Rumpole Star & Stage Veteran McKern Dies at 82Date: 23 July 2002
British character actor Leo McKern (pictured) died today at a nursing home close to his family home in Bath. The stage and television star, best known for his long-running role in the courtroom-based TV series Rumpole of the Bailey, was aged 82 and had been fighting illness for some time.
McKern was born Reginald McKern in Sydney on 16 March 1920. He moved to Britain in 1946 with his second, and surviving, wife, the actress Jane Holland. Though McKern had difficulty losing his Australian accent, he went on to achieve great success on the British stage, spending three years at the Old Vic followed by residencies with the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Nottingham Playhouse.
His long theatrical career included more than 200-odd productions in all, including Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Uncle Vanya, A Man for All Seasons, Volpone, Number One and, more recently, Hobson's Choice and Boswell for the Defence.
Despite McKern's love of the stage, however, it was television that made him a household name and, in particular, playing the irascible barrister Horace Rumpole in the series written by John Mortimer which ran off and on between 1978 and 1992. His other notable screen credits included the Beatles' Help!, The Prisoner, The Omen, The House on Garibaldi Street, A Man for All Seasons and Ladyhawke.
- by Terri Paddock