Month: July 2013

Update – Gone but not Forgotten

After last week’s blog, so many people suggested others to include, I’ve rounded a few of them up.  Here they are, and remember, these are just a drop in the ocean of talent that’s now Gone, but not forgotten.

LEONARD ROSSITER Image

The lively, fast-talking fidgety master of comedy, most well known for Reggie Perrin and Rising Damp, but also for spilling glasses of wine across Joan Collins’s lap in adverts, and I believe he had a long lively acting career long before those roles, and after.  His face, voice and mannerisms were tailor-made for comedy.  He was a perfectionist, always striving for the best, and he certainly achieved it.

LES DAWSON

ImageOne of my all-time favourite comedians, I’ll never forget his ‘gurning’ and bizarre monologues.  He was incidentally an extraordinarily clever man who wrote extensively on abstruse subjects.

ANGHARAD REES, LADY McALPINE CBE

Ang ReesLovely, elfin featured and one of the parts she’s most well known for ‘Demelza’ in the old TV Poldark series.  Full of charisma and charm in the many many parts she played to perfection.

KENNETH WILLIAMS

ImageFunny voices, funny faces, and manic zany acting style, he was the leading light in all the ‘Carry On’ films.  He was camp before it became fashionable, was the voice of ‘Rambling Sid Rumpole’ and so many others on the ground-breaking radio show Round the Horne. Who could forget his amazing nose, or his inquisitive expressions, or his genuine mateyness?

ERIC MORECAMBE

EricThe joker half of Morecambe and Wise, Wise always played stooge to Eric’s devilry.  Famous for his ‘spectacle waggle’ and his off the cuff asides, and the way famous celebrities were cut down to size – but always in a humorous way.

DAVID NIVEN

ImageThe rakish devil-may-care charmer who cut a dash in whatever film he was in.  His memoirs make very interesting reading, he was a war hero, and loved the service life.  Friends with all the famous stars of his day, Marlon Brando, Errol Flynn and others he personifies an era of handsome English film stars who were real-life heroes.

JAMES MASON

ImageThe original ‘smooth operator’, handsome James Mason always played the supremely clever kind of man, perhaps a mysterious character, often a villain.  With his perfect manners and cut-glass accent he never failed to impress.

RONNIE BARKER

ImageBest remembered as one of the ‘Two Ronnies’, he also played a host of comedy parts, most notably as the mean shopkeeper in Open all Hours, and the old lag Fletch in Porridge.  He was also an accomplished scriptwriter, and his skill at anything to do with comedy is legendary.

JAMES GANDOLFINI

ImageCannot say much about this great actor, as I never followed his career.  But I’m sure others know what a fine actor he was, and how tragic that he died at only 50.  What a loss.

PETER COOK

ImageHe was definitely a ‘one off’, and his 60s shows with Dudley More were wildly popular.

HATTIE JACQUES

ImageWonderful masterful Hattie Jacques took parts of the large female who was always trying to hook a man, and she always struck the perfect note of liveliness, comedy timing and confidence.  Married to the great John le Mesurier, she was in fact an extremely attractive woman, with a wealth of admirers.  Lively, warm hearted and with a lovely kind face and beautiful smile, she’s the kind of comedy actress with personality that the world will never forget.

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Gone but not forgotten

The older I get the more people who I’m familiar with from TV and films seem to be dying. The only good thing is that film and TV actors, comedians and famous musicians are actually never going to be forgotten because their films have made them immortal.  I’ve mentioned below just a few of my favourite people, whom I only ever knew from TV, but yet, somehow, felt a kind of bond with because of the pleasure they gave me and so many others.  This is just a tiny fraction of the hundreds and thousands of talented folk who deserve an accolade, so why not tell me some of your favourites?

MEL SMITH

ImagePoor old Mel Smith died just yesterday at only 60.  I only remember him as the hugely funny part of the comedy duo in Alas Smith and Jones, where he played a normally confrontational gruff foil to Griff Rhys Jones’s more sensitive soul.  But I heard since his death he was also in Not the Nine of Clock News, and scores of other comedies, and that he was widely respected and loved by those who knew him.

JOHN LE MESURIER

ImageWith his perpetually concerned slightly mystified expression, to my mind John Le Mesurier was one of the most interesting lovable actors of his generation.  Suave, charming, funny, he was the archetypal English gentleman, who shared his charm with everyone.  He played comedy mostly, but he was a master of understatement and control in absolutely everything.  Famous in later life for playing Sergeant Wilson in Dad’s Army, he also played family solicitors, doctors, high court judges, all kinds of parts, the unifying factor in all of them being innate breeding, kindness and faultless good manners.  He displayed more charm in the arching of an eyebrow than in most people’s panoply of full-on smiles.

ERIC SYKES

ImageDear old Eric Sykes had a chequered career before he went into show business. He was born and brought up in a tough northern town and worked in a a timber yard until he joined the army, where he got his first breaks in show business.  In fact Eric Sykes was initially a script writer, and went on to write very clever and inspired comedy scripts throughout his life: his madcap brand of comedy acting came later, and perhaps his skills at creating comedy from the page were what augmented his masterful performances.

TONY HANCOCK

ImageLike so many comedians, Tony Hancock suffered badly from depression.  His suicide was thought to have arisen because the new type of comedy he was experimenting with wasn’t working, and people wanted him to go back to his tried and tested act, which he’d lost interest in.  By all accounts a man who was a good friend to all, and coincidentally, John Le Mesurier happened to be one of his closest friends.

JILL DANDO

ImageHer death was a terrible, unsolved mystery.  She was shot at point-black range on the doorstep to her house, and the murderer has never been found.  Rumours of political motives, revenge for remarks she may have made on Crimewatch all appeared to come to nothing.  A beautiful, talented, highly intelligent, kind, charming and interesting woman whose career had just begun to branch out in all kinds of different directions died for no apparent reason.  It is desperately sad.

ALAN COREN

ImageA lively, brilliant, incredibly witty journalist and author, whose column in the The Times always kept me amused.  His talented offspring are in the public eye in the media, and I’m sure he’d be intensely proud of them.  I’ll never forget the column he once wrote, where he was incensed at his neighbours builders, who turned up to work each day and did nothing but sunbathe on the roof.  As he was about to phone his neighbour, one of the builders saw him looking down and waved.  He hung up the phone, unable to betray his new friend.  An interesting, warm hearted, intensely charming man who could always inspire a smile.  A man who didn’t just seem like a nice chap, but who really was a nice chap.

KENNETH MORE

Ken MoreIn my opinion, one of the most admirable English actors there’s ever been.  He always brought his special brand of charm to whatever part he played, whether it was captain of the doomed Titanic, or drunken carouser Dr Gaston Grimsdyke in the old Doctor in the House comedies of the 60s.  Kenneth More always managed to transmit his tremendous happiness and zest for life, he was somehow cheerful deep inside.

TERENCE ALEXANDER

ImageMost people will remember him as Charlie Hungerford, the loud-mouthed northern go-getter in the TV series Bergerac.  But because my mother knew him when he was starting out, our family always followed his career, which was long and successful before his final major role: when he was younger he was remarkably handsome, tailor-made for dashing heros, and he had a brilliant touch with all kinds of comedy, both on stage and TV.

ELIZABETH  TAYLOR

ImageWho could ever forget the astonishingly beautiful Elizabeth Taylor, who was actually born in England, but spent most of her life in America.  She was a fiery forceful actress with an amazing presence.  I heard that she was also personally very kind.  Her work with AIDS victims is well documented.  But I also heard that when she was at the height of her fame, holidaying in Wales, her car had a crash with another vehicle (not her fault) and she insisted on going with the other driver, who was slightly hurt to hospital, and staying with her, making sure she was okay.  Not something she had any reason to do, other than because she was a nice person.

Famous personalities, who, thankfully are never going to be forgotten.  Who would you like to give a mention to?

Are you addicted?

220px-Michael_ElphickI’ve just learned a bit about Michael Elphick, an actor I’ve always liked and admired. He famously played a part called Shultz, and had a variety of different acting roles on TV, stage and films over the years, his biggest part being a TV series called ‘Boon’, where he played a charismatic ex fireman turned private detective, alongside Neil Morrissey, another fine actor.

What I also learned, to my sorrow, was that he died in 2002. And what I didn’t know about him was that he was an alcoholic, and his alcoholism undoubtedly led to his death at only 55.

I mentioned it to a friend who is an ex-actor, and it turned out that he’d met him professionally having acted in a Boon episode with Michael Elphick and assured me that yes, he was every bit as nice and charming as he seemed onscreen, but he mentioned in passing how sad it was that alcoholics so often give up the booze, then ‘fall off the wagon’ repeatedly until the wagon well and truly crushes the life out of them.

Terry Tyler’s interesting recent blog (http://bit.ly/18lruDN ) gave some riveting insights into alcoholism, and it made for some shocking reading – do take a look. Several of her friends succumbed to drink and a few have actually died, in their prime of life.

My grandfather and great grandfather were both alcoholics, and both of them abandoned their wives and families because of it – not as dreadful as it sounds since I’m sure they sent money back home, and in the case of my great grandfather, he actually went to America to start a new life, no doubt intending to send for his family when he’d found his feet. But it’s fair to say that alcohol wrecked both their lives, and to some extent the lives of their families. Although my great grandfather lived to be over 80, my grandfather died at around 50 of lung cancer, no doubt exacerbated by alcoholism.

Of course, alcohol isn’t the only thing you can be addicted to. I once worked at an old people’s centre run by a Christian organisation, where the principle, himself an ex alcoholic, preached about Christianity with incredible zeal. A girl who attended there once said to me ‘Well we’re all looking for something in life, aren’t we?’ That was when I realised there was such a thing as an ‘addictive personality’, and people afflicted with this might just as easily fall into drug or alcohol addiction as fervent, pathological obsession about religion, computer gaming, rabid political actions or indeed almost anything. The difference between a healthy hobby and an addiction is that the latter takes over your life.

Gambling addiction always seems a mystery to me, but it’s obviously no less potently awful than other types of addiction. What about food? There are some people who go to the lengths of having their stomach stapled, because they cannot resist overeating. And the cycle appears to be that they eat because they have low self esteem, to cheer themselves up, they gain weight, so have even less self esteem. Food addiction is doubly hard to conquer, because, as someone once said to me, ‘you can’t go cold turkey, as you can with drink, because you have to eat to live.’

Possibly the latest and most pernicious addiction, or perhaps a better way of putting it is ‘habit’ is fuelled by the proliferation of these terrible ‘log book loan’ and ‘payday loan’ companies. I’m sure some of them are perfectly acceptable and offer reasonable terms but there are plenty that charge interest at fantastic, horrible, unimaginably high rates, and once you’re in the clutches of these evil leeches it can be enough to drive anyone to suicide. And again the vicious circle: the more money and assets you have, the better terms you can get if you need a loan. But If you’re at rock bottom you’re screwed right down so that you have even less.

Addicted to love? Not such a rarity. Does anyone remember the play ‘The Deep Blue sea’ by Terence Rattigan? The crux of the story is the obsessive love of the woman protagonist for the entirely unsuitable man she was living with. She knew that he was incapable of returning her passion, but her addiction was so complete that the play starts with her trying to gas herself because he forgot her birthday. Not, of course, purely because he forgot her birthday, but because of the reason why he forgot: she knew that he simply didn’t care about her as much as she cared about him.

Addictions aren’t always such a bad thing. Brilliant scientists no doubt are addicted to solving the problems associated with their work, and contribute to the sum of human knowledge as a result. Single minded hard working types accrue money and prestige for themselves and their families. Dedicated sportsmen hit the heights because of their dogged determined obsession to push themselves to the limit to the exclusion of everything else.

So are you addicted to anything, or to put it another way, do you have an all consuming passion about something, even if it’s not causing you trouble in life? Shoes? A football team?  Driving fast? Loud rock music or even opera? Are you addicted to anything? I’d really like to know.