Wednesday 24 June 2015

Kenneth Williams in The Beggars Opera

One of Kenneth Williams' first ever film roles turned out to be a less than happy experience for the young actor. Early on in his career, Kenneth struggled to find his niche. He spent years touring in tatty rep productions, up and down the country and often considered giving up acting altogether.

As a young man, Kenneth was incredibly idealistic and earnest, as his diaries ably demonstrate. He was left wing and full of enthusiasm for liberal, modern thinking theatre companies. Quite a contrast to the older, more successful Kenneth! The early 1950s saw Kenneth finally break into films, with agent Peter Eade working hard to find interesting roles for his client. 

Kenneth was thrilled to land a role in The Beggars Opera, a film produced by Herbert Wilcox and Laurence Olivier and directed by Peter Brook. It starred Olivier, Dorothy Tutin and Stanley Holloway. Kenneth had a small role as Jack the Pot Boy although much to the actor's disgust he was actually dubbed in the final cut. We can only imagine what an indignity this would be to the young Kenneth. Thankfully greater things were to come for him in the not too distant future. A clip from the film, featuring a brief performance from Kenneth can be found on Youtube:

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