Sir Stanley Baker
(1927-1976)


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Born in a Welsh industrial village on the 8th February 1927, Stanley moved to London with his parents in the mid-1930s. He was a burly character star discovered for films as a teenager by Sergei Nolbandov who cast him in Ealing's Yugoslav set drama 'Undercover' (1943). Before his next film, 'All Over the Town' in 1949, he worked with Birmingham Rep and did Army service (1946-48). After small film roles, he made his mark as the bullying Bennett in 'The Cruel Sea' (1952), when the dangerous edge to his working-class persona emerged powerfully.

Finally, association with McCarthyite exiles Cy Endfield and Joseph Losey, led to a series of more interesting and sympathetic roles. ‘Films and Filming’ commented that he played,

'hard, tough char­actors neither particularly sympathetic nor particularly villainous, [which proved that] ordinary men, doing everyday jobs, can be exciting and often are’.

As Tom Yately in Hell Drivers (1957) he was a resourceful ex-convict whose time inside has made him able to survive in a harsh, brutal and exploitative world.

Finding his contract with the Rank Organisation confining, he became a free-lancer in 1959, spending the rest of his career making his own opportunities rather than depending on the generosity of others. He starred in the the epic ‘The Guns of Navarone’ (1963) with a number of other notables such as Peck, Quinn, Quayle and Niven. A box office smash it revealed a softer side than perhaps than previously been portrayed as a commando with a weighty conscience.

In 1964 he was starring this time alongside Michael Caine and Jack Hawkins in the epic 'Zulu'. The story of the last defence of Rorkes drift by a Welsh regiment he and Caine played well off each other and Hawkins portrayal of a boozing minister was also highly effective In debate with Hawkins he delivers a highly memorable line,

Lt Chad ‘whenever I have the impertinence to climb into your pulpit to deliver a sermon, you may tell me my duty’

Ms Whitt ‘ and sacrifice the wounded’

Lt Chad ‘ Are you a student of tactics to Ms Whitt?’

Famously he went to see the grave of Lt Chad and conducted comprehensive research before playing the character. Typical of Baker.













 

 

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