Tony Grist (poliphilo) wrote,
Tony Grist

Scofield And Wilde

A.A. Gill in the Sunday Times was getting in a strop yesterday because the BBC reported the death of Brian Wilde- minor sit-com star- ahead of the death of Paul Scofield- major classical actor. At first I was inclined to agree, but as Gill continued to erupt, braying scorn (the way he does) and calling for the head of whoever was responsible, he lost me. "Hang on a minute," I thought. "This is just  snobbery. It assumes a hierarchy in which West End theatre ranks above TV sitcoms and- sorry-  but it just doesn't work like that."

Scofield was high art, Wilde was popular art- but which of them made the bigger impact on our culture? Which is more likely to be remembered? Scofield gave a string of great performances which were seen by very few and which have now faded into the ether. Wilde, on the other hand was in Porridge- and Porridge is one of the greatest sitcoms from the golden age of sitcoms and is showing every sign of immortality.

I don't go to the theatre much. I never saw Scofield live. His infrequent film and TV appearances add up to very little- supporting roles as irascible old men in less than classic productions. His one great starring role- in A Man for All Seasons- is overshadowed by a supporting cast- Orson Welles, Vanessa Redgrave, Robert Shaw, real film stars all of them- delightedly making the most of an opportunity to go right over the top in their robes and furs. It's a nice film, not a very good one- and it's looking dated now.

So, tell me Scofield was a great actor- and I'll take it on trust, but I haven't seen the evidence and I'm not altogether sure it exists any longer. Wilde, on the other hand, did a very funny turn in a very funny show which is likely to be repeated as long as TV exists.  I'm not a fan of Last of The Summer Wine- but it's the longest running sit-com in the history of the universe and a lot of people love it and- well- he was in that one too. 

I'm sure Scofield was a "greater" actor than Wilde, but it's Wilde who's going to leave the greater legacy. Have a look on YouTube and see who rates more clips.  Immortality- especially in the performing arts- is a bit of a lottery.  It isn't finally about integrity or ideals or intentions or the applause of the elite, it's about what turns out to have the most juice in it. 
  • Post a new comment


    default userpic

    Your reply will be screened

    When you submit the form an invisible reCAPTCHA check will be performed.
    You must follow the Privacy Policy and Google Terms of use.