Thursday 23 November 2017

From flavour of the month to yesterday's man

"The Liam Neeson of his day," was how one contributor to Stephen Boyd: The Man Who Never Was (BBC1) described the Belfast-born co-star of Ben-Hur and The Fall of the Roman Empire.

Contributors attested to his personality and charm, but as an actor he was a bit of a plank and as a man he was uneasy both with fame and with playing the Hollywood game. And so after a glittering start, he found himself relegated to supporting parts in a succession of bad movies. He died at the age of 45 playing golf in California, and now he's unknown to anyone under the age of 50.

Playwright Terence Rattigan, once the darling of the English stage, suffered much the same fate until recently. Derided in the late 1950s as the genteel antithesis of the Angry Young Men who had come to dominate British theatre, he remained unregarded until recently, when such plays as The Deep Blue Sea and Cause Celebre were revived to rapturous acclaim.

In The Rattigan Enigma (BBC4), Benedict Cumberbatch told his story eloquently and absorbingly.

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