For the Love of Sid
When comedian Rik Mayall passed away unexpectedly last year, there was a huge outpouring of grief from a shocked nation, which I can only equate to the levels which met Sid's death in 1976. However, while both men often played exaggerated versions of themselves, they were loved by the public for very different reasons. Rik was a force of nature much admired for his outrageous self-confidence. In complete contrast, Sid was much more like the normal man in the street. It was easy to imagine downing a couple of pints with him in the local, while enjoying a quick game of three card brag.
As his career progressed, Sid the character became very much entwined with Sid the man. Indeed, it is very much a testament to Sid's supreme skills as an actor that the public found it so difficult to distinguish between the two. I, for one, cannot think of another actor, comedic or dramatic, who always looked so relaxed in front of the camera. This aura of calm, however, belied an intense professionalism and strong work ethic which never left Sid throughout his prolific career. In an era when the British film industry was perhaps at its peak, with features rolling off the production line at a phenomenal rate, 'One-Take' James was the ultimate reliable asset to have on the cast list. There was no artistic temperament here! He simply wanted to get the work done and move on to the next job.
Warm and refreshingly down-to-earth, Sid James will always occupy the top spot on my list of personal comedy heroes. Who knows, in another time and another place, maybe I could have enjoyed that pint with him down the boozer.