Earl Cameron, who was one of the first black actors to act in major British films and played supporting roles for long-lasting entertainment icons such as James Bond and the main character in “Doctor Who” before appearing in the UN thriller “The Interpreter ”in his 80s is dead. He was 102 years old.
Cameron died on Friday, according to the Royal Gazette, a newspaper in his native Bermuda. British newspaper The Guardian, citing the actor’s agent, said he died at his home in Warwickshire, England.
Cameron stumbled into acting as a way to earn money during World War II and continued to work with repertoire theater roles and training for the granddaughter of Ira Aldridge, an American who became a famous Shakespeare actor in England, according to the biography of the Cameron British Film Institute.
His entry to the cinema also broke barriers for British cinema. Cameron was cast in one of the lead roles in “Pool of London,” a 1951 black crime film that was the first British film to feature an interracial relationship. Her character, Johnny Lambert, is a merchant seaman who meets a white woman while ashore.
Cameron constantly worked making films throughout the 1950s, sometimes in stereotypical roles as a witch doctor and murderous rebel leader in British Kenya, and sometimes in roles designed to confuse stereotypes, such as his portrayal of a doctor in “Simba”, a 1955 film that also dealt with the Mau Mau uprising in Kenya.
He earned his 007 streak in the fourth James Bond film, “Thunderball,” in 1965, playing an intelligence agent in the Bahamas alongside Sean Connery. During the 1950s and 1960s, he supplemented his film work with frequent roles on British television, including two episodes of “Doctor Who” in 1966.
“Unless it is specified that this was a part for a black actor, they would never consider a black actor for the part. And they would never consider exchanging a white part for a black part, “Cameron told the Guardian in a 2017 interview.
“So that was my problem. I mainly got small pieces, and that was extremely frustrating, not just for me but for other black actors. We had a hard time getting papers that were worth it. ”
In 1972, Cameron went to work alongside an American actor from the Bahamas who broke barriers for film noir actors. Sidney Poitier chose Cameron to play the ambassador of an African country in “A Warm December,” in which Poitier starred and directed.
Born in Bermuda in 1917 as the youngest of six children, Cameron arrived in England in 1939 after joining the British merchant marine. After Britain entered World War II that year, “it was almost impossible for a black person to get any kind of job,” and he had no qualifications, Cameron would remember.
“Coming from Bermuda in 1939, which was a very racist island, the degree of racism in England did not surprise me. I had grown up with that, ”she told the Royal Gazette in a 2018 interview.
Cameron appeared in several major Hollywood and British films at the end of his life, including “The Interpreter” with Nicole Kidman and Sean Penn (2005); “The Queen” with Helen Mirren (2006) and “Inception” (2010).
Queen Elizabeth II named him Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire in 2009 for his contributions to British entertainment.
“At a time when everyone is examining the history of people of color, the life and legacy of Earl Cameron makes us stop and remember how he broke down barriers and refused to limit himself to what his humble beginnings may have dictated like his way, ”David Burt, the prime minister of Bermuda, told the Royal Gazette on Friday.
Cameron is survived by his wife, Barbara, and their children.
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