Monday, 25 August 2008

Playing Spot The Actor

When I'm feeling really depressed and I can't concentrate on anything I end up watching television. If there is anything worthwhile being broadcast at the time then I will watch that, if there isn't I will watch a DVD. Some things I can watch over and over again, while many things are only worth watching once, so my DVD collection tends to consist of favourite television series, some from long ago, and films of the same sort.

This afternoon I am watching Inspector Morse; I have the choice of viewing a DVD for I have the complete series, but I am actually watching it on television. The problem is that I can't help looking at the actors and trying to remember what else I have seen them in. This afternoon's episode has a very distinguished cast of actors, and it can be quite amusing to see them playing characters that you might not necessarily associate with them because they are more familiar in other things.

Geoffrey Palmer is probably most familiar to many of us for comedies such as As Time Goes By, Butterflies, and The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin. Mr Palmer has endeared himself to us playing put-upon husbands, or slightly potty army officers, so to find him playing a character in whom it is difficult to find any redeeming features is somewhat disconcerting. Playing Geoffrey Palmer's wife in this episode of Morse is Barbara Leigh-Hunt. I think that she is a brilliant actress, but one of her finest performances must surely have been playing Mr Darcy's aunt, Lady Catherine de Bourgh in the much acclaimed BBC television adaptation that also starred Colin Firth.

But it is not always the leading actors that catch your attention. I noticed a 'heavy' in today's Morse. He set fire to the home of one of the characters, and then went to the hospital where this character's mother is dying of cancer and speaks to her menacingly about what will happen to her son if he is not careful. The actor playing the 'heavy' looked familiar, and then I realised why. This thoroughly unsavoury character with obvious contempt for the law is the same actor who plays the Assistant Chief Constable in Wycliffe. It's funny really, because although the character he plays in Wycliffe is a policeman, and therefore supposed to be one of the 'good guys', he is still an unsavoury character who undoubtedly rose to this high position through trampling over others on his way up and gets no respect from his subordinates.

So is this a case of type-casting, or is it a case of looks dictating the parts that are offered?

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