David Swift (actor)

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David Swift
Swift as Henry Davenport in Drop the Dead Donkey
David Bernard Swift

(1931-04-03)3 April 1931
Liverpool, England
Died8 April 2016(2016-04-08) (aged 85)
London, England
Resting placeHighgate Cemetery
Years active1961–2004
(m. 1953)

David Bernard Swift (3 April 1931 – 8 April 2016) was an English actor known for his role as Henry Davenport in the topical comedy Drop the Dead Donkey.

Early life[edit]

Swift was born in Liverpool, the second of the four children of Abram Sampson Swift and Lily Rebecca (née Greenman), who owned a furniture shop in Bootle.[1] His family was Jewish.[2] He was educated at Clifton College[3] and Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, where he studied law. He then embarked on a career as a businessman with his father-in-law, J.P. Jacobs, whose company supplied all the elastic to Marks & Spencer.


Swift made his professional debut on stage after being appointed as an assistant stage manager at Dundee Repertory Theatre in 1963. He made his television debut in 1964 as Theo Clay in the soap opera Compact.[1] He appeared in many small-screen roles in the 1970s and 1980s, whilst in the theatre he appeared in the Royal Shakespeare Company's 1978 production of Henry VI, Part 1 at the Aldwych Theatre, and won acclaim for his performance as Frank Doel in the Ambassadors Theatre's 1981-2 production of 84, Charing Cross Road. In addition he played Montclair in the film of The Day of the Jackal (1973).[1] Swift appeared as Dingley alongside Richard Beckinsale in the BBC situation comedy Bloomers (1979) and also appeared in several episodes of Going Straight (1978), the sequel to Porridge. Prior to this he had made a guest appearance, again with Beckinsale, in the Yorkshire Television comedy Rising Damp in which he played a suicidal tenant in the episode "Good Samaritans". But it was the role of irascible newsreader Henry Davenport in the topical comedy Drop the Dead Donkey, written by Andy Hamilton and Guy Jenkin, for which Swift became best known. He also made occasional appearances as God in the Radio 4 comedy Old Harry's Game, also written by Hamilton.

Alongside his acting career, Swift had an active interest in the behind-the-scenes aspects of media production, running the sound recording and post-production businesses Preview 1 and Preview 2 in the 1960s, before co-founding and managing Tempest Films in 1969 along with film-makers Charles Denton, Richard Marquand, Paul Watson and John Pilger. The company also produced documentaries by actor-director Kenneth Griffith.[1]

Personal life and death[edit]

Grave of David Swift and Paula Jacobs in Highgate Cemetery

Swift was the elder brother of the actor Clive Swift, known for his role in Keeping Up Appearances, with whom he sometimes performed. He was the uncle of the academic Adam Swift and the television personality Joe Swift and their sister Rebecca. He was married to the actress Paula Jacobs, was the father of actress Julia Swift and father-in-law of actor David Bamber.

He died from complications of Alzheimer's disease on 8 April 2016, aged 85.[4]

He is buried on the eastern side of Highgate Cemetery with his wife Paula.

Selected filmography[edit]




  1. ^ a b c d e Hayward, Anthony (18 April 2016). "David Swift obituary". The Guardian. Retrieved 18 April 2016.
  2. ^ Drabble, Margaret (20 April 2010). "Art Thou Contented, Jew?". Tablet Mag. Retrieved 30 July 2014.
  3. ^ Muirhead, J.A.O. (1948). Clifton College Annals and Register, 1860–1947. J. W. Arrowsmith. p. 520.
  4. ^ "Memorial to David Bernard Swift, 1931 - 2016".

External links[edit]