Earl Cameron, one of the first major Black pioneering actor in British cinema, has passed away. At 102 years old, he died on Friday at his home in Kenilworth, England, reported by his agent.
Cameron was born in Pembroke, Bermuda, on Aug. 8, 1917. He joined the British Merchant Navy before pursuing a career in theater and film.
Early in his career, while he was still working as a dishwasher, he had appeared on stage in productions of Deep Are the Roots and The Petrified Forest.
We're saddened to hear of the passing of pioneering black British film star Earl Cameron who has died aged 102 – an iconic performer in British film and TV who will be dearly missed. pic.twitter.com/Y43U44tvnO
— Who We Are. (@BFI) July 4, 2020
His first movie role was already a breakthrough of his time. He was casted in Pool Of London, directed by Basil Dearden in 1951, where he played a sailor named Johnny Lambert who has a relationship with a white woman, played by Susan Shaw. This noir crime film broke in the British mainstream media and is best known for depicting the first interracial romance in a British film.
In an interview with the Telegraph back in 2017, he mentioned the groundbreaking dynamic in Pool Of London: “Certainly, I was aware that films didn’t at that time have any romantic scenes between blacks and whites.”
Cameron rejoined Dearden in the 1959 crime drama Sapphire where he played the titular character’s brother, a doctor. The film examined racism in London toward immigrants from the West Indies. The film was regarded progressive for its time and won the BAFTA Award for best film.
In Flame in the Streets (1961), directed by Roy Ward Baker, Cameron starred as a factory worker on the path to receiving a promotion, despite the resentment of his white colleagues.
Cameron appeared in the 1965 James Bond film Thunderball in 1965, playing Pinder, a special agent based in the Bahamas who helps Sean Connery’s 007. The duo also teamed up in the 1979 adventure film Cuba, which portrayed the events leading up to the Cuban Revolution.
Other film credits for Cameron include Simba, Tarzan the Magnificent, Guns at Batasi and A Warm December throughout the ’50s to ’70s. Since the 2000s, he appeared in the Nicole Kidman thriller The Interpreter and Stephen Frears’ The Queen. His most recent role is in Christopher Nolan’s Inception in 2010.
In addition, he guest-starred on popular British series such as Doctor Who, Danger Man and The Prisoner.
We're sad to report the death of Earl Cameron, who starred in 'The Tenth Planet' and was one of the first black actors to forge a successful career in British film and television: https://t.co/vfcnYvItQB #DoctorWho pic.twitter.com/JXxRlKw1R6
— Doctor Who Official (@bbcdoctorwho) July 4, 2020
In a statement about their father’s death, Cameron’s children announced: “Our family has been overwhelmed by the outpourings of love and respect we have received at the news of our father’s passing. … As an artist and as an actor, he refused to take roles that demeaned or stereotyped the character of people of color. He was truly a man who stood by his moral principles and was inspirational.”
Towards the end of his life, Cameron quoted, “I never saw myself as a pioneer. It was only later, looking back, that it occurred to me that I was.”