Kenneth Connor

Kenneth Connor


6/6/1916, London ,England, UK



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  • Kenneth has to be my all time favouite. He is hillarious with not only perfect comic timing but a very comical face. He was best known for the Carry On films, giving him a chance to bounce his comic talent off of other great actors. He was naturally funnmoreless

    A short (4ft 11), lugubrious-looking player who’s easily stirred anxiety contributed to many comedies. A lot of the Carry On stars started their career early but none as young as Kenneth Connor, he was only 2 when his father, who was a petty officer on the royal yacht Victoria & Albert was helping to set up charity service concerts and Kenneth joined in, "I've photographs that show a bunch of chaps dressed as black and white minstrels, my mother with a money box, my father with a banjo, and me perched on top of the barrel organ". Kenneth and his brother appeared in concerts throughout his childhood with his father showing him the basic steps. The decision was made for him to enter into show business quite early in his life.

    By the time he was 11, Kenneth was performing in a double act with his brother' both in his father's shows and in revue. He was born in 1918 in London, and when his father left the navy to run a pub, Later, he decided to become a serious actor, so Kenneth took drama lessons whilst also helping to serve behind the bar. He won a place at the Central School for Speech & Drama in 1933 and went on to win a gold medal in his final year there.

    He made his film debut in Poison Pen (1940) Until the War interrupted his career. During the war he was in the Middlesex Regiment and toured the Middle East as part of Stars In Battledress. Whilst there, he became a friend of fellow actors William Devlin, Peter Sellers and Dick Emery. Whilst waiting to be demobbed, Devlin asked Kenneth if he would like to join the Bristol Old Vic. He jumped at the chance and set off for England in what he describes later as "the slowest boat journey on record". When he arrived at the theatre, he was on stage before he had time to unpack. Kenneth recalled the 3 years he spent there as one of the most satisfying periods in his stage career. His two-way pull, however, pulled him back to comedy and he found he had an irresistible urge to work in radio. He went on to radio and won fame as part of "Rays A Laugh" (1949-1961) with Ted Ray, and was there for 11 years his best-known character was Sidney Mincing; who told the longest jokes on radio.

    He joined the Carry On films from day one and described it as "a cork on an ocean of joy” He started his Carry On life with Sergeant, playing a nervous chap so obsessed with his shortcomings, that he fails to see the woman lusting after him. Then with a snap of the fingers, something happens inside him, which magically transforms him into an indomitable go-getter. As Horace Strong, one of the rookie soldiers, he is too absorbed in his own imaginary illnesses to notice that Dora Bryan is pursuing him and is madly in love with him. The Company Medical Officer calls his bluff and puts him through every medical test in the book and this changes him into a transformed character that not only wins the girl but also becomes a model soldier. Teacher, Constable and Cruising have him as very, similar characters, nervous and accident-prone, who fails to be able to get his words out in the right order but again he comes through at the end to win the girl. His career spans almost the whole series of films, from Sergeant to Emmannuelle and he was absent from several in the middle where he was concentrating on theatre work, but perhaps his best role is that of Hengist Pod in Cleo, the hen-pecked Ancient British cave-dweller, who invents the square wheel. Upon being captured by the Romans, whilst riding his square-wheeled bicycle, Senna, to get help, he is, through mistaken identity, thought to be a great warrior and becomes Caesar's feared bodyguard. Again he starts off playing the timid character and towards the end of the film he moves into the go-getter. He played the romantic lead (with more than a few quirks thrown in for good measure); a role which he sustained through the majority of the early films until he was supplanted by Jim Dale. Later films saw him portray characters more suited to his then age, although many of the mannerisms he was so well known for remained.

    Also he did 12 Carry On Laughing television episodes, 3 Carry on Christmas Specials and stage shows Carry On London and Carry On Laughing. During the 1960’s, he did further film work including 2 Dentist films with Bon Monkhouse, Watch Your Stern (1960), What a Carve Up (1962) with Sid James and Shirley Eaton and also Nearly a Nasty Accident (1962) again, with Shirley Eaton. And more stage roles including a starring role in the West End version of " A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum" with the lead being played by Frankie Howerd. When it went on tour, he took over as the director, with none other than Charles Hawtrey taking over Kenneth's role in the show. During the eighties he went on to star in the popular TV comedies Kenneth became a familiar face on British television screens following the demise of the Carry Ons. He found new fame as the undertaker Monsieur Alphonse in the BBC's long-running ‘Allo ‘Allo sit-com and appeared in other classic comedies like Hi-De-Hi and Blackadder.

    He never watches his own work when it appears on television, "What's done is done", he says, "and on with the next". But there is one Carry On that he always watches out for and that is Carry On Nurse; it is like a family movie to him. He isn't looking out for his own performance, he is interested in his own son Jeremy's, then aged three and a half, who comes in at the end to greet his real-life daddy when he leaves the hospital. Jeremy appears with him again years later in Dick, Behind and England.

    As an actor, he longed to perform the classics whilst doing comedy and longed for comedy during a dramatic engagement! "I have what is almost a need", he says, "to balance comedy with drama". It was this multi-faceted energy in his performances that made him such an engaging actor and gives his Carry On characterisations their surprising depth. Inside many of his funny little men is a serious little man struggling to get out. Off stage he was unassuming and self-deprecating. He delighted in the ensemble nature of the carry ons. Particularly opposite the no-nonsense Sid James. The real Kenneth Connor always had a touch of the barely contained passion of eternally expectant father Mr Tidey from Carry on Matron.

    He was awarded the MBE in 1991. Sadly Kenneth died on 23 November 1993, in London, following a short fight against cancer. His last performance was on Noel's House Party, just 2 days before he died. When Kenneth died the world lost a great comedian because he had a natural gift to make people laugh and his interviews are as equally entertaining as the films he made. Kenneth was a very private yet very funny man.