Who was Kenneth Connor?
Kenneth Connor was an English stage, screen, and radio actor. He is best remembered for comedic performances in the ‘Carry On’ film series. Connor made his first stage appearance at the age of two in a show of his father, who organised several concert parties. By the age of 11, Connor had begun performing in various revue shows with his brother. He was a gold medallist at the ‘Central School of Speech and Drama.’ He made his professional acting debut with stage, where he found success with plays such as ‘Saint Joan’ and ‘The Government Inspector,’ and revues like ‘One Over The Eight’ and ‘Carry On London.’ He made his mark on radio with shows like ‘Ray's a Laugh’ and ‘Parsley Sidings. On television, he got recognition with series like 'Allo 'Allo! and Hi-de-Hi!. He made his film debut with ‘Poison Pen’ and gained widespread recognition essaying various roles in seventeen of the original thirty ‘Carry On’ films and many of the related TV programs.
Childhood & Early Life
Kenneth Connor was born on June 6, 1918, in Islington, London, England, to a naval petty officer. His father organised concert parties and it was in one of his father’s shows in Portsmouth that Connor first appeared when he was just two years old. He had his own act by the time he was 11 and would perform in solo act as well as in doubles act with his brother in different revue shows.
He made up his mind to pursue acting seriously and attended the ‘Central School of Speech and Drama.’ At the acting school, he received a gold medal.
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In December 1936, Connor made his professional acting debut at ‘His Majesty's Theatre’ with J. M. Barrie's ‘The Boy David.’
He was enlisted in the ‘Second World War’ and served the ‘Middlesex Regiment’ as an infantry gunner. During such stint he also toured and performed with the ‘Stars in Battledress’ concert party and the ‘ENSA’ in Italy and the Middle East. He later worked with ‘Bristol Old Vic’ and thereafter became associated with ‘Old Vic Company’ for the 1947–48 season at the ‘New Theatre.’ There he performed in several plays, including ‘The Government Inspector’ and ‘Saint Joan.’
He featured in the BBC aired Ted Ray's Sunday lunchtime domestic comedy radio show ‘Ray's a Laugh.’ He also featured with Ray on the latter’s TV shows.
Connor’s early television endeavours include ‘The Idiot Weekly, Price 2d’ (1956) and ‘A Show Called Fred’ (1956). He also lent his voice to the television puppet series ‘Four Feather Falls,’ in 1960. His other television programs include ‘On the House’ (1970-1971), ‘Rentaghost’ (1983-1984), 'Allo 'Allo! (1984-1992), ‘Hi-de-Hi!’ (1986-1988), and ‘Blackadder the Third’ (1987).
Meanwhile, Connor made his film debut with ‘Poison Pen’ (1939). He played Horace Strong in the 1958 comedy film ‘Carry On Sergeant,’ the first of the ‘Carry On’ film series. Moving on, he became part of the regular cast of the film series and featured in 17 of the original films. He also appeared in several associated TV shows, including ‘Carry On Laughing’ (1975).
Connor, along with Kenneth Williams and Eric Barker, featured in ‘Carry On Emmannuelle’ (1978), the 30th film in the ‘Carry On’ film series; they were the only actors to feature in the first and the final film of the original sequence of the series. His real-life son, Jeremy, featured as reel-life-son of his character, Bernie Bishop, in the second film of the series, ‘Carry On Nurse’ (1959).
Connor eventually became a prominent actor in the British comedy films and featured in many other comedy flicks apart from the ‘Carry On’ films. These include ‘Watch Your Stern’ (1960), ‘Dentist in the Chair’ (1960), and its sequel, ‘Dentist on the Job’ (1961), and ‘What a Carve Up!’ (1961).
Connor appeared in films of other genres as well. These included the 1954 thriller ‘The Black Rider’, the 1965 sci-fi / musical fantasy ‘Gonks Go Beat’ and the 1969 adventure-family-fantasy film ‘Captain Nemo and the Underwater City.’
Connor continued with his stage engagements and found success on the London stage performing in productions of ‘One Over The Eight’ (1962), ‘A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum’ (1963), ‘The Four Musketeers’ (1967), and ‘Carry On London’ (1973).
He was one of the stars of the BBC radio sitcom ‘Parsley Sidings,’ between 1971 and 1973. He also appeared occasionally on the British radio comedy programme ‘The Goon Show’ during absence of its regular cast members.
In 1991, he was honoured by the Queen as a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE).
Family & Personal Life
Connor married Margaret Irene Churchill Knox in 1942. They had a son, Jeremy Connor, and three grandchildren, Thomas, Rose, and Hayley.
Connor suffered from cancer and died at his home on November 28, 1993, in South Harrow, London, England.