Thursday, 8 June 2017

Spotlight on St Trinians 8

The History of Miss Fritton

Alastair Sim was born in 1900, and so was 54 years old when headmistress Miss Fritton was gifted to the world in ‘The Belles of St Trinians.’ He also played her brother, Clarence Fritton and made a much reduced return in the 1957 sequel ‘Blue Murder at St Trinians’.  As Miss Fritton – and Clarence - Sim brings a wonderful air of genteel crookedness to delight us throughout the film. In terms of drag roles, nothing could ever surpass this one, in my opinion. Sim doesn’t pile on fake femininity, he remains the character actor that we love except with a string of pearls and a softer voice. We believe wholly in Miss Fritton as a female character, which is tribute to the talent behind her.

Sim began making films in the mid 1930s – a stalwart of the quota quickies. In 1936 he appeared in six films! As war broke out he was appearing in the ‘Inspector Hornleigh’ films, where he first came into contact with Launder and Gilliat. He was also a stage success – here’s a programme from the wartime play ‘Cottage to Let’ from my own collection. Note fellow St Trinians actors in the cast – George Cole and Thorley Walters.

Sim made his most memorable films in the post war years including the first of the Ealing comedies ‘Hue and Cry’ (1946). I recommend ‘The Green Man’, ‘The Happiest Days of Your Life’ and ‘Scrooge’. In 1954, the year of ‘Belles’, Sim also starred in the film of the fantastic JB Priestley play ‘An Inspector Calls’. Compare the two roles and marvel at his versatility. 

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