Top 10 film performances: Kenneth Griffith

Image of Kenneth Griffith

Last updated: 05 March 2010

Kenneth Griffith in Only Two Can Play (1962)

Ken Griffith as a flustered henpecked neighbour is the perfect foil for Peter Sellers' Walter Mitty-like would be philanderer in Only Two Can Play, the finest comedy ever set in Wales.

The incongruous relationship between Sellers' brash prospective adulterer John Lewis and Tenby-born Griffith as his friend Jenkins, perpetually nervous or obsequious, gives Sidney Gilliat's British film its dynamic, and finest comic business. Their rivalry for a sub-librarian's job is particularly disarming, when both are confronted by a panel including Welsh actor Meredith Edwards, memorable as a parochial clergyman-bookworm.

Even Kingsley Amis, the creator of the source novel, That Uncertain Feeling, should have perked up at this scene, even if he was dismissive of the alleged coarsening of the material by Bryan Forbes' script. Amis, once a university lecturer at Swansea, deplored the alleged Welsh passion for committees.

Griffith's frequent disasters, and references to a bilious wife, keep the comic pot boiling. His ineptitude and serial vulnerability causes the undoing of Sellers as part-time local weekly newspaper drama critic.

Given a role in a play by Probert (Richard Attenborough) a painfully affected writer, Jenkins unwittingly sets the stage props ablaze. Lewis has left the auditorium prematurely, for an amorous tryst with Mai Zetterling's exotic Liz, an influential councillor's wife. In the aftermath, a blissfully oblivious John Lewis regales his wife (Virginia Maskell) with his account of the dull play over the breakfast table, unaware that she's already read the Aberdarcy Chronicle's copious details of the thespian disaster.

In another priceless scene Jenkins/Griffith, seeing movement behind curtains at his home as he leaves for work, salutes his wife with one free hand, the other remains rigid at his side, symbolising his permanent repression (a piece of business Griffith apparently devised, to Sellers' delight).

No one did 'hangdog' in British films quite like Kenneth Griffith. His big-screen comedy persona was as far removed from the quixotic, fiery radical crusader of his political TV documentaries as it's possible to imagine.

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