Earl Cameron, One of British Cinema’s First Lead Black Actors, Dies at 102
Art and Experience: Earl Cameron, one of the first major Black actors in British cinema, died on Friday at his home in England, his representative confirmed to Variety. He was 102.
Cameron was born in Pembroke, Bermuda, on Aug. 8, 1917, and joined the British Merchant Navy before pursuing a career in theater and film.
“Pool of London,” directed by Basil Dearden in 1951, was Cameron’s first film role. He played a sailor named Johnny Lambert who has a relationship with a white woman, played by Susan Shaw. The noir crime film is best known for portraying the first interracial romance in a British film.
Dearden and Cameron teamed up again in 1959 on the crime drama “Sapphire,” which examined racism in London toward immigrants from the West Indies. The film was progressive for its time and won the BAFTA Award for best film.
“Unless it was 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 changing a white part to a Black part. So that was my problem. I got mostly small parts, and that was extremely frustrating — not just for me but for other Black actors. We had a very hard time getting worthwhile roles,” he had told The Guardian in an interview.
Cameron appeared in the James Bond film “Thunderball” in 1965, playing Pinder, a special agent based in the Bahamas who helps Sean Connery’s 007. The two actors also reunited in 1979 in the adventure film “Cuba,” which portrayed the lead-up to the Cuban Revolution.
Other film credits for Cameron included “Simba,” “Tarzan the Magnificent,” “Guns at Batasi” and “A Warm December” in the ’50s through ’70s. Since the 2000s, he appeared in the Nicole Kidman thriller “The Interpreter,” Stephen Frears’ “The Queen” and most recently in Christopher Nolan’s “Inception” in 2010