Saturday, 29 August 2015


This article was originally published in The Dundee Courier on 22 August 2015.

Sean Connery: In His Own Words: Tuesday, BBC Two

The Scandalous Lady W: Monday, BBC Two

Paul Whitelaw

Sean Connery is a dazzling human being. This much I learned from Sean Connery: In His Own Words, a cheekily titled hagiography in which the great man's own words were culled entirely from archive interviews.

Having retired several years ago, Connery, who turns 85 this week, clearly had no interest in contributing to this affectionate documentary. Fortunately, an awe-struck procession of celebrity friends and fans, including Jackie Stewart, Terry Gilliam, George Lucas and Robert Carlyle, were available to pay gushing man-crush tribute.

His absence at times made it feel like a eulogy. But his immense charisma hogged the limelight via several well-chosen clips of him in action, both as an actor and interviewee.

Arguably one of the greatest post-war screen stars, Connery's sheer presence is inarguable. He commanded attention without ever seeming to consciously steal a scene. Though often mocked for never dropping his Edinburgh accent regardless of his character's nationality, Connery at his best was always authentic. As Gilliam observed: “When you hire Sean Connery, you want Sean Connery to turn up.”

The programme looked beyond Bond to remind us of Connery's oft overlooked merits as an intelligent actor who, in the late 1960s and 1970s especially, defied typecasting with hard-hitting projects such as The Hill and The Offence. It also suggested that, despite his alpha-male image, the private Connery is a rather thoughtful and articulate, even gentle, soul with a commendable lack of vanity.

Clearly he adores his homeland. Rare extracts from a self-directed 1960s documentary about the decline of Scotland's shipyards indicated that, even while in the bosom of Hollywood, Connery never severed ties with his working-class roots. We were also reminded that he only made Diamonds Are Forever, his final official hurrah as Bond, on the condition that his gargantuan fee was ploughed into establishing the Scottish International Education Trust. Whatta guy.

Even I, a born cynic, was saluting Big Tam by the end of this deftly crafted celebration. If tomorrow he formed a dangerous cult, I'd probably join. Never underestimate the magnetic pull of twinkling charisma.

A prissy, mannered, standalone period drama,The Scandalous Lady W scored a worthwhile point in dreary style. Set in the late 18th century, it told the potentially interesting true story of Seymour, Lady Worsley, who took the scalding step of leaving her husband to elope with his best friend.

This was an era when a man's wife was thought of as his property; to leave him was akin to a field gaining sentience and declaring itself a village.

The madness of this attitude was tackled resolutely, but as a drama, for all its good intentions, The Scandalous Lady W was far too arid. It was a chamber piece in the most cloistered, stuffy sense: a procession of powdered wigs tilting dutifully at each other.

Natalie Dormer from Game of Thrones fluttered and jutted her way through what should have been, by rights, a powerful feminist polemic. Instead it unfurled into stilted farce.

Laughable insult was added to harrowing injury once you clocked that the splendidly named Aneurin Barnard as Lady W's lover was, with his tousled mop and red frock coat, the absolute spitting image of Pete Doherty. What a waste.

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