Vet thesp McKern dies

Star of TV's 'Rumpole,' roles in 'Help,' 'Seasons'

LONDON — Veteran character actor Leo McKern, best known internationally as the star of the long-running BBC TV series “Rumpole of the Bailey,” died at a nursing home near Bath in Somerset, England Tuesday. He was 82.

McKern, who had been suffering from diabetes and other health problems, had a 50-year career, including acclaimed Shakespearean performances on stage, and film roles in everything from the 1965 Beatles’ pic “Help” to “A Man For All Seasons” (1966) to “Ryan’s Daughter” (1970) to “The French Lieutenant’s Woman” (1981).

He first took on the part of the curmudgeonly and quick-witted lawyer Rumpole in 1975 and made a total of seven series, the last in 1992.

Prominent British human rights lawyer Geoffrey Robertson said: “His great achievement was to create a lawyer the world could love.”

McKern’s final film appearance was in 1999’s “The Story of Father Damien,” and he last tread the boards in London’s West End in 2000.

McKern was born in Sydney, Australia, and moved to Britain at age 26. He is survived by his wife, actress Jane Holland, and two daughters, Abigail and Harriet.