FEATURES: REMEMBERING KENNETH MORE BY ALLAN HUNTER

As part of a new series at KennethMore.com, Glasgow Film Festival Co-Director Allan Hunter pays tribute to Kenny…

‘It is forty years this month since I met Kenneth More. That Edinburgh day was a stinker; cold and miserable with rain thumping down. There were less people than you might have expected for his signing session at a central bookshop. More was every bit as affable and approachable as you would have hoped. He was the one asking questions about how far I had come and what my interests were. His personal charm merely reinforced the impression you would have gained from watching his countless screen appearances. I have still have my signed copy of More Or Less.

There was hardly a bigger star in British cinema during the 1950s than Kenneth More. There was something utterly dependable about him. If there was a crisis you could trust that his common sense, decency and calm confidence would be enough to save the day. Perhaps that explains why he was so good at portraying real life life heroes and born leaders. Movie stars can seem largely than life but More felt like a member of the family or someone you could share a pint with at the local pub. His acting was understated and unfussy. There was no bluster or grandstanding, just a humble striving to present a performance marked by honesty and humanity.

More received four BAFTA (Best British Actor nominations) for Genevieve (1953), Doctor In The House (1954), The Deep Blue Sea (1955) and Reach For The Sky (1956). The latter contains his performance as irrepressible flying ace Douglas Bader and probably remains his best known film.

Those nominations reflect the range of his talent. He may have been a stalwart of British war movies but he was also an extremely polished and pleasing light comedian, spot-on as the unflappable gentleman’s gentleman in The Admirable Crichton (1957) and providing lots of fun way out west in The Sheriff Of Fractured Jaw (1958). Personal favourites among More’s films would have to include the very fine Titanic story A Night To Remember (1958), the rousing adventure North West Frontier (1959) and coming of age drama The Greengage Summer (1961).

Reputations come and go. What once seemed groundbreaking now feels old hat. More seemed to fall out of favour in the 1960s, eclipsed by a new generation of British stars, the rise of kitchen sink dramas and the arrival of angry young men. It is clear now that his best work has stood the test of time and deserves to be remembered, revisited and savoured.’

Allan Hunter is co-director of the Glasgow Film Festival. Follow him here on Twitter

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FEATURES: ODE TO SHRIMP

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Kenny and Angela larking about in Sussex

In the 1970’s a book was to be compiled featuring poems by several celebrities, each written with someone special in mind. Many people were sought to contribute including Spike Milligan. When Kenny was asked whether this might be something of interest to him, he jumped at the chance to write a poem in honour of his wife, Angela Douglas.

The book it seems never came to pass, but Kenny’s original poem survives in the estate’s archives and can be found below.

Kenny has signed his best wishes along with his home address on the reverse side of the poem.

KENNY MORE

HAS TO REMEMBER

“SHRIMP”

ALL DAY

A shrimp is a fish,

Or nearly so,

But does it have a mate?

I met a girl called Angela

I met her on a ‘date’

Now, ten years later, she’s my wife

*There’s a funny thing,

A little shrimp, that’s almost a fish,

Led to a wedding ring!

*Kenny was an admirer of Max Miller, who was well known for using the phrase “now there’s a funny thing”. No doubt its use here by Kenny is a direct reference…

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FEATURES: ANGELA MORE ON KENNY

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Kenny and Angela at Bute House

Author, journalist and actress, Angela Douglas, was married to Kenneth More from 1968 until his passing in 1982. Here she shares her memories of Kenny behind the camera.

Pastimes: “Golf. Driving his car. Which he  always bought new and changed every year. His last was an MG. In the past he had so many, from a Rolls to a mini. Listening to Mahler…..reading. Mostly about the American Civil War….”

Hobbies: “He had a good collection of watches (Rolex, Cartier) and he loved antique clocks…He had lots of cufflinks…He enjoyed good wine…and it had to be French. He had an extensive collection of books on Churchill…”

Personal items: “St Christopher’s medal which used to belong to British actress and friend Kay Kendall(Genevieve)…A gold bracelet he wore which he bought for himself on a whim. A signet ring with an antique shank and an Amethyst stone. It was sent to Germany to have Kenny’s family crest engraved on it. It was my wedding present to him. I wore it for years after he died. Both are now with his daughter Sarah.”

Sense of style: “Immaculately neurotically ‘clean and tidy’.”

Favourite book: “’Get Yamamoto. His treasure from his childhood was a copy of ‘Winnie the Pooh’.”

Favourite saying: “’This too will pass’” and “don’t let anyone get too close to you…they’ll only let you down’.  Sounds so cynical and unlike him.”

A few of his favourite London spots: Kew Gardens…we often went there…and always had a delicious tea at The Maids of Honour. His favourite place to lunch was The Garrick Club.”

A sweet tooth: “Loved peppermint dark chocolate with white filling, liquorice and Pontefract cakes. He also liked Fullers White walnut cake, and his favourite was Battenburg cake.”

Traits: “Very generous to young actors….if he thought they didn’t have any money he would find a way to slip £20 into a pocket or two…Always first to pick up the bill in a restaurant.”

Handy man?: “He always mowed the lawn and would clean the gutters periodically, but that was as good as it got. One morning in bed Kenny looked up and noticed some damp on the ceiling. ‘Shrimp: we will have to move!’ He exclaimed!”

With thanks to A Gentleman’s Jotter for this exclusive extract from Remembering Kenneth More. You can follow Angela Douglas on Twitter here. Her debut novel, Josephine, is published October 11th.

FEATURES: MORE ON MORE

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Click for Desert Island Discs choices 1 and 2

On his father:

From him I inherit an easy-going attitude to life though not the casual attitude which was to bring  him twice to the edge of ruin. I am also indebted to him for a certain inventiveness of mind which has helped me in my career, and for memories of his prodigal and sometimes misplaced generosity. There was nothing small-minded or mean about him.” 

More or Less – Kenneth More, An Autobiography (Hodder & Stoughton)

On his mother: 

“Life to her was what I always tried to make it for myself (sometimes without notable success) – a time to enjoy and to share with others of like mind. I am forever in her debt for this.” 

More or Less – Kenneth More, An Autobiography (Hodder & Stoughton)

On life: 

“our lives do have a set and definite pattern – if only we do not struggle against it. Sometimes we try so hard to achieve something that seems important at the time, and only years later do we realise that if we had but let events take their course, and been content to be carried on their tide, we would have achieved quite a different aim, for which we were probably better suited.” 

More or Less – Kenneth More, An Autobiography (Hodder & Stoughton)

On Reach For The Sky: 

Bader’s philosophy was my philosophy. His whole attitude to life was mine. I wanted this part, not just because I felt I could do full justice to it, but because it was an embodiment of my own belief that courage, faith and determination can overcome all obstacles.” 

More or Less – Kenneth More, An Autobiography (Hodder & Stoughton)

What are your main assets as an actor…?

“Firstly, I have a voice that people can hear…

Secondly, that I have confidence, through experience…

Thirdly, that I’m a very emotional person, very very emotional, who still believes in magic, which I think is essential in the theatre…

And again I am an extrovert…I can deal with situations as they arise. And I have this gift, I suppose…of comedy timing, which is really the basis of all acting, because all lines have to be timed…I suppose those are my assets, my liabilities we won’t go into those…

…I wonder what the verdict of my own profession would be? I would like to hazard a guess: ‘same actor, different clothes!’”

Talking with Michael Henry Flanders OBE on Omnibus (BBC) 

 

NEWS: GREETINGS…

Welcome to the all-new and official Kenneth More website. A place to learn more about one of Britain’s most iconic stars, with unique and exclusive access to treasures from the family archives, as well as news, features and upcoming events.

Stay tuned and…’keep on keeping on!’