Saturday, 15 October 2011

Peter Ustinov and Modern Humbug

I just had cause to remember Peter Ustinov (1921-2004), award-winning actor, writer, director. His many screen roles included those in Quo Vadis (1951); Spartacus (1960), as a well as several appearances as Hercule Poirot.

Ustinov was a genius - look at the range of all that he did; even directing serious operas.  I discovered recently that his father had started out as German diplomat; became a British spy against the Nazis, and changed his nationality before the War. One of those who stood up. That's a real problem with our age: not enough people will stand up and say "Just a minute"... and carefully review and pull to pieces some of the dreadful intended legislation that is passed in default of argument, let alone real opposition.

As people like Ustinov fall off the twig (no Betjeman to save buildings - look what he did for the Midland Hotel at St Pancras - saved it - as Norman Birkett saved part of Lakeland, now named after him, with a last, wonderful speech), there is a poverty of debate and a roller-coaster of puritanical humbuggery, instead of the old fashioned kind of humbuggery, which at least had the grace to be shame-faced.

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