World of Westfahl | Encyclopedia Introduction | All Entries | Acknowledgements
A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z

M Entries
Patrick Macnee
Antonio Margheriti
Chris Marker
Hugh Marlowe
William Marshall
Arlene Martel
Ross Martin
Richard Matheson
Sir Paul McCartney
Roddy McDowall
Leo McKern
Lee Meriwether
Ricardo Montalban
Agnes Moorhead
Billy Mumy
Eddie Murphy
 
MCKERN, LEO
(1920–2002). Australian actor.

SCIENCE FICTION, FANTASY, AND HORROR FILM CREDITS
Acted in: X the Unknown (Leslie Norman 1956); The Mouse That Roared (Jack ARNOLD 1959); The Day the Earth Caught Fire (Val GUEST 1962); Help! (Richard LESTER 1965); Alice in Wonderland (tv movie) (Jonathan Miller 1966); "The Chimes of Big Ben" (1967), "Once Upon a Time," "Fall Out" (1968), episodes of The Prisoner; The Shoes of the Fisherman (Michael ANDERSON 1968); "The Infernal Machine" (1976), episode of Space: 1999; The Omen (uncredited) (Richard DONNER 1976); Damien: Omen II (uncredited (Don Taylor 1978); The Nativity (tv movie) (Bernard Kowalski 1978); The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (animated; voice) (Bill Melendez 1979); Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (tv movie) (Alastair Reid 1981); Ladyhawke (Donner 1985).
 
In the 1960s, if you needed a fat actor with a British accent, and your project wasn't lucrative or prestigious enough to attract Peter USTINOV, you had to settle for Leo McKern. And you were lucky indeed, since you ended up getting a much better actor.

After leaving Australia to seek fame and fortune in England, McKern did Shakespeare on stage but, oddly bothered by stage fright, he was soon relying on film work to earn his living. Few people noticed him in the company of an amorphous monster in X the Unknown or the equally distracting, overacting Peter SELLERS in The Mouse That Roared, but he stepped to the forefront in The Day the Earth Caught Fire, a disaster film about the Earth moving closer to the Sun that unusually adopted the perspective of journalists covering the story, with McKern commandingly effective as the newspaper editor closely following developments.

It would seemingly be impossible to hog the spotlight in the company of the world's most popular musicians, The Beatles, but McKern managed to pull it off in Help!, becoming the film's true star as the obsessed cult leader seeking Ringo STARR's special ring and paradoxically earning the audience's sympathy and respect for his unfailing energy and ingenuity in pursuing that goal. Given the Beatles' visible indifference to the entire project, it was McKern's manic commitment to the silly plot that kept the movie in motion. McKern also proved to be the only Number Two who could really hold his own against Patrick MCGOOHAN in The Prisoner, uniquely earning him the role in three episodes, including the surrealistic climax. No one except the series' leading actor better understood the game that McGoohan was playing, or how to play it well.

But McKern was wise as well as talented, and hence made no attempt to attract attention amidst the melodramatic nonsense of The Shoes of the Fisherman, Ladyhawke, The Omen, and its even direr sequel (for the latter two, he was even clever enough to avoid receiving screen credit). And, facing the British science fiction actor's inevitable chore of guest-starring on Gerry and Sylvia ANDERSON's fiasco Space: 1999, he shrewdly signed up for a role that allowed him to quickly die and get off camera before the traditionally inane plot staggered to another insufferable climax.

As colorful roles for aging fat men inevitably became harder to find, McKern retreated to series television, garnering his greatest renown for seven seasons of Rumpole of the Bailey (1978–1992). As a cantankerous, bewigged barrister, he did the best one could expect in dealing with generally routine courtroom dramas. However, as the evidence demonstrates, both Leo McKern and his audiences had more fun when he confronted stranger challenges.

To contact us about encyclopedia matters, send an email to Gary Westfahl.
If you find any Web site errors, typos or other stuff worth mentioning, please send it to our Webmaster.
Copyright © 1999–2014 Gary Westfahl All Rights Reserved Worldwide

Hosted & Designed By:
SF Site spot art