Earl Cameron – whose 60+ year film career included roles in a couple of Tarzan movies, ’60s-era Dr Who, the James Bond flick Thunderball, and Inception – has died. He was 102.
It was his first movie role in 1951’s Pool of London, as a Black sailor who falls in love with a White woman, that broke racial boundaries in cinema. It marked the first depiction of an interracial relationship in a British film, and was the first leading role for a Black actor in a mainstream movie in the country.
“Certainly I was aware that films didn’t at that time have any romantic scenes between blacks and whites. It was unusual for a black actor to have the romantic lead,” Cameron told the British newspaper The Telegraph in 2017, but added, “I didn’t feel like I was breaking barriers at the time, it never occurred to me. It felt natural.”
“I never saw myself as a pioneer,” he told The Guardian that year. “It was only later, looking back, that it occurred to me that I was.”
Reflecting on racial diversity in the modern film industry, Cameron said in 2017 that it was “a little better, not much. It could be a hell of a lot more [diverse]. Life is like that. It’s a wonderful thing, humanity is growing up and realizing we’re all here together on this planet. Why do we need these divisions?”
Cameron died peacefully on Friday at his home in Kenilworth, England.