Saturday, 17 April 2021

Peter Ustinov

 Yesterday was the centenary of one of the most remarkable men of stage and screen of the twentieth century. There is a biography on the Internet Movie Database which neatly summarises his remarkable background and his varied achievements. He was probably at his best as a raconteur. BBC4 was wise to show his performances on Parkinson on Thursday, but their choice of film showing him as an actor (Topkapi) was not so worthy of his talents. I would like to have seen a revival of Private Angelo, which was something of a hit for him in its time. He not only took the title part but also wrote the dramatisation for the screen of Eric Linklater's book. 

It is surprising that the adaptations outnumber his own work. Probably his best original writing is in  Romanoff and Juliet a superficially light-hearted romantic comedy set against the background of the Cold War but which has some sharp points to make about the futility of the stituation. Typically, it started as a stage play in which Ustinov himself had written a key part for himself, one which he carried forward into the screen version. It is good to see that it is in Talking Pictures TV repertoire of classic films.

He also wrote Beethoven's Tenth (with himself as Ludwig, of course) premised on the return to life of the composer in the twentieth century. Clearly thought too highbrow for the English-speaking market, there was a French TV version which surprisingly did not cast the multilingual Ustinov.

Finally, radio listeners of a certain age remember with affection In All Directions, written, acted and improvised in partnership with Peter Jones.

1 comment:

Robert Tyler said...

Great performer.
"I tingle"