Kenneth More CBE - through the 60s and beyond

Kenneth More pictured in1959 with Lauren Bacall, his co-star in North West Frontier.Picture: PA

Kenneth More pictured in 1959 with Lauren Bacall, his co-star in North West Frontier.Picture: PA - Credit: PA Archive/PA Images

A number of lifetimes poured into one well-lived life. Most will have heard of Kenneth More CBE, and many will be familiar with the Ilford theatre that bears his name.

More, Please!, recently-released by Nick Pourgourides, fills whatever knowledge gaps exist and allows for a thorough examination of a remarkable life.

This tribute will centre on the actor's life from 1960 onwards.

Kenneth opened this decade of transition by giving one of his best ever performances in Sink the Bismarck (1960), drawing on his own Navy experiences to play an emotionally-withdrawn captain.

That same year saw the actor star in tepidly-received comedy Man in the Moon, a rarity in what was a booming career.


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As a man well-versed in the adversities of the job - even at the top - Kenneth moved on to star in The Greengage Summer the following year.

He secured the part after losing weight at the behest of director Lewis Gilbert, with the experience one of his best on a film set.

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Though his stock was dwindling slightly, Kenneth still ranked as the third and fourth most popular international star (in 1961 and 1962 respectively). 

The latter of these years saw the actor return to television. Heart to Heart - written by the aforementioned Sir Terrence Rattigan - marked that comeback, with his performance as journalist David Mann the subject of sizeable acclaim. 

Though riveted by his return to television, Kenneth was delighted to have a small cameo in The Longest Day - a film about the D-Day landings - the next year.

His final leading film role came in 1964, where Kenneth gave a masterful performance in the adaptation of Douglas Hayes' novel The Comedy Man.

The role of Chick Byrd - a struggling London actor - was one inherently understood by Kenneth, who pulled from his own personal life to offer an authentic portrayal.

With this the actor's final leading role, it's only right the performance is remembered as amongst his best.

Kenneth also returned to the medium where he had taken his first steps in showbiz - theatre.

He reunited with The Deep Blue Sea castmate Celia  Johnson in Out of the Crocodile (1963), and reprised his role in a musical adaptation of 'Our Man Crichton' the following year.

More, Please! book

More, Please! is a book on the life of Kenneth More CBE, written by Nick Pourgourides. - Credit: Nick Pourgourides

Around this time Kenneth faced career struggle, something which had long-since felt unfamiliar. This forced him to entirely rethink his direction, and from it he emerged undeniably victorious.

It was the role offered by BBC producer Donald Wilson - Young Jolyon in John Galsworthy's The Forsyte Saga (1967) - which brought the actor the biggest acclaim of all.

Beyond huge praise, the actor - now in his fifties - also enjoyed a truly enriching experience after a period of relative drought.

Averaging up to 18 million viewers wasn't bad work either.

The next year marked Kenneth's biggest stage success in The Secretary Bird, with the penultimate of that decade also fruitful in the form of appearances in Battle of Britain, Oh What a Lovely War and Fraulein Doktor (all 1969).

Kenneth continued to thrive in theatre well into the seventies, appearing in The Winslow Boy, Getting On and Sign of the Times in 1970, 71 and 73 respectively. 

Outside of acting, one of the biggest honours befell Kenneth in 1970. A known royalist, the award of a CBE was always atop his list of achievements (in a life of many).

The much-loved Ilford theatre which adorns his name was officially opened in 1975, with Kenneth himself performing there in 1977.

With it rare for a theatre to be named after a living actor, Kenneth penned An Ode to a Theatre in recognition of the honour bestowed upon him by an institution that had given him so much.

Though he continued to work, there was a general recognition - unfortunately confirmed by Kenneth's diagnosis with a rare form of Parkinson's disease - that his career was winding down.

On Approval (1977) at the Vaudeville Theatre marked his last stage appearance, with his final film coming three years later in an adaptation of Charles Dickins' A Tale of Two Cities. 

Sadly by this point Kenneth had become quite unwell, and his death followed a mere two years later on July 12, 1982. 

With almost 40 years since his passing, Kenneth More CBE is remembered as a man who packed more into 67 years than most could ever wish for. 

He brought joy to the screen and to those in his world. 

More, Please! is available on Amazon for £7.99.



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