Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Born Today May 4: Esmond Knight


Classically trained stage actor Esmond Penington Knight was born on this day in East Sheen, which is located in Surrey in England, UK.  He seems to have made his stage debut in 1925, and indeed, appeared in many filmed Shakespeare adaptations during his lifetime, including the classic 1948 film adaptation of Hamletthe brainchild of Laurence Olivier.  Most sources cite his first film credit as coming in the 1931 early British talkie The Gaunt Stranger.  In fact, his first film appearance came in 1928 in a late silent film entitled The Blue Porter, in which he assayed the role of "radio operator."  From this time forward he appeared in various stage and film productions until WWII broke out.  During the first years of the war he sought to do his part by accepting roles in propaganda films; but his real goal was to fight for his country.  He was finally awarded the chance to serve as Gunnery Officer aboard the HMS Prince Of Wales, a ship that accompanied the HMS Hood.  When the Hood was attacked by the infamous German battleship the Bismark, he personally witnessed the sinking of the Hood; after which, the Germans turned their huge guns on the Prince Of Wales.  The ship received heavy fire, and Knight was hit in the face by an exploding shell, causing him to lose one eye completely and the lose vision in his remaining eye--leaving him totally blind for a time. Because of his blindness, he switched to radio work, but managed to dip his toe back into film work.  He received state of the art (at the time) treatments to help save the vision in his remaining eye; which turned out to be a great success.  This allowed him to return to film and stage work full time.  By 1944, his sight had improved enough to accept a role in Olivier's Henry V.  He continued to act in both television and for the big screen right up until the year of his death.  He died of a massive heart attack on 23 February 1987 at the age of 80.  He was cremated; the location of his ashes is unknown, but they may reside with a family member.

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