Earl Cameron passes at 102

Earl Cameron, one of Britain’s first breakthrough Black actors, has passed away peacefully in his Kenilworth home on Friday, July 3rd at age 102. The Bermudian-born Cameron had a career that spanned over 50 years from his first debut role in Pool of London (1951) to his last minor role in Christopher Nolan’s Inception (2010).

Earl Cameron was born on August 8th, 1917, in Pembroke, Bermuda. Cameron began acting in his teens and through his job in the British Merchant Navy, settled in the UK in 1939. A little over a decade later, Cameron landed his first role in Basil Dearden’s film noir Pool of London (1951). In the film, Cameron plays Johnny Lambert, a West Indian dockworker who gets mixed up in trouble and falls for a young woman named Pat, played by Susan Shaw. The film showcases an interracial relationship between Cameron and Shaw, something that would’ve been forbidden to show on screen just a few decades earlier. This was the first time British film sensitively handled interracial subject matter. More notably, Cameron’s role is considered the first major role for a Black actor in British mainstream film.

Pool of London starring Earl Cameron
Earl Cameron and Susan Shaw’s onscreen romance in Pool of London

I didn’t feel like I was breaking barriers at the time, it never occurred to me. It felt natural.

Earl Cameron, The Telegraph 2017

This wouldn’t be the only color barrier Cameron would break in Britain’s film industry. In 1966, he appeared as Williams in an episode of Doctor Who, which made Cameron the first Black actor to play an astronaut onscreen. 

Earl Cameron went on to act in over 40 feature films, television series, and dramas, working alongside film stars like Sean Connery in the fourth James Bond film Thunderball (1965), Sidney Poitier in A Warm December (1973), and Nicole Kidman in The Interpreter (2005).

In 2009, Cameron was appointed a Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire and, in 2016, was inducted into the Britain Screen Nation Hall of Fame. Cameron leaves behind a legacy that’s changed film on a global scale and is survived by his second wife, six children, and a host of grand and great-grandchildren. 

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