Friday, February 23, 2024

Little Known Spaghetti Western Actors ~ Ken Blackburn

[These daily posts will cover little known actors or people that have appeared in more recent films and TV series. Various degrees of information that I was able to find will be given and anything that you can add would be appreciated.]

Kenneth Colster ‘Ken’ Blackburn was born in Bristol, England on April 2, 1935. Ken attended Clifton College from 1948 to 1952, before finishing school in New Zealand. His youthful experiences in World War II England are recounted in his autobiographical book Blitz Kids, in which two wartime refugee children, aged seven and nine, repeatedly run away from their billets across the West Country, while trying to return to their mother and grandmother in Bristol. The book was published by the BBC in 1995, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of VE Day.

In the mid1950s Blackburn acted in St Joan, one of the first productions by pioneering theatre company The New Zealand Players. Blackburn soon headed back to England but found his way back to New Zealand after a year acting in Liverpool under American director Sam Wanamaker.

Downunder, professional theatre had yet to become sustainable. Blackburn spent five years as a high school teacher, before the launch of Wellington theatre Downstage in 1964 allowed him to act full-time.  

Blackburn's first television role was in the same period. The teleplay ‘All Earth to Love’ screened in 1963. It was the earliest drama written for local television. Filmed largely in a cramped Wellington studio, the romance was set late one night in a North Island train station. Blackburn had a small role as a young, conscripted soldier. 

In 1975 he appeared briefly on pioneering Kiwi soap opera ‘Close To Home’, as antagonistic lawyer Clive Foster. He recalls that his still-English sounding voice didn’t fit with the homegrown feel of the show. "At that stage I quite enjoyed playing the baddie", recalls Blackburn in this video interview.

In 2005 Blackburn was awarded the New Zealand Order of Merit in the Queen's Birthday Honors List. In late 2017 he was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award from actors' organization Equity New Zealand. President Jennifer Ward-Lealand praised him as a "beloved and respected member" of the performer community, who had contributed many "hapless, bumbling and sometimes downright sinister characters".  

Blackburn appeared in the Euro-television western series ‘White Fang’ as Hank Blair from 1993-1994 and as Josh McKenzie in 2015’s “Slow West”.

BLACKBURN, Ken (Kenneth Colster Blackburn) [4/2/1935 Bristol, England, U.K. -     ] – writer, theater, film, TV actor awarded New Zealand Order of Merit [2005], Lifetime Achievement Award [2017].

White Fang (TV) 1993-1994 (Hank Blair)

Slow West – 2015 (Josh McKenzie)

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