LONDON (AP) - Leo McKern, the Australian actor who gained fame as a curmudgeonly barrister in “Rumpole of the Bailey,” died Tuesday at the age of 82, his agent said. McKern, who had been ill for some time, died at a nursing home near his home in Bath in western England, said his agent, Richard Hatton.
McKern starred as Horace Rumpole in 44 episodes between 1975 and 1992, playing a crafty lawyer giving to quoting poetry, swilling “Chateau Thames Embankment” at Pomeroy’s wine bar, and dueling at home with his wife Hilda - “she who must be obeyed.” The distinctive appearance of McKern’s fleshy face was due in part to a glass left eye, the result of an accident when he was a 15-year-old engineer’s apprentice. “Rumpole,” created by British lawyer John Mortimer, won a global audience, and McKern resigned himself to the inevitable typecasting. “With Rumpole one comes to be reconciled to the fact that it isn’t half a bad thing to be stuck with,” he once said.
Born Reginald McKern in Sydney, he moved to Britain in 1946, two years after making his stage debut. Some of his early British stage appearances came at the Old Vic Theater between 1949 and 1952, and at the Shakespeare Memorial Theater at Stratford-upon-Avon in 1952-54. In 1967, McKern appeared in the second episode of “The Prisoner,” the cult television show starring Patrick McGoohan. McKern appeared as No. 2, the authoritarian figure who died at the end of each episode, to be replaced by another actor in the next.
McKern’s film roles included “The Mouse That Roared” (1959), “Lawrence of Arabia” (1962), The Beatles’ “Help!” (1965), “A Man for all Seasons” (1966), “Ryan’s Daughter” (1971), and “The French Lieutenant’s Woman” (1983). His last film role was as a bishop in “The Story of Father Damien” in 1999. His reminiscences, “Just Resting,” were published in 1983, the same year he was awarded the Order of Australia.