Kenneth Williams
(1926 - 1988)

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Certainly one of the most memorable performers of the 60’s and 70’s in British cinema – rarely seen without his side kick Sid James, Kenneth became a ‘carry on’ favourite with shocked smiles and a penchant for always getting the joke late. Famous for his nostril-flaring and catch-phrases that included `Stop messing about!' and `Oh, get on with it!'.


Kenneth Charles Williams was born on the 22nd February 1926 into a fairly working class section of London. It was here that he, and his older sister Pat, were raised by their parents Louisa and Charlie, who ran a hairdressing shop. Slight and not very tall, he had avoided bullying by bigger boys by becoming the class clown. Williams was by no means exceptional at school but very much enjoyed drama. He was offered a part in the school play but his father objected – it seemed that he did not feel it was a suitable profession for men. At a fairly young age he trained in printing until the war came.


During World War II he joined the army and served with the Royal Engineers survey section as a map maker, something he had experience of from civilian life. 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 Kenneth 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.
It was in a production of ‘Saint Joan’, where he played the Dauphin, that a radio producer saw him and hired him to do voice characterizations on a popular radio comedy show, ‘Hancock's Half Hour’. This was where he gained initial popularity for the comical voices he could produce.


Eventaully he left the successful series (although rumour suggests that he and Hancock fell out) and he joined Kenneth Horne in the series Beyond Our Ken (1958–1964), and its sequel, Round the Horne (1965–1968).


He appeared unaccredited in his first film ‘Trent's Last Case’ (1952) but it was to be in 1958, cast as James Bailey in ‘Carry on Sergeant’, that he began what Williams was eventually most famous for – the terribly British ‘Carry on’ movies.
These films ran for the better part of 20 years, Kenneth with his wildly camp persona often added a teasing note of sexual ambiguity to the most apparently innocent remarks. Most notable among these was Williams own performance in ‘Carry on Cleo’ (1964). Although he would never know it, in 2007 his line from the films,

"Infamy, infamy, they've all got it in for me"

was voted the greatest one-liner in movie history by a poll of a thousand writers, actors and comedians in a TV poll.

 

 





 

 




 

 

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