Monday, 8 May 2017

The one and only Mr Sidney James


The nation's favourite South African Cockney, Mr Sidney James, was born on this day back in 1913. Even now, writing this date surprises me as it seems so long ago (well it is) while Sid still seems so vital, vibrant and part of our British way of life. 

Sadly our paths never crossed as he, like so many other talented people of the era was taken far too soon. I came along six years later but was soon to fall in love with that crinkled face, that throaty chuckle and that superb comedy timing. Sid has been one of my heroes for over a quarter of a century and I can't see that stopping any time soon. 

I was watching one of his pre-Hancock, pre-Carry On films the other day - The Titfield Thunderbolt. It's a cracker of a British comedy film, packed with brilliant actors and superb performances. Even though Sid's role is a supporting one, he always stands out whenever he appears. Even propping up the bar while the action goes on around him, he's acting for real. That's the skill of the man. Whether it was a big budget film with Burt Lancaster, a summer season show down the pier, his 19th Carry On or a Thames sitcom, Sid was always playing it for real. He always had the audience on his side because no matter how big a star he became, he was one of us. And that's just magic. 

Sid worked his socks off pretty much as soon as he arrived in Britain and made it his home. He worked his way up from bit part player in post-war film, through the early days of television and became a star of radio comedy, a leading man in countless comedy series on television and the star of the most popular series of British comedy films ever known. Not bad really!

So I'm going to celebrate Sid's birthday today with one of his best performances - as Sir Sidney Ruff Diamond in the wonderful Carry On Up The Khyber. What better way to remember one of our greatest comedy actors?


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