Earl Cameron, CBE

Bermuda Day Grand Marshal 2019 – Bermudian Excellence

Finding a job in the UK as a black person was extremely challenging in the late 1930s. No matter how qualified an individual was, washing dishes in hotels or kitchen portering would have been some of the only available options. However, thanks to a stroke of luck Bermudian Earlston J. Cameron found himself on a different path. Stranded in London after arriving as a merchant seaman on October 29, 1939, a young Mr Cameron learnt from a friend of an acting role that had become available in a West End play production. He enjoyed the opportunity so much he kept at it – and went on to act in a number of plays in London, including The Petrified Forest and Deep are the Roots.

In 1951, he was offered his breakthrough role in Pool of London, a film set post-war involving racial prejudice, romance and a diamond robbery, for which he earned much critical acclaim. Beginning his career in racially charged times, Mr. Cameron made a decision early on to turn down roles that perpetuated derogatory stereotypes of black people. One director even threatened to blacklist him as a result of his ethical stance. It is also what kept him from pursuing a film career in Hollywood, where race relations were far worse. Mr. Cameron’s career thrived despite the odds. He had major parts in films in the 1950s and 1960s; and many repeat appearances on British science fiction programmes such as Doctor Who, The Prisoner and The Andromeda Breakthrough, as well as a host of other television programmes.

His most recent film appearances include a major role in The Interpreter in 2005 alongside Nicole Kidman and Sean Penn; a cameo as a painter in the film The Queen, alongside Helen Mirren, in 2006; and a part in the film Inception in 2010. As a result of his commitment and excellence in the arts, he has been the recipient of a number of awards, including the Bermuda International Film Festival’s Prospero Award; a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Bermuda Arts Council; and a retrospective by the prestigious National Film Theatre of London. He was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2009 New Year Honours. In 2012, Bermuda’s City Hall was renamed in his honour, and the following year the University of Warwick awarded him an honorary doctorate.

Note: Unfortunately, Mr. Cameron was not able to travel home to participate in the Bermuda Day Parade 2019. Mr. Cameron passed in 2020.