Monday, April 05, 2010

Remembering... Nigel Hawthorne

As prestigious as the thea-tah may be, for shallow people such as myself, television is where it's at; where else, for instance, could I have discovered the genius that is Nigel Hawthorne if he'd only ever deigned to tread the boards? Especially since I only ever get to the National Theatre when I visit London, which is, uh, never. (Not that I'm bitter about that either. Much.)

PhotobucketA n y w a y... Born on this day in 1929, Hawthorne's portrayal of Sir Humphrey Appleby - the quintessential civil servant - in the timeless sitcom Yes Minister just goes to show you what can happen when real acting talent and the reach of mass media collide; wrapping his honeyed voice around mouthfuls of bureaucratic gobbledygook, Hawthorne's portrayal was equal parts charm and smarm, and left audiences absolutely certain of who's really in charge of the government*. Thanks to brilliant scripts, a strong ensemble, and his own gifts, both he and the show became internationally renowned.

In later years he continued to tackle meaty dramatic roles, playing such historical figures as George, Duke of Clarence, in the stylish film version of Richard III (1995), as well as George III in both the stage and film versions of Alan Bennett's seriocomic play The Madness of King George (onscreen opposite Helen Mirren, playing yet another Queen, in this case Charlotte). He also played Martin Van Buren in Steven Spielberg's ambitious epic Amistad (1997).

Always intensely private, in the last years of his life he was outed; despite his discomfort with the way it was done, he proceeded to give interviews on the subject, and even attended the 67th Annual Academy Awards in 1995 with his partner Trevor Bentham (only to lose the Oscar for The Madness of King George). Awarded the CBE in 1987, he became Sir Nigel in 1999. Hawthorne died of a heart attack in December 2001, while battling pancreatic cancer; his memoirs, published posthumously, are entitled Straight Face.

*The good news is, it's not the politicians; the bad news is, it's not the politicians.
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Anonymous said...

Just a heads-up, Michael:

So take it easy...;-)


michael sean morris said...

Somebody else sent me this link too, and I'll tell you what I told them: I'm more likely to die from not being able to blog than from actually doing it.