Browse content similar to Stanley Baker. Check below for episodes and series from the same categories and more!
I'm the First Lieutenant around here and don't you forget it.
Stanley Baker was British cinema's original tough guy.
How really tough are you?
Well, I don't know how tough I am.
All I can say is I was born and bred in the Rhondda Valley
and as people there know, you've got to be tough to live there.
He was always the hard man cos he looked hard. But he was a very soft man, really.
How old are you?
Old enough to know what you're doing
and young enough to jump.
He had that rare thing - he filled the screen.
You look at him when he's on.
The films he made earned him a place in cinema history.
But his true greatness lay in his integrity as a man.
If I say I'm going down that pit, it'll take more than him to stop me.
Stanley Baker was born in 1928 in Ferndale,
a close-knit town nestled in a curve of the Rhondda Fach.
Everything that happened to Stanley stemmed from that amazing background
They were very poor.
So he always used to laugh and say, "I only had one place to go,
"that was up. I couldn't have gone down any further."
Stanley's father, Jack Baker, was a miner
who'd lost a leg in an accident down the pit.
Since he could no longer work underground,
he and his family had to do whatever they could to bring in money.
They seemed to get us through it.
I mean, my mother, she... she'd make toffee apples,
she'd make slab toffee...
oh, small beer she used to make
and sell it on a Sunday morning.
I used to go to his house with his mother and father
for different commodities, such as haircuts.
They were very renowned within the street
for making great faggots and peas.
You went into the back door. "Have you faggots and peas?"
And you'd pay his father
threepence, and you went out through the front door
and back home then and took 'em back home.
Your mother would send you for them.
That was every week.
Because they were hard days, there's no half and half about it.
In spite of the fact that we didn't have a lot of food
and very little money,
I look on my childhood as one full of advantages.
Because of my family, basically, and because of the people
that surrounded us at that time. Immensely strong communal feeling.
People worked towards one end
and that end at that time, unfortunately,
was not to die of hunger.
Stanley, or Spud as he was known to his mates,
was an amateur boxer and full-time tearaway.
He seemed to be headed in only one direction.
I hated school, I hated sitting in a classroom being taught things.
I was clearly destined to go into the coal pit until I went
to a school in Ferndale, North Road School,
and met a man called Glyn Morse who had other ideas about my life.
Glyn Morse was the art teacher at Ferndale Secondary School.
In his spare time, he was a playwright
who ran the local amateur dramatics society.
He recognised in Baker something no-one else had seen
and started coaching him as an actor.
I couldn't wait to get to school in the morning because this man
was teaching me something that meant something to me at 11.
Glyn Morse wrote parts for Stanley in the plays
that he staged in local church halls.
He'd be in his bedroom with a mirror in front of him.
And this script.
And I used to watch him do this and I'd think, "Marvellous."
He filled the stage when he got on it.
He was Stanley Baker.
He was Spud. He was the king of the kids.
At the age of 14, Stanley got a chance to show off his talents
to an audience beyond Ferndale.
Film director Sergei Nolbandov
came to the Rhondda looking for locations for his next movie,
the propaganda film, Undercover.
On a tip-off from a talent scout,
he came to see Stanley in the school play.
He was so impressed with what he saw that he gave him a role in the film.
Answer me, where is she?
-Don't answer, don't answer!
Don't tell the Germans anything, anyone who answers is a traitor.
A national hero.
I'm going to teach you a lesson.
I'm going to plant a picture in your mind you'll carry all your life.
-You come with me.
-SHOUTING FROM OUTSIDE
You six, outside.
FROM OUTSIDE: Fire!
Firing party on parade, sir.
Prepare to fire!
On the train journey home from filming,
Glyn Morse told the young lad, "Stanley, you're not going to be a miner, you're an actor."
Stanley took his earnings straight home to his mum.
We heard him shouting,
"Get your apron on!"
Came down the back steps, we had a lot of back steps
coming down into the house, you've probably seen that house.
And he said, "Open up your apron."
He showered all his notes into her apron.
A year later, Stanley got his first professional stage role
in a West End production of Emlyn William's play, The Druid's Rest.
He was understudying a young actor
from Port Talbot called Richard Burton.
Let loose in London, the two Welsh lads had a wild time.
Drinking, fighting, chasing girls
and taking pot shots with pea shooters at sunbathing actresses.
I'd never been outside Wales before.
And we had a hell of a time.
Enjoyed ourselves immensely. We became...
really close to each other, we both were in the same profession,
we both knew exactly what we wanted to do at that time.
Within a year, Stanley was acting in the prestigious
Birmingham Repertory Company.
It was the best possible training that any actor
in the world could have, because we did 12 plays per year,
it was monthly, which was marvellous,
you had a month to rehearse and a month to play.
And it was an education I had that I didn't have at school.
I have learned life through the theatre.
Stanley's apprenticeship was interrupted
when he was called up for national service.
When he was discharged two and a half years later,
he had to start all over again as a jobbing actor.
He returned to London in search of work but he found much more there.
I was in a play.
I was waiting to go down to do the matinee.
Suddenly I saw two beautiful young men
walking across from the market.
I turned round and said to another actress
who was coming in, "Who's that?" She said, "That's Richard Burton."
I said, "No, not him. The tall one. The beautiful one."
She said, "That's Stanley Baker."
So we came across and we met.
And we arranged to meet in the pub
just immediately across the road from the stage door after the performance.
I went down to my dressing room and I thought, "I've got to meet him again."
There was a knock on the door. And there he was.
And he said, "I'll see you tonight."
And I thought, "Got him."
And I was sharing a dressing room with an actress called Jean Sinclair.
She said, "You don't want to go out with him, Ellen, you don't want to be one of a Baker's dozen."
I said, "I do, I do." SHE LAUGHS
And that was it, really. We got engaged a week later.
It was very instant.
It was all happening to Stanley.
His first big success came on stage that year
in the anti-war play A Sleep Of Prisoners
in which he played a captured soldier.
One midnight performance, there was Dame Edith Evans,
Dame Sybil Thorndike, the Oliviers,
the Redgraves, Orson Welles...
I mean, it went on and on and on. All sitting there in the front
watching these four actors.
Then they would have dinner afterwards with Christopher Fry
and ask about this new young boy.
Through Ellen, Stanley heard of a forthcoming film
called The Cruel Sea.
Having read the book,
he set his sights on the part Lieutenant Bennett.
It wasn't a star part in the film.
But to me reading the book, it was the best part of the film.
Whoever played that part, Stanley Baker or Joe Snooks...
..if they were ready for it, it would help to make them a star.
In the film, Bennett is the ship's bully.
-This man is smoking during working hours.
-Not quite in proper routine yet, sir.
-Makes no difference.
-No smoking except during stand easy. Understood?
-Aye, aye, sir.
There was a scene where he had to tell me off, as Bennett.
He used to scare the hell out of me. "No, no, don't...!"
I'd jump. I mean, he had this terrific power.
So, you've been round the ship.
How many fire hose points are there?
Very smart. What sort of gun have we got?
-Four inch what?
-Breach-loading, quick firing, mark four, mark six, fixed ammunition?
-I don't know.
I'll ask you the next time I see you.
-Both of you, get over to the dock office and start mustering the confidential books.
I'm the First Lieutenant around here.
And don't you forget it.
'The British actors in them days were all a bit effeminate, weren't they?'
Stanley was the first one who looked like a villain
or could handle himself and he was masculine on the screen.
It was gentlemen's cinema.
All these guys wore sports coat and smoked pipes
and spoke impeccably and had been
to public schools and been officers in the forces.
They were all so relaxed, you used to go to sleep watching them in the '50s.
Then, suddenly, this angry young man from the Rhondda burst onto the scene.
The Cruel Sea was Baker's big break.
In the wake of its success, he was signed by legendary
film producer Alexander Korda.
In the space of just four years,
Stanley made 11 films.
He just bounced from film to film. He didn't have time to catch a breath.
It was very exhilarating.
We went to see one of his films.
It was The Good Die Young.
There was a woman sitting next to my mother.
As soon as Stanley came on the screen,
she said to this woman, "That's my son."
I said, "She didn't believe you."
I said, "She thinks you're crackers."
She said, "I don't care whether she believe me or not."
She was quite right.
You're bound to get excited
when you're the mother of a boy like that.
Most of his early appearances were in supporting roles,
but in 1956, Stanley got a chance to play the lead
in the BBC production of Jane Eyre.
Adele is very fond of you.
When you go away from Thornfield for months at a time...
If you knew what it cost me to be here now. I hate Thornfield!
I hate everything about it.
Its gardens, its grounds, its stairs, its corridors.
I am sorry.
But this time, it's something I can't explain.
What I've told you is not...
There's something much worse.
Something you don't know.
But that same year, Stanley's career suffered a setback,
with the death of Alexander Korda.
When he died,
Stanley and everyone else was sold piecemeal to Rank.
You woke up, you weren't even told and you were with Rank.
He found that very difficult.
The regime at Rank's studios
was very different to that of the benevolent Korda.
Stanley had little control over the roles he was given.
With his dark brooding features,
he found himself continually cast as a villain.
The Evening Standard described his face as "the face Britons hate."
They only saw him as a villain.
They couldn't see him as a leading man
and a romantic interest. They just couldn't.
When Rank made the 1957 film Hell Drivers,
they wanted Stanley to play a minor role once again.
He threatened to walk off the picture if they didn't give him the lead.
'Hurtling down the one-way street to destruction.
'Starring Stanley Baker as Tom.
'Using another man's name.
'But forced by his own past into the vicious circle
'of the Hell Drivers.
'Living so close to death
'that any love is reckless,
The film was made by American director Cy Endfield
who'd been blacklisted in the States for his left-wing views.
In it, Stanley plays a truck driver
fighting a corrupt haulage racket.
What do you know about it?
You, I'm talking to you.
I'm a...not talking to the yellow belly.
If he wants to find out why his pay was stopped, ask Ed.
-Who put this on Tom?
-You mean on yellow belly?
I'm the road foreman.
And that's not all you are.
What else am I?
He had this hard edge, this tough, tough edge.
On film, this is what counts,
reflection of one's personality, this is what comes through.
The film established Stanley as a tough British hero,
a home-grown counterpart to American stars like Humphrey Bogart
and Robert Mitchum.
Having proved that he could cut it as a leading man,
Stanley now took a gamble
and bought his way out of his contract with Rank.
It cost him £12,000, a significant sum in those days.
He borrowed the money from his agent,
bought himself out and then was able to pay it back within six months.
Stanley's gamble paid off
with the success of films such as The Guns of Navarone.
As a free agent,
he was now able to choose roles that stretched him as an actor.
He produced some of his best work
with Hell Drivers' director Cy Endfield
and another blacklisted American Joseph Losey.
You can't stress how important these two directors were,
Endfield and Losey.
People who were already in their American work starting to look at themes of social tension,
class jealousy and so on and wanted to do the same thing in Britain,
and were looking for actors to embody that
and Stanley Baker was perfect for them.
During that early period of my film career,
I looked at it as a sort of flippant thing, film.
Films were easy things to do and a lot of money attached to them.
I met this man who taught me about films and film-making
and taught me...what films really mean.
Joseph Losey broadened Stanley's horizons
and nurtured in him an ambition to be more than an actor.
Jo completely involved you, unlike other directors,
you know, you'd turn up and do the job and go.
But he wanted you to be involved in every aspect of film-making
That's really why Stanley became a producer.
Stanley had found a script he was desperate to produce.
But no-one wanted to back him.
I would go into an office of someone in Columbia
or Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and they'd say,
"Fine, we know you as an actor, we'll employ you as an actor,
"but what makes you think you're a producer?
"We like the subject.
"Why don't WE produce it?"
I wouldn't let them.
Stanley got the break he needed when he met maverick Hollywood producer Joseph E Levine.
Levine didn't bother reading the script.
He backed the movie on the strength of its title.
For his first film as a producer,
Stanley had chosen an epic war story.
Shot on location in South Africa
with a cast of 4,000 Zulu tribesmen,
none of whom had ever seen a film before.
We went up to Zululand.
And they had this big feast of roast ox and what-have-you
to meet people, it was very, very moving.
It was very funny.
I used to give Stanley the rifle, the blank rifle.
And I would come rushing at Stanley with a spear
and he'd fire the blank, and I'd go up in the air...
a very dramatic death scene.
And all the Zulu, "Ooh! Jesus! What? He's dead."
And I'd stand up and, "Whoa!"
They'd all burst out laughing.
Over the course of the production, Stanley developed a close friendship with Zulu leader Chief Buthelezi.
He was a very humble person.
He was a caring person.
You couldn't help just loving him purely from the point of view of...
at the time, you might say in South Africa racism was at its height.
So, I mean, the human approach
which he had, was something that was not common.
As a first-time producer out on location,
Stanley was in at the deep end.
We had the most appalling weather when we first got there.
So we had to have witch doctors, all sorts of things,
to pray that the rain would stop.
We were ten days behind after two weeks.
Stanley struggled to bring the production back on track
while simultaneously coping with a demanding role as an actor.
He played Lieutenant John Chard, one of the two commanding officers at Rorke's Drift.
For the other lead role, that of Lieutenant Gonville Bromhead,
he'd taken a chance on a young newcomer called Michael Caine.
But the film's backers had doubts about him.
I saw a cable saying, "Actor playing Bromhead doesn't know what to do with hands.
So I thought, "Oh...!"
So I walked around for a couple of days,
every time I saw Stanley I was waiting for him to say,
"Right, Michael, that's it."
And one day he noticed, and said, "What's the matter with you?"
So I said, "I'm waiting to be fired, Stanley."
He said, "What do you mean, fired?
"Who's the producer of this film?" I said, "You are, Stan."
He said, "Have I said anything to you?"
I said no. "Get on with your bloody job then." That was the end of it.
Do it now.
HE PLAYS FANFARE
Firing by ranks. Front rank, fire!
Third rank, fire!
Second rank, fire!
Third rank, fire!
With its emphasis on the human cost of combat,
Zulu was a complex and intelligent war movie.
'That script, for him, was really... I think the script that he always wanted to do.'
Not because it gave him another part alongside, if you like, the other star,
it was really about anti-violence and anti-war.
They approached the subject with great respect.
And I think the aim was to portray the bravery of both sides, you know.
On its release, Zulu broke box office records.
40 years on, it remains a classic.
My favourite story is of being on the terraces at Ninian Park watching Cardiff City play once,
and at half time a group of Cardiff City supporters in front of me began
to debate what their favourite film ever was,
and as a film historian I couldn't believe this,
I had my notepad ready to take notes!
And all six or seven of them agreed without any doubt that Zulu was the best film they'd ever seen.
I've made something like 60-odd films.
None of them has affected me in the way this particular film has.
Not because of its success,
not because of its...critical and financial success,
but because I was terribly involved with it,
before I made it, during the time I made it, and I'm still involved with it.
Flushed with the success of Zulu,
Stanley set up Oakhurst Productions with partners Bob Porter and Michael Deeley
to make more films.
One of the first was Robbery, based on the real-life story of the great train robbers.
'But is there a danger that a picture about a magnificent
'and gigantic and adventurous crime
'might be guilty of ennobling both the crime
'and the hoodlums who planned it?
'Stanley Baker is the co-producer of the film,
'and he's starring in it as leader of the gang.'
Talking about gangsters and villains, as we are in this film,
compare what they've got away with, in our film, which is somewhere in the region of £3 million,
and look at modern business, big business, you know,
think of the law-breaking, the criminality that goes on there!
Though Stanley was now a businessman himself,
he still retained the political ideals of his upbringing.
I'm a dedicated socialist, first of all,
I suppose because...I had to be at the very beginning, because I was brought up that way.
I saw the things that happened to...certainly to my family,
and to the people around me.
That sort of existence must stay in your mind.
Stanley used his professional expertise
to advise Labour prime minister Harold Wilson on his media appearances.
He could see a lot that wasn't right with the Party Political Broadcasts,
the television Party Political Broadcasts, and he wanted to do those.
'And he did those.'
'This is the way the prime minister and Mary Wilson have been greeted in every part of Britain.
'You've seen it on television every day - enthusiasm and warmth.'
Stanley got an even warmer welcome when he returned home
for the unveiling of a plaque outside his old house.
Stanley, it's a fantastic welcome, how do you feel now?
Well, I'm just overwhelmed, I really am,
emotionally and in every other way.
It's an extraordinary thing to come back to the place you were born
and this sort of honour to happen to you.
Did you ever expect, when you left this house for London, you'd
-come back in glory like this?
-Good God, no.
When he knew he was coming to Ferndale,
he'd get on the telephone to me and say,
"Can you make it? I'm coming down, I'm going to Ferndale,"
he'd say, "D'you know, Mur, do you know, I'm just as excited
"as we used to be when we were going to Barry for a day with the chapel."
He said, "That's how I'm feeling. I won't sleep!"
The boy from Ferndale was now a successful film producer.
He had a seat on the board of HTV,
and a luxury penthouse overlooking the Houses of Parliament.
For his next project,
he set his sights on nothing less than the salvation of the British film industry.
When Shepperton Studios came up for sale,
he and his business partners bought it.
But in 1974 the stock market collapsed,
and the value of their company was wiped out.
He was left holding the baby.
I think it was somewhere in the region of £600,000 - £700,000.
Now, this is equivalent today, I suppose, of £2 - 3 million. Maybe more.
That basically gave him two options.
One was to go into liquidation
as Oakhurst Productions,
and the other was to face it out.
My father had enormous pride, and he put himself and his soul into this,
so, in the end of the day, he stood for it.
Determined to honour his debts, Stanley worked furiously.
He returned to television, and in 1976 went back to his roots
with his appearance in the BBC production of How Green Was My Valley.
I've got the strength there, Beth, to go back into the face.
And here - a bit rusty after six years, but...
It's my wind that worries me though.
I think I've got a bit of dust sometimes.
Ahh, no, it's no good fooling myself.
A week on that face would finish me.
The Lord be praised to have shut down that old black hole
and brought you up into the fresh air while you can still breathe it.
Within weeks of the programme being televised,
Stanley was diagnosed with lung cancer.
Obviously Ellen was very upset,
and every so often she would look very thoughtful
and her eyes would mist over, and he would see her and say,
"Hey, Ellen, stop that."
He just didn't want any kind of, um...
He said, "Look, I've had a wonderful life.
"I've done everything I want to do, I've provided for my family,
"I've seen and done more things than I could have ever imagined
"I would have done when I was a boy."
And he said, "I'm willing to accept this. If that's it, that's it."
Stanley underwent treatment, but the cancer had already spread too far.
I was showing my distress, and...
Stanley said, "Shut up."
You know. He just said, "Stop that."
And, I tell you, he had all the guts in the world.
Stanley knew what was happening. When the pain went to the bones
and he did what he was told not to, he went swimming.
And he wanted... I guess he wanted to do it his way.
And he did. It was all over in three days.
Stanley Baker died on 28th June 1976.
He was 48.
2,000 people gathered on the hillside above Ferndale for the scattering of the ashes.
Among the many floral tributes was one from Zulu leader, Chief Buthelezi.
It simply described Stanley as, "The most decent white man I have ever met."
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
E-mail [email protected]
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.