Born William Kerr in South Africa in 1922, while his theatrical parents were on tour, he was brought up in Wagga Wagga, New South Wales. The young Bill became a child actor of stage and later screen when he was cast in the movie The Silence of Dean Maitland. In the 1940s he relocated to England and was soon in demand across several BBC radio series including Variety Bandbox, the Spike Milligan programes and Hancock’s Half Hour lead by comedian Tony Hancock.
In 1962 he became a regular on the BBC’s twice weekly serial Compact, set in the offices of a magazine publishing house, devised by writers Hazel Adair and Peter Ling the show ran until 1965. Between television roles Kerr had much success in film and on stage, notably his role as the Devil in the original West End production of Damn Yankees and iconic movie The Dam Busters.
In 1968 he was cast as Giles Kent in BBC’s science fiction series Doctor Who, playing opposite ‘The Doctor’ of the time Patrick Troughton, in the story The Enemy of the World. In the late 1970s Kerr returned to Australia and continued to prove popular with casting directors having gained a reputation of being one of the best character actors in the business. Over the decades he made many TV appearance in shows such as Nine Network’s top rating hospital saga The Young Doctors in 1980 and more recently comedy Let’s Get Skase.
Speaking to ABC News Australia his son Wilton Kerr said of his father:
“His mum used him instead of using a prop, a baby prop, she actually used her son, her newborn son, so he was literally kind of born [into showbiz]”
The long wiped episodes of Doctor Who which Bill starred in were discovered last year at a TV station in Nigeria.
William ‘Bill’ Kerr 1922 – 2014.
Photo: The Dam Busters in production courtesy of ABPC Photo Publicity 1966