Roy Kinnear

Roy Kinnear

Renowned for his distinctive voice, infectious charm, and versatile acting prowess, Roy Kinnear remains one of Britain's most memorable talents. Born on 8 January 1934, in Wigan, England, Kinnear would leave an indelible mark on the entertainment industry before his untimely demise in 1988. From his early days in theatre to his successful foray into film and television, Kinnear's remarkable career ensured that he remained at the top of his profession for nearly 30 years, earning him a dedicated fan base and critical acclaim.

Kinnear discovered his passion for acting at a young age, honing his skills in local theatre productions before joining the prestigious Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA). It was during his time at RADA that Kinnear's talent began to shine, impressing both his peers and tutors with his natural comedic timing and ability to connect with audiences. He made his debut in repertory at Newquay in 1955 and came to attention of a wider audience in Make Me An Offer at the Theatre Royal, Stratford East, thus starting a lengthy association with Joan Littlewood's Theatre Workshop.

He made his television debut in a 1956 BBC production of She Stoops to Conquer, appearing alongside Richard Briers and Albert Finney. And so began a long association with television, cemented by his regular appearances on the satirical BBC series That Was The Week That Was, but it was some time after that before he was allowed to show his breadth as an actor. He was almost immediately in demand for films and was taken up by the light entertainment side of the business, playing in pantomime for many years.

Not content to be confined to one genre, Kinnear continued to explore diverse roles in both film and television throughout his career. He seamlessly transitioned from the big screen to the small screen, captivating audiences with his appearances in iconic television shows such as The Avengers, Sykes, The Goodies, Man About the House, George and Mildred, The Dick Emery Show, and The Kenny Everett Television Show. In 1968 he starred in his own series, Inside George Webley, a sitcom about a bank clerk who was guaranteed to add the word pooper to party and crushing to bore. George was the eternal pessimist and approached life with the attitude that if something was going to go wrong - it would! He also narrated Towser and Bertha, voiced Pipkin in the 1978 film Watership Down and voiced Texas Pete's henchman Bulk in SuperTed. Kinnear's ability to effortlessly adapt to different roles endeared him to both viewers and fellow actors, further establishing his status as a true professional.

Roy Kinnear and John Lennon in 'Help!'

His film career began in earnest in the 1960s, with notable roles in movies like The Beatles' Help!, Franco Zeffirelli's The Taming of the Shrew, Start the Revolution Without Me, and he played the father of spoiled rich girl Veruca Salt in the film Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. Perhaps one of Kinnear's most iconic roles came in 1975 when he portrayed Planchet, the loyal and bumbling sidekick to Michael York's D'Artagnan, in Richard Lester's box office hit The Three Musketeers. Kinnear's performance endeared him to audiences worldwide, solidifying his reputation as a comedic genius. He would reprise the role in the film's sequel, further showcasing his immense talent and undeniable charisma.

With his unique blend of physical comedy and genuine warmth, Kinnear endeared himself to audiences in a multitude of stage productions. His portrayal of comic characters garnered critical acclaim and cemented his reputation as a master of comedic timing. Eventually, he graduated into the major companies, including both the National and RSC, making a mark in Shakespearean roles in The Taming of the Shrew and As You Like It. His final stage role, with Charlton Heston in the Chichester and West End seasons and tour of A Man for All Seasons, found him at the height of his powers as an actor, playing the Common Man.

Tragically, Roy Kinnear's life was cut short in 1988 while filming the adventure-comedy movie The Return of the Musketeers. During a horse-riding scene, Kinnear fell from his mount sustaining a broken pelvis and internal bleeding. He was rushed to hospital in Madrid but died the following day from a heart attack. He was 54 years of age. The entertainment industry mourned the loss of an exceptional talent, and tributes poured in from all corners of the world.

Joan Littlewood paid tribute to him, saying, "My company, Theatre Workshop, a name unique at the time, was already world famous when this brilliant actor joined us and was admired for his performances in London and Paris, where he played in our production of Every Man In His Humour at the Theatre Sarah Bernhardt. His success was due to his talent, not his shape."

Although his time in the spotlight was cut short, Roy Kinnear's impact on British television, cinema and theatre is undeniable. His ability to captivate audiences with his exceptional talent and infectious charm still resonates today. Whether through his unforgettable stage performances or his diverse roles on screen, Roy Kinnear will forever be remembered as a true professional and an actor who effortlessly brought joy to everyone who had the pleasure of watching him perform.

Published on March 22nd, 2024. Written by Marc Saul for Television Heaven.

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