Friday, 26 February 2010
This isn't a terribly cheerful blog title I grant you, but you can't have life without a little (lot of) death sprinkled in to keep it interesting.
We have recently lost Kathryn Grayson, Jean Simmons, Jennifer Jones, Gene Barry and the young actress Brittany Murphy, all high profile and all commented on at length elsewhere.
For me though two other losses stand out and have had less comment.
Ian Carmichael pegged it on the 5th of February and Lionel Jeffries popped his clogs on the 19th of the same month.
Ian Carmichael will be known to most of you (if he's known at all) as the blundering upper class innocent in such minor English film classics as Privates Progress, Lucky Jim, Brothers in Law, I'm Alright Jack and School for Scoundrels. He is often overlooked because the kind of films that we in England make best tend not to hang on a lead performance but rather on a cast of supporting character actors loved by the audinces as much as any 'star' performer. In the films just listed his supporting actors numbered among them Richard Attenbprough, Dennis Price, Terry-Thomas, Miles Malleson, William Hartnell, Thorley Walters, Kenneth Griffith, John Le Mesurier, Hugh Griffith, Peter Sellers, Margaret Rutherford, Irene Handl, Raymond Huntley, Alister Sim and countless others. Each and every one of them capable of stealing a film from under the nose of the biggest star. Carmichael though was a likeable actor who was a very able light comedian and who also made the role of Bertie Wooster his own long before Hugh Laurie came along.
Lionel Jeffries could number himself comfortably among those supporting actors previously mentioned and stole more than one film from it's supposed star. He often played the pompous and frequently frustrated authority figure, lining up as policeman "Nosey" Parker against Peter Sellers in The Wrong Arm of the Law. Also taking on Sellers as Prison Officer "Sour" Crout in Two Way Stretch (note that English films of the time weren't afraid to go for the cheap nickname gag and I for one believe that the gags came first and the names fitted around them)). In Murder Ahoy he was the ships captain constantly irritated by Margaret Rutherford's Miss Marple. Other credits included Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Camelot, the Trials of Oscar Wilde and an early appearance with Ian Carmichael in the Colditz Story. However he might be most fondly remembered as the writer director of a series of childrens films starting with the much loved Railway Children in 1970 and including The Amazing Mr Blunden in 1972 and The Water Babies in 1978.
Both of these actors deserve a place in the British film Hall of Fame (which I may have just invented) and I'm putting their cases forward to the curator.