Kenneth More
File:Kenneth More.jpg
Kenneth Gilbert More

(1914-09-20)20 September 1914
Died12 July 1982(1982-07-12) (aged 67)
Years active1935–80
Spouse(s)Beryl Johnstone (1939-46)(divorce) 1 child
Mabel Barkby (1952-68)(divorce) 1 child
Angela Douglas (1968-82) (his death)

Kenneth Gilbert More CBE (20 September 1914 – 12 July 1982) was a highly successful English film actor[1] during the post-World War II era and starred in many feature films, often in the role of an archetypal carefree and happy-go-lucky middle-class gentleman.

Early life

Kenneth More was born in Gerrard's Cross, Buckinghamshire, the only son of Charles Gilbert More, a Royal Naval Air Service pilot, and Edith Winifred Watkins, the daughter of a Cardiff solicitor. He was educated at Victoria College, Jersey. He spent part of his childhood in the Channel Islands, where his father was general manager of the Jersey Eastern Railway. After he left school, he followed the family tradition by training as a civil engineer. He gave up his training and worked for a while in Sainsbury's.

When More was 17 his father died, and he applied to join the RAF, but failed the medical test for equilibrium. He went to Canada, intending to work as a fur trapper, but was sent back for lacking immigration papers.

Acting career

On his return, a family friend, Vivian Van Damm, took him on as assistant manager at the Windmill Theatre, where his job included spotting audience members misbehaving or using opera glasses to look at the nude players during its Revudeville variety shows.[2] He was soon promoted to playing straight man in the Revudeville comedy routines. This led to regular work in repertory, including Newcastle and Wolverhampton, performing in plays such as Burke and Hare and Dracula's Daughter. He continued this work until World War II, during which time he served as a lieutenant in the Royal Navy, seeing active service aboard the cruiser HMS Aurora and the aircraft carrier HMS Victorious, returning to acting in 1946. After various roles in the West End, he attracted particular attention through his performance as Freddie in Terence Rattigan's The Deep Blue Sea.

In the 1950s, he entered into a contract with the Rank Organisation, which led to a successful career in starring roles for a decade. He enjoyed great success in films of the 1950s after winning a BAFTA Award as best newcomer for Doctor in the House in 1954. Possibly his most famous role was that of the Royal Air Force fighter ace, Douglas Bader, in Reach for the Sky in 1956. He played the lead role in the Titanic film A Night to Remember in 1958. He specialised in likeable, unflappable English heroes ("an air of hectoring confidence ... heroic in a cocky big-brotherly way"),[3] a persona that could in some roles show darker aspects, as with the controlling Crichton in The Admirable Crichton and the brash Ambrose Claverhouse in Genevieve. In 1959, Rank's John Davis gave permission for More to work outside his contract to appear in The Guns of Navarone. More, however, made the mistake of heckling and swearing at Davis at a BAFTA dinner at the Dorchester, losing both the role (which went to David Niven) and his contract with Rank.[2]

He later appeared in a number of all-star war films, among them Sink the Bismarck! (1960), The Longest Day (1962), Battle of Britain (1969), and Oh! What a Lovely War (1969).

His film parts got smaller in the 1960s, with some thinking his popularity declined when he left his wife to live with Angela Douglas.[4] His popularity recovered through West End stage performances and television roles, especially following his success in The Forsyte Saga, and as the title character in ATV's 1974 Father Brown. He is also known for his role as the Ghost of Christmas Present in 1970's Scrooge.

He stood in the wings to replace Bernard Lee as M in the James Bond film Live and Let Die when it wasn't known if an ill Lee would be able to appear.


Throughout the 1950s and early 1960s, exhibitors consistently voted for Moore was one of the top ten most popular stars at the British box office.

Personal life

More was married three times. His first marriage in 1939 to actress Beryl Johnstone (one daughter, Susan, born 1941) ended in divorce in 1946. He married Mabel Edith "Bill" Barkby in 1952 (one daughter, Sarah, born 1954) but left her in 1968 for Angela Douglas, an actress 26 years his junior, causing considerable estrangement from friends and family. He was married to Douglas (whom he nicknamed "Shrimp")[2] from 17 March 1968 until his death.

Kenneth More published two autobiographies, Happy Go Lucky in 1959 and More or Less in 1978. In the second book he related how he had had since childhood a recurrent dream of something akin to a huge wasp descending towards him. During the war he experienced a Nazi Stuka bomber descending in just such a manner. After that he claimed never to have had that dream again.

He died in London from Parkinson's disease on 12 July 1982, aged 67, and was cremated at Putney Vale Crematorium.

The Kenneth More Theatre, named in his honour, is in Ilford, London.


See also


  1. ^ Obituary Variety, 14 July 1982.
  2. ^ a b c More or Less, Kenneth More, Hodder and Stoughton, 1978, ISBN 034022603
  3. ^ Shepperton Babylon, The Lost Worlds of British Cinema, Matthew Sweet, Faber & Faber, 2005, ISBN 0-571-21297-2
  4. ^
  5. ^ Film Data for 1954
  6. ^ Film Data for 1955
  7. ^ Film Data for 1956
  8. ^ Film Data for 1957
  9. ^ Film Data for 1958
  10. ^ FIlm Data for 1959
  11. ^ Film Data for 1960
  12. ^ Film Data for 1961
  13. ^ Film Data of 1962
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