As Sir Roger DeLisle in the first episode of The Adventures of Robin Hood (1955).
16 March 1920
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
|Died||23 July 2002
Bath, Somerset, England, UK
|Spouse(s)||Jane Holland (1946–2002) (his death) 2 children|
Early life 
McKern was born Reginald McKern in Sydney, New South Wales, the son of Vera (née Martin) and Norman Walton McKern and attended Sydney Technical High School. After an accident at the age of 15, he lost his left eye. He first worked as an engineering apprentice, then as an artist, followed by serving in the Australian Army during World War II. During the war, he made his first stage appearance in Sydney in 1944.
The theatre 
Having fallen in love with actress Jane Holland, McKern moved to Britain to be with her and they married in 1946. He soon became a regular performer at London's Old Vic theatre and the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre (now called the Royal Shakespeare Theatre) in Stratford-upon-Avon, despite the difficulties posed by his glass eye and Australian accent.
In 1949, he played Forester in Love's Labour's Lost at the Old Vic. His most notable Shakespearean role was as Iago to Anthony Quayle's Othello in 1952. On London's West End, McKern originated the role of the Common Man for Robert Bolt's A Man for All Seasons in 1960, but for the show's Broadway production, he was shifted to the role of Thomas Cromwell, 1st Earl of Essex, the prosecutor of Sir Thomas More, which he would reprise in the film version. In 1965 he played the eponymous villain in Bolt's The Thwarting of Baron Bolligrew. He also memorably played Subtle in Ben Jonson's The Alchemist in 1962.
McKern's film debut came in 1952's Murder in the Cathedral. His other notable film appearances included the science fiction classic The Day the Earth Caught Fire (1961), the Beatles' film Help! (1965), the Academy Award-winning adaptation of A Man for All Seasons (1966), The Shoes of the Fisherman (1968), Ryan's Daughter (1970), Massacre in Rome (1973), The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes' Smarter Brother (1975),The Omen (1976), The Blue Lagoon (1980), The French Lieutenant's Woman (1981) and Ladyhawke (1985). He was given the Australian Film Institute Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role for Travelling North (1987). In Monsignor Quixote (1985), he co-starred as Sancho Zancas with Alec Guinness as Father Quixote.
McKern's final acting appearances came in the film Molokai: The Story of Father Damien (1999) and on stage in 2000.
One of McKern's earliest television roles was in the black and white classic The Adventures of Robin Hood. In the first episode he played Sir Roger DeLisle, who has usurped the Locksley manor and lands. (He also played Herbert of Doncaster, a corrupt moneylender, in the second episode.) In 1965, McKern took the role of Disson in Tea Party by Harold Pinter.
McKern was one of several Number Twos in the 1960s cult classic television series The Prisoner. McKern was one of only two actors to play Number Two more than once (the other was Colin Gordon). He first played the character in the episodes "The Chimes of Big Ben" and "Once Upon a Time" and later reprised the role for the final episode "Fall Out". Filming "Once Upon a Time" was a particularly intense experience for McKern. According to one biographer, the strain of filming this episode caused McKern to suffer either a nervous breakdown or a heart attack (accounts differ), forcing production to stop for a time.
In 1975, he made his first appearance as his most famous character, Horace Rumpole, whom he played in Rumpole of the Bailey, a BBC Play for Today. Thames TV then produced a series of the same title of forty-four episodes for seven series for ITV between 1978 and 1992. John Mortimer, the writer and creator of the show, wrote the part with Alastair Sim in mind, but revised his opinion after seeing McKern in the part. Mortimer said "He not only played the character Rumpole, he added to it, brightened it and brought it fully to life."
McKern enjoyed the role but had shown concern regarding the fame and how much his life was becoming intertwined with Rumpole's. "McKern was often unhappy, decrying his television fame as an 'insatiable monster'. He stressed that his Peer Gynt was a greater performance and lamented: 'If I get an obit in any paper, they will say, '. . . of course, known to millions as Rumpole'."[dead link] In the later series, his daughter Abigail McKern joined the cast as Liz Probert.
In 1987, the investment firm Smith Barney chose McKern to succeed John Houseman as its spokesman. In addition to the change in spokesman, Smith Barney's corporate advertising department decided to tweak the format of the new commercials, the first of which aired in September 1987. However, the public did not like the new commercials nearly as much as they did the famous Houseman ones, and in 1989, Smith Barney switched to a campaign featuring the voice of American actor George C. Scott.
In the last decade of his life, McKern starred in a series of commercials for Lloyds Bank, widely shown on British television, in which he portrayed a character very like Rumpole.
Personal life 
McKern told his daughter Abigail that he suffered from stage fright, which became more difficult to cope with as he grew older. He had also worried that his stout frame would not appeal to audiences. Suffering from diabetes and other health problems, he removed to a nursing home near Bath in Somerset in 2002. He died there a few weeks later at the age of 82. McKern was survived by his wife Jane, daughters Abigail and Harriet, and a grandchild.
Selected filmography 
- Murder in the Cathedral (1952)
- All for Mary (1955)
- The Adventures of Robin Hood (1955) – "The Coming of Robin Hood" - Sir Roger DeLisle, and "The Moneylender" - Herbert of Doncaster.
- X the Unknown (1956) – Police Inspector McGill
- Time Without Pity (1957)
- Confess, Killer (1957)
- A Tale of Two Cities (1958) – Attorney General
- The Mouse That Roared (1958) – The Leader of the Opposition
- Yesterday's Enemy (1959) – Max
- Web of Evidence (1959) – McEvoy
- Scent of Mystery (1960)
- Saturday Playhouse "The Man Who Came to Dinner" (1960)
- The Running Jumping & Standing Still Film (1960)
- Jazz Boat (1960)
- The Day the Earth Caught Fire (1961) – Bill Maguire
- Mr. Topaze (1961)
- The Inspector (1962)
- The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse (1962)
- Doctor in Distress (1963)
- Hot Enough for June (1964)
- A Jolly Bad Fellow (1964)
- King & Country (1964)
- The Amorous Adventures of Moll Flanders (1965)
- Help! (1965) – High Priest Clang
- Alice In Wonderland – "The Duchess" in Jonathan Miller's 1966 television version
- A Man for All Seasons (1966) – Thomas Cromwell (he had played both Cromwell and the Common Man in the stage original)
- The Prisoner (1967) "The Chimes of Big Ben", "Once Upon a Time" and "Fall Out" – One of the versions of Number Two
- Assignment K (1968)
- Nobody Runs Forever (1968)
- Decline and Fall... of a Birdwatcher (1968)
- The Shoes of the Fisherman (1968) – Cardinal Leone
- Ryan's Daughter (1970) – Thomas Ryan
- Massacre in Rome (1973) – Gen. Kurt Mälzer
- The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes' Smarter Brother (1975) – Professor Moriarty
- Play For Today :"Rumpole of The Bailey" (1975) - Horace Rumpole
- Space: 1999: "The Infernal Machine" (1976) – Companion/Voice of Gwent
- The Omen (1976) – Carl Bugenhagen
- Candleshoe (1977) – Harry Bundage
- Damien: Omen II (1978) – Carl Bugenhagen
- Rumpole of the Bailey (1978–92) – Horace Rumpole
- The Nativity (TV 1978) – Herod the Great
- The Blue Lagoon (1980) – Paddy Button
- The French Lieutenant's Woman (film) (1981) – Dr. Grogan
- Reilly, Ace of Spies (1983) – Basil Zaharoff
- King Lear (1983) – Gloucester
- The Chain (1984)
- Monsignor Quixote (1985 film) (TV 1987)
- Ladyhawke (1985) – Imperius, the reclusive priest
- Travelling North (1987)
- A Foreign Field (1993) – Cyril
- Dad and Dave: On Our Selection (1995) – Dad (Joseph) Rudd
- Scrooge Koala's Christmas (a.k.a. as Scrooge and Comet's Christmas Adventure) (1997) voice of Scrooge Koala, 30 minute animated pilot, Australia, Energee Entertainment.
- Molokai: The Story of Father Damien (1999) – the Bishop
See also 
- Leo McKern Biography (1920–2002)
- "Australian letters", Sun Books 1, 1957: 1963, retrieved 2011-09-18
- World War II Nominal Roll
- Fairclough, Robert (2002). The Prisoner: The Official Companion to the Classic TV Series. I Books. ISBN 0-7434-5256-9.
-  New York Times, 24 July 2002
- "Expat". The Daily Telegraph.
- Smith Barney In Ad Change – New York Times, 16 September 1987
- It's an Honour
- Leo McKern at the Internet Movie Database
- BBC.co.uk: "Rumpole star McKern dies"
- BBC – Obituary: Leo McKern