James Booth (born David Geeves; 19 December 1927 â€" 11 August 2005) was an English film, stage and television actor and screenwriter. Though considered handsome enough to play leading roles, and versatile enough to play a wide variety of character parts, Booth naturally projected a shifty, wolfish, or unpredictable quality that led inevitably to villainous roles and comedy, usually with a cockney flavour. He is probably best known for his role as Private Henry Hook in Zulu.


He was born in Croydon, Surrey, England on 19 December 1927, the son of a probation officer. He was educated at Southend Grammar School, which he left aged 17 to join the army. He rose to the rank of Captain. He spent several years working for an international trading company. However, his interest in acting soon took priority. He was trained at RADA and he made his first professional appearance as a member of the Old Vic company, before joining Joan Littlewood's Theatre Workshop at the Theatre Royal, Stratford East in 1958. The Workshop's musical Fings Ain't Wot They Used T'Be became a hit and Booth, who played its most pungent character, looked poised for stardom. Producer Irving Allen signed Booth to an exclusive contract with Warwick Films.

The sixties, and especially the early sixties, represented the most active period of Booth's movie career, with Zulu being the film for which he is best remembered. Joseph E. Levine put him under contract. He will also be remembered for playing the part of Kenny Ames, a pornography baron living in enforced exile in Spain, in series 2 of Auf Wiedersehen, Pet in 1985.

Though many observers expected Booth to become a major star, his acting career stalled and nearly died. In interviews, Booth was surprisingly forthcoming about the reasons for his professional difficulties. These included his appearance in the flop stage musical Twang! in 1965, the flop film The Secret of My Success opposite such popular actresses as Honor Blackman and Shirley Jones, his alcoholism, his unaggressive approach to selling himself, his lack of connections, and his own failure to work hard because everything came so easily to him at first. Booth also turned down the lead role of Alfie. By 1974 he was bankrupt, heavily in debt, and was forced to return to the stage.

When no one would offer Booth an acting job, he tried his hand at screenwriting and found a market for his services in Hollywood. From the mid-seventies to sometime in the nineties, Booth lived in southern California and worked primarily as a screenwriter, making occasional film or TV appearances, including a cameo appearance in the second series of Twin Peaks (1990).

In later life Booth moved back to England. He never retired.

He married Paula Delaney in 1960 and they had two sons and two daughters. He died in Hadleigh, Essex on 11 August 2005 aged 77. His last film - Keeping Mum - was dedicated to his memory.

Selected filmography

James Booth
  • The Narrowing Circle (1956)
  • The Girl in the Picture (1957)
  • Jazzboat (1960)... as Spider Kelly
  • Let's Get Married (1960)... as Photographer
  • The Trials of Oscar Wilde (1960)... as Alfred Wood
  • In the Nick (1960)
  • Jazz Boat (1960)
  • The Hellions (1961) as Jubal
  • In the Doghouse (1961) as Bob Skeffington
  • French Dressing (1963)...as Jim
  • Sparrows Can't Sing (1963)... as Charlie Gooding
  • Zulu (1964)... as Private Henry Hook VC
  • French Dressing (1964)
  • Ninety Degrees in the Shade (1965)
  • The Secret of My Success (1965)... as Arthur Tate
  • Robbery (1967)... as Inspector George Langdon
  • The Bliss of Mrs. Blossom (1968)... as Ambrose Tuttle
  • Fräulein Doktor (1969)... as Meyer
  • Adam's Woman (1970)
  • Darker than Amber (1970)
  • Macho Callahan (1970)
  • The Man Who Had Power Over Women (1970)
  • Revenge (1971)... as Jim Radford
  • Rentadick (1972)
  • That'll Be The Day (1973)... as Mr MacLaine
  • Penny Gold (1973)
  • Percy's Progress (1974)... as Jeffcott
  • Brannigan (1975)... as Charlie the Handle
  • I'm Not Feeling Myself Tonight (1976)
  • Airport '77 (1977)... as Ralph Crawford
  • Caboblanco (1980)
  • The Jazz Singer (1980)
  • Zorro, The Gay Blade (1981)... as Valasquez
  • Pray for Death (1985) as Limehouse
  • Bad Guys (1986)... as Lord Percy
  • Avenging Force (1986)... as Admiral Brown (also co-wrote)
  • American Ninja 4: The Annihilation (1990)... as Mulgrew
  • Inner Sanctum II (1994)... as Detective Hooper
  • The Breed (2001)... as Fleming
  • The Pool (2004)... as Patrick
  • Keeping Mum (2005)... as Mr. Brown

Selected television

James Booth
  • Shirley's World (1972) (TV Series...as Edmund Remberg (episode 'A Mother's Touch')
  • The Sweeney (1975) (TV Series...as Vic Labbett (episode 'Poppy')
  • The Fall Guy (1982) (TV series)... as Ian Graham
  • Minder Give Us This Daley's Bread (1984)... as Godfrey
  • Auf Wiedersehen, Pet (1986) (TV series)... as Kenny Ames
  • Twin Peaks (1990) (TV series)... as Ernie Niles
  • Minder "Gone with the Winchester" (1993)... as Toby 'Jug' Johnson

Selected stage work

  • The Hostage (1958)... as an IRA officer at Joan Littlewood's Theatre Workshop
  • A Christmas Carol as Bob Cratchit for the Theatre Workshop
  • Fings Ain't Wot They Used T'Be... as Tosher
  • The Hostage (1959)... as an IRA officer at Wyndham's Theatre
  • The Fire-Raisers ... for the Royal Court Theatre
  • The Caretaker (1962)... as Mick
  • The Comedy of Errors (1962)... for the RSC at Stratford-on-Avon
  • King Lear (1962)... as Edmund for the RSC at Stratford-on-Avon
  • A Thousand Clowns
  • Twang! (Shaftesbury (1965)... as Robin Hood
  • The Entertainer... as Archie Rice
  • Travesties (1975)... as James Joyce

Further reading

  • Noble, Peter. British Film and Television Yearbook: 1960/61. British and American Film Press, 1961.
  • Walker, John. The Once and Future Film: British Cinema in the Seventies and Eighties. London: Methuen, 1985.


External links

  • James Booth at the Internet Movie Database
  • BBC News - Zulu actor James Booth dies at 77
  • The Scotsman - Obituaries: James Booth
  • The Stage: Actor James Booth dies
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