Kenneth Connor

Kenneth Connor, MBE (6 June 1918[1][2]  28 November 1993) was a 20th century English stage, film and broadcasting actor, who rose to national prominence with his appearances in the Carry On films.

Kenneth Connor

Publicity photo of Connor from 1959
Born(1918-06-06)6 June 1918
Islington, London, England
Died28 November 1993(1993-11-28) (aged 75)
South Harrow, London, England
OccupationActor
Years active1920–1993
Known forCarry On films
'Allo 'Allo!
Spouse(s)
Margaret Irene Churchill Knox (m. 19421993)
Children1

Early life

Born in Islington, London, the son of a naval petty officer who organised concert parties,[1] Connor first appeared on the stage at the age of two as an organ-grinder's monkey in one of his father's shows, in Portsmouth. By 11 years old, he had his own act. He attended the Central School of Speech and Drama, where he was a Gold Medal winner. Connor made his professional debut in J. M. Barrie's The Boy David, at His Majesty's Theatre, London in December 1936.

During the Second World War, he served as an infantry gunner with the Middlesex Regiment but continued acting by touring Italy and the Middle East with the Stars in Battledress concert party and ENSA. While waiting to be demobbed in Cairo, Connor received a telegram from William Devlin asking him to join the newly formed Bristol Old Vic, where he gained a solid grounding in the classics.

Career

He moved on to the London Old Vic Company for a 1947–48 season at the New Theatre. His most notable performances there were as Chaplain de Stogumber in Saint Joan and Dobchinsky in The Government Inspector, which starred Alec Guinness. Realising he was not a "tall, impressive juvenile lead or a young lover type," he decided to specialise in comedy.

He took over from Peter Sellers in Ted Ray's radio show Ray's a Laugh – launched by the BBC in 1949 as a successor to Tommy Handley's ITMA. He played the brother-in-law and other oddball characters such as Sidney Mincing. Ray took Connor with him to his TV shows, and the pair would star together in the third Carry On film, Carry On Teacher.

On occasion he appeared in The Goon Show, standing in for regular cast members struck down by illness. He also appeared in the anarchic, Goon-style TV series The Idiot Weekly, Price 2d (1956) and A Show Called Fred (1956).

In 1955, Connor gained a small role in the film The Ladykillers (1955) as a taxi driver. In 1958, he was cast in the first Carry On film, Carry On Sergeant, and became one of the regular cast in the series, appearing in seventeen of the original thirty films and many of the associated television productions. Alongside Kenneth Williams and Eric Barker, Connor was one of only three actors to appear in both the first and last of the original sequence of Carry On films (Carry On Sergeant and Carry On Emmannuelle).

In his earlier Carry On appearances, Connor frequently played the romantic lead or other sympathetic roles (typically with an element of comically neurotic anxiety), while later appearances saw him play less sympathetic characters such as married men with wandering eyes and lascivious remarks. In Carry On Nurse (1959), his real-life son Jeremy[3] appeared as his character Bernie Bishop's son. In 1961, he starred with fellow Carry On stars Sid James and Esma Cannon in the comedy film What a Carve Up! In fact, in the 1959 – 1961 period, he was one of the most prominent leading men in British comedy films. As well as What a Carve Up! and the Carry On films, other films he starred in during this period included Watch Your Stern (1960), Nearly a Nasty Accident (1961) and the Dentist films. In 1960, he appeared as various characters in the Four Feather Falls puppet series.

Connor had a good tenor voice, which he occasionally used to good effect, such as in the 1962 movie Carry On Cruising.

In contrast with some of his Carry On co-stars, Connor found further success on the London stage. He starred in the revue One Over The Eight (1962), at the Duke of York's Theatre, the original London West End production with Frankie Howerd of the Stephen Sondheim musical A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (1963), as Hysterium – and directed the show when it went on tour – The Four Musketeers (1967), with Harry Secombe at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, playing King Louis XIII, and the revue Carry On London (1973) at the Victoria Palace.

Between 1971 and 1973, Connor joined Dad's Army stars Arthur Lowe and Ian Lavender on the BBC radio comedy Parsley Sidings. On television he appeared in The Black and White Minstrel Show, as Whatsisname Smith in the children's show Rentaghost (1983–84), and as Monsieur Alfonse in 'Allo 'Allo! (1984–1992) and Uncle Sammy Morris in Hi-de-Hi! (1986–88). He also made guest appearances in sitcoms including That's My Boy and You Rang, M'Lord? and he also appeared in an episode of Blackadder the Third in 1987, alongside fellow veteran comic star Hugh Paddick.

In 1991 he was honoured by the Queen with appointment as a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE).

He was still working just two days before his death, with an appearance on Noel Edmonds' Telly Addicts. His final TV appearance, as Mr Warren in The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes episode The Adventure of the Red Circle, was broadcast posthumously in 1994.

Death

Connor died at the age of 75 from the effects of cancer at his home in Harrow in Middlesex on 28 November 1993.[4] His body was cremated at Breakspear Crematorium in Ruislip, Middlesex.[5]

Personal life

He married Margaret Knox ("Miki") during the war in 1942; his son and three grandchildren, Thomas, Hayley and Rose, were all child actors.

Television roles

YearTitleRole
1970 to 1971On the HouseGussie Sissons
1975Carry On LaughingVarious
1983 to 1984RentaghostWhatsisname Smith
1984 to 1992'Allo 'Allo!Monsieur Alfonse
1986 to 1988Hi-de-Hi!Uncle Sammy Morris
1986That's My BoyRobert Taylor
1987Blackadder the ThirdEnoch Mossop
1990You Rang, M'Lord?Professor Heinrich Van Manheim
1994Memoirs of Sherlock HolmesMr. Warren

Selected filmography

TitleYearRoleNotes
Poison Pen1939Telephonist
The Passionate Pilgrim1949Murphy
Over The Odds1950Sydney
Don't Say Die1950Pat O'Neill
Rush Job1951Percy Prangle
Miss Robin Hood1952Board MemberUncredited
There Was a Young Lady1953Tom Bass
Marilyn1953Customer
The Black Rider1954George Amble
The Ladykillers1955Taxi DriverUncredited
Davy1957Herbie
Carry On Sergeant1958Horace Strong
Make Mine a Million1959Anxious Husband
Carry On Nurse1959Bernie Bishop
Carry On Teacher1959Gregory Adams
Carry On Constable1960Constable Charlie Constable
Dentist in the Chair1960Sam Field
Watch Your Stern1960Ordinary Seaman Blissworth
His and Hers1961Harold
Carry On Regardless1961Sam Twist
A Weekend with Lulu1961British Tourist
Nearly a Nasty Accident1961AC 2 Alexander Wood
Dentist on the Job1961Sam Field
What a Carve Up!1961Ernest Broughton
Carry On Cruising1962Dr. Arthur Binn
Carry On Cabby1963Ted Watson
Carry On Cleo1964Hengist Pod
How to Undress in Public Without Undue Embarrassment1965
Gonks Go Beat1965Wilco Roger
Cuckoo Patrol1967Wick
Danny the Dragon1967Danny the DragonVoice
Captain Nemo and the Underwater City1969Swallow Bath
Rhubarb1969Mr Rhubarb
Carry On Up the Jungle1970Claude Chumley
Carry On Henry1971Lord Hampton Wick
Carry On Matron1972Mr Tidy
Carry On Abroad1972Stanley Blunt
Carry On Girls1973Mayor Frederick Bumble
Carry On Dick1974The Constable
Carry On Behind1975Major Leep
Carry On England1976Captain S. Melly
Carry On Emmannuelle1978Leyland

References

  1. "Index entry". FreeBMD. ONS. Retrieved 21 February 2011.
  2. "Kenneth Connor". Ftvdb.bfi.org.uk. Retrieved 24 October 2018.
  3. "Jeremy Connor". IMDb.com. Retrieved 24 October 2018.
  4. Paul Donnelley (2010). Fade to Black (4th ed.). Omnibus Press. ISBN 978-1849382465.
  5. Entry for Connor in Findagrave website (2019). https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/18706/kenneth-connor

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