BOB Hope once hailed Sid Field as “the greatest comedian of them all.”
“Who?” I hear many of you ask. Well, that few readers will have heard of this wonderful comic actor, who died at the tragically young age of 46 in 1950, is much more due to the lack of footage of him rather than talent or changing tastes in humour.
I remember hearing that three thespian sirs - Laurence Olivier, Ralph Richardson and John Gielgud - dropped everything to go and see Field live on stage, such was their reverence for his skill and their desire to pick up tips.
And it was Field who came to mind when Olivia Colman spoke at the Baftas about comic acting being just as worthy and challenging as serious emoting.
I couldn’t agree more. In fact I’m tempted to say that it’s harder to get a laugh out of someone than tears.
Colman is one of those great actors, finally getting her due, who is equally comfortable in both genres - and was recognised for both at Sunday’s awards. Tim McInnerny is another with such versatility. I’d known him only for being the Blackadder’s thick sidekick Percy - and then he turned in a performance as one of the most terrifying killers I’ve ever seen on telly in the Trial and Retribution series.
I think some folk still regard comedy as a lower form of art. But for my money one of the greatest actors this country ever produced was Ronnie Barker.