The number of actors left who played parts in the original 1955 film The Dam Busters has been sadly diminished over the last few years with the deaths of Richard Todd, George Baker and Richard Thorp. To this list must now sadly be added Bill Kerr, the Australian actor who played Mick Martin, who died on 28 August.
Like the rest of the cast, one of the reasons he was chosen was because of his strong resemblance to the character he would play. The director Michael Anderson said on first meeting him at a casting session at Elstree, “Gentlemen, Micky Martin has just entered the room.” Despite this, the role required him to spend 90 minutes in make up each day, having a wig, moustache and chucks behind his ears fitted, so that they stuck out more prominently.
Being a genuine Aussie allowed him to critique the accents which some of the other actors had to put on – notably the rather posh Englishman Nigel Stock as “Spam” Spafford (“Get a move on skipper, or you’ll miss the bus!”).
Like Stock and Richard Todd, Kerr had actually served in the army during the war, so donning uniform again held no difficulties. He was also one of the better known of the younger actors who took part: he had already played a flyer in the film Appointment in London, and by the time The Dam Busters was released was a regular on the radio comedy show Hancock’s Half Hour.
He returned to Australia in 1979 and played many roles on the stage, and in TV and film. He died, apparently, while watching an episode of one of his favourite TV comedies, Seinfeld.
Obituaries of Bill Kerr in The Guardian and Daily Telegraph.
Sources used: John Ramsden, The Dam Busters, Tauris 2003