January 2, 2017


Stanley Baker (1927-1976) b. Ferndale, Wales.

Stanley Baker

Tough guy actor Stanley Baker was born in the Welsh mining town of Ferndale in the Rhondda Valley, his family later moved to London in the mid-1930s. He made his theatrical entrance by way of repertory work in Birmingham and London. He made his film debut as a teenager in Ealing’s wartime tale of the Yugoslav resistance, Undercover (1943), and then embarked on his adult film career All Over the Moon (1949).

Baker established himself as an actor in The Cruel Sea (1953), and his impressive screen presence as the bullying first officer won him a long-term Rank contract. In Hell Below Zero (1954), a film adapted from Hammond Innes’ novel The White South, Alan Ladd dunked him in a hole in the Antarctic. In Lewis Gilbert’s unrelentingly gloomy crime thriller, The Good Die Young (1954), Baker showed signs of a conscience as the sympathetic one, a disfigured boxer enticed into robbery with a trio of misfits. In Hell Drivers (1957), Baker was a paroled ex-con driving for a crooked haulage company. The film was an honestly observed and uncompromising milieu of a trucker’s life, rented rooms and greasy transport cafés.

Baker was shaping up nicely as a competent Hollywood-style ‘heavy’ before his bosses smoothed him out to internationalise his appeal. It did the trick and made him a star, but in the transformation some of that splendid, raw cutting edge disappeared. He progressed to become a key figure in 60s crime films with his tough and solitary persona, starring in films such as Zulu (1964), Accident (1967) and Robbery (1967). He formed his own production company, Oakhurst Productions, and was later knighted in 1976, a month before he died of cancer at the age of 49.

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