British Character Actors No.4: Alastair Sim
He was nobody’s idea of a favourite uncle, that’s for sure, but Alastair Sim was a lot sweeter than he looked. With an undertaker’s lugubrious stare and a curious way of rolling his Rs, he became one of the most beloved character actors in Britain, especially when he edged his role with something slightly sinister, as he did in ‘Hue And Cry’, ‘An Inspector Calls’ and especially in ‘The Green Man’. He enlivened the most staid films, like ‘Folly To Be Wise’ (a comedy about the Brains’ Trust!) and even in late appearances, he steals scenes – watch him as the increasingly befuddled priest in ‘The Ruling Class’.
Sim and his wife took a young lad into their home and Sim trained him as an actor – George Cole learned everything he knew from Sim, and there’s a wonderful documentary comparing their near identical acting styles. This is why Cole appears with Sim so frequently in old movies; he was, in effect, apprenticed. His scenes with Sim in the early St Trinian’s films clearly shows how much fun they had working together.