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Sid James

Columnist and historian Simon Heffer explores the life and work of Sid James, who was one of the best-loved and most easily recognised comic actors of his day.

In the final programme celebrating comic actors from mid-20th century British film, Simon Heffer turns his gaze on a man whose priapic laugh alone merits an entire radio series. Sid James was at the heart of the phenomenally successful Carry On films and one of the best-loved and most easily recognised comic actors of his day.

Throughout the 1950s and '60s, the many roles he played were all, in essence, the same. As Simon Heffer puts it: "To say Sid had range as an actor would be to do him an injustice. Sid not have range. Sid was Sid. And it was as well he was, because the audience expected Sid in the full pomp of his Sidness, and would have been crushed with disappointment by anything else."

But Sid was not, by birth, the wise-cracking Cockney geezer whom he came to embody. He traced his roots back to Johannesburg, where he started life as Solomon Joel Cohen and began his working life as a gentlemen's hairdresser.

Simon Heffer traces his journey from a few years in rep to bit-parts in British comic films, his years of triumph in the Carry On films and his dramatic and unpredictable death on stage in 1976 - a somehow fitting end to a series on comic actors in their lives and on film.

Producer: Beaty Rubens.

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15 minutes

Last on

Wed 7 Sep 2016 22:45

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