There are no middles with Miles Malleson. He’s either right at the top of the social pecking order (Sir Oswald Pettiford, the Duke of Suffolk, Lords and judges galore) or the very bottom rung (tailors, butlers, bus conductors, undertakers). Either way, it’s a certain shrewish, chinless, bumbling presence which admittedly hardly leaps out at the audience with a ‘Ta-daa!’ flourish of Method histrionics, but seeps into the filmgoer’s consciousness over a lifetime’s fleapitgoing. Possibly the ultimate ‘whatsisname’ actor, and no disrespect is implied by that at all. And he’s the author of a fine brace of historical romps, to boot.
FINEST HOUR: Let’s pick one from the top (Ian Carmichael’s old man in I’m All Right Jack) and one from the bottom (the ominous hearse driver-cum-conductor in Dead of Night).