FEATURES: KENNETH MORE REFLECTIONS – RONALD PICKUP

Actor Ronald Pickup with KenenthMore.com Founder Nick Pourgourides

Actor Ronald Pickup with KenenthMore.com Founder Nick Pourgourides

To mark Kenny’s birthday on September 20th, we are extremely pleased to welcome acclaimed actor of stage and screen, Ronald Pickup, to shares his fond memories of working with Kenny, on the Father Brown episode, The Eye of Apollo.

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“I remember being high up on this balcony in Finsbury Square doing this weird scene at the start of that episode…I was supposed to be preaching to the public as this leader of a bogus religious cult….a sun worshipper.

For me though, working with Kenny was just such a joy. He was one of my generation’s favourites…and there was something completely seamless from the personality I knew of on screen from both cinema and television, to the one I worked with…

Image result for ronald pickup kenneth moreI had met him previously working on TV series, The Dragon’s Opponent where Angela Douglas was working with me on one of the episodes. I remember him coming to the set and taking us all out for dinner. He was very generous and sweet like that…When I met him again on Father Brown, he was very jovial, easy, and just so relaxed behind the camera…. A natural performer and an education watching him act. To be in a series of Father Brown was great too, having known of GK Chesterton’s books since I was a boy.

Kenny though as Father brown was just great. I was lucky to work with him. But I think he was more versatile than people think. I remember seeing him in the film version of The Deep Blue Sea. He was excellent and his performance is very unapologetic. The dark side of him was wonderful to see, especially for someone so popular – I think that character was more of a risk to to do than people would think of now.”

Our founder’s hero, is of course Kenny, but Nick Pourgourides was keen to know who Ronald Pickup held in the same regard. I had many heroes in our business, including Kenny, but my biggest had to be Laurence Olivier!”

Funnily enough, Kenny held him in the same regard! Order the Father Brown box set here

With special thanks to Ronald Pickup

Father Brown image credit to Acorn media

FEATURES: THE STORY BEHIND REACH FOR THE SKY

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Reach for the Sky original print advertisement

KenenthMore.com takes a closer look at Kenny’s most iconic film role.

Reach for the Sky is the true story of Douglas Bader who overcame the tragic loss of both legs from a flying aerobatics disaster to become one of England’s most successful fighter pilots during World War II, even taking part in the famous Battle of Britain. He would later be captured behind enemy lines, escaping on several occasions before being interned at Colditz for the rest of the war.

Copy of Reach for the Sky sheet music owned by Kenneth More

Bader’s story was published as a biography in 1954 by Paul Brickhill, and was adapted for the screen by Lewis Gilbert, who also directed. Bader disagreed with Brickhill over the biography, as well as with the filmmakers over the film, subsequently refusing to attend the film’s premiere. Bader would eventually see the movie on television, but not until eleven years later.

Incidentally the part of Bader was initially offered to Richard Burton, who turned it down to star in Alexander the Great.

First edition of Reach for the Sky by Paul Brickhill

First edition of Reach for the Sky by Paul Brickhill

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Kenny’s relationship with Douglas Bader was very different. They first met each other at Gleneagles in Scotland, when More had secured the part. Having read the book on holiday in the South of France Kenny felt he was the only actor who could play the part, stating why in his autobiography, More or Less.

“Bader’s philosophy was my phlopsophy. His whole attitude to life was mine.”

Kenneth More from his autobiography, More or Less

Reach for the Sky original film artwork

More and Bader played a round of golf together with Bader thrashing More on the course. They met again for dinner on a few occasions, with Kenny’s friend Ronald Squire. Bader warmed to More instantly and was pleased he had been cast in the role. Kenny was thrilled Bader had taken to him so easily but decided to keep his distance during filming in order to not caricature him too much. The pair stayed friends throughout their lives, with Bader a guest at More’s Variety Club luncheon at the Savoy in 1974, celebrating Kenny’s 40 years in showbusiness. When Kenny passed away, Lady Bader attendee his memorial. Incidentally Douglas Bader had passed away 2 months after Kenny.

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Reach for the Sky became a smash hit upon release and the most popular British film of 1956, as well as winning a BAFTA for Best Film. Playing Bader also garnered a Best Actor award for Kenny from the major cinema publication of the day, Picturegoer magazine. The film did something greater for his career, it showed British audiences that Kenny was not just a happy-go-lucky comic actor, he had range as a leading man in a dramatic performance.

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Kenneth More's flying hat and goggles from Reach for the Sky. Image courtesy of Sarah More

Kenneth More’s flying hat and goggles from Reach for the Sky. Image courtesy of Sarah More

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NEWS: INTERVIEW ON KENNETH MORE – BBC RADIO LONDON

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Jason Solomons with Nick Pourgourides. Image courtesy of BBC Radio London

Our founder, Nick Pourgourides, was a guest on BBC Radio London with presenter Jason Solomons to talk all things Kenneth More. Nick brought along Kenny’s 40th anniversary Variety Club silver heart to help remind the public of his immense contribution to the entertainment industry.

Listen back to the interview here. Starts at 1:44:27 

https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p07kkr4y

With thanks to Jason Solomons.

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Kenneth More’s 40th anniversary Variety Club silver heart. Presented to him at a special luncheon held at the Savoy Hotel. Image courtesy of BBC Radio London

 

FEATURES: KENNETH MORE REFLECTIONS – A FAN REMEMBERS…

Kenneth More fan, Carolyn Jones is a research scientist at the University of Manchester, where she still works as an Honorary Research Fellow

Kenneth More fan, Carolyn Jones is a research scientist at the University of Manchester, where she still works as an Honorary Research Fellow

“When I was a teenager, probably about 12 or 13, I saw Genevieve and Doctor in the House at the cinema.  While all my contemporaries were rather smitten with Dirk Bogarde and other leading men, I was enchanted by Kenneth More.

There was something about his rakish personality that appealed to me.  For some reason or another, I wrote to him several times.  I cannot now recall the content of those letters, but in one I must have asked him about the colour of his eyes because he answered my question telling me they were trout’s eyes!

Kenneth More signed photo and response to fan Carolyn Jones

Kenneth More signed photo and response to fan Carolyn Jones

I know that I also wrote asking for photos of him in a Night To Remember and he sent me a card back telling me where I could obtain them.

Kenneth More response card (cover) to fan Carolyn Jone

Kenneth More response card (cover) to fan Carolyn Jone

Kenneth More response card to fan Carolyn Jones. Note this is an address card from the family home he shared with wife Mabel Barkby and daughter Sarah

Kenneth More response card to fan Carolyn Jones. Note this is an address card from the family home he shared with wife Mabel Barkby and daughter Sarah

Kenneth More signed photo to fan Carolyn Jones

Kenneth More signed photo to fan Carolyn Jones

I was so overjoyed when I got replies, and very touched that he would reply personally.  Sceptics told me he would never have signed them himself, a big star like that, but I am sure that he did –  the handwriting matched his printed signature for a start.  What a kind man to answer some stranger in that way, especially a young girl.

In my later years, when I look at those photos and his notes, I am always deeply touched and impressed and count myself extremely lucky. I was so sorry to hear of his death in 1982 and wanted to tell his wife how exceptionally kind her husband had been to me, so wrote a letter of condolence telling her of my experiences as a teenager.  I got a lovely reply back.  I treasure all these mementos of Kenny More, even though I am now well into my 70’s and a grandmother! I think he was a very special person and he will always have a place in my heart.

For me, his best film will always be Reach for the Sky, possibly because I have always loved Spitfires, and I found it so inspirational.  Last July I actually flew in a Spitfire at Duxford –  we looped the loop and did a barrel roll –  it was a dream come true!”

All images courtesy of Carolyn Jones

'Reach for the Sky!' Fulfilling a childhood dream; Kenneth More fan Carolyn Jones gets ready for take off in a 1940s Spitfire at Duxford.

‘Reach for the Sky!’ Fulfilling a childhood dream; Kenneth More fan Carolyn Jones gets ready for take off in a 1940s Spitfire at Duxford.

FROM THE ARCHIVES: A TALE OF A TWO CITIES

Kenneth More on set for his last film performance as Jarvis Lorry in 'A Tale of Two Cities'. Photograph taken by Angela Douglas

Kenneth More on set for his last film performance as Jarvis Lorry in ‘A Tale of Two Cities’. Photograph taken by and courtesy of Angela More

One of the most unique objects captured in The Kenneth More Preservation Libraryis a little-known walking cane belonging to Kenneth More and used during the filming of his final screen role, as Jarvis Lorry in ‘A Tale of Two Cities’.

Sir Charles Blake Cochran (known also as C. B. Cochran), was a great impresario of British theatre, producing some of the most successful plays and musicals of the day during 1920s and 1930s. The cane originally belonged to Cochran until his passing when it was bequeathed to celebrated British actress Evelyn Laye CBE. Known to her friends as ‘Boo’, Evelyn is best remembered for her work on the London light opera stage, as well as stateside, appearing in multiple productions both on Broadway in New York and Hollywood, many of which were staged by Cochran.

Evelyn became close friends with Kenneth More and Angela Douglas during the 1960s, along with her husband Frank Lawton. Evelyn later gifted the cane to Kenny on September 20th 1969, only a few months after Frank Lawton had passed away at the age of 65.

In later life, and struggling with the onset of illness, Kenny found the cane invaluable for his balance during the filming of ‘A Tale of Two Cities’, so much so it made it into the film as an actual prop for his character.

With Kenneth More’s passing the cane was donated by Angela Douglas to his beloved Garrick Club. It remains on the wall in the club’s lounge to this day.

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Silver top of walking cane with the inscription: Cockie’s Cane. Kenny from “Boo”, September 20 1969. Images courtesy of The Garrick Club

Kenneth More's beloved Garrick Club

Kenneth More’s beloved Garrick Club

Walking cane images courtesy of The Garrick Club. Visit The Kenneth More Preservation Library here