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Sir Stanley Baker (28 February 1928 – 28 June 1976) was a Welshmarker actor and film producer.

Early career

He was born William Stanley Baker in Ferndalemarker, Rhonddamarker Valley, Walesmarker. He was an actor and film producer who came to prominence in the 1950s; although he made his film debut in 1941 as a teenager in the Ealing Studios 1943 film Undercover on the Yugoslav guerrillas in Serbia, his first role as an adult was in All Over the Moon (1949).

At first Baker was usually cast as a villain - tough, gritty and fiery. In private life, he was a close friend and drinking companion of another Welsh actormarker, Richard Burton. Both men had been taught by the same teacher at school who had encouraged their theatrical abilities. Notable among his early roles was as the unpleasant and somewhat cowardly Bennett in The Cruel Sea (1953).

However, he was not always a villain and he did have a few more endearing roles, especially after Laurence Olivier selected him to play Henry Tudor in his 1955 movie Richard III. He also made an impression opposite Patrick McGoohan in Hell Drivers, as a lorry driver who would not toe the line.

Stardom

In 1961 Baker was offered the role of superspy James Bond for the forthcoming film Dr. No, but he turned it down because he was unwilling to commit to a three-picture contract. He may have regretted this decision because some years later he asked producer Albert R. Broccoli about playing a villain in one of the films. He played a war-weary commando in the 1961 war epic The Guns of Navarone.

Yet Baker's most memorable role was as Lieutenant John Chard VC in Zulu alongside newcomer Michael Caine. In Joseph Losey's Accident, he gave a sustained performance as Charley and in 1970's Perfect Friday, he showed his skill in comedy and romantic acting as Mr Graham, opposite Ursula Andress.

He formed his own production company in the 1960s and produced films that included Zulu (1964), Robbery (1967) and The Italian Job (1969). Along with his production and film career Stanley Baker also appeared on the small screen including the 1974 BBC Play of the Month The Changeling, Robinson Crusoe (1974), and also in a BBC adaptation of How Green Was My Valley (1975).

Personal life

Baker was a dedicated socialist off-screen, and a friend of the Labour Prime Minister Harold Wilson. In 1976 he was granted a knighthood in Wilson's controversial resignation list of honours, known as The Lavender List, although he never lived to receive the honour officially at Buckingham Palacemarker. He died that same year from pneumonia following surgery for lung cancer in Málaga, Spainmarker, aged forty-eight. He was cremated at Putney Vale Crematoriummarker, but his ashes were scattered from the top of Llanwonno, over his beloved Ferndale.

Legacy

Ferndale RFC in the Rhondda Valleys, South Wales, have a loving tribute to Sir Stanley in the form of their "Sir Stanley Baker Lounge". Officially opened by his widow, Lady Ellen Baker, on Friday 24 November 2006, the day's events featured a presentation to Sir Stanley's sons and family members, and a fitting and moving tribute to the man himself via speeches and tales from celebrities and various local people who knew him best. The afternoon also featured a Radio Wales tribute to Sir Stanley, hosted by Owen Money and recorded live in Ferndale RFC itself. The Sir Stanley Baker Lounge features many pictures and memorabilia from his successful career, including a wall plaque commemorating the official opening in both English and Welsh, and is a fitting tribute to Ferndale's most famous son.

Filmography



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