Actor

Victory Best Film Carry On Cleo
Best Character Captain S Melly in Carry On England
Silliest name Constable Constable in Carry On Constable
Films 18 - Sergeant, Nurse, Teacher, Constable, Regardless, Cruising, Cabby, Cleo, Up The Jungle, Henry, Abroad, Matron, Girls, Dick, Behind, England, That'sEmmannuelle
Best Line "Corrrrrrr!!"

 

"I have what is almost a need", he says, "to balance comedy with drama".  It is this two way pull which gives his Carry On characterisations their surprising depth.  Inside many of his funny little men is a serious little man struggling to get out. 

Playing with your rubber duckHe started his Carry On life with Sergeant, playing a nervous chap so obsessed with his shortcomings, that he fails to see the woman lusting after him.  Then with a snap of the fingers, something happens inside him which magically transforms him into an indomitable go-getter.  As Horace Strong, one of the rookie soldiers, he is too absorbed in his own imaginary illnesses to notice that Dora Bryan is pursuing him and is madly in love with him.  The Company Medical Officer calls his bluff and puts him through every medical test in the book and this changes him into a transformed character who not only wins the girl but also becomes a model soldier.

Teacher, Constable and Cruising have him as very, similar characters, nervous and accident-prone, who fails to be able to get his words out in the right order but again he comes through at the end to win the girl.

His career spans almost the whole series of films, from Sergeant to Emmannuelle and he was absent from several in the middle where he was concentrating on theatre work, but perhaps his best role is that of Hengist Pod in Cleo, the hen-pecked Ancient British cave-dweller, who events the square wheel.  Upon being captured by the Romans, whilst riding his square-wheeled bicycle, Senna, to get help, he is, through mistaken identity, thought to be a great warrior and becomes Caesar's feared bodyguard.  Again he starts off playing the timid character and towards the end of the film he moves into the go-getter character as shown by him dragging his nagging wife by her hair into their cave so he can have his wicked way with her. 

After his nine-film break he returns to the Carry On stable with a somewhat altered character.  He is more ineffectual and is permanently impaired; the Mayor who continues loses his face or his trousers in Girls; or Captain S Melly in England, who is totally useless.  The only redeeming character in his latter Carry On years is the expectant father he portrays in Matron, who is always being called due to his unproductive wife and this character gives him some of hisEeerrrhhh funniest lines, he is really just comic relief, totally unimportant to the plot.

Kenneth was the Carry Oner who started acting at the earliest age.  He was born in London on 6th June 1918 and his first appearance on stage was at the tender age of 2 in Portsmouth where his father, a petty officer on the Royal Yacht Victoria and Albert, was helping to set up the service concerts for charity.  "I've photographs that show a bunch of chaps dressed as black and white minstrels, my mother with a money box, my father with a banjo, and me perched on top of the barrel organ".  Kenneth and his brother appeared in concerts throughout his childhood with his father showing him the basic steps.  

His father left the Navy to run a bar, which Kenneth served behind, whilst taking drama lessons.  In 1933 he won a place at the Central School of Speech and Drama in which his final year saw him win a gold medal.  His first professional role was in J M Barrie's The Boy David in 1936, and he made his film debut three years later in Poison Pen.

He served with the Middlesex Regiment in war-time and when he de-mobbed, he toured the Middle East with the famous Stars in Battledress and he became a close friend to fellow actor William Devlin.  While in Cairo, Kenneth received a message from Devlin asking him to join him in the newly formed Bristol Old Vic.  He jumped at the chance and set off for England in what he describes later as "the slowest boat journey on record".  When he arrived at the theatre, he was on stage before he had time to unpack.

When he looked back on his three years at Bristol, playing classic roles and modern plays, he thought of it as one of the most satisfying periods of his stage career.

Bobs full houseHis two-way pull, however, pulled him back to comedy and he found he had an irresistible urge to work in radio.  Working with Ted Ray in Ray's A Laugh, and with Jack Warner and Kathleen Harrison in Meet The Huggetts, and with Eric Barker in Just Fancy, he became something of a household name to listeners and he went on to meet Ted Ray and Eric Barker again when they appeared in guest roles in the Carry Ons.

When he started the Carry Ons in 1958, he considers this a watershed in his career.  "Like a cork on an ocean of joy", is how he describes it and it led to further film and stage roles, including the significant role in the West End stage playHold still please version of A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum, which saw Frankie Howerd in the lead.  Kenneth took over direction of the show when it went on tour with fellow Carry Oner Charles Hawtrey filling the West End role.  

Another milestone step forward in his career occurred when he starred in Hi-de-hi, 'Allo 'Allo  and Rentaghost on TV.  

He never watches his own work when it appears on television, "What's done is done", he says, "and on with the next".  But there is one Carry On that he always watches out for and that is Carry On Nurse as it is like a family movie to him.  He isn't looking out for his own performance, he is interested in his own son Jeremy's, then aged three and a half, who comes in at the end to greet his real-life daddy when he leaves the hospital. Jeremy  appears with him again years later in Dick, Behind and England.  

Kenneth died on November 28, 1993 (age 75) in Harrow, Middlesex, England from Cancer.

 

Filmography
 Chronologically (except Carry Ons)
Externally linked to IMDB

Norbert Smith, a Life (TV)
Hi-de-Hi (TV)
'Allo 'Allo (TV)
East Lynne
Rentaghost (TV)
On the House (TV)
Captain Nemo and the Underwater City
Cuckoo Patrol
Gonks Go Beat
Weekend with Lulu, A
What a Carve Up!
Dentist on the Job
His and Hers

Nearly a Nasty Accident
Four Feather Falls (TV, Voice)
Dentist in the Chair
Watch Your Stern
Make Mine a Million
Torchy, the Battery Boy (TV)
Davy
Ladykillers, The
Black Rider, The
Marilyn
There Was a Young Lady
Miss Robin Hood
Don't Say Die
Poison Pen

 


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