Biography of Cavan Kendall 1942 - 1999

Cavan Kendall and his sisters Kay Kendall and Kim, (now Mrs Rolla Campbell Jr of Florida) belonged to a theatrical dynasty that began with Huguenot immigrants called Holyone, "whose plaintive singing voices made them popular on the 'hails' of Hackney". Their paternal grandmother, Marie Kendall, is remembered for her singing of the haunting ballad 'Just Like the Ivy' a star of music hall. She had changed the family name from Holyone to Kendall, chosen from a train timetable, later married Steve McCarthy, a character comedian and founder of the' Grand Order of the 'Water Rats'. Cavan's maternal grandfather was John Spencer, a renowned Edwardian Shakespearean actor who appeared in productions staged by Herbert Beerbohn Tree at Her Majesty's Theatre, and of whom George Bernard Shaw, wearing his theatre critic's hat, wrote: "John Spencer is the finest classical actor of the decade."

Cavan Spencer McCarthy Kendall was born in Clapham, South London on May 22, 1942 and educated at Goring Hall, Worthing, afterwards attending the Arts Educational Stage Academy. He starred in the 1950's TV series The Railway Children and as leader of the Lost Boys in Peter Pan at the Scala Theatre. After playing in repertory to hone his craft, Cavan graduated to leading roles on TV, playing PC Sweet in the police series Softly, Softly with Stratford Johns, Charles Vivian in Blood Money, Peter Talion in Badger By Owl-light, Archie Roylence in the BBC serial John Macnab, and many more productions.

On stage he had great charisma with a voice startling in its sonority and depth, and carrying effortlessly to the very back of "the gods". West End roles in the theatre include: Allan Harper in Justice is a Woman at the Vaudeville, Neil Oldershaw in The Crunch and Lord Darnley opposite Sarah Miles in Vivat! Vivat Regina! at the Picadiily Theatre. From 1980, he chiefly lived and worked, for nearly a decade in the USA, playing off Broadway.

Cavan had a biting sense of humour and could enliven any gathering with amusing anecdotes and touching family reminiscences. However, he was grief-stricken when his sister Kay Kendall died tragically young, in 1959, of Leukaemia, whilst filming Once More with Feeling with Yul Brynner.

Cavan died of cancer, aged 57, on October 29 1999 in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire. He had just finished filming in the role of Aitch in the award winning film, Sexy Beast, starring Ben Kingsley and Ray Winstone.

Fiona Kendall