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Awfully hard to find

July 31, 2021

The actor Nickolas Grace is the godfather of a friend with whom I shared the flat in Finchley Road for a while. If the name doesn’t ring a bell (and you are of a certain age), you will probably remember him as Anthony Blanche in Brideshead Revisited.

I met him a few times – parties or dinners at the flat and once, to my astonishment, in the queue at the dole office. “Well,” he said, “I’m not working at the moment, so I’m entitled to sign on, am I not?” Of course he was. My astonishment was because this was after Brideshead had been a huge hit, not just in the UK, but around the world. I was surprised he wasn’t working. He had been, he told me. He’d been in a couple of US mini-series. The problem was he’d been cursed by his success as Blanche“They don’t even know my name in America,” he told me. “They just say, ‘Get me that queer from Brideshead’. That’s all I’m being offered at the moment.” And indeed, when the shows turned up on British telly and his godson and I sat down to watch them, that’s exactly what Nick was playing – that queer from Brideshead.

He bounced back, of course. And it didn’t take long. A rather splendid turn as the Sherriff of Nottingham in yet another television adaptation of Robin Hood. Numerous other roles, including an award-winning performance on the West End stage as the first lord of the admiralty in HMS Pinafore. It wasn’t all that long before Blanche ceased to be the defining role of his career.

Why am I writing about this today? Because I was reminded of this story by a couple of conversations I’ve had recently about another actor: Hugh Grant.

In both conversations I mentioned the first film I saw Hugh Grant in after Four Weddings and a Funeral. It was a period piece, set mostly in a northern repertory theatre in the post war years. The lead character was a young woman who was desperate to become an actress, but (as I remembered it) took a job as assistant stage manager. Hugh Grant played the theatre manager – an absolutely poisonous fag with a great deal of surface charm. The young woman, who probably had no idea what a homosexual was, falls madly in love with him, which, of course, does not work out well for her.

That’s pretty much all I remembered about the film. That and how impressed I was with Grant. Obviously this guy had some versatility. Not that anyone who hadn’t seen this particular film would have guessed this, because in the coming decades he just kept playing his hapless Four Weddings character over and over and over again. Until recently. A wicked turn as Jeremy Thorpe, another poisonous poof, in A Very English Scandal and, more recently, a nasty piece of work in The Undoing. Not to mention his hilarious portrayal of the useless historian in Death to 2020. Finally, finally, he’s broken out of the mould and I can once again see that thoroughly unpleasant theatre manager.

When I told my friend Jean about that old film the other night, she said she wouldn’t mind seeing it and asked what it was called. For the life of me I could not tell her. I knew it was based on a novel, but that’s all I could remember. She grabbed her phone, went online and googled “Hugh Grant films”. She went to at least two sites and said the names of all the films listed that had been released in the mid-1990s. Nope. Not one of them rang any bells. I took her phone and did my own search. Perhaps it was something that was originally made for television in the UK but got a theatrical release elsewhere? Nope. Nothing. 

This was ridiculous. I had not lost my mind. I had not confused Grant with some other actor. It was Hugh Grant in this film, the existence of which seemed to have been wiped from all records. What the actual fuck?

Came home, did another dive into the internet and found it fairly easily.

(Oh, that’s annoying. Seems I can’t embed the trailer. Oh, well, click on the link.)

I was awfully surprised when I watched the trailer to discover Alan Rickman is also in the film. Alan Rickman! How on earth could I have forgotten that?!? 

Unbelievable and awfully big bonus: Not only is the trailer available on YouTube, so is the entire film.

So, of course, I watched it again last night. The sound quality isn’t great. Even at the highest volume possible there were times I simply could not make out what the young protagonist was saying. (Soft voice, occasionally mumbling.) But it held up. Grant was indeed wonderfully wicked. As for the plotline involving Alan (Phwoar!) Rickman, I still cannot believe I’d completely forgotten about that.

It really was awfully good.

From → Blog

  1. janeshead permalink

    Never heard of it, but it looks like fun – I’ll watch that. Funny, my mum and I were talking about Brideshead just this morning.

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