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Eric Portman

Eric Portman
Born Eric Harold Portman[1]
(1901-07-13)13 July 1901
Akroydon, Halifax, West Riding of Yorkshire, England, UK
Died 7 December 1969(1969-12-07) (aged 68)
St Veep, Cornwall, UK
Years active 1933-1969

Eric Portman (13 July 1901 – 7 December 1969) was an English stage and film actor. He is probably best remembered for his roles in several films for Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger during the 1940s.


He started work in 1922 as a salesman in the menswear department at Marshall and Snelgrove's department store in Leeds and acted in the amateur Halifax Light Opera Society. He made his professional stage debut in 1924 with Henry Baynton's company,[2] before he was engaged by Lilian Baylis for the Old Vic Company. In 1928, he starred as Romeo in the rebuilt Old Vic and forged a reputation as a noted Shakespearian actor. In the 1930s, he began appearing in films. In 1935, he appeared in four films, including Maria Marten or Murder in the Red Barn.

Portman was anti-Semitic. In the semi-autobiographical play Dinner with Ribbentrop by screenwriter Norman Hudis, a former personal assistant to Portman, Hudis relates a claim made often by Portman. According to Portman, in 1937, before the start of the Second World War, he had had a dinner in London with Joachim von Ribbentrop (then the Nazi Ambassador to Britain). Portman claimed that Ribbentrop had told him that "when Germany wins the war, [Portman] would be installed as the greatest English star in the New Europe" at a purpose-built film studio in Berlin.[3][4]

In 1945, exhibitors voted him the 10th most popular star at the British box office.[5] He maintained that ranking the following year.[6] He played the bogus Major in Terence Rattigan's play Separate Tables in 1957 on Broadway. For this performance, he was nominated for a Tony Award (Best Actor (Dramatic)).

Portman was homosexual, although newspapers never reported this during the mid-1950s when homosexuality was illegal in the UK. Newspapers refrained from identifying his sexuality throughout the 1960s when it could still have damaged his career.[7] Portman was quoted as once saying, "Acting is like masturbation – one either does it or one doesn't, but one never talks about it."[8]

Near the end of his life he played Number Two in the TV series The Prisoner, appearing in the episode "Free For All" (1967).


Portman died at age 68 at his home in St Veep, Cornwall from undisclosed causes.



  1. ^ Births England and Wales 1837-2006
  2. ^
  3. ^ "Dinner with Ribbentrop". 2004-05-06. Retrieved 2012-06-11. 
  4. ^ "Dinner with Ribbentrop". Retrieved 25 September 2014. 
  5. ^ "CROSBY and HOPE try their luck in Alaska.". The Mercury (Hobart, Tas.: 1860-1954) (Hobart, Tas.: National Library of Australia). 2 March 1946. p. 3 Supplement: The Mercury Magazine. Retrieved 24 April 2012. 
  6. ^ "FILM WORLD.". The West Australian (Perth, WA: National Library of Australia). 28 February 1947. p. 20 (2nd edition). Retrieved 27 April 2012. 
  7. ^ Rattigan, Terence (1999). Separate Tables. Nick Hern Books. p. xxx. ISBN 978-1-85459-424-2. 
  8. ^ "Biography". Retrieved 3 May 2010. 


  • Owens, Andy. Our Eric: A Portrait of Eric Portman. England, Sigma Press, October 2013. ISBN 1-850-5898-1-X

External links

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