Halo, halo, halo

MoSSaint1

Since it was published at the weekend in the books section of the Event listings/review supplement nestled within the Mail On Sunday, which may have passed you by, here is my review of Ian Ogilvy’s “affably self-deprecating” memoir, Once A Saint. Nobody else is asking me to review books for them, so I am rather pleased that the Mail occasionally does. If you can’t read the print in the accompanying scans (I do approve of the generous way they lay the book reviews out), here is the copy, which seems to be appropriate for a blog about TV:

Once A Saint: An Actor’s Memoir
by Ian Ogilvy
(Constable, £20.00)

The crux of Ian Ogilvy’s affable but self-deprecating memoir comes on page 16: “At the end of the 70s I played the iconic character Simon Templar in a revived television series of The Saint. For most of the 1980s, I was unwelcome in UK television and films.”

His boyish smirk and blow-dried coiffure seemed never off the covers of TV Times or Look-in when Ogilvy’s 24 episodes of the glamorous international-man-of-mystery caper aired on ITV between 1978-79. Unlike his predecessor Roger Moore, who graduated to James Bond, Ogilvy never escaped from under Templar’s halo in our collective imagination. But fame is less interesting than the struggle, and the highlight of his Saint chapter is the arrival on location in the South of France of an inebriated Oliver Reed, who bellows, “You? The Saint? You’re a poofter!” (A duel is averted when Reed loses interest, somewhat emblematic of an Ogilvy showbiz yarn.)

His best anecdotes stem from his apprenticeship in gaudy 60s British horror films like The Sorcerers, with an “old and uninsurable” Boris Karloff, and Witchfinder General, with a “truculent” and also inebriated Vincent Price. Ogilvy’s long and constant spells on the stage prove even riper ground. When the curtain goes up on a 1974 production of The Waltz Of The Toreadors at the Theatre Royal Haymarket, a – guess what? – inebriated Trevor Howard snarls “FUCK OFF!” at the audience, many of whom, in Ogilvy’s witty account, “took Trevor’s instruction to heart and fucked off.”

The son of Francis Ogilvy, who helped set up the ad agency Ogilvy & Mather with his Don Draper-inspiring brother David, the young Ian enjoyed a chauffeur-driven boyhood in an 18th-century Essex manor house, but found himself “one of the poorest and least aristocratic” pupils at Sunningdale and Eton, where he shared a boxing ring with the future Sir Ranulph Fiennes. He blames his own “strangulated Eton vowels” for putting him at a disadvantage during the kitchen-sink 60s (when “everything working class had value”), a situation very much reversed in the Cumberbatch era.

He wryly describes the fees on TV panel games as “just enough to cover my milk bill”, and offers a knowing “spoiler alert” before revealing that he is the murderer in Stranger In The House, a film none of us will ever see. He candidly attributes his marital infidelities on “male pattern boredom.”

The section on the making of the film Waterloo in spartan Uzhgorod in Ukraine in 1969 is a tour de force, with prison-camp veteran Rupert Davies fashioning a toaster out of “two tin hotplates and a ball of string,” which he hangs from the light fitting in his hotel room, while Jack Hawkins, post-laryngectomy, speaks in “a kind of regulated belch.”

It’s a fun, if fitful ride, and Ogilvy leaves out some of his own achievements – a popular series of children’s books, for instance – in order perhaps to stick to his own humble script: “I’m inclined to like anything written about me because it means somebody has given me a passing thought.”

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