January 2, 2017


Kenneth Griffith (1921-2006) Tenby, Pembrokeshire, Wales.

Kenneth Griffith

Born in Tenby, Pembrokshire, character actor Kenneth Griffith first entertained hopes of becoming an actor when his performance at Green Hill Grammar School was praised by a local newspaper. He immediately decided to pursue a career on the boards of repertory theatre and went on to portray nervy weasels and unsympathetic weaklings on screen from the 1940s. He served in the RAF during World War II, mostly in Canada, and he was invalided out of the RAF in 1942. He gained stage experience with the Old Vic and made his screen debut in Love on the Dole (1941).

During the 1950s and 1960s he was a regular in the Boulting Brothers films, including Private’s Progress (1956), Lucky Jim (1957), I’m All Right Jack (1959) and Heavens Above! (1963). He also frequently appeared alongside Peter Sellers in such films as The Naked Truth (1957) and Only Two Can Play (1962).

He was regarded as a world authority on the Boer War, and despite no previous experience of documentary-making, made a BBC film on the siege of Ladysmith in 1967. He returned to Africa for later films, and other controversial subjects included Cecil Rhodes, the British conflict with the Zulu, and the South African runner Zola Budd. His most contentious, work was Hang Out Your Brightest Colours: The Life and Death of Michael Collins, made in 1972 for ITV, about the IRA leader assassinated in 1922. The polemic film was banned by the Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA), and not shown until 1994.

Refusing to compromise his views damaged his career and left Griffith a bemused filmmaker. Despite claiming he retired from acting in the 1960s in the twilight of his career he had two brief but memorable cameo appearances alongside Hugh Grant; an irascible old guest in Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994) and the Rev. Jones in The Englishman Who Went up a Hill but Came down a Mountain (1995). Griffith died at his home in North London on June 25, 2006.

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