Tuesday, April 26, 2016

An Army too far

I was surprised recently at the cinema to see the trailer for a movie version of Dad's Army.  It certainly inspired no enthusiasm to see it: if you can't make a good trailer out of 100 minutes of material it's generally a warning about the quality of the full length version.  And it seemed very strange that they assumed audience knowledge of the characters and situation - whereas you have to be pretty much over 50, surely, to be in that category.  How many movies aiming for that demographic succeed commercially?   (Although, it is true, there does seem to be a minor industry in twee British films featuring aging characters made for an aging audience.)

In any case, reading the comments in the Guardian following Peter Bradshaw's lukewarm review lead me to this interesting aspect of the original series.  I may have read about this many years ago, but had forgotten:
The main difference of course is that many of the actors in the original series were real WW2 veterans themselves.
Most interestingly, Arnold Ridley, who played the gentle pacifist, Private Godfrey, was actually a very badly injured and highly decorated veteran of WW1 and WW2.
In WW1, as a volunteer with the Artists Rifles, he was gassed, shot, injured by shrapnel, and suffered bayonet wounds to the extent he was invalided out of the army in 1916.
In 1939, he was recalled to the colours and received a Commission, although as an officer looking after supplies in France. But circumstances thrust him into action again, and he found himself commanding one of the rear-guard elements protecting the evacuation of Boulogne. His command fought to the final minute and just made onto the last RN Destroyer in Boulogne Harbour. They sailed out under continuous by attack German dive bombers, where once again Lt Ridley was badly wounded by machine gun-fire.
He was once again invalided out of the forces, but as soon as he had recovered sufficiently, volunteered for the Home Guard, the real "Dads Army"!
John Le Mesurier, (Sergeant Wilson) commanded a Tank Squadron through North Africa and Western Europe, while other members of the cast had similar backgrounds.
 Maybe that's what Hollywood is lacking these days - ex military who are now actors.

Speaking of which, there is a long list at IMDB of actors who served in the US military.  Some are well known (Jimmy Stewart, for example), but others are new to me:   Jamie Farr (Klinger on MASH) actually did serve in Korea?  But so did Alan Alda.  Didn't know that...

And Rock Hudson served in The Philippines as a Navy aircraft mechanic?   Huh.  And for true action heroes:  Paul Newman flew as a turret gunner on torpedo bombers in the Pacific, and Don Adams was a marine who served in the Battle of Guadalcanal

Makes our modern crop of under 50 actors seem like self indulgent wimps.   

No comments: