Ronald Lewis (actor)

Ronald Glasfryn Lewis (11 December 1928 – 11 January 1982), was a Welsh actor, best known for his appearances in British films of the 1950s and 1960s.[2] One obituary called him "a handsome debonair actor with aristocratic looks and distinctive flared nostrils. .. a major talent who inexplicably faded from the scene.[3]

Ronald Lewis
Ronald Lewis.jpg
Born(1928-12-11)11 December 1928
Died11 January 1982(1982-01-11) (aged 53)
Pimlico, London, England
Cause of deathSuicide
Years active1953–1978
Spouse(s)Norah Gorsen 1960[1]
Elizabeth Marlow 1967

Early Life and CareerEdit

Lewis was born in Port Talbot, Glamorgan, the son of an accountant. He moved with his family to London when he was seven. During the war he was evacuated back to south Wales, where he attended Bridgend Grammar School. There he played Bassanio in the school production of The Merchant of Venice.

He decided to become an actor after seeing Shaw's Saint Joan at the Prince of Wales Theatre in Cardiff. He studied at RADA, graduating in 1953.[4]

Early rolesEdit

Lewis's first professional role was in Oscar Wilde's An Ideal Husband (1950) in repertory at Worthing. He was in The Square Ring at Hammersmith.

He had uncredited bit in Valley of Song, set in Wales. He was credited for the film version of The Square Ring (1953), for Ealing; The Beachcomber (1954), as a native islander; The Face of Love (1954) for the BBC; and Fantastic Summer (1955) for TV. He had a larger part in Helen of Troy (1955) as Aeneas.[5] and provided some romantic interest in The Prisoner (1955), with Alec Guinness.[6]

He was also in a play The Bad Samaritan.

Rise to stardomEdit

Lewis achieved attention with his stage performance in Mourning Becomes Electra by Eugene O'Neill, directed by Peter Hall (1955).[7] This led to Alexander Korda signing Lewis to a contract with London films and giving him a role in Storm Over the Nile (1956), as one of the main group of friends.[8]

He was third billed in the comedy Sailor Beware (1956), one of the ten most popular films at the British box office in 1956.[9]

Lewis was cast opposite Vivien Leigh on stage in South Sea Bubble (1956) by Noël Coward, replacing Peter Finch at the last minute. Lewis reprised this role on British TV.[10][11]

He was in A Hill in Korea (1956), a Korean War film.[12]

Leading manEdit

Rank tried to build Lewis into a star, giving him the lead in a thriller, The Secret Place (1957), alongside Belinda Lee.[13] On British TV he was in Salome (1957), El Bandido and the TV series Hour of Mystery in an adaption of Night Must Fall. He appeared regularly in Armchair Theatre over fifteen years and other British anthology dramas.

He had a starring role as the bad brother in Robbery Under Arms (1957) and was a villain in The Wind Cannot Read (1958). He was in Schiller's Mary Stuart and Ibsen's Ghosts on stage in 1958.[14][15]

After a TV production of A Tale of Two Cities he supported Hardy Krüger in the Rank comedy Bachelor of Hearts (1958),[16] and a production of Miss Julie (1959) at the Old Vic.[17] He was Mark Anthony in a production of Julius Caesar at the Old Vic.[18]

In September 1958 Rank announced they would not be picking up its option on Lewis's services.[19] However he was still employed by the studio in Conspiracy of Hearts (1960), playing an Italian officer helping some nuns.

He made The Full Treatment (1960) for Hammer, directed by Val Guest. Guest called Lewis and co-star Diane Cilento "two neglected stars... and I shall go all out to un-neglect them both."[20] Hammer kept him on for another thriller, Taste of Fear (1961), which was a big hit. So too was Mr. Sardonicus (1961) made for William Castle.

Lewis had a support role in the comedy Twice Round the Daffodils (1962) and was back in the lead for Jigsaw (1962), a thriller directed by Guest.[21][22]

Lewis had support roles in Billy Budd (1962) and was the romantic lead to star Juliet Mills in the comedy Nurse on Wheels (1963), made by the Carry On team.[23][24] He had the star role in two costume pictures, Siege of the Saxons (1963) and Hammer's The Brigand of Kandahar (1965).[25][26]

On stage he was in Poor Bitos (1963).


His image suffered in 1965 when, while he was appearing in Peter Pan on stage (as Hook), his wife alleged he had assaulted her. Lewis failed to turn up at court and a warrant was issued for his arrest, although there seems to be no reference to this incident on the Internet.[27]

He focused on stage work in productions such as Raymond and Agnes (1965).

Final yearsEdit

Lewis was a regular in the TV series His and Hers (1970–72). Apart from a role in Friends (1971) and its sequel Paul and Michelle (1974), his final credits were in TV: Tales of Unease (1970), Hine (1971), The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes (1973), Harriet's Back in Town (1973), Nightingale's Boys (1975), Public Eye (1975), and Crown Court (1974–75).[28]

He was meant to be First Voice in a production of Under Milk Wood at Theatr Gwynedd in 1975. He stopped drinking to prepare himself for the role, but wound up having a heart attack on opening night. He kept working on TV for a time in series like Big Boy Now! (1976), Warship (1977), The XYY Man (1977) and Z Cars (1978).

Personal LifeEdit

Lewis was married twice, both times to actresses: Norah Gorsen (m 1960) and Elizabeth Marlow (m 1967). Marlow said "Ronnie didn't believe in himself - that was his only stumbling block."[3] He had two daughters with Marlow. Once the marriage broke up, he began drinking heavily. In 1979, he collapsed in his dressing room.[3]

In 1981, at the age of 51, he was declared bankrupt with debts of £21,188.[29][30] He blamed his situation on "my complete naivety, lack of guile, and business acumen, over-generosity, trusting people too much and neglect of tax affairs."[31]


In Twice Round the Daffodils (1962), Lewis had appeared alongside Kenneth Williams, who may also have died by suicide, although the coroner recorded an open verdict. When Lewis committed suicide by taking a barbiturate overdose at a boarding house in Pimlico,[32] Williams recorded in his diary entry for 12 January 1982: "The paper says Ronald Lewis has taken an overdose! He was declared bankrupt last year! Obviously nobody offered him work & he was driven to despair. I remember Ronnie... and that drinking session at the White Horse all those years ago... he was a kind boy & people used him. He was 53."[33]

According to one newspaper report at the time, he took three bottles of aspirin, and had drunk three bottles of whisky. He had not been able to find a job for 18 months. The coroner said "this is one of those sad occasions where somebody who has been doing particularly well in their profession has fallen on hard times."[34]

Partial filmographyEdit


  1. ^ Brian McFarlane; British Film Institute (2005). The encyclopedia of British film. Methuen. p. 415.
  2. ^ "Ronald Lewis". BFI.
  3. ^ a b c Tragedy of the Nearly Man Date: Tuesday, Jan. 26, 1982 Publication: Daily Mail p 20
  4. ^ "Ronald Allen — RADA".
  5. ^ THOMAS M PRYOR (30 April 1954). "BELAFONTE SIGNS TO STAR IN FILM". New York Times. ProQuest 112934554.
  6. ^ "The Prisoner (1955) – Peter Glenville | Cast and Crew". AllMovie.
  7. ^ Hope-Wallace, P. (11 June 1955). "MOURNING BECOMES ELECTRA". The Manchester Guardian. ProQuest 479852000.
  8. ^ S. W. (25 September 1955). "OBSERVATIONS ON THE BRITISH SCREEN SCENE". New York Times. ProQuest 113205684.
  9. ^ "BRITISH. FILMS MADE MOST MONEY: BOX-OFFICE SURVEY". The Manchester Guardian. 28 December 1956. p. 3.
  10. ^ N, S. (20 March 1956). "NEW COMEDY BY NOEL COWARD". The Manchester Guardian. ProQuest 479859334.
  11. ^ Two leading men in the life of Miss Leigh Date: Friday, Feb. 24, 1956 Publication: Daily Mail (London, England)p 6
  12. ^ "A Hill in Korea (1956) – Julian Amyes | Cast and Crew". AllMovie.
  13. ^ "The Secret Place (1957)". BFI.
  14. ^ Thorns, A. (3 September 1958). "POLISH FILM-MAKERS TURN TO SATIRE". The Manchester Guardian. ProQuest 480352785.
  15. ^ Hope-Wallace, P. (13 November 1958). "FLORA ROBSON IN IBSEN'S "GHOSTS"". The Manchester Guardian. ProQuest 480364522.
  16. ^ "A BACHELOR OF HEARTS". The Australian Women's Weekly. 26 (34). 28 January 1959. p. 48. Retrieved 25 September 2017 – via National Library of Australia.
  17. ^ BLAND, A. (28 December 1958). "Snowflakes". The Observer. ProQuest 475401077.
  18. ^ Caesar is muffled in velvet Author: Edward Goring Date: Thursday, Oct. 9, 1958 Publication: Daily Mail p 3
  19. ^ Now Belinda Lee gets the axe Author: Edward Goring Date: Saturday, Oct. 11, 1958 Publication: Daily Mail (London, England) Issue: 19432 p 1
  20. ^ Yet again somebody has discovered Miss Cilento Author: Cecil Wilson Date: Friday, Apr. 29, 1960 Publication: Daily Mail (London, England) Issue: 19911 p 8
  21. ^ "Twice Round the Daffodils (1962) – Gerald Thomas | Synopsis, Characteristics, Moods, Themes and Related". AllMovie.
  22. ^ Jigsaw (1962) at the British Film Institute
  23. ^ "Billy Budd (1962)". BFI.
  24. ^ "Nurse on Wheels (1963) – Gerald Thomas | Cast and Crew". AllMovie.
  25. ^ "Siege of the Saxons (1963) – Nathan Juran | Cast and Crew". AllMovie.
  26. ^ "The Brigand of Kandahar (1965) – John Gilling | Cast and Crew". AllMovie.
  27. ^ Hope-Wallace, P. (18 December 1965). "PETER PAN at the scala theatre". The Guardian. ProQuest 185123323.
  28. ^ "Ronald Lewis".
  29. ^ "Cinema | The Actors' Crucible". Wales Arts Review. 18 March 2016.
  30. ^ "OBITUARY". The Guardian. 12 January 1982. ProQuest 186370311.
  31. ^ The fallen star Date: Tuesday, July 1, 1980 Publication: Daily Mail p 13
  32. ^ Spignesi, Stephen J. (2001). The Hollywood Book of Lists: From Great Performances and Romantic Epics to Bad Remakes and Miscasting Debacles. Kensington Publishing Corporation. p. 127. ISBN 978-0806522128.
  33. ^ The Kenneth Williams Diaries, edited by Russell Davies, published 1993 by Harper Collins
  34. ^ Suicide of 'sad' actor Date: Tuesday, Jan. 26, 1982 Publication: Daily Mail

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