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.
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.