Star Archive

Ian Carmichael (1920 - 2010)

At first sight, Ian Carmichael looks like a typical product of bland 50s cinema. He was pleasing light comedian with a neat line in silly-asses: sort of Ralph Lynn-lite. But this ignores his appearance in some of the most subversive comedies of the period. When middle class English film makers wanted to criticise their middle class life, they used Carmichael to sweeten the pill.

As a young actor after the war he worked his way steadily up the ladder. He first came to notice in the West End production of Simon and Laura, and was the only member of the original cast to be retained for the film version.

This film didn't lead to much, but he had already been spotted by the Boulting Brothers for the key role of Stanley Windrush in Private's Progress. As the innocent toff conscripted into the army, his bemusement struck a chord with a public that could remember that the war wasn't all blitz and heroism.

From then on he was the film world's favourite bookish innocent; more familiar with Mediaeval poetry than shopping at Woolworth's. There followed a dozen or so comedies that examine the cracks in the political consensus of the period. Chief among these is I'm All Right Jack, a bitter comedy about union versus bosses. He doesn't like his performance in this, mainly because he reprises his role of Stanley Windrush for the Boulting brothers, but he provides the heart of the film.

When the Swinging Sixties hit, he naturally wasn't in as much demand in the cinema as before. Never mind, there was always the theatre and television. For many, he's the definitive Bertie Wooster playing opposite Dennis Price in The World of Wooster. In the seventies he played another silly-ass toff in a series of adaptations of five of the Lord Peter Wimsey novels.

As an actor he never stepped outside the restrictions of his small range, but that was because he had too much sense. He had no delusions that there was a Hamlet lurking beneath the light comedian, and this may well be why we liked him. Despite the awkwardness and innocence of his character, he knew who he was and knew it was the World that was out of step, not him.

Still from Left, Right and CentreStill from Left, Right and CentreStill from I'm All Right Jack


1948 Bond Street
1949 Trottie True
1949  Dear Mr Prohack
1952 Ghost Ship
1952 Time Gentlemen Please
1953 Meet Mr Lucifer
1954 Betrayed (U.S.)
1955 The Colditz Story
1955 Storm Over the Nile
1955 Simon and Laura
1956 Private's Progress
1956 The Big Money
1957 Brothers in Law
1957 Lucky Jim
1958 Happy is the Bride
1959 Left, Right and Centre
1959 I'm All Right Jack
1960 School for Scoundrels
1960 Light Up the Sky
1961 Double Bunk
1962 The Amorous Prawn
1963 Heavens Above!
1963 Hide and Seek
1964 The Case of the '44s
1967 Smashing Time
1971 The Magnificent Deadly Sins
1973 From Beyond the Grave
1979 The Lady Vanishes
1989 Diamond Skulls

 Ian Carmichael at Amazon UK

 Ian Carmichael at Amazon US