Friday, October 22, 2010

Trailer Trad Hall of Fame: Robert Hardy

It's surprising that a kid growing up in the rolling countryside of the Virginia Piedmont could be influenced by an Oxford educated English actor starring on a little known BBC TV show. But Robert Hardy had such an influence on me and many others. His Show All Creatures Great and Small was a favorite of mine even though it was on PBS (which at the time I associated with The Woodwright's Shop, The Victory Garden and other stuff that a teenage boy wouldn't be interested in).

In the show, Robert Hardy played veterinarian senior Siegfried Farnon, senior partner of a country practice in rural 1930s Yorkshire, England. His younger brother Tristan (Peter Davidson) was somewhat the black sheep and Christopher Timothy played James Herriot (the author of the wildly successful books that the series was based upon) who was usually caught somewhere in the middle. The beautiful English scenery actually reminded me quite a bit of my own Virginia stomping grounds and the parade of livestock and cool dogs every episode always interested me.

I think my Anglophilia began in ernest with All Creatures Great and Small. Siegfried, even when really frustrated with his younger brother, was always ready to offer encouragement, wisdom and good cheer. And the costume designer was brilliant. The tweeds, tattersall shirts, fair-isle sweaters and wellies looked incredible to me. Being Southern Baptists growing up in the country, my family liked the wholesome 'working farmer' tone of the show too (I don't think my parents would have gotten into the more hedonistic, aristocratic Brideshead Revisited at all!) The following are a couple of clips if you've never seen the show.

Tristan and Siegfried With Fantastic Dogs

Siegfried Judging Cakes

Until fairly recently, I had no idea just how accomplished Robert Hardy is. He has accumulated a tremendous body of work and, even now in his mid-80's, shows little sign on slowing down. He was friends with Richard Burton, Albert Finney and other British stars of the 1950s and 1960s and starred in movies and TV adaptations spanning Dickens' David Copperfield to Shakespeare's Henry V. You might not know that he also was the narrator for all of the Patrick O'Brien novels or that he is a graduate of Oxford University and holds three honory doctorates. One of my favorite performances was his legendary Winston Churchill for the miniseries Winston Churchill; The Wilderness Years. If you are a fan of him or of Winston Churchill (or both, as I am), you should seek it out.

Robert Hardy As Churchill on Socialism

I was late to the party regarding the Harry Potter craze, but I've really grown to enjoy them. And the icing on the cake for me was the appearance of Hardy in the series, albeit in the slightly villianous role of bureaucratic Cornelius Fudge. And typical of Hardy's range, he does a great job in that role too.

So here's a TT Hall of Fame nod to this fine Englishman to accompany his Yorkshire barn full of accomplishments and awards!


Sycorax said...

You've got great taste. ;)

I think Robert Hardy (who, by the way, will celebrate his 85. birthday on Friday) is one of the best English actors of his generation which was rather rich on good actors. His strength are his versatility, his wit and of course his intelligence which shines always through.

By the way: I've heard that he "designed" his costume in "All Creatures Great and Small" himself. He grew up in the English country (he calls himself a "country pumpkin" now and then) and he knew what a "gentleman vet" would have worn at this time.

May I correct you in one little point? The name of the vet is "Siegfried" with a "S". His parents were Wagner fans and so he was named after one of the heroes in the "Ring des Nibelungen" while Tristan is named after "Tristan and Isolde". ;)

Trailer Trad said...


OUCH!-I KNEW that! Thanks for the correction.