The trail of the missing Alastair Sim has finally led him here. We don’t have much in the way of law enforcement but what we do have can be frighteningly cold. Because what we have is Ian Richardson. Richardson whose cold, dead eyes and threateningly calm voice have served the country as the ever efficient head of every secret service, government and even Porterhouse is in no mood for any nonsense. His charm has no warmth. A bunch of dahlias on the occasional table rather than wilting in the cold of his presence have straightened themselves up more smartly. Inspector Richardson has that effect on people. If he were a Commissar cats would denounce cats, and cats denounce one another. Not that cats take much urging in that department.
Precisely polite he wants to know if I’ve seen Alastair Sim? He stands on the rug where the last of that great actor has left his mark upon the world. Ian Richardson was never in School For Scoundrels. He does not like it mentioned. It’s my own fault. When making the tea only an hour ago and on seeing what a grey day was promised I hoped to find on tele this afternoon that very film.
I’m bored silly you see with action movies, and robots, and CGI and flashy trash generally. I want to sit and watch black and white, to chuckle at Ealing. I’m not turning into my Dad. I watched this stuff eagerly on weekend afternoons, each one a treasure when found. If a film didn’t have Sean Connery in a dinner jacket, or Lancaster or Mosquito bombers in it – my Dad wasn’t interested. He’d snort at the opening of Passport to Pimlico. He’s scowl as The Ladykillers began. He’d demand to know when The Man In The White Suit appeared if I was ‘really going to watch this rubbish?’ He wanted Pussy Galore or 633 Squadron, or it was off to the allotment with him. And of them all my favourite was, is, School For Scoundrels. And it’s not even an Ealing.
Made in 1960, it boasted much of the same stable. Alastair Sim, Ian Carmichael and... Terry Thomas. Terry who knowing what’s going on with Inspector Richardson and I is at the window now, peering in, dabbing at his purposeful forehead with a monogrammed and bloody rag of Sea Island cotton.
School For Scoundrels is Terry Thomas, and where Ian Carmichael learns to best Terry Thomas by being taught such ‘gamesmanship’ by Alastair Sim. Gamesmanship being the art, of being, Terry Thomas. Of being a cad, a conman, of charmingly getting one over the other chap whilst dressed just so and which really every contestant on The Apprentice should be made to watch eyes held open like Alex under the Ludovico technique to the sounds of a little Ludwig Van.
Inspector Richardson leaves in such a way to make sure that he knows, what I know, whatever that might be. At some point he’ll make a suggestion I don’t doubt, to go somewhere, to pick up something, to stand on the platform beside a person and in the crowd jostle. I’ll need to be sharp to turn the tables. I’ll need to up my gamesmanship.
So I hope that School For Scoundrels is on this afternoon. And also now if you’ve any sense should you.