'Secrets of the Krays': What was their link to Barbara Windsor?

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·TV Reporter, Yahoo Entertainment UK
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Frances Shea (1943 - 1967, far left) and her husband, English gangster Reggie Kray (1933 - 2000, far right) with actress Barbara Windsor and her husband Ronnie Knight, an associate of the Krays, at the El Morocco nightclub, owned by the Kray Twins in Soho, London, 30th April 1965. (Photo by Larry Ellis/Daily Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Barbara Windsor with her first husband Ronnie Knight and Reggir Kray (far right). (Larry Ellis/Daily Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

East End gangsters the Kray twins feature in ITV documentary Secrets of the Krays tonight - but what were their links to Barbara Windsor?

The criminals terrorised London in the 50s and 60s, and in this three-part documentary which aired on BritBox last year, their relationship to the beloved late actor is one of the parts of their lives that's explored.

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Here's how Windsor knew the Krays and what happened between them.

When is Secrets of the Krays on TV?

The three-episode documentary has already aired on subscription streaming service BritBox, but tonight (Tuesday) it comes to ITV at 9pm and continues weekly.

How did Barbara Windsor know the Krays?

Reggie Kray, right, at a film premiere with actress Barbara Windsor and her husband Ronnie Knight, an associate of the Kray Twins, circa 1969.   (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)
Barbara Windsor married Ronnie Knight (left), an associate of Reggie Kray (right) and his brother Ronnie. (Keystone/Getty Images)

As viewers of the documentary will see, the twins were keen to follow in the footsteps of others who'd grown up in the impoverished East End of London and gone on to make successes of their lives.

One of those people was Barbara Windsor, who was in the early days of her fame heading into her Carry On career and beloved by the press as well as the public.

She was filming the 1963 movie Sparrows Can’t Sing in East London, but director Peter Medak tells the documentary that they had a terrifying run-in with the Krays when cars arrived on set on their first day of filming.

He said six men in dark suits got out of the cars and demanded to know who was in charge.

Peter Mendak remembered filming under the protection of the Krays. (ITV)
Peter Mendak remembered filming under the protection of the Krays. (ITV)

Medak said: "The crew was pointing at me and said, ‘That geezer over there’. And these two guys came over and said to me, ‘Who gave you permission to shoot here? Because nobody asked us.’

"I said, ‘Obviously the police, because we have permission for filming in all the streets of the East End’. And they said, ‘Nobody asked us and you could get into big trouble.

"I said, ‘Like what?’ and they said, ‘Like getting killed’."

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He revealed that the two men were Reggie and Ronnie Kray and added that he was forced to employ two of their minders as protection, who even appeared as extras when they shot scenes at the Kentucky Club.

Medak recalls that one day, the Krays even beat up the club's bartender for charging the crew for drinks instead of giving them away for free.

Windsor, who died in 2020, wrote about meeting the Krays during filming in her autobiography.

She wrote: "The twins and their brother Charlie had stars in their eyes. And when Ron heard the premiere for Sparrows Can’t Sing was being held at the ABC, opposite the Kentucky Club, he suggested the Kentucky throw a party. In the end Princess Margaret caught a diplomatic cold and stayed away, but her husband Lord Snowdon turned up to see the film.

From ITN

SECRETS OF THE KRAYS
Tuesday 25th January 2022 on ITV 

Pictured: Nemone Lethbridge

An in-depth look at the most famous gangsters in British history; Secrets of the Krays will feature revelatory interviews with those who knew the Krays best, including former gang members, relatives and family friends, as well as celebrity photographer and friend David Bailey, the Krays’ lawyers, and police officers involved in bringing them to justice.  

Many have never spoken before – including Micky Fawcett who was a key member of “The Firm” from its early days.  

The documentary will also unveil never-before-seen artefacts, including Reggie’s personal scrapbook documenting the brothers’ crimes, Reggie’s personal photographs, audio recordings from prison, a poem from Ronnie to Reggie, and two unpublished manuscripts from former gang members – as well MI5 files on the Krays.   


(C) ITN

For further information please contact Peter Gray
Mobile: 07831460662/email: peter.gray@itv.com

This photograph is (C)ITN and can only be reproduced for editorial purposes directly in connection with the programme SECRETS OF THE KRAYS or ITV. Once made available by the ITV Picture Desk, this photograph can be reproduced once only up until the Transmission date and no reproduction fee will be charged. Any subsequent usage may incur a fee. This photograph must not be syndicated to any other publication or website, or permanently archived, without the express written permission of ITV Picture Desk. Full Terms and conditions are available on the website www.itv.com/presscentre/itvpictures/terms
Nemone Lethbridge worked as a barrister at the time. (ITV)

"But lots of celebrities including Roger Moore, Stanley Baker and Ronnie Fraser went to the Kentucky, dined on jellied eels and fish and chips and drank courtesy of the brothers Kray until the early hours of the morning."

Windsor's first husband Ronnie Knight also used the same lawyer as the Krays when he was in court accused of robbery.

However, the actor was having a secret relationship with him at the time and was furious with barrister Nemone Lethbridge for revealing their romance in court as she thought it would ruin her career.

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Lethbridge says in the documentary: "She came up to me and said, ‘You f***ing little cow! They won’t sell me with a pound of sugar in this business now you’ve let the cat out of the bag’.

"But in fact, it was quite the reverse. The Press fell in love with her. They thought she was the cheeky little Cockney sparrow, who stood by her man."

Which other celebrities were the Krays linked to?

From ITN

SECRETS OF THE KRAYS
Tuesday 25th January 2022 on ITV 

Pictured: Kray twins Reginald
The Krays ruled East London in the 60s. (ITN)

Windsor wasn't the only famous person who the twins counted as acquaintances.

Amongst the celebrities they knew were actors George Raft, Judy Garland, Diana Dors, Liza Minelli and Jayne Mansfield, and singers Frank Sinatra, Shirley Bassey, Cliff Richard, Danny La Rue as well as comedian Peter Sellers.

Ronnie Kray wrote in his autobiography: "They were the best years of our lives. They called them the Swinging Sixties. The Beatles and The Rolling Stones were rulers of pop music, Carnaby Street ruled the fashion world... and me and my brother ruled London. We were f***ing untouchable."

Secrets of the Krays begins on ITV tonight at 9pm.

Watch: Dame Barbara Windsor remembered as a 'triple threat' at her funeral

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