Family & Companions
Australian character actor in England since 1946. Popular character player of stage, TV and film, often in garrulous, blustery roles. Leo McKern was best known for playing Horace Rumpole in the "Rumpole of the Bailey" series for Thames TV, which began production in 1977 with sequential episodes produced on and off into the 90s. McKern's curmudgeonly barrister was popular in its American run under PBS' "Mystery!" banner as well. After some stage appearances in his native Australia, McKern arrived in Britain in 1946 and within a year was touring the provinces on stage. He made his London debut at the Old Vic in "Love's Labour's Lost" in 1949 as Forester, and went on to make numerous stage appearances through the 70s, and then sporadically into the 80s. Among his heralded roles were the title character in "Volpone," Iago in a 1963 production of "Othello" at the Old Vic, and Shylock in "The Merchant of Venice" at the Oxford Playhouse (1973). McKern began appearing in films in 1962, playing a knight in "Murder in the Cathedral." It was not until 1966 that he won attention in the U.S. as the scheming Thomas Cromwell in "A Man For All Seasons," and in 1970, played Sarah Miles' father in "Ryan's Daughter." In the latter, he was the mole for the Brits for whom his daughter takes the fall when it is revealed she has been having an affair with a British officer. McKern also played Bugenhagen the old exorcist in "The Omen" (1976) and its 1978 sequel. It was as Rumpole that McKern won his most lasting international regard, although the down-at-his-heels character was oft considered too literary even on British TV. Also on TV, McKern was #2 who takes Patrick McGoohan prisoner in "The Prisoner," an ethereal TV series which ran in 1967 in Britain and in 1968 on CBS in the U.S. He was also David Ben-Gurion, prime minister of Israel, in "The House on Garibaldi Street," a 1979 TV movie about the capture of Adolf Eichmann. Additionally, he played Gloucester in the 1984 rendition of "King Lear" presented by Lord Laurence Olivier. McKern wrote one radio play, "Chain of Events" and a 1983 memoir, "Just Resting."
Cast (Feature Film)
Cast (TV Mini-Series)
Was engineering apprentice
Made stage debut in Sydney, Australia
Moved to London
Made London stage debut with Old Vic Company
Film debut in small role in "Murder in the Cathedral"
Played Thomas Cromwell in "A Man For All Seasons"
Earned praise for supporting turn in "The Shoes of the Fisherman"
Played Tom Ryan in "Ryan's Daughter"
Played David Ben-Gurion in the ABC TV-movie "The House on Garibaldi Street"
Had featured role in the British miniseries "Reilly, Ace of Spies"
Acted in "Molokai: The Story of Father Damien"