On November 26, 1945, future actor Daniel Davis was born in Gurdon. As a child, his family moved to Little Rock where his parents ran a movie theatre. As a child, he appeared on “Betty’s Little Rascals” local TV show with Betty Fowler.
While a student at Hall High, Davis had the lead as Horace Vandergelder in The Matchmaker (which would soon be musicalized on Broadway in Hello, Dolly!), appeared in Judgment at Nuremburg, sang in the Hallmarks (concert choir), and was a Harlequin Player (drama club). He was also on the staff of the Warrior (yearbook), War Whoop (newspaper), and Inkwell (literary magazine). His fellow members of the class of 1963 voted him the Wittiest boy in the class.
Davis at Hall in 1963
After graduating from Hall, Davis remained in Little Rock and enrolled in the new Arkansas Arts Center school of Art and Drama, a degree granting program. While there, he appeared in numerous plays.
One of them was The Persecution and Assassination of Jean-Paul Marat as Performed by the Inmates of the Asylum of Charenton under the Direction of the Marquis de Sade. National theatre critic Henry Hewes of the Saturday Review came to Little Rock to review the production, which was presented a year after the play had won a Tony for Best Play. Hewes actually liked the Little Rock production better.
After completing studies at the Arts Center, Davis worked with the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, American National Theatre Academy, Stratford Festival, and American Conservatory Theatre. He also started appearing in television, including a stint in the soap “Texas” and guest starring in many TV series. In 1993, he started a six year, 145 episode run as Niles the butler in “The Nanny.” His British accent on the show caused many in the public to think he was from England instead of Arkansas.
Davis has continued to act frequently on stage. In 1969, he made his Broadway debut as the Dauphin in Henry V followed by an appearance in Othello. He was a replacement as Salieri in the original production of Amadeus. In 2003, he received an Obie Award for his appearance in Alan Bennett’s Talking Heads. Three years earlier he was nominated for a Tony for his appearance in Wrong Mountain. Other recent Broadway appearances include The Invention of Love, The Frogs, La Cage aux Folles and Noises Off.