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Stanley Baker

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I'm the First Lieutenant around here and don't you forget it.

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Stanley Baker was British cinema's original tough guy.

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How really tough are you?

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Well, I don't know how tough I am.

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All I can say is I was born and bred in the Rhondda Valley

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and as people there know, you've got to be tough to live there.

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He was always the hard man cos he looked hard. But he was a very soft man, really.

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How old are you?

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Guess.

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Old enough to know what you're doing

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and young enough to jump.

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He had that rare thing - he filled the screen.

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You look at him when he's on.

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The films he made earned him a place in cinema history.

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Fire! GUNFIRE

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Fire!

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Fire!

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But his true greatness lay in his integrity as a man.

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If I say I'm going down that pit, it'll take more than him to stop me.

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Stanley Baker was born in 1928 in Ferndale,

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a close-knit town nestled in a curve of the Rhondda Fach.

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Everything that happened to Stanley stemmed from that amazing background

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in Ferndale.

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They were very poor.

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So he always used to laugh and say, "I only had one place to go,

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"that was up. I couldn't have gone down any further."

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Stanley's father, Jack Baker, was a miner

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who'd lost a leg in an accident down the pit.

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Since he could no longer work underground,

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he and his family had to do whatever they could to bring in money.

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They seemed to get us through it.

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I mean, my mother, she... she'd make toffee apples,

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she'd make slab toffee...

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oh, small beer she used to make

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and sell it on a Sunday morning.

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I used to go to his house with his mother and father

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for different commodities, such as haircuts.

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They were very renowned within the street

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for making great faggots and peas.

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You went into the back door. "Have you faggots and peas?"

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And you'd pay his father

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threepence, and you went out through the front door

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and back home then and took 'em back home.

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Your mother would send you for them.

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That was every week.

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Because they were hard days, there's no half and half about it.

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In spite of the fact that we didn't have a lot of food

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and very little money,

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I look on my childhood as one full of advantages.

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Because of my family, basically, and because of the people

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that surrounded us at that time. Immensely strong communal feeling.

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People worked towards one end

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and that end at that time, unfortunately,

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was not to die of hunger.

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Stanley, or Spud as he was known to his mates,

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was an amateur boxer and full-time tearaway.

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He seemed to be headed in only one direction.

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I hated school, I hated sitting in a classroom being taught things.

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I was clearly destined to go into the coal pit until I went

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to a school in Ferndale, North Road School,

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and met a man called Glyn Morse who had other ideas about my life.

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Glyn Morse was the art teacher at Ferndale Secondary School.

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In his spare time, he was a playwright

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who ran the local amateur dramatics society.

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He recognised in Baker something no-one else had seen

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and started coaching him as an actor.

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I couldn't wait to get to school in the morning because this man

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was teaching me something that meant something to me at 11.

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Glyn Morse wrote parts for Stanley in the plays

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that he staged in local church halls.

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He'd be in his bedroom with a mirror in front of him.

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And this script.

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And I used to watch him do this and I'd think, "Marvellous."

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He filled the stage when he got on it.

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He was Stanley Baker.

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He was Spud. He was the king of the kids.

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At the age of 14, Stanley got a chance to show off his talents

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to an audience beyond Ferndale.

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Film director Sergei Nolbandov

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came to the Rhondda looking for locations for his next movie,

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the propaganda film, Undercover.

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On a tip-off from a talent scout,

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he came to see Stanley in the school play.

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He was so impressed with what he saw that he gave him a role in the film.

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You.

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Yes, sir.

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Answer me, where is she?

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-She...

-Don't answer, don't answer!

-Silence!

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Don't tell the Germans anything, anyone who answers is a traitor.

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I see.

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A national hero.

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I'm going to teach you a lesson.

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I'm going to plant a picture in your mind you'll carry all your life.

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-You come with me.

-SHOUTING FROM OUTSIDE

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You six, outside.

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FROM OUTSIDE: Fire!

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Firing party on parade, sir.

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Proceed.

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Prepare to fire!

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Fire! GUNFIRE

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Fire! GUNFIRE

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On the train journey home from filming,

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Glyn Morse told the young lad, "Stanley, you're not going to be a miner, you're an actor."

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Stanley took his earnings straight home to his mum.

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We heard him shouting,

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"Get your apron on!"

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Came down the back steps, we had a lot of back steps

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coming down into the house, you've probably seen that house.

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And he said, "Open up your apron."

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He showered all his notes into her apron.

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A year later, Stanley got his first professional stage role

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in a West End production of Emlyn William's play, The Druid's Rest.

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He was understudying a young actor

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from Port Talbot called Richard Burton.

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Let loose in London, the two Welsh lads had a wild time.

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Drinking, fighting, chasing girls

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and taking pot shots with pea shooters at sunbathing actresses.

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I'd never been outside Wales before.

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And we had a hell of a time.

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Enjoyed ourselves immensely. We became...

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really close to each other, we both were in the same profession,

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we both knew exactly what we wanted to do at that time.

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Within a year, Stanley was acting in the prestigious

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Birmingham Repertory Company.

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It was the best possible training that any actor

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in the world could have, because we did 12 plays per year,

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it was monthly, which was marvellous,

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you had a month to rehearse and a month to play.

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And it was an education I had that I didn't have at school.

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I have learned life through the theatre.

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Stanley's apprenticeship was interrupted

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when he was called up for national service.

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When he was discharged two and a half years later,

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he had to start all over again as a jobbing actor.

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He returned to London in search of work but he found much more there.

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I was in a play.

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I was waiting to go down to do the matinee.

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Suddenly I saw two beautiful young men

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walking across from the market.

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I turned round and said to another actress

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who was coming in, "Who's that?" She said, "That's Richard Burton."

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I said, "No, not him. The tall one. The beautiful one."

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She said, "That's Stanley Baker."

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So we came across and we met.

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And we arranged to meet in the pub

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just immediately across the road from the stage door after the performance.

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I went down to my dressing room and I thought, "I've got to meet him again."

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There was a knock on the door. And there he was.

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And he said, "I'll see you tonight."

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And I thought, "Got him."

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And I was sharing a dressing room with an actress called Jean Sinclair.

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She said, "You don't want to go out with him, Ellen, you don't want to be one of a Baker's dozen."

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I said, "I do, I do." SHE LAUGHS

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And that was it, really. We got engaged a week later.

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It was very instant.

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It was all happening to Stanley.

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His first big success came on stage that year

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in the anti-war play A Sleep Of Prisoners

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in which he played a captured soldier.

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One midnight performance, there was Dame Edith Evans,

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Dame Sybil Thorndike, the Oliviers,

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the Redgraves, Orson Welles...

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I mean, it went on and on and on. All sitting there in the front

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watching these four actors.

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Then they would have dinner afterwards with Christopher Fry

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and ask about this new young boy.

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Through Ellen, Stanley heard of a forthcoming film

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called The Cruel Sea.

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Having read the book,

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he set his sights on the part Lieutenant Bennett.

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It wasn't a star part in the film.

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But to me reading the book, it was the best part of the film.

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Whoever played that part, Stanley Baker or Joe Snooks...

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..if they were ready for it, it would help to make them a star.

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In the film, Bennett is the ship's bully.

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Carlson!

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-Sir.

-This man is smoking during working hours.

-Yes, sir.

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-Not quite in proper routine yet, sir.

-Makes no difference.

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-No smoking except during stand easy. Understood?

-Aye, aye, sir.

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There was a scene where he had to tell me off, as Bennett.

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He used to scare the hell out of me. "No, no, don't...!"

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I'd jump. I mean, he had this terrific power.

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So, you've been round the ship.

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How many fire hose points are there?

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14.

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Very smart. What sort of gun have we got?

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-Four inch.

-Four inch what?

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-Breach-loading, quick firing, mark four, mark six, fixed ammunition?

-I don't know.

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Find out.

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I'll ask you the next time I see you.

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-Both of you, get over to the dock office and start mustering the confidential books.

-Yes. Sir.

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I'm the First Lieutenant around here.

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And don't you forget it.

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'The British actors in them days were all a bit effeminate, weren't they?'

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Stanley was the first one who looked like a villain

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or could handle himself and he was masculine on the screen.

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It was gentlemen's cinema.

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All these guys wore sports coat and smoked pipes

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and spoke impeccably and had been

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to public schools and been officers in the forces.

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They were all so relaxed, you used to go to sleep watching them in the '50s.

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Then, suddenly, this angry young man from the Rhondda burst onto the scene.

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The Cruel Sea was Baker's big break.

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In the wake of its success, he was signed by legendary

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film producer Alexander Korda.

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In the space of just four years,

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Stanley made 11 films.

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He just bounced from film to film. He didn't have time to catch a breath.

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It was very exhilarating.

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We went to see one of his films.

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It was The Good Die Young.

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There was a woman sitting next to my mother.

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As soon as Stanley came on the screen,

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she said to this woman, "That's my son."

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I said, "She didn't believe you."

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I said, "She thinks you're crackers."

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She said, "I don't care whether she believe me or not."

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She was quite right.

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You're bound to get excited

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when you're the mother of a boy like that.

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Most of his early appearances were in supporting roles,

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but in 1956, Stanley got a chance to play the lead

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in the BBC production of Jane Eyre.

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Yes.

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Adele is very fond of you.

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When you go away from Thornfield for months at a time...

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If you knew what it cost me to be here now. I hate Thornfield!

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I hate everything about it.

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Its gardens, its grounds, its stairs, its corridors.

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Sorry.

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I am sorry.

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But this time, it's something I can't explain.

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What I've told you is not...

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There's something much worse.

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Something you don't know.

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But that same year, Stanley's career suffered a setback,

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with the death of Alexander Korda.

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When he died,

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Stanley and everyone else was sold piecemeal to Rank.

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You woke up, you weren't even told and you were with Rank.

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He found that very difficult.

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The regime at Rank's studios

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was very different to that of the benevolent Korda.

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Stanley had little control over the roles he was given.

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With his dark brooding features,

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he found himself continually cast as a villain.

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The Evening Standard described his face as "the face Britons hate."

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They only saw him as a villain.

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They couldn't see him as a leading man

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and a romantic interest. They just couldn't.

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When Rank made the 1957 film Hell Drivers,

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they wanted Stanley to play a minor role once again.

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He threatened to walk off the picture if they didn't give him the lead.

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'Hell Drivers.

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'Hurtling down the one-way street to destruction.

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'Starring Stanley Baker as Tom.

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'Using another man's name.

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'But forced by his own past into the vicious circle

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'of the Hell Drivers.

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'Living so close to death

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'that any love is reckless,

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'any hatred...fatal.'

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The film was made by American director Cy Endfield

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who'd been blacklisted in the States for his left-wing views.

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In it, Stanley plays a truck driver

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fighting a corrupt haulage racket.

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What do you know about it?

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You, I'm talking to you.

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I'm a...not talking to the yellow belly.

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If he wants to find out why his pay was stopped, ask Ed.

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-Ed?

-Yeah.

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-Who put this on Tom?

-You mean on yellow belly?

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Me.

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I'm the road foreman.

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Yeah.

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And that's not all you are.

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What else am I?

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You're scum.

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He had this hard edge, this tough, tough edge.

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On film, this is what counts,

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reflection of one's personality, this is what comes through.

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The film established Stanley as a tough British hero,

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a home-grown counterpart to American stars like Humphrey Bogart

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and Robert Mitchum.

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Having proved that he could cut it as a leading man,

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Stanley now took a gamble

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and bought his way out of his contract with Rank.

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It cost him £12,000, a significant sum in those days.

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He borrowed the money from his agent,

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bought himself out and then was able to pay it back within six months.

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Stanley's gamble paid off

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with the success of films such as The Guns of Navarone.

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As a free agent,

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he was now able to choose roles that stretched him as an actor.

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He produced some of his best work

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with Hell Drivers' director Cy Endfield

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and another blacklisted American Joseph Losey.

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You can't stress how important these two directors were,

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Endfield and Losey.

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People who were already in their American work starting to look at themes of social tension,

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class jealousy and so on and wanted to do the same thing in Britain,

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and were looking for actors to embody that

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and Stanley Baker was perfect for them.

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During that early period of my film career,

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I looked at it as a sort of flippant thing, film.

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Films were easy things to do and a lot of money attached to them.

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I met this man who taught me about films and film-making

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and taught me...what films really mean.

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Joseph Losey broadened Stanley's horizons

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and nurtured in him an ambition to be more than an actor.

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Jo completely involved you, unlike other directors,

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you know, you'd turn up and do the job and go.

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But he wanted you to be involved in every aspect of film-making

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That's really why Stanley became a producer.

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Stanley had found a script he was desperate to produce.

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But no-one wanted to back him.

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I would go into an office of someone in Columbia

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or Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and they'd say,

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"Fine, we know you as an actor, we'll employ you as an actor,

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"but what makes you think you're a producer?

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"We like the subject.

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"Why don't WE produce it?"

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I wouldn't let them.

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Stanley got the break he needed when he met maverick Hollywood producer Joseph E Levine.

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Levine didn't bother reading the script.

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He backed the movie on the strength of its title.

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For his first film as a producer,

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Stanley had chosen an epic war story.

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Shot on location in South Africa

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with a cast of 4,000 Zulu tribesmen,

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none of whom had ever seen a film before.

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We went up to Zululand.

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And they had this big feast of roast ox and what-have-you

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to meet people, it was very, very moving.

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It was very funny.

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I used to give Stanley the rifle, the blank rifle.

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And I would come rushing at Stanley with a spear

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and he'd fire the blank, and I'd go up in the air...

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a very dramatic death scene.

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And all the Zulu, "Ooh! Jesus! What? He's dead."

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And I'd stand up and, "Whoa!"

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They'd all burst out laughing.

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Over the course of the production, Stanley developed a close friendship with Zulu leader Chief Buthelezi.

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He was a very humble person.

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He was a caring person.

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That, really...

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You couldn't help just loving him purely from the point of view of...

0:18:450:18:49

at the time, you might say in South Africa racism was at its height.

0:18:490:18:54

So, I mean, the human approach

0:18:540:18:57

which he had, was something that was not common.

0:18:570:19:00

As a first-time producer out on location,

0:19:010:19:05

Stanley was in at the deep end.

0:19:050:19:07

We had the most appalling weather when we first got there.

0:19:080:19:11

So we had to have witch doctors, all sorts of things,

0:19:110:19:16

to pray that the rain would stop.

0:19:160:19:18

We were ten days behind after two weeks.

0:19:180:19:21

Stanley struggled to bring the production back on track

0:19:210:19:25

while simultaneously coping with a demanding role as an actor.

0:19:250:19:30

He played Lieutenant John Chard, one of the two commanding officers at Rorke's Drift.

0:19:300:19:35

For the other lead role, that of Lieutenant Gonville Bromhead,

0:19:360:19:38

he'd taken a chance on a young newcomer called Michael Caine.

0:19:380:19:43

But the film's backers had doubts about him.

0:19:430:19:46

I saw a cable saying, "Actor playing Bromhead doesn't know what to do with hands.

0:19:460:19:52

"Suggest replacement."

0:19:520:19:55

So I thought, "Oh...!"

0:19:550:19:56

So I walked around for a couple of days,

0:19:560:19:59

every time I saw Stanley I was waiting for him to say,

0:19:590:20:01

"Right, Michael, that's it."

0:20:010:20:02

And one day he noticed, and said, "What's the matter with you?"

0:20:020:20:06

So I said, "I'm waiting to be fired, Stanley."

0:20:060:20:09

He said, "What do you mean, fired?

0:20:090:20:12

"Who's the producer of this film?" I said, "You are, Stan."

0:20:120:20:15

He said, "Have I said anything to you?"

0:20:150:20:17

I said no. "Get on with your bloody job then." That was the end of it.

0:20:170:20:21

Fire!

0:20:250:20:26

Do it now.

0:20:280:20:30

HE PLAYS FANFARE

0:20:300:20:32

Fire!

0:20:360:20:37

Firing by ranks. Front rank, fire!

0:20:380:20:42

GUNSHOTS BOOM

0:20:420:20:43

Fire!

0:20:430:20:44

Third rank, fire!

0:20:450:20:47

Second rank, fire!

0:20:470:20:49

Third rank, fire!

0:20:490:20:51

Fire!

0:20:510:20:53

Fire!

0:20:530:20:54

Cease firing!

0:20:540:20:56

With its emphasis on the human cost of combat,

0:21:030:21:06

Zulu was a complex and intelligent war movie.

0:21:060:21:09

'That script, for him, was really... I think the script that he always wanted to do.'

0:21:120:21:18

Not because it gave him another part alongside, if you like, the other star,

0:21:180:21:24

it was really about anti-violence and anti-war.

0:21:240:21:28

They approached the subject with great respect.

0:21:280:21:30

And I think the aim was to portray the bravery of both sides, you know.

0:21:300:21:35

On its release, Zulu broke box office records.

0:21:350:21:40

40 years on, it remains a classic.

0:21:410:21:43

My favourite story is of being on the terraces at Ninian Park watching Cardiff City play once,

0:21:430:21:48

and at half time a group of Cardiff City supporters in front of me began

0:21:480:21:52

to debate what their favourite film ever was,

0:21:520:21:55

and as a film historian I couldn't believe this,

0:21:550:21:57

I had my notepad ready to take notes!

0:21:570:21:59

And all six or seven of them agreed without any doubt that Zulu was the best film they'd ever seen.

0:21:590:22:05

I've made something like 60-odd films.

0:22:050:22:07

None of them has affected me in the way this particular film has.

0:22:070:22:11

Not because of its success,

0:22:110:22:13

not because of its...critical and financial success,

0:22:130:22:18

but because I was terribly involved with it,

0:22:180:22:21

before I made it, during the time I made it, and I'm still involved with it.

0:22:210:22:25

Flushed with the success of Zulu,

0:22:250:22:27

Stanley set up Oakhurst Productions with partners Bob Porter and Michael Deeley

0:22:270:22:32

to make more films.

0:22:320:22:34

One of the first was Robbery, based on the real-life story of the great train robbers.

0:22:360:22:40

'But is there a danger that a picture about a magnificent

0:22:400:22:44

'and gigantic and adventurous crime

0:22:440:22:46

'might be guilty of ennobling both the crime

0:22:460:22:49

'and the hoodlums who planned it?

0:22:490:22:51

'Stanley Baker is the co-producer of the film,

0:22:510:22:53

'and he's starring in it as leader of the gang.'

0:22:530:22:56

Talking about gangsters and villains, as we are in this film,

0:22:560:23:00

compare what they've got away with, in our film, which is somewhere in the region of £3 million,

0:23:000:23:08

and look at modern business, big business, you know,

0:23:080:23:10

think of the law-breaking, the criminality that goes on there!

0:23:100:23:15

Though Stanley was now a businessman himself,

0:23:150:23:18

he still retained the political ideals of his upbringing.

0:23:180:23:22

I'm a dedicated socialist, first of all,

0:23:220:23:24

I suppose because...I had to be at the very beginning, because I was brought up that way.

0:23:240:23:29

I saw the things that happened to...certainly to my family,

0:23:290:23:35

and to the people around me.

0:23:350:23:37

That sort of existence must stay in your mind.

0:23:370:23:41

Stanley used his professional expertise

0:23:410:23:44

to advise Labour prime minister Harold Wilson on his media appearances.

0:23:440:23:48

He could see a lot that wasn't right with the Party Political Broadcasts,

0:23:480:23:53

the television Party Political Broadcasts, and he wanted to do those.

0:23:530:23:57

'And he did those.'

0:23:570:23:59

'This is the way the prime minister and Mary Wilson have been greeted in every part of Britain.

0:23:590:24:03

'You've seen it on television every day - enthusiasm and warmth.'

0:24:030:24:07

Stanley got an even warmer welcome when he returned home

0:24:100:24:14

for the unveiling of a plaque outside his old house.

0:24:140:24:17

CHEERING

0:24:170:24:19

Stanley, it's a fantastic welcome, how do you feel now?

0:24:190:24:22

Well, I'm just overwhelmed, I really am,

0:24:220:24:23

emotionally and in every other way.

0:24:230:24:26

It's an extraordinary thing to come back to the place you were born

0:24:260:24:30

and this sort of honour to happen to you.

0:24:300:24:32

Did you ever expect, when you left this house for London, you'd

0:24:320:24:35

-come back in glory like this?

-Good God, no.

0:24:350:24:37

When he knew he was coming to Ferndale,

0:24:370:24:40

he'd get on the telephone to me and say,

0:24:400:24:43

"Can you make it? I'm coming down, I'm going to Ferndale,"

0:24:430:24:47

he'd say, "D'you know, Mur, do you know, I'm just as excited

0:24:470:24:50

"as we used to be when we were going to Barry for a day with the chapel."

0:24:500:24:55

He said, "That's how I'm feeling. I won't sleep!"

0:24:550:24:57

The boy from Ferndale was now a successful film producer.

0:24:570:25:01

He had a seat on the board of HTV,

0:25:010:25:03

and a luxury penthouse overlooking the Houses of Parliament.

0:25:030:25:07

For his next project,

0:25:070:25:09

he set his sights on nothing less than the salvation of the British film industry.

0:25:090:25:13

When Shepperton Studios came up for sale,

0:25:140:25:17

he and his business partners bought it.

0:25:170:25:19

But in 1974 the stock market collapsed,

0:25:190:25:22

and the value of their company was wiped out.

0:25:220:25:26

He was left holding the baby.

0:25:260:25:28

I think it was somewhere in the region of £600,000 - £700,000.

0:25:280:25:32

Now, this is equivalent today, I suppose, of £2 - 3 million. Maybe more.

0:25:320:25:38

That basically gave him two options.

0:25:380:25:40

One was to go into liquidation

0:25:400:25:44

as Oakhurst Productions,

0:25:440:25:45

and the other was to face it out.

0:25:450:25:48

My father had enormous pride, and he put himself and his soul into this,

0:25:480:25:54

so, in the end of the day, he stood for it.

0:25:540:25:57

Determined to honour his debts, Stanley worked furiously.

0:25:570:26:02

He returned to television, and in 1976 went back to his roots

0:26:030:26:08

with his appearance in the BBC production of How Green Was My Valley.

0:26:080:26:12

I've got the strength there, Beth, to go back into the face.

0:26:120:26:15

And here - a bit rusty after six years, but...

0:26:150:26:20

It's my wind that worries me though.

0:26:220:26:23

I think I've got a bit of dust sometimes.

0:26:230:26:26

Ahh, no, it's no good fooling myself.

0:26:270:26:29

A week on that face would finish me.

0:26:310:26:33

Well, then.

0:26:330:26:35

The Lord be praised to have shut down that old black hole

0:26:350:26:38

and brought you up into the fresh air while you can still breathe it.

0:26:380:26:41

Within weeks of the programme being televised,

0:26:430:26:46

Stanley was diagnosed with lung cancer.

0:26:460:26:48

Obviously Ellen was very upset,

0:26:490:26:52

and every so often she would look very thoughtful

0:26:520:26:56

and her eyes would mist over, and he would see her and say,

0:26:560:26:59

"Hey, Ellen, stop that."

0:26:590:27:01

He just didn't want any kind of, um...

0:27:010:27:05

He said, "Look, I've had a wonderful life.

0:27:050:27:07

"I've done everything I want to do, I've provided for my family,

0:27:070:27:10

"I've seen and done more things than I could have ever imagined

0:27:100:27:13

"I would have done when I was a boy."

0:27:130:27:16

And he said, "I'm willing to accept this. If that's it, that's it."

0:27:160:27:21

Stanley underwent treatment, but the cancer had already spread too far.

0:27:270:27:31

I was showing my distress, and...

0:27:340:27:38

Stanley said, "Shut up."

0:27:380:27:39

You know. He just said, "Stop that."

0:27:420:27:45

And, I tell you, he had all the guts in the world.

0:27:470:27:50

Stanley knew what was happening. When the pain went to the bones

0:27:500:27:56

and he did what he was told not to, he went swimming.

0:27:560:27:59

And he wanted... I guess he wanted to do it his way.

0:27:590:28:04

And he did. It was all over in three days.

0:28:040:28:08

Stanley Baker died on 28th June 1976.

0:28:130:28:19

He was 48.

0:28:190:28:20

2,000 people gathered on the hillside above Ferndale for the scattering of the ashes.

0:28:220:28:26

Among the many floral tributes was one from Zulu leader, Chief Buthelezi.

0:28:260:28:32

It simply described Stanley as, "The most decent white man I have ever met."

0:28:340:28:40

Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd

0:28:470:28:50

E-mail [email protected]

0:28:500:28:53

The valley boy who became British cinema's original tough guy. Fiercely independent and proud of his roots, Stanley Baker gave the world a movie classic in the shape of Zulu. Philip Madoc tells the story of a star who had true grit.


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