Auntie Nazi League

It’s BBC actors and comedy stars who’ve made the corporation great over the years — not two-a-penny journalists

On the Stage

This article is taken from the July 2021 issue of The Critic. To get the full magazine why not subscribe? Right now we’re offering five issue for just £10.

While I was attempting to quietly enjoy the recent Sunday night TV adaptation of The Pursuit of Love, the pesky nephew would insist on repeatedly reading out irate comments from the Twitter comrades. Apparently, the BBC was being lambasted for daring to give airtime to “posh people in posh houses”, based on a novel written by “Nazis” (not quite the right Mitford sister, though doubtless a minor detail).

What’s more, it was declared director and screenwriter Emily Mortimer was nothing more than a shameless, jolly hockey sticks, champagne socialist type, guilty of flagrant nepotism to boot. Sensibly, Ms Mortimer had chosen to discreetly flee these troubled shores before a vengeful mob arrived looking for retribution in the Chilterns.

Now leading the charge against “airbrushing” of promo shots, has crusading movie star Kate Winslet, 45, considered for a moment the real impact on our profession? With many a long theatrical career up and down the land discreetly preserved by such tasteful maintenance, should these masks slip, the results could be horrifying …

Deluded Dame

Not short on professional accomplishments, Dame Judi Dench now cheerfully identifies “having her nipples licked” by Jeremy Irons as a career highlight. The said incident took place between the pair in 1978’s BBC adaptation of Langrishe, Go Down, after Jeremy’s character was required to pour cream over his evidently delighted co-star. While the actress appears to fondly consider the whole business quite the lark all these years on, she of course tragically deludes herself. Let us never forget we live in liberating times, when our leading female stars MUST publicly express feelings of horror and betrayal when recalling those sexist, degrading, exploitative scenes from decades past. Think on, Judi!

Should readers be wondering about the fate of the professional Prince Harry lookalike mentioned in last month’s column — he’d fallen on hard times after the real Mr and Mrs Markle’s behaviour caused corporate work to dry up — I must now offer an alarming update. On recently returning to the west London pub garden where I’d first encountered him in the spring, I suddenly found myself confronted by the very same young gentleman.

It’s BBC actors and comedy stars who’ve made the corporation great over the years — not two-a-penny journalists

Apparently, someone had informed him he’d been a source of “mockery” in these very pages, prompting an incoherent rant about “invasion of privacy”! Umbrella poised throughout, (my celebrated stage combat skills once saw off Sylvester McCoy) I assured the potential assailant that this sorry, self-pitying performance was worthy of the deluded Prince himself … before tavern employees thankfully intervened.

Sympathies to old co-star Robert Powell, who, almost 45 years after appearing as Jesus of Nazareth on our screens, was recently photographed cutting a flustered figure on Hampstead Heath. According to reports, Bob found himself forced to deny frenzied claims his poodle-like creature had bitten a passing cyclist. In what surely counts as a sad reflection on the state of modern Britain, the individual in question had been woefully unaware he was levelling accusations at TV’s very own Messiah.

What next for our currently favourite Ulsterman, Superintendent Ted Hastings — otherwise known as BBC television’s Line of Duty actor Adrian Dunbar? I gather he’s been snapped up to appear on ITV, where he’ll be breaking new ground as … another old school police detective. One must never underestimate the imaginative powers of industry executives when they stumble upon a winning formula.

Bad news

Hats off to erudite telly and Radio 4 favourite David Mitchell for publicly condemning those responsible for sullying the BBC’s reputation with murky Bashir-related antics.

It also fell to David to emotionally point out on the airwaves that it’s BBC actors and comedy stars who’ve made the corporation great over the years — not plebs working up and down the land on dreary, “ruddy news” programmes.

As enemies circle, let’s never forget that it’s the BBC showbiz folk who must be protected at all costs — while two-a-penny journalists can be sacrificed whenever necessary. Apart from the occasional royal funeral, one struggles to see why the BBC continues to insist on offering its “news” at all?

These recent years appear to have proved regrettably difficult for retired Hollywood swordsman Warren Beatty. As well as awkwardly attempting to dispel oft-repeated tabloid claims he bedded approximately half the western female population in his pomp, Warren’s elderly reputation enjoyed no favours when an administrative cock-up led to his memorably botched attempt to present the best film Oscar in 2017.

Now disturbingly comes the biggest crisis of all: following the upcoming release of a downmarket “memoir”, I hear Mr Beatty must contend with incredible claims his insatiable lust once reduced him to requesting a knee-trembler with batty troublemaker Miriam Margolyes!

Taking a brief break from endlessly recounting those preposterous tales, booming braggadocio Brian Blessed recently agreed to participate in a sponsored “twenty-four hour silence” for charity.

Surely the onus must now be on other charitable organisations to step forward and appeal to Brian’s trademark generosity in similar fashion … thus ensuring the old loon’s silenced more often?

Following critics recently turning on Equity for weighing into the Middle East conflict, isn’t it high time this esteemed organisation was more fervently defended by performers within its ranks? Discontented members somehow expecting Equity to focus on their needs — rather than wasting breath on ill-judged statements about international crises it doesn’t properly understand — seem to naively forget what a hopelessly-run British actors’ union is really for.

Shirley’s temperance

Kept on a short leash by Lady Caine — otherwise known as the bird from the 1970s coffee ads — Sir Michael Caine announces he’s finally giving up the sauce as he nears 90.

Those of us of a certain vintage recall Michael once having the temerity to claim our profession had been riddled with unreliable drunkards, singling out thirsty practitioners O’Toole, Burton and Harris for disapproval in the media.

It fell to Harris, ever the voice of reason, to deliver what must remain among the most well-executed of showbiz character assassinations — not least when suggesting Michael’s attempts at a dangerous screen persona were akin to Shirley Temple.

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