Kenilworth’s own movie star who broke the ‘colour barrier’ in the British film industry celebrated his 100th birthday yesterday - and still wants to continue acting.
Earl Cameron CBE, who lives with his wife Barbara in Southbank Road, reached the milestone on Tuesday August 8, and said a daily dose of cod liver oil, garlic and ginger helped him get there.
He has acted in films such as Thunderball alongside Sean Connery, The Interpreter with Sean Penn and Nicole Kidman, and Inception which featured Leonardo DiCaprio.
And despite his age, Earl has not given up on acting. He said: “I love film acting - it’s just a pity one gets old. I still have an agent, and I’m still having dreams of being in more films.”
Born in Bermuda in August 1917, Earl served in the Royal Merchant Navy as a young man.
At the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939, the ship he was serving on in Buenos Aires was told to take all British subjects, which included Earl, back to London. He quickly ‘fell in love’ with the city and decided to stay.
Earl found himself working menial jobs to earn a living, and was working as a kitchen porter in the Savoy Hotel in 1941 when he said he got into show business ‘by accident’.
He said: “A friend of mine, Harry Crossman, gave me a ticket to see a show called Chu Chin Chow. There were six black guys in the show with just walk-on parts.
“I thought ‘I could do that, anyone could do that’. Henry said it’s not possible, but I was serious in a way - it was better than washing dishes.”
A few days later, Earl got his chance when one of the other actors dropped out. He went to meet the director who cast him right away, and Earl was performing on the very same day.
After working as a theatre actor for many years, Earl got his big break in 1950 when he was chosen to star in the Basil Dearden-directed film Pool of London. His casting meant he was the first black actor to star in a British film.
Basil had to tell him to keep his voice down during screen tests as Earl was used to projecting his voice. But once Earl adjusted and Basil praised him, Earl said: “From that moment on, I was a film actor.”
To this day, Pool of London is his favourite film he has been in. He said: “It brings back wonderful memories. It was a great part, and I thought I was very good in it.”
With his first wife Audrey, Earl had five children, Jane, Helen, Simon, Serena, and Philippa. He has another son, Quentin, from a previous relationship in Bermuda.
After Audrey passed away, Earl met Barbara, whom he married in 1992. They moved to Kenilworth from London 13 years ago to be closer to Philippa, who lived in Leamington. Although she soon moved to Australia, Earl and Barbara stayed. Earl added: “We love Kenilworth. It was so good to get out of London.”
Earl will be celebrating his birthday on Saturday August 12 with more than 100 of his friends and family at the Holiday Inn.