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Richard Harris

Everyone has their favourite actors and the ones they do not rate.

My father liked two actors of which the present generation of filmgoers may not have heard: Van Heflin and Paul Muni.

His father would go to the cinema twice a week – Wednesday and Saturday – for the Pathe news.

It’s hard to believe in our present world of rolling 24 news that the newsreel was a vital source of information then.

My father had a mild temperament but he did  lose it once with Clive James who in his mission to be witty and clever in his film programme mocked the B movies of that era picking up bloopers in editing. “Who cares …?” my Dad railed,  if an extra went over a cliff only to appear in the rushes later, … he does not understand what the cinema meant to us.”

An actor I have never enjoyed watching and who in my opinion career successes exceeded his talent was Richard Harris. Aside from This Sporting Life a gritty northern drama written by David Storey and directed by Lindsay Anderson he never convinced me.

Because of his roistering life style he was frequently at odds with director and cast alike.

So I watched the arts programme Discovering Richard Harris with some trepidation. I still was not convinced by his ability afterwards though he must have been great fun  for a night out.

He was an excellent rugby player hence the ease with which he played a rugby league forward in the Sporting Life and his outings to support his beloved Munster must have been something.

He showed some versatility as a singer in Camelot  and his 1m selling hit MacArthur Park and made the odd interesting film like a Man called Horse.

He bought the rights to Camelot and made lot of money tourring with it around America as a musical. Just as his career was visibly waning it got a boost with cameo roles in Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven and Harry Potter.

In the week I had lunch with film buff who knew many a star and many a story. He told one of Richard Harris who, dying of Hodgkin Disease, installed himself at the Savoy as a a high class hospice.

He was once borne past the American bar on a stretcher and said to a startled guest  “Don’t order the fish”.

He was not one of the Hollywood greats but if you had a night out with him you would never forget it.

About Neil Rosen

Neil went to the City of London School and Manchester University graduating with a 1st in economics. After a brief stint in accountancy, Neil emigrated to a kibbutz In Israel. His articles on the burgeoning Israeli film industry earned comparisons to Truffaut and Godard in Cahiers du Cinema. Now one of the world's leading film critics and moderators at film Festivals Neil has written definitively in his book Kosher Nostra on Jewish post war actors. Neil lives with his family in North London. More Posts