Thursday, September 04, 2008

Ipse dixit

TLS Letters to the Editor Sept 3, 2008
Alastair Sim

Sir, – It would be a shame if the last words on Alastair Sim to appear in your pages should be corroded by the scope of the biography under review (Mark Simpson’s Alastair Sim, reviewed by Anthony Head, Biography in Brief, August 22 & 29). The clowning, albeit of a rare order, which he displayed in the St Trinian’s films, did not convey his range or qualities. His last small, but important, part was in the film we made of Geoffrey Household’s Rogue Male, in which he played Peter O’Toole’s uncle, a character whom I confected to be one of Chamberlain’s less loyal Cabinet ministers. Sim was evidently dying at the time (his wife was always there to minister to him) but he made nothing of his distress: he was punctual, correct and unfailingly droll. O’Toole and John Standing treated him with unaffected deference. I had written one rather louche line in his dialogue which he asked, politely, to be allowed to excise: “It’s a little . . . young for me”. There was about him, for all his playful shamelessness, an unassuming pudeur. His timing was beyond prediction, or criticism; he made his lines both funnier and more true than I had imagined them.

Lagardelle, 24170 St Laurent-la-Vallée, France.

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