A London-born stage and film veteran, actor Edward Underdown was educated at Eton College and began in theatre roles in 1932 with “Words and Music”. A former jockey and steeplechase rider, he quickly forged ahead in films making his debut in The Warren Case (1934) and appearing in secondary roles. A tall, officious and good looking gent, he came into his own in post-war film leads and supports with prominent roles in The October Man (1947), Her Panelled Door (1950), The Dark Man (1951), Murder Will Out (1952), The Shadow Man (1953), and John Huston’s cult overseas hit Beat the Devil (1953) starring Humphrey Bogart and Jennifer Jones in which he played Jones’ prim dullard of a husband. Most of his work was in dismissible “B” level fare as dour, damp, stuffy types. He started moving down the credits list in 1960s horrors and action drama until he was reduced to bit parts. Over the course of his career, he played everything from British lords to archaeologists, but never branched out into a successful international career.
Things might have turned out differently had a little more luck come his way. It seems writer Ian Fleming’s first choice for the role of James “007” Bond was the handsome but still relatively undistinguished Underdown, but the actor was never even considered by producer Albert R. Broccoli. Of course, Sean Connery soared to stardom in the part and, ironically, Underdown wound up with a very small part in one of the more popular of the film series Thunderball (1965). Underdown died in his native England on December 15, 1989 at age 81.