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Kenneth Charles Williams (22 February 1926 – 15 April 1988) was an English comic actor and comedian. He was one of the main ensemble in 26 of the Carry On films, and appeared in numerous British television shows, and radio comedies with Tony Hancock and Kenneth Horne.
Williams was a regular on the BBC radio panel game Just a Minute from its second season in 1968 until his death. On television he was a frequent contributor to the 1973-1974 revival of What’s My Line?, hosted the weekly entertainment show International Cabaret and was a reader for the children’s story-reading series Jackanory on BBC1. He appeared on Michael Parkinson’s chat show on eight occasions, during which he told anecdotes from his career. Williams was a stand-in host on the Wogan talk show in 1986.
Williams insisted that he was celibate, and his diaries substantiate his claims – at least from his early 40s onwards. He lived alone all his adult life and had few close companions apart from his mother, and no romantic relationships of significance. His diaries contain references to unconsummated or barely consummated homosexual dalliances, which he describes as “traditional matters” or “tradiola” (since male homosexual activity was a criminal offence in the UK before 1967, outright admission would have been held against him if anyone had read the diaries). He befriended gay playwright Joe Orton, who wrote the role of Inspector Truscott in Loot (1966) for him, and had holidays with Orton and his lover, Kenneth Halliwell, in Morocco.
Williams rarely revealed details of his private life, though he spoke openly to Owen Spencer-Thomas about his loneliness, despondency and sense of underachievement in two half-hour documentary programmes entitled Carry On Kenneth on BBC Radio London. In later years his health declined, along with that of his elderly mother, and his depression deepened. He died on 15 April 1988 in his flat; the cause of death was an overdose of barbiturates. An inquest recorded an open verdict, as it was not possible to establish whether his death was a suicide or an accident. His diaries reveal he had often had suicidal thoughts and as far back as his earliest diaries he noted there were times when he could not see any point in existence. His authorised biography argues that Williams did not take his own life but died of an accidental overdose. The actor had doubled his dosage of antacid without discussing this with his doctor, which, combined with the aforementioned mixture of medication, is the widely accepted cause of death. He had a stock of painkilling tablets and it is argued that he would have taken more of them if he had been intending suicide.
This portrait completed with Faber Castell pencils on Bristol Board extra smooth surface, 250 gsm, 297 mms x 420 mms.