Person - Ken Warren

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KENNETH JOHN RATHBONE WARREN (1929 - 1973)

Bald by his twenties and heavy, Ken became a full-time professional actor, often in villainous parts, and had a successful career in England before his early death at age 43.

At NT he acted in Six Men of Dorset 1948, We, The People 1950, directed a Workshop The Undecided Molecule (adapted from a radio play by anti-fascist US writer Norman Corwin) 1951, acted in a Workshop The Cave 1952, acted in a Workshop Box and Cox 1952, and played the main part in School for Wives 1952 (during its run he was offered a film role being shot in Fiji), acted in The Germans 1952, played the Mayor in An Inspector General 1952, acted in and designed the set and program for Merry-Go-Round, and made the set for a drama night Box and Cox 1954.

In 1951 he was co-opted onto the production committee “with certain conditions”, furious that the committee said actors were in danger of becoming “tin gods” when he asked for quiet backstage to allow actors to concentrate instead of being interrupted by other people wandering around. He said NT was in danger of becoming a lazy social club. In 1953-4 he was reviewing shows for the Spotlight! newsletter. He married Jenny Ruz in 1951; their NT membership lapsed in 1955.

Work with other Sydney companies included Homer in Morning’s At Seven in 1951 at the Metropolitan, The Happy Time a farce by Samuel Taylor at the Mercury in 1953 (its cast included Rod Taylor and Lloyd Berrell) and the 1954 Kuringai Theatre Guild's Murder Without Crime in which he played a sadistic character. He played Claudius in John Alden’s production of Hamlet at the Phillip St Theatre with Allan Trevor as Hamlet, Madge Ryan as Gertrude, Coralie Neville as Ophelia and Owen Weingott as Laertes.

In February 1956 he toured NSW and Queensland playing Roo in Summer of the Seventeenth Doll and in 1957 went with it to London where it did well. However it failed in New York where it was described as about commonplace people rushing around and shouting. Americans had trouble with the accents and didn’t understand cane cutters or the context.

Warren was paid US$200 per week but only for living expenses and was broke at the end of the run of "The Doll". However he found work back in England and never returned to Australia although he expressed a wish to rejoin NT, “the theatre which has been such a great help to me”. Especially strong were his fond memories of An Inspector General with “John Armstrong, Les Tanner and many other old friends” and The Traveller directed by Jock Levy at the WWF hall. He said that his mother, who was staying with them in London, wanted on her return to Australia to help at NT as pianist, with wardrobe, “anything”.

In 1967 he wrote to Miriam Hampson from London that he was homesick but getting plenty of work. He’d lost a lot of money on his Australian Restaurant in Soho and at some point was reduced to selling hamburgers at Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club in Soho. Overseas he’d run into Lyle O’Hara “still scatty” in New York; and in England David Walesby, Les Tanner, Charlie Sriber, Frank Hardy and Tom Posa, now a schoolteacher. He kept in touch until 1970 when he sent Miriam £10 for the NT building fund plus news that he was still playing The Miller in Canterbury Tales after 2 ½ years, and was in a new TV series with Roger Moore and Tony Curtis.

His film career included supports in Hell, Heaven or Hoboken (1958), I’m All Right Jack (1959), Concrete Jungle (1960), The Informers (1964), A High Wind in Jamaica (1965). On stage: Luther (1963). On TV: The One Day of the Year (1962), The Avengers, Secret Agent and The Saint. In horror films: Dr. Blood's Coffin (1961), I, Monster (1971), Demons of the Mind (1972) and The Creeping Flesh (1973). He played a brutish Polish migrant in the film Leo the Last with Marcello Mastroianni and Billie Whitelaw. One of his last roles was in the comedy Digby, the Biggest Dog in the World (1973).

Ken was born on 25 September 1929 at Parramatta. He became a gourmet cook and visual artist. He died of a heart attack on 27 August 1973 survived by Eileen née Aylward whom he married in London in 1968, and their two sons, Damian Peter and Benedict Leon. Damian Warren became an English actor in shows such as The Bill 1984, A Touch of Frost 1992 and Sword of Honour 2001.

Ken Warren has a Wikipedia entry.



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