Saturday, 13 August 2016

Kenny Baker R.I.P.

Kenny Baker, best known for playing R2-D2 in the first two Star Wars trilogies, died today at the age of 81 following a long illness.

Kenny Baker was born in Birmingham, England on August 24 1934. His career in show business began in 1950 when he joined a performing troupe called Burton Lester’s Midgets. He later became a DJ with Mecca Leisure Group, an organisation that operated nightclubs, hotels, and other businesses. He worked for Billy Smart's Circus for a time. After leaving the circus he spent several years performing in ice shows and pantomimes. Afterwards he was a founding member of the comedy act The Minitones alongside Jack Purvis.

Kenny Baker made his film debut in an uncredited part in the movie Circus of Horrors in 1960. He guest starred in an episode of Man of the World in 1962. In 1975, immediately prior to being cast in Star Wars, he guest starred on Dave Allen at Large. He made his debut as R2-D2 in Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope in 1977 and went on to play the droid in Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back (1980), Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back (1980), Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi (1983), Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace (1999), Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones (2002), and Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith (2005). He also appeared as R2-D2 on TV in The Star Wars Holiday Special and episode of The Muppet Show.

In the Seventies he appeared in the films Wombling Free (1978), Flash Gordon (1980), and The Elephant Man (1980). In the Eighties he appeared in the films Time Bandits (1981), Amadeus (1984), Mona Lisa (1986), Labyrinth (1986), and Sleeping Beauty (1987). On television he guest starred on Ben Elton: The Man from Auntie. He appeared in the mini-series Prince Caspian and the Voyage of the Dawn Treader. In the Nineties he appeared in the film U.F.O. and provided the voice of Captain Orton  in the animated The King and I (1999). In the Naughts he appeared in the films The Cage (2002) and The Battersea Ripper (2006). He guest starred on Swiss Toni and Casualty.

While Kenny Baker will probably always be remembered as R2-D2, he did play other roles in career. While may were bit parts, there were those occasions when he received a good deal of screen time. In fact, I suspect he should be best remembered as Fidgit in the movie Time Bandits. Not only did he receive more screen time in the film, but he gave one of its best performances. Even in the various small parts Kenny Baker played over the years, he showed a good deal of talent. He will will most certainly be always remembered as R2-D2, but he did many other remarkable parts as well.

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