Photos with Harry Baird
BiographyGeorgetown, British Guiana
Cast in a number of racially-motivated British films during the 1950s and 1960s, actor Harry Baird was born in Georgetown, Guyana (then called British Guiana) on May 12, 1931 and received his education both in Canada and England. Famed director Carol Reed gave Harry his film break in 1954 at age 23 when he cast the actor in the smallish role of a black boxer named Jamaica in A Kid for Two Farthings (1955), a tale that dealt with the tense ethnic struggles of London's East End. Read more... Stoll theatre in London. Although he continued sporadically before live audiences, including a role in Jean Genet's "The Blacks" in 1961, his stronger focus would be in the cinema and on TV where he often took to stunt work just to keep himself in front of the lens. His first lead on TV was as Rhodes Reason's bearer, Atimbu, in the lowbudget White Hunter (1957) adventure series. Moviegoers first took notice of Harry, however, with his stirring portrayal of a young black brutalized by the police in the film Sapphire (1959), a role that helped him continue into the next decade. Extremely good-looking and physically fit, he rarely managed to attain leads, primarily due to the lack of parts at the time for men of his race. He did find regular supporting roles on TV, however, including the series Secret Agent (1964) and the science-fiction program UFO (1969). As jobs grew scarce into the 60s Harry traveled to other parts of Europe, especially Italy and France, to find work. Some were even leads or co-leads. He played well-muscled action heroes in a handful of Italian spectacles and "spaghetti" westerns and scored a personal triumph in France with first-time director Melvin Van Peebles' landmark lowbudget film The Story of a Three-Day Pass (1968), in which he starred as a black American GI who falls in love with a white French girl (played by the late Nicole Berger) while on leave in Paris. Sadly, Ms. Berger was killed in a car accident shortly after filming the movie. Other films around this time included Bryan Forbes' classic The Whisperers (1967) starring Edith Evans, The Touchables (1968), in which the athletic actor played a gay wrestler named "Lillywhite," the Hammer Studio horror The Oblong Box (1969) with Vincent Price, and friend Michael Caine's picture The Italian Job (1969). In the 1970s Harry was diagnosed with glaucoma. He was forced to retire as the impairment worsened and he eventually went completely blind. He remained upbeat and positive in later years as he adapted to his handicap and took classes on film history among other interests. He was married and divorced and survived by a stepdaughter when he died of cancer at age 73 in London on February 13, 2005.