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Today, Stanley Baker would have been 86. Born William Stanley Baker in the Rhondda Valley on February 28th 1928. He came from rugged Welsh mining stock, but like his friend and fellow Welshman Richard Burton, he escaped the mines by heading for the stage and screen. His father lost a leg in an accident in the mine and was thereafter unemployed until the Second World War took men away into the services. His elder brother Freddie, a miner, died of pneumoconiosis early in 1976 after many years of debilitation and sickness. He headed for the stage and the learning curve negotiated, the big screen called, with Raoul Walsh casting him in Captain Horatio Hornblower (1951)  then Home To Danger (1951) and the delightfully named Whispering Smith Hits London (1952) and at the tender age of 25 he appeared in The Cruel Sea (1953) with Jack Hawkins, Donald Sinden, Denholm Elliott, Virginia McKenna, Megs Jenkins and Sam Kydd.

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The Red Beret (1953), Knights of the Round Table (1953) with Ava Gardner and Robert Taylor (Stanley played Modred) and then  Hell Below Zero (1954)

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Again with Alan Ladd with whom he had featured in The Red Beret. The same year he made The Good Die Young (1954) with Laurence Harvey, Gloria Grahame, Joan Collins, John Ireland, Richard Basehart and Robert Morley.

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Beautiful Stranger (1954) saw him team up with Herbert Lom and Ginger Rogers then Laurence Olivier’s Richard III (1955). In 1956 he stepped into sandals as Achilles in Helen of Troy. 

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He kept the sandals on for Alexander the Great (1956) with old friend Richard Burton, Claire Bloom, Michael Hordern, Peter Cushing, Harry Andrews, and Freric March. A Hill in Korea (1956), Checkpoint (1956) and then Hell Drivers (1957)

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Theatrical Trailer

Teaming up with Herbert Lom (again), Patrick McGoohan, William (Dr Who) Hartnell, Sid James, Jill Ireland, Alfie Bass, Gordon Jackson, Sean Connery and directed by Cy Endfield (Zulu) this is a cracking crime thriller.

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Clips from the film

Campbells Kingdom (1957), Violent Playground (1958), Sea Fury (1958) and Yesterday’s Enemy (1959)  which earned him a BAFTA Nomination then Robert Aldrich’s The Angry Hills (1959) with Robert Mitchum, Leslie Phillips and Donald Wolfit.

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Blind Date (1959) with Hardy Kruger rouded out the 50’s.

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The 1960’s started with a bang, he starred in Hell is a City (1960) directed by Val Guest.

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and then into the superb The Criminal (1960) directed by Joseph Losey.

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Then The Guns of Navarone (1961) with David Niven, Gregory Peck, Anthony Quinn, Anthony Quaye, Irene Papas, James Robertson Justice, Richard Harris, Bryan Forbes from Alistair MacLean’s novel of the same name.

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A Prize of Arms (1962) with Tom Bell, Patrick Magee, Glynn Edwards (who both joined him on Zulu to years later), Fulton Mackay and Geoffrey Palmer.

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Zulu (1964) For many people his defining film but there is so much more to choose from, but this is an all time classic film and an epic style that is never bettered even now with all the fancy gadgetry and CGI. “Zulus, thousands of them”.

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He was warned not to address a CND rally prior to the release of Zulu (1964), in case his left-wing political activism hurt the film’s performance in the United States.

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In a floral tribute sent to Stanley Baker’s funeral, Zulu leader Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi who had worked with him in Zulu (1964) described him as “the most decent white man I have ever met”.


Zulus Attack

Sands of the Kalahari (1965)

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Accident (1967) Directed once again by Joseph Losey this Harold Pinter script was a BAFTA winner.

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The simply wonderful Robbery (1967). Directed by Peter Yates (a year before he struck gold with Bullitt, and who had been Assistant director on Guns of Navarone. Yates also directed the incomparable Friends of Eddie Coyle so I’ll always be grateful to him.

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Media Presentation

A weird hybrid directed by Michael Winner – The Games (1970) made primarily so Winner could swan around the world having fun (his words from his autobiography).

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Then Perfect Friday (1970) with the delicious Ursula Andress.

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Ursula and Stanley

Lizard in a Women’s Skin (1971)

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Zorro (1975)

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How Green Was My Valley (75-76)

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Awarded a knighthood in Harold Wilson’s  resignation Honour’s List in June 1976. At the time his knighthood was announced, Baker thought he had beaten his lung cancer following surgery in February of that year. However, although the tumour in his lung had been removed, it had spread into his chest and attached itself to his heart. Since no further surgery was possible, he had only a maximum of nine weeks to live anyway. Three weeks after the announcement of his knighthood, Baker was hospitalized in Spain with pneumonia. As he had died without making the journey to be formally knighted at Buckingham Palace, he cannot be referred to as Sir Stanley, but the Queen  agreed that his widow Ellen Martin could use the title “Lady Baker”. A dedicated socialist, he made political broadcasts for Harold Wilson’s Labour Party in Wales and was active in the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND).  He was awarded the freedom of Ferndale, and in a ceremony which he attended in 1970, the local council placed a plaque on the house where he was born. He had intended to produce Zulu Dawn (1979).

He was offered the role of James Bond in Dr. No (1962), but turned it down because he was unwilling to commit to a three-picture contract.

Stanley Baker Personal Quotes

      It’s impossible to direct yourself in a movie.
      I’m a dedicated Socialist first of all, I suppose, because … I saw the things that happened to … my family, and to the people around me. That sort of existence must stay in your mind.
      I made up my mind years ago, that the best parts in films always went to the villain. I was determined to corner the bad man’s market.
      If it hadn’t been for one man, just one man who luckily took me up, I would have always hated school and I would probably have ended up as one of the criminals I’ve played too many times on the screen.
One of our greatest actors. If you haven’t seen Hell Drivers or Robbery or The Criminal, do so as quickly as possible.