Kenneth Kendall was not the first newsreader for BBC Television, but he was the first newsreader to actually appear on the screen. He died yesterday at the age of 88.
Kenneth Kendall was born on 7 August 1924 in British India. When he was ten years old his family moved to Cornwall where he would spend the rest of his childhood. He studied at Felsted School in Essex and attended Oxford University. During World War II he served in the Coldstream Guards and was wounded during the invasion of Normandy on D-Day. He left the service in 1946 with the rank of captain. Following the war he was a teacher at a prep school in Sussex. It was a friend, who thought he had a good voice, who suggested he apply for a job at the BBC.
Kenneth Kendall joined BBC Radio in 1948. He made an uncredited appearance in the film The Reckless Moment (1949). In 1954 he moved into television. In the early days of BBC Television newsreaders did not appear on screen as it as thought that their facial expressions could give the impression of bias on the part of the newsreaders. It was in 1955, not long before the launch of ITN (the first competition in television that the BBC would have), that the corporation decided to have a newsreader on the screen. It was then on 4 September 1955 that Kenneth Kendall became the first newsreader at the BBC to appear on the television screen. He appeared as a BBC announcer in the film Evidence in Concrete (1960).
In 1961 Kenneth Kendall left reading the news and joined the BBC programming department. He disliked the job and did not remain with it long. Throughout the Sixties he presented the quiz show Pit Your Wits and he appeared on such programmes as A for Andromeda, Suspense, Here and Now, Doctor Who, Adam Adamant Lives, and Mogul. He narrated Seawards the Great Ships (1961) and appeared in the films The Brain (1962), They Came from Beyond Space (1967), and 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968).
In 1969 he returned to the BBC as a newsreader. He appeared on Dead of Night and The Morecambe & Wise Show. He left the BBC in 1981. In 1982 he started a seven year stint as the host of Treasure Hunt. He went onto appear on the shows Executive Stress and KYTV. He returned to Cornwall where he opened an art gallery, then moved to the Isle of Wight where he opened a restaurant named Kendalls. Discovering his disliked the restaurant business, he closed it and opened an art gallery on the same spot.
As an American I never saw Kenneth Kendall read the news live, much less host Treasure Hunt. I only know him from archival footage and his appearances on television shows and in movies. That having been said, I saw enough to be impressed with Mr. Kendall as a newsreader. He had a great voice and perfect diction, and he appeared imperturbable regardless of the news he was reading. The fact that he was always impeccably dressed lent even more weight to his words as he read the news. Speaking as an American, Kenneth Kendall seemed like the British equivalent of Walter Cronkite or David Brinkley, television journalists from an age when television journalism was a serious business. That having been said, Kenneth Kendall was one of a kind, a dignified newsreader who always gave his best to his job.