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Photo of Leo McKern as Rumpole
Rumpole Remembered

Rumpole Remembered

Leo McKern, the actor who portrayed the curmudgeonly barrister in MYSTERY!'s Rumpole of the Bailey, died on July 23, 2002. He was 82.

McKern starred as Horace Rumpole in no less than 44 episodes from 1975 to 1992, playing the crafty lawyer given to quoting poetry, swilling "Chateau Thames Embankment" at Pomeroy's wine bar and dueling at home with his wife, Hilda -- "she who must be obeyed."

"Leo portrayed one of the most beloved characters in MYSTERY! series history," says executive producer Rebecca Eaton. "We will miss his charm and talents."

Rumpole was created by British lawyer-turned-novelist John Mortimer, who praised McKern: "He not only played the character Rumpole, he added to it, brightened it and brought it fully to life."

Actor Peter Bowles, who played Guthrie Featherstone in Rumpole, called McKern "one of those rare actors who had no pomposity. He wasn't a luvvie. He never took himself seriously and had always kept the child within him."

Born Reginald McKern in Sydney, Australia, he lost an eye in an accident as an engineering apprentice. In love with actress Jane Holland, he followed her to London, where, despite discouragement from agents, he began to act at the Old Vic and the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre. His film roles included Murder in the Cathedral, A Man for All Seasons and The French Lieutenant's Woman. But he will be remembered as the curmudgeonly Rumpole.

"I suppose old Rumpers is a universal sort of character," he once said in an interview. "It's rather nice that the oldies, the crumblies, the wrinklies -- and I'm one of them -- have a hero who isn't young."

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