Happy Birthday to Hall High and Arkansas Arts Center alum, award winning actor Daniel Davis

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.

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31 Days of Arkansas Rep: 1989’s NOISES OFF

Michael Frayn’s three act satirical farce NOISES OFF pokes fun at the theatrical world.  This Tony nominated play within a play about the production of a British farce NOTHING ON took to the Arkansas Rep stage in June 1989.

Directed by Terry Sneed, the cast featured James Harbour as Nothing On’s director, and Theresa Quick as the leading lady.  Others in the cast were Vivian Morrison, Don Bolinger, Peter Bradshaw, Alan Hanson, Jane McNeill, Carolyn Pugh and Jon Meyer.

The first and third acts take place on the set of Nothing On in a house that was once a 16th century posset mill. The second act shows the backstage happenings during a performance.  The set (which rotated between acts) was designed by Nels Anderson.

The production ran from June 8 to 24, 1989.