Who was Kenneth Williams?
Kenneth Williams was a much-loved British actor and comedian. But somehow, he was so much more than that. It wouldn’t be too much of an exaggeration to say that he was an institution.
He was certainly an original, that’s for sure.
Starting his career in the theatre, he first found fame on the radio in the nineteen fifties. And one absolutely hilarious character he portrayed in the early sixties was Sandy, half of a homosexual couple who were a ridiculously camp couple who spoke largely in Polari – a slang used by gays a lot in those days.
If you were homosexual in those times, your preferences meant that you were a criminal. Homosexuality was against the law until 1967. Therefore, the use of Polari, often used by actors, showpeople, circus performers and so on, was a useful misdirection.
Kenneth Williams’ voice was astonishing. It was a mixture of a terribly, terribly posh accent and Cockney. (Cockney being the accent he was brought up with). Combine that with incredibly mobile features, great comic timing and it’s hardly surprising that he absolutely shot to fame in the naughty-but-nice Carry On series of films.These films were rather like saucy seaside postcards come to life.
But his was a strange life. He lived alone and claimed to be completely celibate. His journals seem to prove it. He hated his father and adored his mother. When his father died – it was adjudged to be an accidental poisoning – it was rumoured that Kenneth Williams was suspected of the murder of his own father. He was offered work In the United States but refused to go saying that he didn’t like the country and had no desire to work there. But some believe that the truth was that he was refused a travel visa because he was a murder suspect.
Yet like so many comedians, he wasn’t happy with his life. His own death, like his father’s, has never been fully explained. There is no doubt that it was an overdose of prescribed drugs but it will never be known whether this was accidental or not.
See him in action in the videos below and check out his biography on Amazon.
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