Richard Vernon was born on 7 March 1925. He was educated at Reading School and Leighton Park School (both in Reading, Berkshire) and during the Second World War served in the Royal Navy. Vernon trained as an actor at the Central School of Speech and Drama.
In 1960, Vernon appeared in an adaptation of A.J. Cronin’s novel, The Citadel. In 1961, he played the father in the BBC series, ‘Stranger on the Shore’, famous for Acker Bilk’s hit theme song. An early leading role was as wartime agent-turned-criminologist Edwin Oldenshaw in the TV series ‘The Man in Room 17’ (1965–66) and its sequel ‘The Fellows’ (1967). He also played a small role as Colonel Smithers, an executive of the Bank of England, in a scene opposite Sean Connery and Bernard Lee in the 1964 James Bond film ‘Goldfinger’, discussing how Auric Goldfinger transports his gold overseas.
He is remembered for his parts as the unnamed ‘city gent’ reluctantly sharing a train compartment with the Beatles in ‘A Hard Day’s Night’, the planetary designer Slartibartfast (designer of fjords) in the BBC radio and TV series ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’, as Sir James Greenley (“C”) in ‘The Sandbaggers’, as Lord Salisbury in ‘Edward the Seventh’, as Major Toby Smith-Barton in ‘The Duchess of Duke Street’, as the Duke of Broughton in ‘Nanny’, as the occasional character Sir Desmond Glazebrook in the TV series ‘Yes Minister’ and ‘Yes, Prime Minister’, and as Mr Becket in ‘Sammy’s Super T-Shirt’. He also appeared in the 1965 Morecambe and Wise film ‘The Intelligence Men’ as patron of the arts ‘Sir Edward Seabrook’, Lord Bartelsham in ‘Ripping Yarns’, and Squire Dale in the BBC Radio 4 adaptation of ‘The Small House at Allington’. In 1986 he appeared in ‘Paradise Postponed’, and voiced the professor Gus in ‘The Giddy Game Show’ (1985-7). In Kate Bush’s music video for Experiment IV he appeared as Dr. Jerry Coe.
His final film appearance was a cameo at the end of the family film Loch Ness, which was released in 1996. He died of complications from Parkinson’s disease on 4 December 1997.