January 2, 2017


Kenneth More (1914-1982) b. Gerrards Cross, England.

Kenneth More

British actor Kenneth More was one of the league of likeable gentlemen of post-war British cinema. He was born in Gerrards Cross, Buckinghamshire, and educated at Victoria College, Jersey. He began as a Windmill Theatre stage-hand-turned-per former and made his film debut in Windmill Revels (1938). During WWII he served as a lieutenant in the Royal Navy and returned to acting in 1946. More received an early break with a support role in Ealing’s Scott of the Antarctic (1948), and continued in lesser roles until he was contracted to the Rank Organisation in 1950. He was successfully cast in a couple of light, very English, comedies including Brandy for the Parson (1952) and Appointment with Venus (1951). This seemed to provide solid footing for his first big break and box-office success, the vintage car rally comedy Genevieve (1953), with More and John Gregson dueling on the annual London to Brighton vintage car rally.

More had waited a long time for a role to get his teeth into and make good use of his undoubted charm. This came to fruition when Lewis Gilbert cast him in the role of Douglas Bader in Reach for the Sky (1956), in which he portrayed the tin-legged flying hero whose courage in adversity was truly remarkable. It was probably More’s best film and a box-office smash. His good fortune continued as he joined up with Lewis Gilbert once more for The Admirable Crichton (1957), a fun comedy on the role-reversal of the British class system as a resourceful butler shipwrecked along with his upper-crust employers becomes ‘Guv’ of the hierarchical structure on a tropical island, until the inevitable reinstate­ment of the old values. Another better than average role was his humane first officer aboard the Titanic in A Night to Remember (1958), Roy Ward Baker’s reconstruction of the final aboard the doomed liner.

More’s subsequent films were less successful and his jovial character was out of step with the changing times. J. Lee-Thompson’s Northwest Frontier (1959) is a dull tale of as a British Army captain assigned to rescuing a fictitious Hindu prince during the days of the Raj, and Ralph Thomas’ The Thirty-Nine Steps (1960) was commendable for its location scenery but the weakest of the John Buchan remakes due to a miscast More is miscast and vacant Swedish co-star Taina Elg.

Off screen, More, the ‘family man’ of cinema, now found himself as the centre of damaging industry gossip and newspaper stories. An unfortunate drink-fuelled heckling of Rank chief-executive John Davis during a trade event at the Dorchester Hotel damaged More’s ‘family guy’ reputation and led to the termination of his contract with the Rank Organisation. This was followed by the break-up of his marriage and much-publicised affair with comedy actress Angela Douglas, 26 years his junior. Subsequently the film offers dried up but television brought fame once again due to his role as Young Jolyon in BBC TV’s serialisation of The Forsyte Saga.

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