RIP Ian Carmichael

I originally uploaded the above clip from the Boulting Brothers’ BROTHERS IN LAW to celebrate the versatility of Terry-Thomas, who is quite remarkably excellent herein, as the vulpine Alfred Green. T-T personally rubbed the seams of his costume with pumice to give himself a threadbare, seedy look.

But sadly the occasion demands that we celebrate T-T’s co-star in this scene, the actual star of the film Ian Carmichael, who has just died aged 89. A great talent: along with Terry-Thomas he did more to popularize the image of the silly ass Englishman than any actor who ever lived.

24 Responses to “RIP Ian Carmichael”

  1. Hard cheese!

    Carmichael’s Bertie Wooster was my first encounter with the character and remains the definitive one. It might have been an obvious piece of casting – ditto Dennis Price as Jeeves – but a great one nevertheless. The series enlivened the BBC’s TV and radio output for several years in the sixties.

  2. ——————-
    Carmichael’s Bertie Wooster was my first encounter with the character and remains the definitive
    I agree.

    On a not wholly unrelated theme, I have been wondering if the ordinary humanity depicted and evoked in the Mitchell and Kenyon documentary films is as good as, if not bettter than the humanity shown in Vertov’s Man With a Movie Camera? For me, Mitchell and Kenyon seem to capture the fragility, pathos and glory of humanity in a more fully human and down to earth way. With more soul, if you like.
    Saying this, I fully realise the originality and daring of the Vertov film. And yes, making comparisons is probably a silly thing to do.

  3. The Silly Ass Englishman. Well put. I love Terry-Thomas’s Silly Ass Englishman roles, he could do them like no other. And of course the gap between his two front teeth was icing on the cake.

  4. I only wish I could have seen /heard Carmichael and Price doing Bertie and Jeeves. I liked the Fry/Laurie version to an extent, but the liberties taken with the stories I found a bit irritating at times.

  5. There’s something about the stories that resists adaptation, possibly because the tone of voice of the narration is so distinctive. Wodehouse’s material is not in itself the most ingenious — dogs biting ankles does not strike me as inherently hilarious, but he gets incredible mileage out of it.

    There must be some Carmichael-Price stuff about somewhere, but I don’t know where. YouTube only has the titles. I think Carmichael did some audiobooks, which I can imagine being perfect.

  6. HERE is Hugh Laurie’s Bertie trying to get Stephen Fry’s Jeeves to join him in a chorus of “Minnie the Moocher.”

    Oh how I love these two!

  7. Terry-Thomas was a great character. Leslie Phillips was in a similar vein.

  8. I didn’t have a big problem with the Fry/Laurie version as long as they stuck to the short stories, and they did alright by a couple of the books, but they really botched Joy In The Morning, or at least the bit of it they excised for the episode. With Wodehouse, it always struck me it was never the what, but the how.

  9. Christopher Says: you know everything Jeeves?…..I really don’t know sir..
    As a movie going kid in the 60s,Terry-Thomas was pretty unavoidable.

  10. A short clip featuring Terry Thomas and others, including the great Peggy Mount:

  11. Leslie Phillips is still going strong.

  12. Tony Williams Says:

    Carmichael and Price were superb in THE WORLD OF WOOSTER (1965-67). It is a shame that only one episode now survives.

  13. That’s criminal! The people in charge of archiving British TV have historically not been very effective. Nigel Kneale complained that they’d failed to preserve his Quatermass, “But they’ve got all the Oxford-Cambridge boat races — and they’re all the same!”

  14. I knew I saw that last clip before, they’ve shown that film on TCM a couple of times. As far as Wooster, I’ve read enough of it to have favorites. A lot of the short stories are available on Project Gutenberg, though one of my ancient Saturday Evening Posts has a Wooster story. The illustrator took some great liberties – Bertie was shown wearing glasses and looked as though he never refused a meal. Very disorienting.

    One whole episode of The World of Wooster, while in this country that wonderful thing called syndication means that we’ll never be rid of some bad shows. Of course it means our television history is much better preserved, too. When the movie version of The Fugitive came out, they ran the old TV episodes, and there were some good guest stars (I remember Sandy Dennis, Robert Duvall, even Donald Pleasance) early. When they switched the show to color, no more big guest stars.

  15. StuDetroit Says:

    I don’t mean to take away from your tribute to the wonderful Ian Carmichael – but I am stunned at seeing Terry_Thomas in a role like this. I’m sure I’ve seen and loved him at least 50 roles — all variations of the effete ineffectual twit – and now to see him as a hardened, domineering, quick talking con man – versatile indeed! Thanks for the fresh view!

  16. That’s exactly what I thought. T-T only has a couple scenes in the film, but he’s somewhat scary and incredibly effective. The other Boulting movie in which he delivers a surprise is Lucky Jim — with his Satanic beard, he’s suddenly devilishly handsome. I remember reading Nancy Friday’s collection of women’s sexual fantasies and there was some screwy dame who had a thing for T-T (she had a particular plan for that gap between his teeth) — all at once it made sense.

    I see there are BBC radio versions available of Jeeves and Wooster with Michael Hordern as Jeeves (a surprising choice but I bet he’s good) and Richard Briers as Bertie (inspired casting).

  17. There is a Terry-Thomas Italian fan site dedicated ” uno dei più grandi attori comici di tutti i tempi”:

  18. kevin mummery Says:

    Quick, someone needs to interview Lionel Jeffries while he’s still among the living!

  19. Very interesting fellow, Jeffries. It always seems incredible he’s still with us, until I remember he was always younger than he appeared.

    I love Terry-Thomas’s motto “I will not be cowed.” With pic of cow.

    T-T’s autobiography, Filling the Gap, is well worth your time if you can track down a copy. In one chapter he bequeaths to the reader all the favourite jokes he won’t be telling again when he’s dead. They are all absolutely terrible, but if you imagine him telling them they become brilliant.

  20. kevin mummery Says:

    I recall him (TT) telling an anecdote on a talk show in the early ’70’s; he was attempting to request some lemon curd tarts from a waiter, but it came out as “lemon turd carts”. This was screamingly funny to my adolescent self.

    L. Jeffries as Cavor in “First Men In The Moon”, one of my earliest movie memories along with P. Cushing in “Evil Of Frankenstein”.

  21. I remember seeing a documentary about his struggle with Parkinsons Disease. Pretty tragic, but still with some humour. “One of the things I have trouble with is walking through doorways. Somebody said, ‘You could try dancing through them,’ and in fact sometimes that works, but sometimes you just fall on your arse.”

    I always find Jeffries a sympathetic player, even when he plays comic villains. And he did a good job of The Railway Children as director.

  22. kevin mummery Says:

    I always find Jeffries a sympathetic player, even when he plays comic villains. And he did a good job of The Railway Children as director.

    Indeed. It may be time for a Lionel Jeffries Film Festival on the blogosphere. I think I remember seeing him in a TV version of Jekyll & Hyde, that starred Michael Caine (!) as J & H. This is my last known sighting of L. Jeffiries in any media, and my final post on the subject. For which you may be thankful.

  23. That was 1990. His last acting job seems to have been 2001.

    In a TV profile of him I saw, he showed us a self-portrait he’d done (rather good) and said, “My little granddaughter saw this and said, ‘It’s granddad. He’s a broken man.’ Children can be very perceptive.”

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