Glazed Hamlet

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John Laurie, in he role of Hamlet, by Scottish newspaper caricaturist Emilio Coia.

Laurie was a bit of a stage star, and his Hamlet was well-received — probably it got him his part, as one of the few non-Irish players, in Hitchcock’s JUNO AND THE PAYCOCK.

My late friend Lawrie told me that if ever one met John Laurie, within seconds he would tell you about his Hamlet.

And, to my delight, when J.L. appears in Michael Powell’s RETURN TO THE EDGE OF THE WORLD, he staggers from an alighting helicopter, hoves up to camera, and tells us who he is – since he’s an actor, this explanation consists of a list of roles, and first on the list is Hamlet, followed by the crofter in THE 39 STEPS, and Private Frazer in Dad’s Army on TV.

“We’re all doomed,” was his TV catchphrase, and one can see how the actor’s sepulchral quality would have translated well to the melancholy Dane. I also like the suggestion in this illustration that J.L.’s Hamlet would have been an expressionistic one, bent into some sort of human Swastika.

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5 Responses to “Glazed Hamlet”

  1. Eagerly awaiting the Benedict Cumberbatch “Hamlet”

    I do wish Cate Blanchett would give it a go.

  2. Laurie: Can you sleep in a box bed?
    Donat: I can try.

    I used to watch THE 39 STEPS on VHS quite regularly as a kid and remember being secretly thrilled by Laurie’s rather abrupt next line: “Doing sex”.

    It was something of a relief years later when I worked out that he was actually saying, “Two and six.”

    Ah well.

  3. “Doing sex” is how the kids in Michael Winner’s The Nightcomers describe it, and the phrase recurs in John Burnside’s novel Glister, which I’ve just finished reading.

    Cumberbatch as Hamlet has drawn people to the theatre who would never normally go — the downside being that they have no idea how to behave. I’m in favour of metal detectors at the entrances and all phones being checked in before admission…

  4. Welcome to my (insert audiological deafness issues, etc) world! Doing sex! Excellent! You never told me about that when we were younger, I’d had have so much respect for the mis-hearing.

  5. Skysaweno, did you know Experimento when you were younger? I suspect a mis-reading — which I also have respect for.

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