Gorden Kaye (born as Gordon Fitzgerald Kaye on 7 April 1941) is a BAFTA-nominated English comic actor, best known for playing René Artois in the British TV comedy 'Allo 'Allo!.
Kaye was born in Huddersfield, West Riding of Yorkshire, England, an only child; his mother was 42 when he was born. His father was a wagon driver and in the ARP during the Second World War, and at other times worked as an engineer in a tractor factory. As a youngster, he played rugby league for Moldgreen ARLFC before studying at King James's Grammar School, Almondbury, Huddersfield.
He worked in hospital radio in Huddersfield (interviewing The Beatles in 1965), and was employed in textile mills (including John Crowther), a wine factory and a tractor factory in West Yorkshire.
Kaye had appeared in a radio play directed by Alan Ayckbourn and also in a television play from Manchester. Ayckbourn suggested that he audition for the Bolton Octagon Theatre; he was offered a contract and his roles there included Pishchik in The Cherry Orchard followed by roles in The Homecoming, The Imaginary Invalid, Luther, and a double-bill of Oedipus and Cyclops.
Having been seen by Pat Phoenix in Little Malcolm at Bolton he came to prominence playing Elsie Tanner's nephew Bernard Butler in the UK's long-running soap opera Coronation Street in 1969. He later made an impression on producer/writer David Croft following guest roles in It Ain't Half Hot Mum, Are You Being Served? and Come Back Mrs Noah. In 1979, Kaye featured as Dimes in the feature film Porridge alongside Ronnie Barker.
Croft offered him the lead role in a series he had written called Oh, Happy Band! but Kaye was unavailable and the part went to Harry Worth. Oh, Happy Band! disappeared after one series.
Kaye had a small part in Terry Gilliam's film Brazil as desk clerk M.O.I. Lobby Porter.
He played Dr Grant in a television adaptation of Mansfield Park and Lymoges, Duke of Austria in the 1984 BBC production of King John by Shakespeare. He also toured in the National Theatre production of As You Like It, as Touchstone.
In 1982, David Croft sent Kaye the script for the pilot episode of 'Allo 'Allo! inviting him to play the central character of René Artois. He accepted and appeared in all 91 episodes (1982-92) and 1200 performances of the stage version.
Kaye returned as Rene Artois in a 2007 one-off television revival of 'Allo 'Allo! and in a stage show in Brisbane, Australia, at the Twelfth Night Theatre in June and July, alongside Sue Hodge as Mimi Labonq and Guy Siner as Lieutenant Gruber. The other characters were portrayed by Australian actors, including Katy Manning, Steven Tandy, Chloe Dallimore, Jason Gann and Tony Alcock.
Kaye is the author of a 1989 autobiography, Rene & Me: A Sort of Autobiography (with Hilary Bonner, ISBN 0-283-99965-9) in which he describes his experiences as a shy, gay, overweight, typecast youth. The unusual spelling of the name Gorden (usually spelt Gordon) was the result of a British Actors' Equity Association typing error.
Kaye suffered serious head injuries in a car accident during the Burns' Day storm on 25 January 1990. Although he cannot remember any details of the incident, he still has a scar on his forehead from a piece of wooden advertising boarding that smashed through the car windscreen.
While recovering in hospital from emergency brain surgery to treat injuries sustained in the accident, Kaye was photographed and interviewed by Sunday Sport journalist Roger Ordish. He sued the Sunday Sport, but the Court of Appeal held that there was no remedy in English law for an invasion of privacy. See Kaye v Robertson.