10 June 1922
Cape Town, South Africa
William 'Bill' Kerr (born 10 June 1922) is an South African-born Australian stage, television and film actor. He was born into a performing arts family in Cape Town, South Africa, but grew up in Wagga Wagga, New South Wales, Australia.
Life and career
He began working as a child actor in depression era Australia, taking his first major role in The Silence of Dean Maitland, one of Australia's first talking films.
After serving in the Second World War, Kerr moved to Britain to further his acting career, and during the 1940s he was regularly featured in the BBC radio series Variety Bandbox. His trademark was his catch phrase "I'm only here for four minutes..."
In the 1950s, he had a regular role as an Australian lodger in the BBC radio comedy series Hancock's Half Hour. Initially sharper than Hancock's characterisation, it was developed into a more dim-witted character who became the butt of Hancock's jokes. His television appearances in Britain include a 1968 Doctor Who story called The Enemy of the World, with Patrick Troughton, and a long-running part in the early 1960s BBC-TV soap, Compact.
Kerr had much theatrical success in Britain, playing the Devil in the original West End production of Damn Yankees, directed by Bob Fosse, and Cole. Kerr appeared in a touring production of the play, The Teahouse of the August Moon in 1956. He also worked with Spike Milligan. He appeared in Milligan and John Antrobus's stage play The Bed-Sitting Room, which opened at the Mermaid Theatre on 31 January 1963. A subsequent production opened on 3 May 1967 at the Saville Theatre, and "a cast containing an unusually high proportion of Australian actors including Bill Kerr and David Nettheim." Then in 1972 he co-starred with Anthony Newley in the long-running Newley/Bricusse musical, The Good Old Bad Old Days. In 1975, Kerr took the part of Bluey Notts, described as "an Australian bookie's clerk, a crude racialist", in The Melting Pot. This was a sitcom written by Spike Milligan and Neil Shand, which was cancelled by the BBC after just one episode had been broadcast.
He also appeared in several British films, including The Dam Busters and The Wrong Arm of the Law, before moving back to Australia. Although probably best known as a comic actor, and especially for his appearances in Hancock's Half Hour, he has since played a number of serious roles, notably in Peter Weir's films Gallipoli (1981) and The Year of Living Dangerously (1982). He also worked on the Australian stage in the 1980s, in musicals such as My Fair Lady, where he received excellent reviews as Alfred Doolittle. Kerr has thrice played real-life Australian military personalities, appearing as bomber pilot Micky Martin in The Dam Busters (1955), as General John Monash in the TV mini-series Anzacs (1985) and as General Harry Chauvel in the film The Lighthorsemen (1986). In addition to his serious roles, he also continued to appear in comedies including the film The Coca-Cola Kid in 1985 and in 2001, he appeared in the Australian comedy Let's Get Skase.
Kerr has also been involved in documentaries, providing the narration for No Survivor - The Mysterious Loss of HMAS Sydney Nine Network Australia (1995), Malice or Mutiny for the ABC Australia 2003 and Animal X Natural Mystery Unit series for Discovery in the US, TV2 Norway and many others.
- Harmony Row (1933)
- The Silence of Dean Maitland (1934)
- Penny Points to Paradise (1951)
- Appointment in London (1952) – Bill Brown
- You Know What Sailors Are (1954)
- The Dam Busters (1955)
- The Night My Number Came Up (1955)
- Port of Escape (1956)
- The Captain's Table (1959)
- A Pair of Briefs (1962)
- The Wrong Arm of the Law (1963)
- Doctor in Distress (1963)
- Doctor in Clover (1966)
- A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (1966)
- Doctor Who episode The Enemy of the World (TV) (1968)
- The Young Doctors (TV) (1980)
- Gallipoli (1981)
- Save the Lady (1981)
- The Year of Living Dangerously (1982)
- The Pirate Movie (1982)
- Dusty (1983)
- The Settlement (1984)
- Razorback (1984)
- Vigil (1984)
- White Man's Legend (1984)
- Relatives (1985)
- The Coca-Cola Kid (1985)
- Anzacs (TV mini-series) (1985)
- The Lighthorsemen (1986)
- A Fortunate Life (1986) (TV mini-series)
- Kokoda Crescent (1989)
- No Survivors - The Mysterious Loss of HMAS Sydney (1995) (TV)
- Let's Get Skase (2001)
- Changi (2001) (TV mini-series)
- The River Kings (1991) (TV)
- Animal X Natural Mystery Unit (2004–2006) (TV)
- Malice or Mutiny (2003) (TV)
- "Wagga Wagga Australia Day Award Winners announced". Wagga Wagga City Council. 26 January 2011. Retrieved 17 May 2011.
- McCann, Graham (2006). Spike & Co. London: Hodder & Stoughton. ISBN 0-340-89809-7. (b)p.158
- Stevens, Christopher (2010). Born Brilliant: The Life Of Kenneth Williams. John Murray. p. 365. ISBN 1-84854-195-3.
- Milligan, Spike, & Antrobus, John (1973) The Bedsitting Room. Tandem: London. First published in Great Britain by Margaret & Jack Hobbs, 1970. Published by Universal-Tandem, 1972. © 1970 Spike Milligan and John Antrobus
- Scudamore, Pauline (1985). Spike Milligan: A Biography. London: Granada. ISBN 0-246-12275-7. (a)pp.203–204, (b)pp.242–243
- Milligan, Spike; Shand, Neil (1983). The Melting Pot. London: Robson Books. introductory pages. ISBN 0-86051-195-2.
- "Bill Kerr thrilled by home-town accolade". The Daily Advertiser. 18 May 2011. Retrieved 18 May 2011.