Star Archive

Eric Portman (1903 - 1969)

Eric Portman occupied a curious position in British film: not quite a star, not quite a character player. His screen persona was of a grouchy, spiky, complex personality - and his real-life personality seems to have parallels with that.

Eric Harrison Portman was born in Halifax, Yorkshire. His father was a wool merchant and Eric joined the family firm after leaving school, though he was heavily involved in amateur dramatics. He became a professional actor in 1923 and toured for a year or so before making his London debut. In 1927 he joined the Old Vic.

After leaving the Old Vic he appeared in commercial hits and "fringe" productions, and inevitably dabbled in quota films. His first was the Tod Slaughter shocker Maria Marten, or The Murder in The Red Barn - maybe an unexpected start for such a distinguished actor. He went to Broadway in 1937, and while in America, tried his luck in Hollywood. It was an experience he hated, and he soon returned to Britain.

His big break in cinema came in Powell and Pressburger's 49th Parallel in which he played the leader of a group of Germans trying to cross Canada. This set him up for the rest of the war, playing anti-heroes. As the war wore on, these anti-heroes turned into villains from the glue-pouring nutter in A Canterbury Tale to murderers in several films.

His stage work was even more impressive. He originated the lead roles in Rattigan's The Browning Version and Separate Tables, and Dorothy and Campbell Christie's His Excellency; though he only appeared in the film version of the latter. Separate Tables took him again to Broadway, where he stayed off-and-on for nearly a decade.

He developed a heart condition which hampered his career and finally killed him in 1969. 

Eric Portman in Uncensored


1935 Maria Marten, or The Murder in The Red Barn
1935 Abdul the Damned
1935 Old Roses
1935 Hyde Park Corner
1936 The Cardinal
1936 Hearts of Humanity
1937 The Prince and the Pauper (US)
1937 Moonlight Sonata
1938 The Crimes of Stephen Hawke
1941 49th Parallel
1942 One of Our Aircraft is Missing
1942 Uncensored
1943 Squadron Leader X
1943 We Dive at Dawn
1943 Escape to Danger
1943 Millions Like Us
1944 A Canterbury Tale
1945 Great Day
1946 Men of Two Worlds
1946 Wanted for Murder
1947 Dear Murderer
1948 Daybreak
1948 The Mark of Cain
1948 Corridor of Mirrors
1948 The Blind Goddess
1950 The Spider and the Fly
1951 The Magic Box
1951 Cairo Road
1951 His Excellency
1952 South of Algiers
1954 The Colditz Story
1955 The Deep Blue Sea
1956 Child in the House
1957 The Good Companions
1961 The Naked Edge
1962 The Man Who Finally Died
1962 Freud
1963 West Eleven
1965 The Bedford Incident
1966 The Whisperers
1967 The Spy With a Cold Nose
1967 Assignment to Kill
1968 Deadfall

 Eric Portman at Amazon UK

 Eric Portman at Amazon US