Thursday, 4 September 2014

Godspeed Bill Kerr

Actor Bill Kerr, who appeared in such films as The Dam Busters (1955) and Gallipoli (1981), as well as such TV shows as Glenview High and The New Adventures of Black Beauty, died on 28 August 2014 at the age of 92.

Bill Kerr was born on 10 June 1922 in Cape Town, South Africa. He grew up in  Wagga Wagga, New South Wales, Australia. He was born to a family of performers, and was on stage nearly from infancy. In 1932, when he was only around 10 years old, he began working in radio for the Australian Broadcasting Company (ABC). He made his film debut in 1933 in Harmony Row (1933). Over the next several years he played child parts on radio, and appeared in the film The Silence of Dean Maitland (1934).  During World War II he served in the Australian army.

Following World War II Bill Kerr migrated to the United Kingdom. He appeared on BBC Radio, frequently on the show Variety Bandbox. Still speaking with an Australian accent, he was referred to as "the boy from Wagga Wagga". It was during this time he developed his catchphrase, ""I'm only here for four minutes."

He spent much of the Fifties on the show Hancock's Half Hour, starring Tony Hancock, on BBC Radio. During the decade he appeared in such films as Penny Points to Paradise (1951), My Death Is a Mockery (1952), Appointment in London (1953), You Know What Sailors Are (1954), The Night My Number Came Up (1955), The Dam Busters (1955), Port of Escape (1956), and The Captain's Table (1959). He made his television debut on The Flying Doctor in 1959. He was a regular on the show Citizen James. He appeared on the West End in The Teahouse of the August Moon in 1956 and Damn Yankees in 1957.

In the Sixties Bill Kerr appeared frequently on television. He guest starred on such shows as Ghost Squad, Sykes and A.., No Hiding Place, Benny Hill, Doctor Who, and Adam Adamant Lives!. He had a recurring role on the show Compact. He appeared in the films A Pair of Briefs (1962), The Wrong Arm of the Law (1963), Doctor in Distress (1963), Doctor in Clover (1966), and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (1966). He appeared on the West End in  The Bed-Sitting Room and Play It Again, Sam.

In the Seventies he appeared on the TV shows Dixon of Dock Green; The Melting Pot; Run From the Morning; Father, Dear Father in Australia; and The Young Doctors. He was one of the regulars on Glenview High. He appeared in such films as Ghost in the Noonday Sun (1973), Tiffany Jones (1973), Girls Come First (1975), and House of Mortal Sin (1976). He appeared on the West End in The Good Old Bad Old Days and Cole.

In the Eighties he appeared in such films as Gallipoli (1981), Save the Lady (1982), The Pirate Movie (1982), The Year of Living Dangerously (1982) Razorback (1984), Vigil (1984), Relatives (1985), The Coca-Cola Kid (1985), The Lighthorsemen (1987), and Running from the Guns (1987). He appeared on the show Anzacs and was a regular on The New Adventures of Black Beauty.

In the Nineties Mr. Kerr was a regular on the shows Snowy and Minty. He appeared in the films Sweet Talker (1991) and Over the Hill (1992). In the Naughts he appeared in the films Let's Get Skase (2001), Peter Pan (2003), and Southern Cross (2004).

Put simply, Bill Kerr was a very funny man. Early in his career he developed the character of a slow witted simpleton and often acted as a foil to such comics as Tony Hancock, Spike Milligan, and Sid James. He was often the funniest person in the films in which he appeared, even when he was on screen very briefly. While he was well known as a comic actor, however, Mr. Kerr could do more serious parts. While Flight Lieutenant H. B. "Micky" Martin was not a big role in The Dam Busters, he did it well. He also delivered a solid performance as the grizzled hunter stalking a man-eating monster pig in the film Razorback (in fact, his performance is the one thing that makes the film worth seeing). Bill Kerr shined in nearly every role he played, both comedic and otherwise.

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