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' House Of Cards' Actor Ian Richardson


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'House of Cards' Actor Ian Richardson

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Ian Richardson

LONDON, England -- Ian Richardson, who brought Shakespearean depth to his portrayal of a thoroughly immoral politician in the hugely popular satirical TV drama, "House of Cards," died Friday, February 9 in his sleep at his London home, said the agent, Jean Diamond. He was 72.

In addition to his many stage, screen and TV roles, Richardson was probably best known to American television viewers from his commercial work. He appeared in one of the popular Grey Poupon mustard commercials as the man in the Rolls-Royce who asked, "Pardon me, would you have any Grey Poupon?"

Richardson played the silkily evil Francis Urquhart in three miniseries, 1990's "House of Cards," in 1993's "To Play the King" and 1995's "The Final Cut." Urquhart's smooth riposte to any slur against another character -- "You may think that; I couldn't possibly comment" -- was picked up by British politicians and heard again and again in the House of Commons.

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Ian Richardson in 'House of Cards'

His other television roles included Bill Haydon in John Le Carre's "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" and Sir Godber Evans in "Porterhouse Blue." He also portrayed Sherlock Holmes in "The Hound of the Baskervilles" and the British spy Anthony Blunt in the BBC-TV play, "Blunt."

In 2001, he starred in "Murder Rooms: The Dark Beginnings of Sherlock Holmes," playing Dr. Joseph Bell, the mentor of Arthur Conan Doyle, in a miniseries that was broadcast in the United States on PBS' "Mystery."

On Broadway, he played Jean-Paul Marat in "Marat/Sade" in 1965, reprising the role in the United Artists film the following year, and Henry Higgins in a 1976 revival of "My Fair Lady," for which he was nominated for a Tony Award as Best Actor in a Musical.

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Ian Richardson as Professor Henry Higgins and

Christine Andreas as Eliza Doolittle on Broadway

in 'My Fair Lady'

He made many film appearances, including 1985's "Brazil," 1987's "The Fourth Protocol" and 1998's "Dark City" He played Polonius in 1990's "Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead," Martin Landau's butler in the 1997 Halle Berry film, "B*A*P*S" and Cruella de Vil's solicitor, Mr. Torte, in the 2002 live action movie, "102 Dalmatians."

But it was his role in "House of Cards" that turned him "from a jobbing actor that the cognoscenti were aware of into a star that the country's entire viewing population knew," Richardson said in an interview last year with the Daily Mail newspaper.

"House of Cards" was brilliantly, if accidentally, timed. It appeared in Britain in the same year that Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was brought down by feuding in her Conservative Party. The miniseries was shown in the United States as part of PBS' "Masterpiece Theatre."

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Ian Richardson circa 1966

"Urquhart was a wicked character but Richardson portrayed him in such a way that everybody loved it. In anybody else's hands, that role could have fallen flat on his face," said Michael Dobbs, who wrote the book on which it was based.

In the feverish atmosphere of Thatcher's downfall, "even John Major's leadership campaign in 1990 came to a halt at 9 p.m. on a Sunday night so that the whole campaign team could sit down and see what was happening," Dobbs said.

Richardson, born in Edinburgh in 1934, joined the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1960. In 1989, Queen Elizabeth II honored him with a Commander of the Order of the British Empire for his many roles.

He is survived by his wife, Maroussia, and two sons. Funeral arrangements were not announced at present.

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