Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Where my Wimsey takes me

Darwin and I have been watching the BBC's Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries, first Murder Must Advertise with Ian Carmichael and the slightly newer trio with Edward Petherbridge. As enjoyable as it is to hear Dorothy Sayers' witty dialog spoken, we have our quibbles with these productions, mainly relating to the characterization of Lord Peter.

Ian Carmichael is clearly too old for Lord Peter, who should be in his late 30s. As impeccable as his comic chops may be (and I get the impression that Carmichael was a noted comic actor in the fine old British style), he simply has no sex appeal whatsoever. This is utterly at odds with Sayers' characterization in the novels, and tends to make his scenes with women rather static. (Strangely enough, everyone in Murder Must Advertise seems cast about ten years older than necessary, though the acting is very fine.)

Edward Petherbridge comes much closer to Wimsey, for my money, but we still only got flashes of the intense ferret-like energy Lord Peter ought to possess. (This is the fault of the director, I think -- all the acting in this series is superlative and the action is hampered mainly by the overly-meditative directing, especially in Strong Poison.) Still, he's younger than Carmichael and has the right sandy hair and long nose for the character. If he were only taller and had a somewhat less high-pitched voice! (This Wimsey icon, and many more, may be found here.)

A question for all you Wimseyphiles who are up on the hot young British actor scene: who could play the definitive Lord Peter? Darwin and I have been trying out some virtual casting, but we're not coming up with anything. We need a tall, lanky (but not too skinny) actor with sandy blond hair and a long nose. Frankly, I think Hugh Laurie could be a fine Lord Peter, if he weren't a bit too old now. Too bad...

7 comments:

MamaT said...

Hugh Laurie already played the perfect, IMO, Bertie Wooster.

He'd probably be good, though you're right, rather too old now, as Wimsey.

I'm actually quite taken with the young man who is now playing Dr. Who. Can't think of his name. Seems like he'd be about the right age group, anyway.

mrsdarwin said...

I've seen that actor (David Tennant) in several things, and he's pretty good, but he just doesn't look quite right for Lord Peter. He did play Casanova for Masterpiece Theatre -- I missed the movie, but saw the preview several times.

Christine said...

Actually, per the books, Lord Peter is only 5'9" and does have a high pitched "light" tenor voice. I love the Edward Petherbridge/Harriet Walter character depictions but have a tough time with hack job the writer and director did on Gaudy Night. All of the background and supporting characters that made the book so fascinating disappeared.

Michael R. Denton said...

You're definitely right about Carmichael being too old. I remember watching the "Nine Tailors" and noticing that they made no effort to hide his age, so that he looks 50 while going to war and remains 50 about 10 years later.

mrsdarwin said...

Oh, Christine, you break my heart because we just finished Have His Carcase last night, and I thought, "Well, I'm liking this guy more as Wimsey and I can't wait to see what they do with Gaudy Night." Grr...

I had forgotten that Sayers had described Lord Peter that way. I must be running off my mental image of him. That's the problem with having all one's books packed away -- it's impossible to just grab a volume off the shelf and check up on some point of memory.

Bob the Ape said...

FWIW: According to Dorothy Sayers herself, Lord Peter's physical original was one Maurice Roy Ridley, the chaplain of Balliol (see also his Wikipedia entry).

Wimsey was also described as having a resemblance to the English actor Ralph Lynn.

And, finally, a perhaps off-the-wall casting suggestion for a future Wimsey: Tom Felton, who plays Draco Malfoy in the Harry Potter movies.

Anonymous said...

I've just found this post, better late than never! Hugh Laurie could still play Lord Peter, IMO. After all, Edward Petherbridge was magnificent as LPW and he was 51 in 1987, so there's precedent. I think Hugh Laurie would be perfect, he's a fabulous actor, has the right energy, and best of all, LPW was described in Murder Must Advertise as looking like "Bertie Wooster in horn rims " (referring to his undercover persona as he arrived at Pym's Publicity). The only thing is that Hugh Laurie is about 6" too tall, so doing Busman's Honeymoon would be very difficult, since the solution in the novel depends on LPW being significantly shorter than the deceased. On the other hand, I agree that casting Tom Felton as LPW is an intriguing suggestion. The more I think of it, the more I like the idea. Who would play Bunter? Could Harriet Walter play the Dowager Duchess? Most importantly, who would write the adaptations?