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Harry Landis

 

Harry Landis was born in Stepney in 1929, a place famed for its resistance to fascism, but he remembers taking refuge in his mother’s lap even at the age of ten when a brick came smashing through their window – thrown by fascists chanting, “Get rid of the Yids! Get rid of the Yids!”

 

He has had a long career in British television and film, being especially known for playing cockney-Jewish roles. His background seemed an unprepossessing one but he owes his career to Unity Theatre. He was first introduced by a work mate when he was just 15 years old to Unity and the first play he ever saw there was about a busworkers' strike; it was called `All Change Here’ and was by Ted Willis.

 

He began himself acting with Unity Theatre and is likely to have joined the Communist Party around the early to mid 1950s.

 

In 1956, Landis had an important supporting role as a Cockney soldier in `A Hill in Korea’, which may have been a motivating factor. Although Michael Caine, who made an unnoticed screen debut in the film, recalled in his autobiography that great things were expected of Landis at the time.

 

Since then his film roles have largely been minor (if occasionally memorable). However, on television, he has appeared in countless programmes over the decades. He may perhaps be more recently - or widely - remembered for being in the BBC soap opera EastEnders (1995-1997) where he played a barber, Felix Kawalski. 

 

Landis was a supporter of the leadership of the CPGB during the 1980s and was a member until dissolution.

 

He was elected as President of Equity, the UK actors' union, in July 2002.