Sunday, November 23, 2008

Ronald Lewis

Poor old Ronald Lewis. In 1982 they discovered his corpse in a cheap Pimlico boarding house. No longer a famous actor, his matinee idol looks gone forever, he had taken a fatal drug overdose. He was 54. The previous year he had appeared in a London bankruptcy court owing £21,188.

Lewis, like fellow thesps Burton and Hopkins, was from the Port Talbot area. After developing a taste for drama at school he went on to study at RADA. A successful career on the stage soon followed. Highlights included a starring role opposite Vivien Leigh in Noel Coward's South Sea Bubble; and a leading part in Mourning Becomes Electra directed by Peter Hall.

Being a handsome fellow, a move into the film industry was inevitable. His face became a familiar feature in flicks for Ealing, Alexander Korda's London Films, and later, Hammer. The best of his cinematic work included Helen of Troy (1956); A Hill in Korea (1956); Stop Me Before I Kill (1960); Scream of Fear (1961); and Billy Budd (1962). The early Sixties turned out to be his most fruitful period.

Things, however, started to go wrong in about 1965, when a summons was taken out by his wife Elizabeth, who alleged that he had assaulted her. Lewis failed to turn up at court. A warrant was issued for his arrest. At the time he was appearing in Peter Pan at the Scala Theatre, London.

From this moment on his career went into terminal decline. The movie roles dried up completely. Instead he had to make do with occasional television work. His last ever TV appearance was a bit part in an episode of Z Cars, in 1978. With his fame having evaporated, he killed himself on the 11th of January, 1982.

The above still shows Lewis (left) in fine hypodermic-toting form in Mr Sardonicus (1961), a decent horror film directed by William Castle.