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Kenneth More Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (5) | Mini Bio (1) | Spouse (3) | Trivia (27) | Personal Quotes (9) | Salary (11)

Overview (5)

Born in Gerrards Cross, Buckinghamshire, England, UK
Died in Fulham, London, England, UK  (Parkinson's disease)
Birth NameKenneth Gilbert More
Nickname Kenny
Height 5' 9" (1.75 m)

Mini Bio (1)

Affable, bright and breezy Kenneth More epitomised the traditional English virtues of fortitude and fun. At the height of his fame in the 1950s he was Britain's most popular film star and had appeared in a string of box office hits including Genevieve (1953), Doctor in the House (1954), Reach for the Sky (1956) and A Night to Remember (1958).

Later in his career, when the film industry declined, he turned his talents to television where his interpretations of Jolyon in BBC's The Forsyte Saga (1967) and the title role in Father Brown (1974) made him a household name all over again.

More was a shrewd man when it came to the business of acting. He knew his limitations and what roles suited him. When the director Sir Peter Hall once suggested that he play Claudius to Albert Finney's Hamlet at the Royal National Theatre, More declined saying "One part of me would like to, but the other part said that there were so many great Shakespearian actors who could have done it better. I stick to the roles I can play better than them."

Born in Gerrards Cross in 1914 More's early grounding was in variety and legitimate theatre in the UK. On screen, like many leading men in the 1950s such as John Mills and Jack Hawkins, he seemed to spend most of the decade in uniform. When he read Reach for the Sky, the biography of the legless wartime pilot Douglas Bader, he was desperate to play the role, even though it was earmarked for Richard Burton. "I knew I was the only actor who could play the part properly" he said. "Most parts that can be played by one actor can equally well be played by another, but not this. Bader's philosophy was my philosophy. His whole attitude to life was mine."

Films such as North West Frontier (1959) and Sink the Bismarck! (1960) kept More at the top although his favourite role was as the down at heel actor in Loss of Innocence (1961). His private life was colourful and he was rarely out of the newspaper headlines. He was married three times, lastly to the actress Angela Douglas, whom he met whilst filming Some People (1962) with her. His drinking companions were the hellraisers Trevor Howard and Jack Hawkins. Noel Coward once tried to seduce him in a bedroom but More gasped "Oh, Mr Coward, sir - I could never have an affair with you, because you remind me of my father!"

Asked to sum up his enduring appeal More said "A film like Genevieve to my contemporaries is not a film made years ago, but last week or last year. They see me as I was then, not as I am now. I am the reassurance that they have not changed. In an upside down world, with all the rules being rewritten as the game goes on and spectators invading the pitch, it is good to feel that some things and some people seem to stay just as they were."

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Patrick Newley

Spouse (3)

Angela Douglas (17 March 1968 - 12 July 1982) (his death)
Mabel Edith "Bill" Barkby (18 August 1952 - 7 July 1967) (divorced) (1 child)
Beryl Johnstone (1939 - 1946) (divorced) (1 child)

Trivia (27)

He fathered two daughters, Susan Jane More (b. 1941) from his first marriage to Beryl Johnstone and Sarah Elizabeth More (b. 1954) from his second marriage to "Bill' Barkby. Following his divorce from Johnstone' and her subsequent re-marriage it was decided that it would be in his daughter's best interests if she grew up with only one father figure. As a result, he and Susan did not meet again until 1957, when she had turned 17, although they had kept in touch throughout this period, writing regularly. His third wife, Angela Douglas, was known to him simply as "Shrimp".
For much of his role as Bill Crichton in Paradise Lagoon (1957), he was filmed from the waist up to hide the fact that he was wearing shorts with his dinner jacket because of the heat during filming. Although universally disliked by the critics, this film went on to be the second biggest "grosser" at UK cinemas in 1957.
Announced his retirement from acting in 1980 due to the onset of Parkinson's disease.
Served during World War II in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve (RNVR). He was "demobbed" in 1946 as a lieutenant, having served on the light cruiser HMS Aurora as a Watch Keeping Officer and the aircraft carrier HMS Victorious as a Fighter Directions Officer.
Tried unsuccessfully to join the Royal Air Force on a short service commission. Having been sent to what was then the RAF headquarters at Adastral House in Kingsway, London, for a medical, he failed the test for equilibrium. After being strapped into a chair and spun round he was then required to get out of the chair and walk in a straight line. He got to his feet, but as soon as he tried to walk he fell flat on his face. In 1939 as war was declared, he tried to enlist again, this time with the Royal Navy. Again he was unsuccessful, as the services had too many men applying and nowhere to put them. He returned to Rep in Birmingham only to find the "Closed" sign going up on the theatre door. Determined to do his bit, he then volunteered to drive ambulances; this time he was successful. This was short-lived, however, as he received a letter in the spring of 1940 to join Defensively Equipped Merchant Ships. He joined the "MV Lobus" and his naval career, which would progress to the Royal Navy, was finally underway.
After leaving school at 17 he followed a family tradition and became an engineering apprentice with Sentinel-Cammell in Shrewsbury, Shropshire, earning one pound a week. However, at the end of his two-year "privileged apprenticeship" he chose instead to apply to the RAF along with a close friend, John Hulton-Harrop. More was unsuccessful, while Hulton-Harrop, who qualified as a first-rate fighter pilot, was shot down and killed by his own coastal defenses in one of the RAF's earliest sweeps over France.
Spent part of his childhood in the Channel Islands, where his father was general manager of Jersey Eastern Railways. He was educated at Victoria College, Jersey. It was there that he took part in his first school play, "The Sport of Kings", playing the part of a red-haired girl. His first male part at the school was in J.M. Barrie's "The Admirable Crichton". Years later he would play the lead in both the screen adaptation (Paradise Lagoon (1957)) and a stage musical.
Published two volumes of autobiography, Happy Go Lucky (1959) and More or Less (1978) and a book of reminiscences, Kindly Leave the Stage (1965).
Was best man to Roger Moore at his wedding to Luisa Mattioli on 11th April 1969.
One of the few English performers to have a theatre named after him during his lifetime--Ilford's civic theatre, The Kenneth More Theatre, opened on the very last day of 1974--More made his first appearance at the theatre in April 1977. It was an evening of poetry, prose and music entitled "Kenneth More Requests the Pleasure of Your Company". Appearing with him were Vivyan Ellacott, Roderick Elms, Edna Graham. Barbara Hills and Eleanor Thomas. An appearance scheduled for February 1979 in a program called "Kenneth More and Friends" had to be canceled at the last moment as he was too ill to appear. The Kenneth More Theatre is also home to the annual "Kenny Awards" centered on the 90 or so productions staged each year at the theatre. Voting for the awards is through a panel of independent reviewers and theatre audiences.
He was awarded the CBE (Commander of the Order of the British Empire) in the 1970 Queen's New Year Honours List for his services to drama.
Made his first appearance on the stage at the Windmill Theatre in August 1935, in a revue sketch. He returned to the stage, following his "demob" from the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, in November 1946 at the Aldwych.
Son of Charles Gilbert More and his wife Edith Winifred (nee Watkins). His mother, the daughter of a Cardiff solicitor, was known affectionately as "Topsy". His sister Kate was 18 months his senior.
Read the address at the memorial service for Jack Hawkins on 14 September 1973 at St. Martin-in-the-Fields, London.
Wrote a letter of support for Alexander Walker when he applied for the post of London Evening Standard Film Critic in 1960. More had apparently been delighted by one of Walker's reviews while he was writing for the Birmingham Post. Walker remained with the Standard for the next 43 years and was Critic of the Year in the British Press Awards (1970, 1974 and 1998) as well as writing 20 books on cinema.
Despite the fact that his film career had stalled by 1962, he played the lead in Some People (1962) for nothing, apart from expenses. The proceeds of the film were in aid of the Duke of Edinburgh's Award Scheme and the National Playing Fields Association.
Was a well known member of "The Garrick Club" in London and once claimed that if he only had enough money left in the world to pay the club subscription and nothing else, he would pay it.
Was sued unsuccessfully by singer Dorothy Squires (aka Mrs Roger Moore) for defamation of character in 1969 when he mistakenly referred to another woman as Roger Moore's wife. More had been introducing guests prior to the British Film Academy Awards at the Hilton Hotel, London for a TV film documenting the event. The other woman was in fact Luisa Mattioli, who had lived with Moore for several years after he had separated from Squires. Representing More was Michael Havers, one of the UK's most eminent barristers. The jury took just 30 minutes to decide that no defamation had taken place.
In 1957 he presented his old school, Victoria College, with an oil painting of King Charles I, which hangs prominently in College Hall. Equally lasting a legacy was his institution in 1962 of the annual Kenneth More Prize for Drama.
He was granted one of show business' highest accolades on 7 October 1975 when he was guest of honor at a special Variety Club of Great Britain luncheon. The event, held at the Savoy Hotel in the company of most of Britain's top showbiz personalities, was organized to celebrate his 40 years in the profession. Joining More and his wife Angela Douglas was Douglas Bader, the Royal Air Force fighter ace whom More portrayed in Reach for the Sky (1956).
Despite being reluctant to become involved in making TV commercials, he eventually endorsed "Birds Coffee" in the UK. Having been paid what he considered to be "an awful lot of money for half a day's work" he asked why the offer was made to him. The answer came back that 14 names went into a computer in America--measured against all the qualities of a typical Englishman, the qualities that would make the average housewife believe that this was someone whose word could be relied on, and his name came out of the computer.
Like many stars of the 1950s, More had a regular stand-in--Jack Manderville, who was also a personal friend.
Was considered as a replacement for Bernard Lee as "M" in the James Bond films when Lee fell ill during production of Live and Let Die (1973). More died a year after Lee.
In 1972 he took part in a protest at the House of Commons against the proposed introduction of Value Added Tax (VAT) into the United Kingdom. Among the other actors and actresses taking part were Charles Vance and Evelyn Laye. Despite the protest VAT was introduced into the UK on 1 April 1973, as a direct consequence of entry into the European 'Common Market'.
Appeared in two movies based on real tragedies involving the sinking of famous ships: A Night to Remember (1958) and Sink the Bismarck! (1960). Another connection to the films is the fact that famous sea explorer and diver Robert Ballard was the first person to ever find the wreckage of both ships.
Decended from Sir Thomas More.
Had a role in The Collector (1965) but it was deleted at the editing stage.

Personal Quotes (9)

[9/14/73, delivering the address at the memorial for Jack Hawkins] The man who gave . . . he was always ready to help, listen, sympathize, advise and he always picked up the chips. He was popular and loved by the British public, and he earned and held their respect. He lost a gallant fight to recapture an actor's most precious gift [his voice].
[about the long relationship he had with his agent Harry Dubens] We never had a contract or written agreement. We did not even have an exchange of letters between us, only what lawyers like to call "mutual trust", and the feeling that we could work together and achieve something worthwhile together.
[recalling his failed attempt to join the military in 1939, having been told that the navy had all the men it needed] I left feeling very puzzled and very disappointed. I thought they would be welcoming men into the services, but it wasn't like that at all. I just thought that defending my country was more important than being an actor, and I wanted to join the navy because my father had been in the navy.
[paying tribute to Lewis Gilbert, who directed him in four films at the height of his film career] He is a very simple person with no side or pretense, and a great technician. He is also extremely efficient, and so extracts efficiency from others. This is not a gift in the possession of all directors.
[recalling the start of his career at the Windmill Theatre] After my father died, my mother had virtually nothing, and she gave me £150 and said, "That's all I can afford, Kenny. You see what you can do". So I came to London and recalled that Vivian Van Damm, who ran the Windmill Theatre, was a friend of my father's, so I went to see him. "Are you Bertie More's son?" What can I do for you?" I loved him. A lovely man. "I want a job". "Start on Monday". "What doing, sir?" "I'll teach you. I need somebody to take over from me. Then eventually you can run the theatre. But don't ever come to me and say you want to be a bloody actor".
[6/16/73, in The Times] Actors are as old as they appear to the public. I'm now in the last stages of playing the romantic fellow caught up with the girls. This will probably be my last play ["Sign of the Times"] as a leading man that's got a couple of girls after him. Frankly, this kind of part is too easy for me. But I have no ambition, you see, to play any particular part. It's just the one that comes along. My wife is well aware. She said, "Look. Kenny, this'll probably be a huge commercial success, but don't go patting yourself on the back, because it's just like falling off a bloody log for you".
[3/22/63, in the Montreal Gazette, speaking of his role as Chick Byrd in "The Comedy Man"] The public wouldn't accept me as a stevedore or as a Liverpool truck driver, so I've been prevented, until now, from making a realistic subject, although it's something I've been longing to do.
[7/16/79, interview in The Desert News, Salt Lake City UT] I guess that my life has featured some things that didn't happen as well as those that did. For instance, I was offered the role of the father in Mary Poppins (1964) more than 15 years ago. I had to turn it down due to other commitments. I was thinking Disney would never offer me another part again, so when Unidentified Flying Oddball (1979) came along I jumped at the chance.
[9/16/67, in the Daily Mirror, describing the story of Wing Commander "Tommy" Yeo-Thomas GC in The White Rabbit (1967)] It can be seen on three levels -- a "Boy's Own Paper" story of a man with great courage and guts. It can also be something much deeper -- the battle of wits between a Gestapo officer and a Briton he is determined to break by torture to get the information he wants . . . and it can be something far more important -- a deep-down, soul-searching document of what we have forgotten of Auschwitz and Buchenwald.

Salary (11)

School for Secrets (1946) £10
Chance of a Lifetime (1950) £1,500
Brandy for the Parson (1952) £1,000
The Yellow Balloon (1953) £750
Genevieve (1953) £2,500
Our Girl Friday (1953) £4,500
Doctor in the House (1954) £3,500
Raising a Riot (1955) £5,000 + 5% Producer's cut
Reach for the Sky (1956) £25,000
The Longest Day (1962) £8,000
The Forsyte Saga (1967) £15,500

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