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Minder Revisited

The National Rust is big on seventies tv drama and rightly so. One of the pleasures for me is to spot a young actor who went on to a big career. On Monday in Minder Ray Winstone appeared as a jack the lad young van driver. Yesterday Robbie Coltrane played a wig manufacturer Mr Henry and you can see why the Scottish comedian became so successful. He had natural timing of the great comedian.

arthurHowever much you appreciate the young talent one comic genius dominates and that is George Cole.

I would like to dwell for a moment on one aspect of his character which sadly you would not see nowadays. To develop the persona of a spiv, Arthur Daley is always dressed dapperly or in his words “pukka”. Typically he wears an overcoat with a velvet trim and a jaunty trilby.

To look the part he also smokes a cigar. This he will wave and puff with the flourish of the wealthy man.

Cigarettes and cigars played an important role in Hollywood. Think Edward G Robinson or one of my favourite opening shots of a star, Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca.

bogeyHis character Rick Blaine is first built up by other members of the cast – Paul Heinreid, Ingrid Bergman and Claude Rains – then the camera shows first a chess board (Bogey was an excellent chess player who had an opening named after him) then an ashtray with a cigarette being crushed into it and finally the face of the actor.

The sequence is most dramatic.

The cigarette in  a film provided a pregnant pause.  Nowadays you see actors on mobile phones or on computers which negates eye to eye contact. Somehow I feel the cinema has lost a lot in so doing. 

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