Edward Underdown
Underdown in Beat the Devil (1953)
Charles Edward Underdown

(1908-12-03)3 December 1908
Died15 December 1989(1989-12-15) (aged 81)
Hampshire, England
Occupation(s)Actor, jockey
Years active1932–1980
Hon. Rosemary Sybella Violet Grimston
(m. 1953; div. 1964)

Charles Edward Underdown (3 December 1908 – 15 December 1989) was an English theatre, cinema and television actor.[1][2] He was born in London and educated at Eton College in Berkshire.

Notable work

Early theatre credits include: Noël Coward's Words and Music and Tonight at 8.30; Cole Porter's Nymph Errant; Moss Hart & Irving Berlin's Stop Press; and Streamline.[3][4][5]

His film credits include: They Were Not Divided, Beat the Devil, Wings of the Morning, The Rainbow Jacket, The Woman's Angle, Her Panelled Door, The Camp on Blood Island, Dr. Terror's House of Horrors, Thunderball, Khartoum, The Magic Christian and Digby, the Biggest Dog in the World.[1]

Television appearances include: Dad's Army, Danger Man, The Saint, The Avengers, The Rat Catchers, Weavers Green, Man in a Suitcase, Doomwatch, The Regiment, Colditz, Upstairs, Downstairs, Survivors, The Duchess of Duke Street and Doctor Who.[6]

Both Wings of the Morning and The Rainbow Jacket were set in his beloved racing world, the former being set on Epsom Downs. Wings of the Morning, starring Henry Fonda, was Britain's first Technicolor film.[7]

Edward Underdown was also a gentleman jockey and rode with great aplomb in both flat and hurdle races (see references to his riding career in John Hislop's books).[8]

In 1950 he was voted by British exhibitors as the most promising male screen newcomer.[9]

According to Ian Fleming's stepson, Underdown was the novelist's preferred choice for James Bond.[10]

Personal life

Edward Underdown was born on 3 December 1908 in London.[1]

Underdown was the son of Harry Charles Baillie Underdown and Rachel Elizabeth Orr. He married Hon. Rosemary Sybella Violet Grimston, daughter of Robert Grimston, 1st Baron Grimston of Westbury and Sybil Rose Neumann, on 10 February 1953. Charles Underdown and Rosemary Grimston were sixth cousins through their common ancestors Thomas Villiers, 1st Earl of Clarendon and Lady Charlotte Capell.[11]

He died on 15 December 1989 in Hampshire aged 81.[8]

Theatre appearances


Television appearances

Love of horses

Edward Underdown's father owned a Norfolk estate in the Stanford Battle area. It was here that Edward learnt and developed his riding.

Before his career as an actor Edward was a gentleman jockey and rode with great aplomb both on the flat and over sticks (see references to his riding career in John Hislop's books).

The Norfolk estate is mentioned in Bill Pertwee's book about the making of Dad's Army. One of the Dad's Army episodes was by co-incidence filmed at the estate. By this time the estate was owned by the War Office and nothing was left except for the verandah and stables. As soon as John Le Mesurier arrived he realised it was familiar to him from weekend parties Edward's father had invited him to in the 1930s. So it was that Edward found himself working in a television series that featured part of his old home.[19]

The films Wings of the Morning and The Rainbow Jacket were set in his beloved racing world, the former being set on Epsom Downs.[20][21]

Finally, after his acting career he worked as a steward at Newbury Racecourse.[22] This was described by Bill Pertwee as "fitting for a man who not only loved horses but was also an expert rider." (ibit, page 86).

Military service

On wanting to sign-up, Edward Underdown's first approach was to the Wiltshire Yeomanry. He reputedly appeared at the depot with his friend, Sandy Carlos Clarke, who had recently returned from Canada working as a ranch hand. When asked by the recruiting Sergeant to state their professions, Underdown replied, "film star" and Carlos Clarke answered, "cowboy" and thinking this was a joke, the sergeant stated that their services were not required. Underdown did subsequently join the Wiltshire Yeomanry whilst Clarke found a post with another Yeomanry regiment.[23]

Underdown went on to have a distinguished Second World War record as an officer in the Wiltshire Yeomanry serving in the 8th Army in Africa.[24]

After the war Edward resumed his acting career but remained in the Territorial Army. He remained in the Territorial Army Reserve of Officers until he reached the age limit. He retired as captain on 7 November 1959 and retained the rank of honorary major.[25]


  1. ^ a b c "Edward Underdown". Archived from the original on 20 July 2016.
  2. ^ "Edward Underdown - Theatricalia". theatricalia.com.
  3. ^ University of Bristol Theatre Collection Database (2011). at http://www.bristol.ac.uk/theatrecollection, accessed 26 September 2011.
  4. ^ a b League, The Broadway. "Tonight at 8:30 – Broadway Play – Original - IBDB". www.ibdb.com.
  5. ^ a b "Production of Stop Press | Theatricalia".
  6. ^ TV.com. "Edward Underdown". TV.com.
  7. ^ "BFI Screenonline: Cardiff, Jack (1914-2009) Biography". www.screenonline.org.uk.
  8. ^ a b "Edward Underdown - Biography, Movie Highlights and Photos - AllMovie". AllMovie.
  9. ^ "Hope tops list for popularity". The Mail. Adelaide: National Library of Australia. 30 December 1950. p. 5 Supplement: Sunday Magazine. Retrieved 10 July 2012.
  10. ^ Field, Matthew (2015). Some kind of hero : 007 : the remarkable story of the James Bond films. Ajay Chowdhury. Stroud, Gloucestershire. ISBN 978-0-7509-6421-0. OCLC 930556527.((cite book)): CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  11. ^ Mosley, Charles. Ed. (2003) 'Burke's Peerage, Baronetage & Knightage, 107th edition', Volume 2, Page 1685. Wilmington, Delaware, U.S.A.: Burke's Peerage (Genealogical Books) Ltd.
  12. ^ Liverpool Empire Theatre, Liverpool (1935). Theatre program for To-night at 7.30.
  13. ^ Phoenix Theatre, London (opened 9 January 1936). Theatre program for 'Tonight at 8.30'.
  14. ^ St. James's Theatre (1937). Theatre program for 'You Can't Take It With You'.
  15. ^ St. Martin's Theatre (1958). Theatre program for 'The Grass is Greener'.
  16. ^ Theatre Royal Brighton (1958). Theatre program for 'The Grass is Greener'.
  17. ^ Mermaid Theatre (1961). Theatre program for 'The Long Sunset'.
  18. ^ Theatre Royal Brighton (1965). Theatre program for 'Past Imperfect'.
  19. ^ Pertwee, Bill (2009) Dad's Army: The Making of a Television Legend, Page 86. U.S.A.: Anova Books.
  20. ^ "Wings of the Morning (1937) - Harold D. Schuster - Synopsis, Characteristics, Moods, Themes and Related - AllMovie". AllMovie.
  21. ^ "The Rainbow Jacket (1954) - Basil Dearden - Synopsis, Characteristics, Moods, Themes and Related - AllMovie". AllMovie.
  22. ^ Pertwee, Bill (3 November 2009). Dad's Army: The Making of a TV Legend. Bloomsbury USA. ISBN 9781844861057.
  23. ^ Daily Telegraph Online Edition, 10 May 2003, Sandy Carlos Clarke Obituary.
  24. ^ Easter Daily Press (2009) 'Film show has links to Breckland star' (13 May 2009), at www.edp24.co.uk, accessed on 30 March 2014.
  25. ^ The London Gazette, No. 41861, Supplement of Tuesday, 3 November 1959.