Leo McKern

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Reginald "Leo" McKern, AO (16 March 1920 – 23 July 2002) was an Australian-born English actor who appeared in numerous British and Australian television programmes and movies, and more than 200 stage roles.


Early life

McKern was born Reginald McKern in Sydney, New South Wales, the son of Vera (née Martin) and Norman Walton McKern and attended Sydney Technical High School.[1] After an accident at age 15 he lost his left eye. He first worked as an engineering apprentice, then as an artist, followed by serving in the Australian Army during World War II.[2] During the war, he made his first stage appearance in Sydney in 1944.

The theatre

Having fallen in love with actress Jane Holland, McKern moved to the United Kingdom to be with her and they married in 1946. He soon became a regular performer at London's Old Vic theatre and the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre (now called the Royal Shakespeare Theatre) in Stratford-upon-Avon, despite the difficulties posed by his glass eye and Australian accent.

In 1949, he played Forester in Love's Labours Lost at the Old Vic. His most notable Shakespearean role was as Iago to Anthony Quayle's Othello in 1952. On the West End in London, McKern originated the role of the Common Man for Robert Bolt's A Man for All Seasons in 1960, but for the show's Broadway production, he was shifted to the role of Thomas Cromwell, the prosecutor of Sir Thomas More, which he would reprise in the film version. He also memorably played Subtle in Ben Jonson's The Alchemist in 1962.

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