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More, Kenneth (1914-1982)


Main image of More, Kenneth (1914-1982)

Kenneth More was one of the dominant male stars of the 1950s, able to play both comic and serious roles and with a greater emotional range than has customarily been acknowledged.

After being demobbed from the Royal Navy, More appeared in supporting roles that included Lieutenant Teddy Evans in Scott of the Antarctic (d. Charles Frend, 1948). Without the security of a long term studio contract, More alternated between films and the West End stage and one of his strongest performances came in The Deep Blue Sea (d. Anatole Litvak, 1955), adapted from Terence Rattigan's 1952 play, where he repeated his theatrical success as the maladjusted ex-RAF pilot.

The film that launched More as a star was Genevieve (d. Henry Cornelius, 1953) where he played the breezy, ebullient Ambrose Claverhouse, unlucky in cars and love. More played a similar role in Doctor in the House (d. Ralph Thomas, 1954), another modern variation on the prewar man-about-town, debonair, self-deprecating and warm-hearted. Other comedy roles followed in Raising a Riot (d. Wendy Toye, 1955), The Admirable Crichton (d. Lewis Gilbert, 1957), and The Sheriff of Fractured Jaw (US/UK, d. Raoul Walsh, 1958), a spoof western.

But these roles alternated with others in which he played indomitable English heroes: the disabled Battle of Britain ace Douglas Bader in Reach for the Sky (d. Lewis Gilbert, 1956), a courageous second officer aboard the 'Titanic' in A Night to Remember (d. Roy Ward Baker, 1958), the adventurer Richard Hannay in The Thirty-Nine Steps (d. Ralph Thomas, 1958), defender of the Empire in North West Frontier (d. J.Lee Thompson, 1959) and Admiralty mastermind, Captain Shepard, in Sink the Bismarck! (UK/US, d. Lewis Gilbert, 1960). More always animated his stiff-upper-lip Englishmen, through either wry self-mockery or pathos, as when Shepard weeps in relief to know his son, believed missing in action, has survived.

More's persona was so strongly associated with traditional middle-class values that his stardom could not survive the shift towards working-class iconoclasts and his career petered out in the '60s, symbolised by his performance as the struggling thespian in The Comedy Man (d. Alvin Rakoff, 1963). He became a household name again through television, as Jolyon Forsyte in The Forsyte Saga (BBC, 1967), which showed just how accomplished an actor he was. His third wife was actress Angela Douglas.

Autobiographies: Happy Go Lucky,1959; More or Less, 1978.

Andrew Spicer, Encyclopedia of British Film

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Thumbnail image of Chance of a Lifetime (1950)Chance of a Lifetime (1950)

Fascinating industrial relations drama in which workers take over a factory

Thumbnail image of Doctor in the House (1954)Doctor in the House (1954)

Hugely popular medical comedy, the first in a long-running series

Thumbnail image of Genevieve (1953)Genevieve (1953)

Cheerful light comedy set against the London to Brighton car rally

Thumbnail image of North West Frontier (1959)North West Frontier (1959)

Stirring epic starring Lauren Bacall and set in British-ruled India

Thumbnail image of Reach for the Sky (1956)Reach for the Sky (1956)

Classic flagwaver about pilot Douglas Bader's triumph over adversity

Thumbnail image of Scott of the Antarctic (1948)Scott of the Antarctic (1948)

Lavish recreation of Captain Scott's doomed expedition to the South Pole

Thumbnail image of Forsyte Saga, The (1967)Forsyte Saga, The (1967)

Groundbreaking 26-part costume drama based on Galsworthy's stories

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