Graham Crowden, 1922-2010

That’s Graham Crowden in my film of Robert Louis Stevenson’s THE ISLE OF VOICES. He was 72, I was 27. Just heard from my writer friend Colin McLaren, screenwriter of DONKEYS, co-author of CRY FO BOBO, and author of another short film, FANTOOSH, which starred the Great Man, that Graham is no longer among us.

My fondest memory of that shoot is doing an insert shot of Graham picking up a seashell. “Just need a bit of hand acting here, Graham,” I said. He grinned that grin. “Oh, I’m very good at that!” And we carried on that exchange whenever there was an insert shot, or a shot of his back.

I introduced Graham’s sorceror character with three shots, going closer, then closer — a device nicked from James Whale’s presentation of the Frankenstein monster.

He was a lovely man, a true eccentric, a genuinely theatrical figure. Honour him by running IF…, O LUCKY MAN!, or BRITANNIA HOSPITAL, in each of which he’s sublime. “Do you have an opinion???”

15 Responses to “Graham Crowden, 1922-2010”

  1. Tony Williams Says:

    I remember him so well from UK film and TV while I lived there. He will be sadly missed.

  2. He was still active, and acting, to the end. “He wasn’t expecting to go.”

  3. Wow, it seems every day brings another.

  4. Our local PBS station still plays Waiting For God, which was my first major exposure to him. Glad to hear he was an eccentric in real life too!

  5. Hooray for PBS. Booo to the death of that none-more-watchable man.

  6. A few months ago, I went into my local stationer’s in Edinburgh to do some photocopies. There was an elderly gent in front of me who looked oddly familiar.

    As I was racking my brains, trying to think who it might be, the shop manager’s voice came loud and clear: “That will be £5.50, Mr. Crowden.”

    That’s as close as I ever came to the great man.

  7. Very fond memories of him on screen – the above films of course and A Very Peculiar Practice “The Sick University” and The Final Programme “Three more years of Miss Brunner!”

  8. Walking through North Berwick with the great man, he was asked at regular intervals for his autograph ‘I always write my name clearly to avoid any confusion. I’ve had so many Richard Wilson fans turn away disappointed’.

    Later, in a cafe, surveying the clientele: ‘Are you sure they’re locals? They look like GYPSIES TO ME!’.

    On meeting my girlfriend (shouted from the top floor as we approached his flat): ‘Anita? ANITA? The only other Anita I knew was T.S. Elliot’s secretary. DREADFUL woman. Come in!’

    Graham Crowden. What fun!

  9. Aw. What a joy.

    His favourite Lindsay Anderson story was the Cannes press conference for Britannia Hospital. The Falklands War had just begun (and in the resulting upsurge of unthinking patriotism, the film was doomed) and Crowden begged Anderson, “Whatever you do, don’t let them ask me anything about politics.”

    A journalist promptly asked the panel for their views on the war. “I think that’s a good question for GRAHAM,” said L.A.

    Graham told us: “Well, I was stumped, but I suddenly thought of Hamlet. You see if you know Hamlet, I mean really KNOW it — I *don’t* of course — you have the answer to everything.” [See clip above.] “So I said, ‘I view it more in sorrow than in anger.'”

  10. Tony Williams Says:

    Thank you for placing this clip here, David E. It is more relevant today than it was on first release for reasons David C. has noted above. Also, David C. was there a film made of McMcDowell’s solo performance as Lindsay Anderson at a past Edinburgh festival?

  11. specterman Says:

  12. Oh yeah. The thing with Mr C was, however far up the top was, he could always go over it. This looks like the director was seeing just how far he could take things. But then you see him in Lindsay Anderson’s films, or The Final Programme, and the bigness is very focussed, under control. In the Dr Who clip it’s like he’s trying to break the show. Which I believe he could have done.

    He was offered the role of The Doctor, but turned it down and recommended they get Tom Baker.

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