A tall, stooping character actor with a doleful expression, droll wit and air of bewilderment, Alastair Sim was born in Edinburgh, Scotland on October 9, 1900, the youngest of four children. His father was Alexander Sim and his mother was Isabella McIntyre. His father owned his own tailor's shop and the family lived in rooms above. Alastair went to school in Bruntisfield and to Gillespie's School, where his father was a JP and a governor of the school. He left school at 14 and worked as a messenger in his father's tailoring shop and later worked at Gieves, men's outfitters, where he sold ties. In 1918 he studied to be an analytical chemist at Edinburgh University. He then joined the Officer's Training Corp. but the Armistice came just before he was sent out to the front. When he was released from the OTC, he lived rough for a year in the Highlands, finding employment with a group of migrants who did farm work. Eventually he returned to Edinburgh and worked in the Borough Assessor's Office.
In his early '20s, Alastair became a student at the Edinburgh Provincial Training Centre at Moray House, through which he obtained a post as the Fulton Lecturer in Elocution at New College, Edinburgh University from 1925 through 1930, teaching budding parsons how to speak. After his fame as an actor, he was elected a Rector of Edinburgh University from 1948 through 1951, beating out Harold Wilson by 2078 votes to 802 and was awarded an honorary LLD at the conclusion of his term.
He met his wife, Naomi Plaskitt when they were appearing in an amateur production of THE LAND OF HEARTS DESIRE by William Butler Yeats. He was 27 and she was 12. When she turned 14, Naomi enrolled at Alastair's own School of Drama and Speech Training where she also worked as his secretary. They married when Naomi turned 18 in August 1932. She wrote an autobiography in 1987 entitled Dance and Skylark: Fifty Years With Alistair Sim and details of Alastair's life and career are mainly from this, as well as WHO'S WHO IN THE THEATRE and Internet sources, such as the Internet Movie Data Base plus the personal knowledge and research of my friend in Australia, Ray Stanley. (The title of Naomi's book refers to an old naval order given in sailing ships when the vessel was becalmed).
After acting in amateur productions until he was 29, Alastair hoped to become a professional director but was advised by John Drinkwater, poet, playwright and producer and general manager of the Birmingham Repertory Theatre, that his best chance was to try to become an actor first, and work up to directing in time. Through this contact, he got his first role in OTHELLO and moved to London.
During WWII, Alastair and Naomi relocated to the country, first to Egypt Cottage and later to a place they had built and named "Forrigan" located at Newnham Hill, Henley-on-Thames, Oxon. They took in children who were sent away from London because of fear of the bombs dropping during the blitz. Among these was George Cole, who became practically a foster son. Alastair and George appeared in 11 films together and at least 9 West End plays, plus another which Alastair directed. Alastair and Naomi had one child of their own in August 1940, a daughter named Merlith . Also during the War, Alastair toured with ENSA (Entertainments National Service Association, which did one play at a time and played for only one night at each service camp).
Best remembered nowadays for his definitive portrayal of Ebenezer Scrooge, and by me in particular for his portrayal of the ladylike Miss Fritton, headmistress of that blight on the English school system, St. Trinian's, Alastair had an extensive stage career. He directed and appeared in a number of plays by Dr. Osborne Henry Mavor of Glasgow, whose pen name was James Bridie (who died in 1951 after a short illness). Michael Gilbert, the thriller writer, wrote three plays for Alastair, A CLEAN KILL, THE BARGAIN and WINDFALL.
Alastair was awarded the CBE in 1953 and later offered a knighthood but turned it down. He enjoyed tennis, swimming, bridge and games of chance. He died on August 19, 1976 of throat cancer at University College Hospital, London. He left his body for anatomical research.
His stage career included:
Films Alastair Sim appeared in include:
|1935||The Riverside Murder||Sergeant McKay||The first of Alastair's comic Scottish police sidekicks. This is a story of a tontine, 5 men who made a pact to share their profits. As the deadline approaches, they are killed off one by one. Basil Sydney plays the policeman in charge of the case, whose investigation is complicated by a pushy girl reporter.|
|1935||The Private Secretary||Mr. Nebulae||Alastair had a cameo as a phony medium duping a gullible old lady who is trying to communicate with the spirit of the father of Edward Everett Horton, a mild mannered and naive reverend who is the new secretary of a country squire. Based on a British stage comedy by Charles Hawtrey adapted from a German play. This was first performed in 1884 by Herbert Beerbohm Tree.|
|1935||Late Extra||MacPherson||The first of Alastair's comic newspaper men. He plays a 20-year veteran on a London newspaper, whose prize possession is an umbrella he was given at the 15 year mark; he also takes up collections for reporters who are fired or retire. The plot involves cub reporter James Mason striking lucky on his first assignment which leads to the capture of an escaped cop killer.|
|1935||A Fire Has Been Arranged||Cutte||Alastair's first film with THE CRAZY GANG. He plays the shifty manager of a department store that is about to go bankrupt because he's been cooking the books. The Crazy Gang have just got out of jail after serving 10 years for a jewel robbery and discover the department store has been built over the field where they buried the loot. Alastair learns of the gang's criminal past and hires them for a spot of arson.|
|1935||The Case of Gabriel Perry||Courtroom drama.|
|1936||Wedding Group||Angus Graham||Alastair played a stern minister in this story set in a Scottish manse at the time of the Crimean War. Alastair's wife, Naomi, played Jessie the Maid, the only film in which they appeared together. Fay Compton played Florence Nightingale.|
|1936||Troubled Waters||Mac MacTavish|
|1936||Man in the Mirror||Interpreter||Edward Everett Horton plays a timid stockbroker whose image emerges from a mirror and does a better job of living his life both at home and at work. He wines and dines an Eastern potentate whose country has large deposits of nitrate, but the Bogus of Bokhara turns out to be a phony pulling a hoax. Alastair plays Mannering, the turbaned interpreter, spewing a lot of gobbledygook.|
|1936||Keep Your Seats, Please||Drayton||Another version of the Russian tale on which THE TWELVE CHAIRS and IT'S IN THE BAG were based. Alastair plays a lawyer who schemes to get his hands on the chair in which his late client hid jewels and bonds before the true heir, the penniless George Formby, can get the chairs.|
|1936||The Big Noise||Finny||Alastair's first starring role; also a role in which he sang!|
|1937||Gangway||Taggett||Jessie Matthews is a film reviewer who longs to report hard news. Her editor gets her a job as a maid to a movie star in the hopes of stealing the star's diary. Scotland Yard is looking for a jewel thief called Sparkle who often masquerades as a maid, and they suspect Jessie, and so does the insurance investigator played by Alastair, who is undercover as a steward on the ocean liner where Jessie winds up through plot complications.|
|1937||The Squeaker||Joshua Collie||This was an Edgar Wallace thriller which Alastair had performed on stage and then got to do in the film. He played another comic Scotsman, a newspaper reporter. The title refers to a sort of underworld crime-lord who is both a fence and an informer; when thieves bring him their ill gotten loot, he quotes them low prices and if they don't accept, he turns them in to Scotland Yard. Jewel thief Robert Newton recognizes him and so gets shot. Edmund Lowe is a former Scotland Yard inspector who goes undercover to break the case. Wonderfully atmospheric black and white photography, fabulous glimpses of 1937 London and great sinister music.|
|1937||A Romance in Flanders||Colonel Wexton|
|1937||Melody and Romance||Professor Williams||Alastair played the dotty anthropologist father of Margaret Lockwood, who is trying to break into show business.|
|1937||Clothes and the Woman||Francois|
|1938||This Man is News||MacGregor||This is a fast paced crime comedy set in the newsroom of a London newspaper. Alastair played the excitable Scots editor who fires crack reporter Barry K. Barnes for refusing an assignment because he's obsessed with a mob stool pigeon. The reporter gets drunk and phones in a phony story of the criminal's murder, which the editor prints, but it comes true, and the reporter is arrested on suspicion of murder after the murder weapon is found in his apartment. It soon becomes clear the reporter's life is in danger, and eventually Alastair's character is wounded in an attempt on the reporter's life. There is even a sort of James Bond prototype supercriminal with a hair lip, whose face is withheld from the camera, so that all you can see is the pet mice he caresses as they crawl in his arms. Alastair had a funny bit where he sings COMING THROUGH THE RYE as he shaves in the bath.|
|1938||Sailing Along||Sylvester||Roland Young, head of Gulliver Soup, discovers Jessie Matthews singing and dancing on a barge. Jessie has always wanted to be on the stage, and Young arranges to launch her career. Alastair played a friend of Young's, an eccentric painter who specializes in abstracts, but after being exposed to the down to earth common sense of Jessie, he produces a representative painting of a cow and meadow.|
|1938||The Terror||"Soapy" Marx||Alastair plays a minion of a supercriminal who masterminded a gold theft and then ratted on his two henchmen. After these fall guys get out of jail 10 years later, they show up at a priory that is being used as a hotel and features a number of eccentrics. When Alastair's criminal cohort winds up dead, Alastair masquerades as a clergyman in the hopes of getting his share of the loot. The supercriminal turns out to be insane, and good fun is had with secret panels and underground passages. Kathleen Harrison and Irene Handl have small roles as servants. Based on an Edgar Wallace play.|
|1938||Alf's Button Afloat||The Genie||Centuries after the magic lamp of Aladdin is buried, it is dug up by a plowing Chinaman and sold to a gullible G.I. who donates it to a WWII metal scrap drive where it is melted down and made into buttons for marine uniforms. Some indigent street performers (the Crazy Gang) get shanghaied into joining the marines and one, Alf Higgins, winds up with the button on his uniform. Alastair played the genie in an impossibly high hat. At first he has trouble discerning what the Cockney lads want, but when Alf sends him to the movies to find out about 1937, he comes back as a tough talking gangster type.|
|1939||Climbing High||Max||Alastair played a comic communist forced to take a job as a male model in order to pay the rent. His first posing job is a "before" in a leopard loincloth against a muscle builder's "after". He gets Jessie Matthews a modeling job as well, and she falls for Michael Redgrave who is engaged to a society dame he doesn't want to marry, especially after he falls for Jessie.|
|1939||Inspector Hornleigh||Sergeant Bingham||Alastair plays a bumbling comic police sergeant to Gordon Harker's Inspector. They investigate a murder which leads to the discovery of a plot to profit by advance knowledge of the U.K. budget, details of which have been stolen by the clever switching of the budget bag of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Alastair's sergeant always leaps to the wrong conclusion while Hornleigh, like Sherlock Holmes, manages to figure out what has happened on virtually no evidence. Alastair has a nice scene in an atmospheric alley where he is stalked by the murderer. Successful enough to spawn two sequels.|
|1939||This Man in Paris||MacGregor||Sequel to THIS MAN IS NEWS where Alastair recreated his role of news editor.|
|1939||The Mysterious Mr. Davis||Theodore F. Wilcox||Alastair provided the comedy relief in this story of a business partner who creates a new identity to postpone the demands of creditors.|
|1939||Inspector Hornleigh on Holiday||Sergeant Bingham||Alastair recreated his police sergeant role in the second of the three INSPECTOR HORNLEIGH films. He and the Inspector go on vacation together to Brighton, where it rains the entire time. While there, they stumble upon a murder which, upon investigation, leads to a gang who fake deaths in order to defraud insurance companies. Alastair has several wonderful scenes, including one where he's in the lair of the gang and, answering the phone, pretends to be one of them, not realizing Inspector Hornleigh is on the other end of the line, disguising his voice. Gordon Harker gets to impersonate a Harley Street physician and an old sailor. Quite a clever plot and atmospheric music during some suspenseful sequences.|
|1940||Law and Disorder||Samuel Blight||Alastair played a senior lawyer in a patriotic tale of saboteurs being brought to justice.|
|1941||Inspector Hornleigh Goes to It||Sergeant Bingham||Alastair recreated his police sergeant role in the last of the three INSPECTOR HORNLEIGH films. He and Hornleigh go undercover in the army to find out who is scrounging goods to resell, but accidentally get onto a network selling information to the Germans. Alastair has to impersonate a dentist (and remove two teeth) and gets to fall for two unsuitable women. The ending takes place on a mail train where Hornleigh narrowly escapes sudden death when he has to climb outside of the train to break into the compartment next door.|
|1941||Cottage to Let||Charles Dimble||Alastair and George Cole recreated their roles from the stage version of this spy thriller set in Scotland. A scientist (Leslie Banks) working on a bomb sight for the war effort and his dotty wife are also housing a bunch of suspicious characters who may be German spies or Scotland Yard undercover men. It would be giving away a plot twist to say more than that Alastair plays a tenant at the cottage.|
|1942||Let the People Sing||The Professor||Alastair's first J.B. Priestly film is a socially conscious comedy about a Yorkshire music hall which some townspeople want to be made into a museum and others want as a showroom for a plastics factory. Alastair plays an illegal Czech immigrant whose outsider's view of the freedoms enjoyed by the English contributes to the arbitrator's decision.|
|1944||Waterloo Road||Dr. Montgomery||John Mills played an AWOL soldier who spends the day looking for his discontented wife, who is being wooed by ne'er do well Stewart Granger. Alastair played the avuncular neighborhood doctor who narrates the tale, patches up Mills when he gets hurt in a scuffle and tips him off where to find Granger. Click here for BFI webpage.|
|1946||Green for Danger||Inspector Cockrill||Alastair played a Scotland Yard detective who investigates a double murder at a war time hospital. Although this is a mystery, there is a thread of comedy running through it, and Alastair gets a couple of nice scenes, such as the one where he peeks at the last page of a mystery novel, confident he knows the murderer, but turns out to be wrong. The structure of the piece is a report Alastair's detective is dictating, so at times he narrates in scenes before his character appears. Click here for BFI webpage.|
|1947||Hue and Cry||Felix Wilkinson||You wouldn't know it from the comedic music under the opening credits (clever use of graffiti for these titles) but this is a rousing adventure film. A bright lad who is looking for his first job stumbles upon the use of a weekly illustrated thriller to give coded instructions to a gang. With the help of his friends, he manages to figure out how the instructions get into the paper and plant new instructions which lead to the round up of the entire gang. Although Alastair is top billed, he has only 3 scenes, two of them very short. He plays the author of the serial who has no idea it is being used by a gang and, when he finds out, he is so terrified, he has to be blackmailed by one of the boys into planting the instructions which lead to the capture of the gang. This film is practically a time capsule of post-WWII London, with its scenes at Covent Garden back when it was still a flower and vegetable market, and the many shots of the rubble strewn streets. The climactic battle with the master criminal takes place in a bombed out building and is full of sinister shadows. The real lead of the film is Harry Fowler who plays the plucky boy who figures out what is going on and stands up to the master criminal. Click here for BFI webpage.|
|1947||Captain Boycott||Father McKeogh||This is based on a true story set in early 19th century Ireland about a demanding landlord (Cecil Parker) who evicts tenant farmers from their homes. The town bands together and shuns him, refusing to work for him, and when the army is called in to protect the volunteers who arrive to harvest his crops, they soon turn against him as well. Alastair played the town priest who preaches moderation.|
|1948||London Belongs to Me||Mr. Squales||This is a film about the residents of an apartment house in Dulcimer Street. When Richard Attenborough is tempted into a life of crime, he accidentally murders a casual girlfriend, and when the police arrest him, the residents rally around. Alastair played a phony medium who accidentally overhears enough to deduce that Attenborough will be arrested, and uses this information to pretend to predict that it will happen. Click here for the BFI webpage.|
|1950||The Happiest Days of Your Life||Wetherby Pond||Margaret Rutherford is the headmistress of a girls' school, St. Swithin, billeted in error during the war at a boys' school, Nutbourne College, whose headmaster is Alastair. At first the staffs of the two schools are at loggerheads, but when the parents of some of the girls arrive to tour the school on the same day as the governors of a college Sim hopes to be appointed to, the two schools cooperate by creating two separate tours which require split second timing, the parents seeing only the girls and the governors seeing only the boys. Also in the cast is Joyce Grenfell and in a tiny cameo, George Cole as an underling on the maintenance staff at the Ministry of Education. Many otherwise knowledgeable people mistake this for one of the St. Trinian's films. It is not. It was based on a play by John Dighton which also starred Margaret Rutherford. I believe the mix-up is due to the fact that Ronald Searle drawings appear under the opening credits, this and the St. Trin's films were presented by Gilliat and Launder; and, of course, this film and the first St. Trinian's film starred Alastair and Joyce Grenfell. Joyce was in the first 3 St. Trinian's films and, after the first one, Alastair had only a small cameo in the second. Click here for BFI webpage.|
|1950||Stage Fright||Commodore Gill||Alastair played the father of Jane Wyman, an acting student in love with Richard Todd. When Todd comes to her with a bloody dress, claiming his girlfriend, Marlene Dietrich, murdered her husband, Wyman brings Todd to her father to hide out. Wyman disguises herself as a maid and gets a job with Dietrich to investigate, and her amazingly supportive father helps her. They all attend a theatrical garden party where Alastair's character gets the idea to confront Dietrich with a doll whose dress has blood on it. The scene where he first tries to buy and then to win this doll at a shooting gallery run by Joyce Grenfell is a comic highlight. The ending takes place in a theatre where the police arrange for Todd and Dietrich to confront each other, and the true murderer is revealed.|
|1951||Lady Godiva Rides Again||Hawtrey Murington of Optimum Films||Alastair had an unbilled cameo as a down on his luck movie director whom aspiring starlet Pauline Stroud comes to looking for a job. George Cole played Stroud's boyfriend who doesn't like her going into show business. A cynical look into beauty pageants and the unglamorous life of struggling show biz personalities.|
|1951||Laughter in Paradise||Deniston Russell||A practical joker (Hugh Griffin) dies and leaves a great deal of money to several relatives, provided they each fulfill one difficult condition, all different. Alastair played a stuffy and conventional writer who must get himself arrested and sent to prison for 28 days. First he tries shoplifting but he's so spectacularly unsuccessful he winds up with his pocket picked. The shoplifting scenes were shot on the ground floor of Swan & Edgar on a Sunday. Alastair pinches one thing after another but no one pays any attention to him. Then he tries stealing a car, but picks one with a vicious dog inside. Finally he tosses a brick through a shop window and when he comes up for trial, the judge is his potential father-in-law. Joyce Grenfell played his snooty finance. They are due to be married in two weeks and in order to get her to postpone the wedding and account for his disappearance, he leads her to believe he is a spy. Joyce is in the military herself and falls for this hook, line and sinker, only to return his ring when he insults her father in court in order to lengthen his prison sentence to the amount required by the terms of the Will. George Cole played a timid bank clerk whose task in the Will is to hold up the bank. Click here for the BFI webpage.|
|1951||Scrooge a/k/a A Christmas Carol||Ebenezer Scrooge||Judging from the number of "hits" using ILOR as a search engine, this is everyone's favorite Christmas movie and certainly the most faithful and beloved version of the timeless Dickens tale of a miserly man visited on Christmas Eve by the spirit of his late partner, as well as the ghosts of Christmas Past, Christmas Present and Christmas to Come. A heart tugger whose moral is it's never too late for redemption.. Also in the cast is George Cole, playing Scrooge in the Christmas Past flashback.|
|1952||Innocents in Paris||Sir Norman Barker||Alastair played an official attending a U.N. economic conference who wins a diplomatic victory over the Russian delegate during cocktails at a Parisian nightclub. He is the government official responsible for limiting the amount of money tourists can take from the U.K. to France to £5, but he runs up a bill at a Russian cafe far in excess of that, for which he has to pay with his gold watch, cufflinks and cigarette lighter.|
|1953||Folly to be Wise||Captain Paris||Film version of the James Bridie quiz show comedy IT DEPENDS WHAT YOU MEAN. Alastair played the well-intentioned clergyman who was entertainment officer of an army camp. When a production of CHARLIE'S AUNT falls through, his secretary gets the idea of a brain's trust, where local experts answer questions written in by the soldiers. When the padre's secretary asks "does marriage work", it causes a breakdown between two of the married panelists and the university chum of the husband who is sweet on the wife. The whole thing ends in a caravan hurtling toward a sheer drop off a cliff, with the unlucky threesome and the padre on board. George Cole had a brief cameo as a young soldier who, after the debacle on stage, stands up to praise the event and request that it be a regular thing.|
|1954||The Belles of St. Trinian's||Clarence/Miss Fritton||Alastair's only female impersonation, the gentle and sweet-natured Miss Fritton. See: http://www.bestweb.net/~foosie/trinian.htm Also in the cast is George Cole as Flash Harry. Click here for BFI webpage.|
|1954||An Inspector Calls||Inspector Goole||Alastair plays a mysterious inspector who interviews a prosperous Yorkshire family in 1912 and gets each member to admit that their class snobbery is partly responsible for the death of a young girl. Designed to prick people's social conscience. George Cole had a cameo has a tram conductor.|
|1955||Geordie||The Laird||Alastair plays a kestrel-loving laird whose gamekeeper was a small lad who sent away for body building lessons and grew into brawny Bill Travers. He wins a local hammer throwing contest and is asked to be on the British Olympic team for the Australian games.|
|1955||Escapade||Dr. Skillingsworth||Alastair played the headmaster of a boys' boarding school who tries to find out what secret mission some boys undertake which turns out to involve stealing a plane to present a peace proposal to the Four Powers.|
|1956||The Green Man||Hawkins||A mild mannered hired assassin (Alastair) specializes in explosions. He plans to do one more job before he retires, but his plans are thwarted by a vacuum cleaner salesman (George Cole, very amusing with his sale pitch of the Little Wizard Electro Broom which "disinfects as it beats as it sweeps as it cleans"). Cole discovers what he thinks is a dead body in a piano but the body turns up alive after overhearing that her politician boss (Raymond Huntley) is to be killed at the Green Man pub. Cole and the woman (Jill Adams) to whom he was demonstrating the vacuum set off to the pub, not knowing what the assassination target looks like and mistake Terry-Thomas, a philandering husband, for the politician who is also there for a dirty weekend. Based on a stage play by Frank Launder and Sidney Gilliat entitled MEET A BODY. Click here for BFI webpage.|
|1957||Blue Murder at St. Trinian's||Miss Fritton||Just a cameo for Alastair. See http://www.bestweb.net/~foosie/trinian Also in the cast is George Cole recreating his role as Flash Harry.|
|1959||The Doctor's Dilemma||Cutler Walpole||Alastair played one of four knighted Harley Street specialists who are consulted by Leslie Caron who wants them to save the life of her talented artist husband, Dirk Bogarde who is charming but morally corrupt. All of the doctors are themselves charming scoundrels, and look on their patients not as suffering people but as sources of interesting research and potential money. Alastair believes that blood poisoning is the root of all illness; his speciality is excising a sac which may, in fact, be nonexistent in some patients! Talky, like a lot of Shaw.|
|1960||School for Scoundrels||Mr. S. Potter||Alastair played Stephen Potter (in reality the author of the faux instruction book on which this film was based), the head of the School of Lifemanship, which turns losers into winners. Ian Carmichael takes the course, and under Alastair's tutelage, he manages to put his bossy chief clerk in his place, get the best of two shady car dealers (Dennis Price and Peter Jones) and best his rival (Terry-Thomas) not only in tennis but also for the hand of the girl (Janette Scott) they're both after. Click here for the BFI webpage.|
|1960||The Millionairess||Sagamore||Sophia Loren plays the world's richest woman; she is spoiled and headstrong and has her heart set on marrying a poor, baffled Indian doctor (Peter Sellers) but he is unimpressed by her money. Alastair plays the lawyer who suggested a clause in the will of Sophia's father about a test for a potential husband; when Sophia threatens to retreat from the world and give up men, Alastair figures out a way to get her and her Indian doctor together.|
|1961||Left, Right and Center||Lord Wilcot||Ian Carmichael plays his usual befuddled role as a quiz show celebrity participating in a parliamentary by-election who falls in love with his opposing candidate. Richard Wattis and Eric Barker are the campaign managers for the opponents who team up to thwart the romance. Alastair plays Carmichael's uncle who has turned his stately ancestral home into a theme park a la Longleat.|
|1961||The Anatomist||Dr. Knox||Alastair, George Cole and Michael Ripper recreated their stage roles in this TV version of the 1948 James Bridie play about the infamous Burke and Hare. Adrienne Corri plays a tart who meets George Cole in a pub; later that morning, her body is brought to the mortuary by Burke (Diarmuid Kelly) and Hare (Michael Ripper) and Cole realizes she has been murdered, but Dr. Knox (Alastair) talks him out of going to the police. Six months go by; Burke is hung on Hare's evidence and the mob comes after Knox, but the play shows that although Knox realizes that 16 deaths are on his conscience, his anatomy students and society still admire him and apparently his life goes on as always. A study in the irresponsibility of the upper classes still pertinent today.|
|1972||The Ruling Class||Bishop Lampton||Alastair plays the baffled brother of the 13th Earl of Gurney (Harry Andrews); when the Earl dies in rather embarrassing circumstances, his son (Peter O'Toole) is sprung from the loony bin where he's been confined for years because of his belief that he is Jesus Christ. The family (William Mervyn and Coral Brown) marry him off to a music hall entertainer (Carolyn Seymour) who the 14th Earl thinks is the fictitious Lady of the Camellias. At the time of the imminent birth of their child, the family resorts to shock treatment to jolt O'Toole to sanity, and it seems to work, in that he no longer believes himself to be God, but now thinks he is Jack the Ripper, with murderous results. However, such is the eccentricity expected of nobility that the Earl gets away with all his bizarre behavior. A marvelous satire, with great musical numbers. Arthur Lowe is wonderful as the bolshy butler who gets uppity after he inherits some money. See: http://www.dvdjournal.com/quickreviews/r/rulingclass_cc.q.shtml|
|1972||A Christmas Carol||Ebenezer Scrooge (voice)||This is a 24-minute children's version of the famous Dickens tale with Alastair as the voice of Scrooge and Michael Hordern as the voice of Marley. The limited animation was by Richard Williams. This won the Oscar for the best animated short subject in 1973.|
|1975||Royal Flash||Mr. Greig||As in THE MILLIONAIRESS, Alastair once again played a very unorthodox lawyer in this adventure tale of Harry Flashman.|
|1976||Rogue Male||The Earl||This is a grim story about a British nobleman played by Peter O'Toole, who attempts to assassinate Hitler in 1939. He is tortured but escapes Germany; however, upon his return to England, he is in danger of being killed himself by German agents. Alastair, as in THE RULING CLASS, plays O'Toole's uncle, who is someone important in the government. He has two scenes with O'Toole set in a steam room; in the first, he is unsympathetic to O'Toole's plight and advises him to leave the country; in the second, after O'Toole has taken care of his pursuers, Alastair tells him all is forgiven and to pop along to the Admiralty and see Churchill for some job. See: http://www.sover.net/~ozus/roguemale.htm|
|1977||The Littlest Horse Thieves||Lord Harrogate||Alastair played the owner of a mine in Yorkshire, 1909. The mine is losing money so a new manager is hired who decides to replace the pit ponies with machinery. When the young boys who tend the ponies learn they are to be slaughtered, they stage a daring rescue. Although top billed, Alastair had only a few scenes.|
The only TV shows he appeared in are
I have been able to find reference to a 3 record, 2-hour set of SHE STOOPS TO CONQUER by Oliver Goldsmith with Alastair, Brenda de Banzie, Alan Howard, Tony Tanner and Claire Bloom; and Arnold Wengrow kindly told me it was recorded in 1965 by Caedmon. Prints of photos of Alastair are available from the National Portrait Gallery.
Photos of Alistair from various films.
to see a Pathe video of a Ministry of Information fuel
commercial (in rhyme!) starring Sim as Nero being
interrogated by George Cole.
In 2013 George Cole published his autobiography (THE WORLD
WAS MY LOBSTER, published by John Blake). In it, he
reveals that he first noticed Alastair in the cinema when he saw
ALF'S BUTTON AFLOAT (1938). "I was so fascinated by him
that I remember staying to watch the end credits to see what
his name was. Never could I have imagined that within a
couple of years I would be working with him. When I did,
he came across exactly the way I imagined him to be:
benign, avuncular and extremely funny." Cole
adds: "As well as being a born actor, he was a natural
comic. He soon found that, whatever role he was playing,
the audience's attention somehow seemed to become directed
towards him because there was something strangely comic about
him and the audience somehow expected him to be amusing.
Many of his most memorable performances on stage and screen
after that were comic roles. He was a big man, standing
just under six feet tall, with a larger-than-life
personality. He had the most amazing talent for making
people laugh without saying anything inherently funny."
Of Alastair's death, Cole writes, "I felt it personally
because of the enormous influence he had had on my life.
He was certainly my mentor and very much a father
figure. For an actor, it's not just a matter of
memorising a part, you need to think about what you are doing
and to maintain a certain stillness, and that was one of the
great things he taught me. On top of that, he was one of
my greatest friends. Over the years, we performed in 11
films and at least 9 stage plays together. He had a big,
awesome personality and was so wonderful to work with – and
always terribly funny. Of all the stage performances of
my career, it is the ones I did with Alastair that I seem to
look back on now with the greatest fondness. The two
that stand out most for me are DR. ANGELUS and MR.
BOLFRY. I think my performances in those were among the
best of my career and I owe that entirely to Alastair.
And if it wasn't for him, I might still have my cockney
accent! ... He was a meticulous craftsman and took
his work very seriously indeed but he was uncomfortable with
the fame that came from it."
Researched by Judy Harris
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