April 19, 2014

Actors

Kenneth Williams (1926-1988) b. London, England.

Kenneth Williams

Born in London, Williams left school at 14. Slight and not very tall, he had avoided bullying by bigger boys by becoming the class clown. During World War Two Williams joined the army and served with the Royal Engineers survey section as a map-maker. With the end of hostilities, he managed to get himself transferred to the Combined Services Entertainment Unit touring Malaya, Burma and Singapore. Demobbed from the army Williams returned to a job as a draughtsman but the comedian Stanley Baxter, whom he had met during his time with the CSEU, urged him to make a try for the stage and, after several failures, Williams was finally taken on by a provincial repertory company in Cornwall in 1948.

After four years of repertory work, he reached London and at the same time began to pick up small roles in films. His ability to make people laugh just by using a variety of funny voices first came to the fore with the radio comedy series Hancock’s Half Hour. Tony Hancock not only resented it but also disliked Williams’ use of what he termed ‘cartoon characters’. Hancock was restless for more reality and Williams was heard no more in the show after 1956. The years of Williams’ greatest popularity began in 1958. The first of die ‘Carry On’ films, Carry On Sergeant (1966), appeared in that year. Williams made ‘Carry On’ films for another ten years, and also became a rowdy and undisciplined panellist on radio’s Just a Minute. A few weeks before he was due to go into hospital for an operation, Williams was found dead from an overdose of sleeping pills.



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