Ronald Lewis (actor)

Ronald Glasfryn Lewis (11 December 1928 – 11 January 1982), was a Welsh actor, best known for his appearances in British films of the 1950s and 1960s.[2]

Ronald Lewis
Born(1928-12-11)11 December 1928
Died11 January 1982(1982-01-11) (aged 53)
Pimlico, London, England
Cause of deathOverdose
Years active1953–1978
Spouse(s)Norah Gorsen[1]

Birth and career

Lewis was born in Port Talbot, Glamorgan. He moved with his family to London when he was seven. During the war he was evacuated back to south Wales, where he attended Bridgend Grammar School. There he played Bassanio in the school production of The Merchant of Venice.

He decided to become an actor after seeing Shaw's Saint Joan at the Prince of Wales Theatre in Cardiff. He studied at RADA, graduating in 1953.[3]

Early roles

Lewis's first professional role was in Oscar Wilde's An Ideal Husband (1950) in repertory at Worthing. He was in The Square Ring at Hammersmith.

He had uncredited bit in Valley of Song, set in Wales. He was credited for the film version of The Square Ring (1953), for Ealing; The Beachcomber (1954), as a native islander; The Face of Love (1954) for the BBC; and Fantastic Summer (1955) for TV. He had a larger part in Helen of Troy (1955) as Aeneas.[4] and provided some romantic interest in The Prisoner (1955), with Alec Guinness.[5]

Rise to stardom

Lewis achieved attention with his stage performance in Mourning Becomes Electra by Eugene O'Neill, directed by Peter Hall (1955).[6] This led to Alexander Korda signing Lewis to a contract with London films and giving him a role in Storm Over the Nile (1956), as one of the main group of friends.[7]

He appeared opposite Vivien Leigh on stage in South Sea Bubble (1956) by Noël Coward and reprised this role on British TV.[8]

He was third billed in the comedy Sailor Beware (1956), one of the ten most popular films at the British box office in 1956.[9]

He was in A Hill in Korea (1956), a Korean War film.[10]

Leading man

Rank tried to build Lewis into a star, giving him the lead in a thriller, The Secret Place (1957), alongside Belinda Lee.[11] On British TV he was in Salome (1957), El Bandido and the TV series Hour of Mystery in an adaption of Night Must Fall. He appeared regularly in Armchair Theatre over fifteen years and other British anthology dramas.

He had a good role as the bad brother in Robbery Under Arms (1957) and was a villain in The Wind Cannot Read (1958). He was in Schiller's Mary Stuart and Ibsen's Ghosts on stage in 1958.[12][13]

After a TV production of A Tale of Two Cities he supported Hardy Krüger in the Rank comedy Bachelor of Hearts (1958),[14] and a production of Miss Julie (1959) at the Old Vic.[15]

Lewis had leading roles in Conspiracy of Hearts (1960) for Rank, playing an Italian officer helping some nuns, and The Full Treatment (1960) for Hammer, directed by Val Guest. Hammer kept him on for another thriller, Taste of Fear (1961), which was a big hit. So too was Mr. Sardonicus (1961) made for William Castle.

Lewis had a support role in the comedy Twice Round the Daffodils (1962) and was back in the lead for Jigsaw (1962), a thriller directed by Guest.[16][17]

Lewis had support roles in Billy Budd (1962) and was the romantic lead to star Juliet Mills in the comedy Nurse on Wheels (1963), made by the Carry On team.[18][19] He had the star role in two costume pictures, Siege of the Saxons (1963) and Hammer's The Brigand of Kandahar (1965).[20][21]


His image suffered in 1965 when, while he was appearing in Peter Pan on stage (as Hook), his wife alleged he had assaulted her. Lewis failed to turn up at court and a warrant was issued for his arrest, although there seems to be no reference to this incident on the Internet.[22]

He focused on stage work in productions such as Raymond and Agnes (1965).

Final years

Lewis was a regular in the TV series His and Hers (1970–72). Apart from a role in Friends (1971) and its sequel Paul and Michelle (1974), his final credits were in TV: Tales of Unease (1970), Hine (1971), The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes (1973), Harriet's Back in Town (1973), Nightingale's Boys (1975), Public Eye (1975), and Crown Court (1974–75).[23]

He was meant to be First Voice in a production of Under Milk Wood at Theatr Gwynedd in 1975. He stopped drinking to prepare himself for the role, but wound up having a heart attack on opening night. He kept working on TV for a time in series like Big Boy Now! (1976), Warship (1977), The XYY Man (1977) and Z Cars (1978). In 1981 he was declared bankrupt with debts of £21,188.[24][25]


In Twice Round the Daffodils (1962), Lewis had appeared alongside Kenneth Williams, who may also have committed suicide, although the coroner recorded an open verdict. When Lewis committed suicide by taking a barbiturate overdose at a boarding house in Pimlico,[26] Williams recorded in his diary entry for 12 January 1982: "The paper says Ronald Lewis has taken an overdose! He was declared bankrupt last year! Obviously nobody offered him work & he was driven to despair. I remember Ronnie... and that drinking session at the White Horse all those years ago... he was a kind boy & people used him. He was 53."[27]

Selected filmography


  1. Brian McFarlane; British Film Institute (2005). The encyclopedia of British film. Methuen. p. 415.
  2. "Ronald Lewis". BFI.
  3. "Ronald Allen — RADA".
  4. By THOMAS M PRYOR Special to The New York Times. (1954, Apr 30). BELAFONTE SIGNS TO STAR IN FILM. New York Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from
  5. "The Prisoner (1955) - Peter Glenville | Cast and Crew". AllMovie.
  6. Hope-Wallace, P. (1955, Jun 11). "MOURNING BECOMES ELECTRA". The Manchester Guardian (1901-1959) Retrieved from
  7. By, S. W. (1955, Sep 25). OBSERVATIONS ON THE BRITISH SCREEN SCENE. New York Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from
  8. N, S. (1956, Mar 20). NEW COMEDY BY NOEL COWARD. The Manchester Guardian (1901-1959) Retrieved from
  9. BRITISH. FILMS MADE MOST MONEY: BOX-OFFICE SURVEY The Manchester Guardian (1901-1959) [Manchester (UK)] 28 Dec 1956: 3
  10. "A Hill in Korea (1956) - Julian Amyes | Cast and Crew". AllMovie.
  11. "The Secret Place (1957)". BFI.
  12. Thorns, A. (1958, Sep 03). POLISH FILM-MAKERS TURN TO SATIRE. The Manchester Guardian (1901-1959) Retrieved from
  13. Hope-Wallace, P. (1958, Nov 13). FLORA ROBSON IN IBSEN'S "GHOSTS". The Manchester Guardian (1901-1959) Retrieved from
  14. "A BACHELOR OF HEARTS". The Australian Women's Weekly. 26 (34). Australia, Australia. 28 January 1959. p. 48. Retrieved 25 September 2017 via National Library of Australia.
  15. BLAND, A. (1958, Dec 28). Snowflakes. The Observer (1901- 2003) Retrieved from
  16. "Twice Round the Daffodils (1962) - Gerald Thomas | Synopsis, Characteristics, Moods, Themes and Related". AllMovie.
  17. "Jigsaw (1962)". BFI.
  18. "Billy Budd (1962)". BFI.
  19. "Nurse on Wheels (1963) - Gerald Thomas | Cast and Crew". AllMovie.
  20. "Siege of the Saxons (1963) - Nathan Juran | Cast and Crew". AllMovie.
  21. "The Brigand of Kandahar (1965) - John Gilling | Cast and Crew". AllMovie.
  22. Hope-Wallace, P. (1965, Dec 18). PETER PAN at the scala theatre. The Guardian (1959-2003) Retrieved from
  23. "Ronald Lewis".
  24. "Cinema | The Actors' Crucible". Wales Arts Review. 18 March 2016.
  25. OBITUARY. (1982, Jan 12). The Guardian (1959-2003) Retrieved from
  26. Spignesi, Stephen J. (2001). The Hollywood Book of Lists: From Great Performances and Romantic Epics to Bad Remakes and Miscasting Debacles. Kensington Publishing Corporation. p. 127. ISBN 978-0806522128.
  27. The Kenneth Williams Diaries, edited by Russell Davies, published 1993 by Harper Collins

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