William Stanley Baker
Was born in Ferndale, Rhondda Valley, Wales. In the mid-1930s his parents moved to London where Baker spent most of his formative years. He made his film debut as a teenager in the Ealing Studios 1943 film Undercover, about the Yugoslav guerrillas in Serbia. He served in the Royal Army Service Corps from 1946-1948. His first role as an adult was in All Over the Moon (1949).
At first Baker was usually cast as a villain - tough, gritty and fiery. In private life, he was a close friend and drinking companion of another Welsh actor, Richard Burton. Although it has been said that both men had been taught by the same teacher at school who encouraged their theatrical abilities, the fact is that Baker was taught, guided and mentored by Glyn Morse in Ferndale while Burton was mentored by Philip Burton. Notable among his early roles was as the unpleasant and somewhat cowardly Bennett in The Cruel SeaLaurence Olivier selected him to play Henry Tudor in Richard III (1955). He played a major role as Achilles in Helen of Troy (1956). He also starred with Patrick McGoohan in Hell Drivers (1957). (1953).
In 1961 Baker was offered the role of superspy James Bond for the forthcoming film Dr. No, but he turned it down because he was unwilling to commit to a three-picture contract. He may have regretted this decision because some years later he asked producer Albert R. Broccoli about playing a villain in one of the films. He played a war-weary commando in the 1961 war epic The Guns of Navarone.
Yet Baker's most memorable role was as Lieutenant John Chard VC in Zulu (1964) alongside newcomer Michael Caine. Baker had a strong personal interest in the historical events and owned Chard's Victoria Cross and Zulu War Medal from 1972 until his death in 1976.
In Joseph Losey's Accident (1967), Baker gave a sustained performance as Charley, and in 1970's Perfect Friday, he showed his skill in comedy and romantic acting as Mr Graham, opposite Ursula Andress.
He formed his own production company in the 1960s and produced films that included Zulu (1964), Robbery (1967) and The Italian Job (1968). Baker placed his production company into a consortium that bought Pinewood Studios, but after the stock market crashed in 1974, he stood by the company over declaring bankruptcy. He went back to work as an actor, taking roles in television including the 1974 BBC Play of the Month The Changeling, Robinson Crusoe (1974), and also in a BBC Wales adaptation of How Green Was My Valley (1975).