Circle Award winning play Billy Budd (1951) by Louis O. Coxe and Robert H. Chapman.[7][8]

King debuted in London in 1919 and on Broadway in 1921.[2] His career turned from drama to music after Oscar Hammerstein heard him singing in his dressing room. Persuaded by Hammerstein, King tried out for the male lead in Rose Marie. His success in that production led to his performing in other musical comedy shows.[5]

He appeared in two musical films, including The Vagabond King,[9] and played non-singing roles in two other films.

King was "one of the first actors of major status to devote himself almost exclusively to television".[10] He appeared in six full-length dramas on TV from the fall of 1948 to February 1949.[10] He also was featured in TV musical productions, including Knickerbocker Holiday (1950), Babes in Toyland (1950), Jack and the Beanstalk (1956), Aladdin (1958), and The Mikado (1960).[2]

Personal life and death

King became a citizen of the United States in 1953.[3] He was made president of The Players in June 1965.[11]

King was married to actress Edith Wright,. They had two sons, Dennis King Jr. and musical theatre actor John Michael King who originated the role of Freddy Eynsford Hill in My Fair Lady.[3] Dennis King pursued his hobby of painting later in life.[citation needed]

King died of a heart disease in University Hospital in New York City on 21 May 1971, aged 73.[3]

Musical theatre credits

Musical film credits

Other film credits

Television credits


  1. ^ Room, Adrian (10 January 2014). Dictionary of Pseudonyms: 13,000 Assumed Names and Their Origins, 5th ed. McFarland. p. 262. ISBN 978-0-7864-5763-2. Retrieved 26 October 2022.
  2. ^ a b c Hischak, Thomas S. (2 June 2008). The Oxford Companion to the American Musical: Theatre, Film, and Television. Oxford University Press. p. 398. ISBN 978-0-19-988732-3. Retrieved 26 October 2022.
  3. ^ a b c d e "Dennis King, Stage Star, Dead; Noted for 'Vagabond King' Role". The New York Times. 23 May 1971. p. 61. Retrieved 26 October 2022.
  4. ^ a b c Brundidge, Harry T. (27 December 1929). "Dennis King Once Had to Borrow Steerage Fare to Visit Wife and Child". The St. Louis Star and Times. p. 3. Retrieved 26 October 2022.
  5. ^ a b "Who's Who in Pictures: Sketches of the Careers of H.B. Warner, Dennis King and Others". The New York Times. 11 June 1933. p. X 2. Retrieved 26 October 2022.
  6. ^ Dan Dietz, The Complete Book of 1950s Broadway Musicals (Rowman & Littlefield, 2014), p 201
  7. ^ OUTER CIRCLE NAMES 'BILLY BUDD' BEST PLAY. 27 May 1951. ((cite book)): |work= ignored (help)
  8. ^ "The Winners For The 8th Annual Donaldson Awards". Billboard. 28 July 1951. p. 43.
  9. ^ "A King Among Pictures". Broadway and Hollywood Movies. 19 May 1930. pp. 16–17. Retrieved 26 October 2022.
  10. ^ a b "From Stage to TV: Dennis King Finds That Video Presents New Challenge to the Performer". The New York Times. 20 February 1949. p. X 11. Retrieved 26 October 2022.
  11. ^ "Dennis King Chosen Players' President". The New York Times. 3 June 1965. p. 26. Retrieved 26 October 2022.