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.
However 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.
His 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.