A very happy 106th birthday to dear Kenny More, who was born on this day in 1914. KennethMore.com is proud to be the keepers of his legacy in the 21st century.
In the leafy, historic village of Wargrave, Berkshire, in a quiet and exclusive road known as Mill Lane, lies a beautiful property once owned by Kenneth More and family. To this day, it looks like something out of an English fairy tale. An aspirational monument to the perfect country house…
Kenny recalls Lock End in his autobiography, ‘More or Less’: “The house was delightful. Closely trimmed lawns sloped down to the river, and tall chestnut trees marched on either side of the drive, trimmed in the shape of enormous bells.”
Kenny, wife Mabel (Bill) Barkby and daughter Sarah, moved here in the late 1950’s when the family was prospering well and Kenny’s star was at its highest, following a string of box office successes.
Kenny recalls: “Bill furnished the house in style. The dining-room had a lime green fitted carpet, pale green and white curtains, with period furniture. Our dining-room was in Georgian style, the bed rooms in blue and pink. It was almost too beautiful, rather like a stage or film set, the background for elegant happenings; a lovely house…”
It was a place to be seen and photographed. The British press often visited, interviewing Kenny before taking photographs of the family at play.
A half timbered house with seven acres of land, Lock End was a far cry from busy streets of Eaton Square where Kenny also lived at the time. The country house was luxurious and stocked with antiques. It also was well looked after by a gardener, cook and housemaid. To this day, daughter Sarah, has fond memories of her upbringing in Wargrave. The two photographs below (courtesy of Getty) are ones we focus on here in particular. The first, a lovely black and white photo of Kenny and a gorgeous looking dog…
Sarah recalls: “Buster was a pet of ours… My prank loving godfather Leslie Dawson gave the puppy to my mother telling her it was a toy poodle… Of course it was a standard poodle and therefore huge. My parents kept him for a while but he was too boisterous and kept knocking me over. He then went to a loving home of someone they knew and lived a long happy life.”
Like everything, Kenny took pride in his personal possessions. Here he is photographed with his shot gun. Sarah again: “My father did shoot when he was married to my mother… I do not think he pursued it once they split up… I do remember going on a shoot with him when I was small. Not sure where but we were spending the weekend with friends for a pheasant shoot.”
As time went on, the upkeep of Lock End became an increasing problem. Kenny again: “Every time I arrived in Wargrave from the theatre or studio, someone seemed to want more money; the gardener, the cook, the housemaid. Then there were repairs to central heating, to relaying the garden, to relaying the relaying of the garden, to all manner of items I had never imagined needed such regular expenditures. The rich accept these constant demands on their pockets as unimportant; if such trivial things worry you, then clearly you can’t afford them. But those of us not born rich, who have had to work hard for our money, find such bills an increasing irritation – and gradually a focus for discontent…”
Finally, with Kenny increasingly needing to be closer to work, and the couple feeling distant from their friends, the family decided after a few years that Wargrave was just too far from London and they took the decision to move back.
In recent years Lock End has had quite a bit of renovation work (see here), but it still hasn’t lost is charm. It has continued to serve many families well, just as it once did The More’s.
We have the great pleasure of sharing this wonderful artwork by Paul Dove, depicting scenes from ‘Genevieve’, one of Kenny’s most successful films.
Paul is an incredibly talented artist and Kenny is one of his favourite actors. Paul has managed to capture the style and flare of the original film in vibrant colours!
Paul Dove is an internationally acclaimed, prize winning artist, with paintings featured in prestigious collections all around the world.
Working mainly in Acrylic or Oils, Paul’s love of Motor Racing is expressed in atmospheric, colourful and dramatic action filled paintings, while still retaining a great attention to detail.
He is also happy to paint other subjects including, portraits, maritime, aviation, TV/Films, etc. Paul’s professional career started when he won the prestigious 4th International Motoring Art competition sponsored by Maserati. The judges included, Sir Stirling Moss, Roy Salvadori, Derek Bell, Jackie Oliver, Paul Stewart and the actor Rowan Atkinson.
Paul has exhibited his artwork at many motor racing events, including Race Retro, Monaco, Goodwood and Silverstone.
Paul’s website features a selection of his original paintings and limited edition, fine art prints for sale.
‘Genevieve’ artwork copyright of Paul Dove
Kenny’s happiest schooling was his time at Victoria College, Jersey, where he lived with his family whilst his father, Bertie, was managing part of the Jersey Railway.
Kenny had previously suffered the isolation and misery of boarding school in Worthing, only coming to an end when he caught mumps and his sister, Kate, contracted Diphtheria.
Victoria College was the complete antithesis of his boarding school days and was full of bright, happy memories. Incidentally, Kenny performed in J.M. Barrie’s The Admirable Crichton at the school. Little did he know he would later play Crichton in both the screen adaptation and stage musical.
In later years when Kenny had become a star he made sure the college was not forgotten for the happiness it had brought him.
The first of these gifts was an oil painting. Kenny was a keen collector of art and antiques, and this portrait of King Charles I was once owned by him. He donated it to the college in 1957 where it still hangs to this day in their great hall.
The second gift began in 1962 with the establishment of the annual Kenneth More Prize for Drama. The prize continues to this day and acts as a lasting legacy of his time at the school and his achievement of becoming one of Britian’s greatest stars.
Victoria College, Jersey began in 1852, with its Preparatory School opening in 1922. Discover more on the school here: http://www.victoriacollege.je/
With thanks to Victoria College for their support.
Not many people know that Kenneth More was distantly related to Sir Thomas More (1478-1535) who was Chancellor to Henry VIII, and Lord High Chancellor of England from 1529 to 1532, he was put to death for ‘maliciously denying the royal Supremacy’, when Henry VIII was married to his second wife, Anne Boleyn. He was subsequently maid a martyr by the Catholic Church and became a Saint.
The print above was a copy of a preparatory drawing of a larger portrait pained by German artist Hans Holbein.
Kenneth More kept this print in his study throughout his life and it now resides win the late actor’s archives.
When Kenneth More passed away, his memorial booklet included a quote from Sir Thomas More on the cover: ‘Pray for me, and I shall pray for you and all your friends that we may merrily meet in heaven.’
Kenny had a good collection of cufflinks in his lifetime. A few that remain in the archive are extra special ones which were given to him by his second wife Mabel (Billie) Barkby to commemorate the premiers of some of his most popular films.
Each set of cufflinks are inscribed with the film on the back, these include: ‘A Night to Remember’, ‘Sheriff of Fractured Jaw’, and ‘Sink the Bismarck!’.
Having fought in the Second World War and seen action on board two Royal Navy ships, HMS Aurora, and later HMS Victorious, Kenny, like many others of his generation was a great admirer of Sir Winston Churchill who had led British allied forces.
Angela More remembers how Kenny was recovering from the flu at the time Churchill’s funeral service was being televised: “he shed tears.”
Kenny had been playing on stage in Our Man Crichton as he recalls in his autobiography, ‘More or Less’:
‘On the week of Churchill’s funeral, business was very bad. People stayed away from the theatre because their thoughts were about the death of a man who had for so long symbolised so much that was fine in our country. But the show had to go on, although on the Wednesday matinée I saw I was singing this ballad to a house three-quarters empty.’
Though he never met him Churchill, Kenny kept a collection of Churchill’s memoirs (see below) and a copy of Lord Moran’s ‘Churchill: The Struggle For Survival’. He also purchased two silver coins in 1965 which were released by Royal Mint to commemorate the passing of Churchill. These items go some way in showing how much Kenny revered him.
In his time Kenneth More had many portraits made of him in various mediums. This acrylic painting on canvas by artist Ricky Poole was made for the Stage Golfing Society who subsequently donated it to the Kenneth More Theatre/Redbridge Theatre Company. With their departure from the KM Theatre in 2019 it was kindly gifted to the estate of the late actor and sits pride and place amongst the collection of items relating to Kenny. It is the hope that in time to come it will feature in a major exhibition of Kenneth More’s life.
Ricky Poole has done a wonderful job of capturing More during the 1950’s, from the collar of the shirt pulled up, to his contemplative expression, and even perfecting his widow’s peak hairline. Though the painting has aged after many years the colours are still vivid, even down to the flecks of bright paint making up the checkered pattern of the short sleeved shirt.
Ultimately it depicts Kenny at the high of his success with his life ahead of him, and for that it remains a cherished portrait of one of our greatest stars.
The true story of airman Douglas Bader who overcame the loss of both legs in a 1931 flying accident to become a successful fighter pilot and wing leader during World War II.
The Kenneth More Theatre celebrates the life and work of the one and only Kenneth More, one of Britain’s most successful stars. This is a rare opportunity to see him on the big screen, in his most iconic role, as real life fighter pilot Douglas Bader, in the immortal British screen classic ‘Reach For The Sky’ (1956).
Programme supported by Film Hub London, managed by Film London. Partner of the BFI Film Audience Network, funded by the National Lottery.
Join the The Good Company Film Club at the Kenneth More Theatre on 20th January 2020 at 11am (ends at 12:30pm).
All tickets £5
Click here to book
KenenthMore.com is proud to announce the first official book on Kenny to be released in the New Year. More Please! will be published in 2020 featuring rare material from the archives, including exclusive extracts from Kenneth More’s final autobiography, More or Less.