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About Sir Stanley Baker
<The Times, June 30, 1976>
<SIR STANLEY BAKER>
<Distinguished Welsh film actor>
Sir Stanley Baker, the Welsh actor and producer, who was knighted only weeks ago in Sir Harold Wilson's resignation honours, died in Spain on June 28 at the age of 48.
The son of a mining family, he was born in the Rhondda Valley in 1928 making his first film, "Undercover," during the war at the age of 14 and his stage debut soon afterwards in "The Druid's Rest" at the St. Martin's Theatre in London. He spent two years with the Birmingham Repertory Theatre before returning to the cinema and making his name in the early 1950s in war and adventure pictures like "The Cruel Sea", "The Red Beret", "Hell Below Zero", and "A Hill in Korea". In 1956 he was Henry Tudor in Laurence Olivier's film of "Richard III" but he continued to be cast mainly in action pictures where his fine physique made him ideally suited to play the tough hero or on occasions the villain. These included "Campbell's Kingdom", "Violent Playground", "Hell Drivers", "Sea Fury", "Hell is a City", and the enormously popular, "Guns of Navarone".
"Blind Date" in 1959 marked the beginning of a fruitful collaboration with the emigre American director, Joseph Losey which also resulted in a stylish and underrated thriller, "The Criminal"; an Anglo-French production with Jean Moreau, "Eve"; and a few years later "Accident", in which Baker and Dirk Bogarde, as Oxford dons, brilliantly negotiated a typically enigmatic script by Harold Pinter. The last film particularly showed a sensitivity and range in Stanley Baker's acting that his more straightforward roles rarely allowed him to display and it was probably his outstanding screen performance.
In the early 1960s he formed his own production company and had immediate success with an historical subject, "Zulu", in which he played opposite Michael Caine. He also co-produced and starred in another African story, "Sands of Kalahari"; "Robbery", a fictional reconstruction of the Great Train Robbery, and "Where's Jack?" a costume picture. In 1970 he starred with Ursula Andress in Peter Hall's comedy thriller, "Perfect Friday", but in recent years he had done little in the British cinema apart from a secret agent's film, "Innocent Bystanders", directed by Peter Collinson.
A frequent performer on television, Stanley Baker played Rochester in a 1957 production of "Jane Eyre" and was Gannon in the American series of that name which went out in the following decade. In 1968, along with several other famous Welsh names such as Richard Burton and Sir Geraint Evans, he became a director of the newly-formed Harlech Television and appeared in several productions. His most recent television role was as the father of the Welsh mining family in a BBC adaptation of Richard Llewellyn's "How Green was my Valley".
Sir Stanley took a keen interest in politics as a supporter of the Labour Party and one of his main recreations was golf. He married in 1950 and leaves a widow, three sons and a daughter.