Margaret Rutherford, Alastair Sim, eccentricity and the British character actor

WILSON, Chris (2005). Margaret Rutherford, Alastair Sim, eccentricity and the British character actor. Doctoral, Sheffield Hallam University.

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The thesis is in the form of four sections, with an introduction and conclusion. The text should be used in conjunction with the annotated filmography. The introduction includes my initial impressions of Margaret Rutherford and Alastair Sim's work, and its significance for British cinema as a whole. In order to determine their enduring appeal, the first section, 'Biographical Perspectives', uses the actors' respective biographies to combine their very distinct identities, anchor them in the time in which they lived, and indicate their value and importance to the industry. The second chapter explores the complex relationship between the British cinema and the theatre, especially as it is revealed in the work of both actors. There follows a survey which addresses notions around Britishness and eccentricity, and their interconnections, their representation in Sim and Rutherford's films, and recent debates about what these attributes constitute now. The fourth part engages in a broader discussion of the art of character acting and the specific contribution made by the screen appearances of the two stars. If the introduction and subsequent chapters attempt to bring Sim and Rutherford together, the conclusion presents the contrasts between them. However, their continuing fascination is very much revealed through the interaction of their life and work and especially the influence of their respective spouses. The relationship between their stage and cinematic output informs some of their best work in both media, although their Britishness and eccentricity can, at different times, be both an asset and a limitation. Ultimately, Sim and Rutherford are defined as flexible and diverse character actors, although a synthesis of their various aspects - cinematic, theatrical, eccentric, British, character actors - offers a more complete designation of their individuality. Above all, they exemplify the primacy of performance in British cinema. Future research might concentrate on their theatre work or reactions to them by their fellow actors, and could also usefully incorporate the largely unrecognised legacy of so many other character players.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Thesis advisor - Ryall, Tom
Research Institute, Centre or Group - Does NOT include content added after October 2018: Sheffield Hallam Doctoral Theses
Depositing User: Helen Garner
Date Deposited: 21 Nov 2017 14:07
Last Modified: 26 Apr 2021 13:52

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