British Gentleman

Discussion in 'The Moving Picture' started by poetman, Feb 11, 2014.

  1. poetman

    poetman A-List Customer

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    What films feature the classic English Gentleman for you? I was watching Remains of the Day and thinking about how Anthony Hopkins is the classic English Gentleman in that film--and not because he's typecast or playing a conventional role. He certainly infuses it with his own theatrical magic, and Ishiguro wrote a complex enough character, but his role in that film is set a standard for me. He's not the expected, cliched gentleman one (now) finds in Austen or Forster's film adaptations. Again, the character, and Hopkins' interpretation is wonderfully fresh. So, what films have the classic English Gentleman to whom you return?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G2un8xvArsU
     
    Last edited: Feb 11, 2014
  2. Two Types

    Two Types I'll Lock Up

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    Interesting question: Too often, the perception of the British gentleman will be too narrow, too confined to upper class stereotypes. Of course, this stems from the narrow definition of a gentleman being someone of independent financial means, thus someone who doesn't need to work.
    For me, using a broader definition of manners and bearing would suggest the following:

    David Niven in 'The Way Ahead': A former garage mechanic, who becomes an infantry officer in WW2 and leads his men through training and into battle. All the time he remains true to his men, pushing them when they need pushing and offering assistance when they need it.
    [​IMG]

    Similarly, I would offer Jack Hawkins in 'The Cruel Sea'. A Royal Navy officer with concern for the men under his command, who struggles with the burden of command. A not disimilar role to the one played by Hawkins in 'The Man in the Sky')
    [​IMG]

    These are the sorts of values that i would think define a real gentleman, not the cartoonish stereotypes beloved of so many.
     
  3. Flat Foot Floey

    Flat Foot Floey My Mail is Forwarded Here

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    I have no answer for you but I found the two answers quite baffling.
    Both "character types" have a strong sense of dignity and are loyal to their folks but besides that I see a wide gap
    The butler in "Remains of the day" is a servant who doesn't question his master and Two Types suggestions are strong leaders who take responsibility for their actions.
    I wouldn't think in terms of serving/leading so much when I hear the term "Gentleman".

    I thought of how they treat women or how they deal with difficulties. They don't show spite, envy or are back stabbers. Maybe that's the set of values Two Types mentioned but from the plot summaries I mainly get the "leading"thingy.
     
  4. Fading Fast

    Fading Fast

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    I often think that the father and son in "Mrs. Miniver" reflect an English Gentleman at his best in that both fight the war with stoic public resolve, but do show emotion and pain in the privacy of their home. And Lady Beldon is a great example of a fine English Lady adjusting her prejudices to the new reality in an awesome way.

    "Remains of the Day" is in my top ten favorite movies and favorite books as the story reflects great emotional depth, incredible moral challenges and the struggles one has when one's belief system and code of values is loosing its grounding as society changes around it. And away from Hopkins character, Lord Darlington is an interesting study in a misguided but principled English Gentleman also dealing with a world shifting faster than his personal code of conduct can adjust.
     
  5. Edward

    Edward Bartender

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    I've never seen Remains, but I did gather Hopkins plays a servant in it. It used to be a classification confined to the landed gentry (the dividing lines of class boundary are still quite strong in the UK, especially among those who aspire to climb higher up the social ladder, though the post-Marx idea of class being purely about economics still hasn't fully taken over - it takes a long time for noveau riche to be accepted by their financial peers - if they ever are), but not so much now. Servants are such a rare thing that they don't really enter the public conscience much. Traditionally that would bar him from being considered a gentleman. Otherwise, it's a matter of a certain perception of manners, poise, and emotional reserve. Oh... and a gentlemanly mode of traditional dress. That, and when you say "British Gentleman", most people actually mean an English gentleman with a specific dialect. It seems that most folks on the other side of the Atlantic who talk about a "British" accent actually mean someone sounds like Tim Curry or the queen.
     
  6. Fading Fast

    Fading Fast

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    If you are a reader, I would recommend reading "Remains of the Day" before watching the movie as, while both are excellent, it is more fun to see the story unfold in the book (with you creating your own images in your head) and, then, see one director's interpretation on screen afterwards. And I would recommend the book without reservation - a short gem of a book.
     
  7. Two Types

    Two Types I'll Lock Up

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    I think you are right: My answer wasn't really a fully developed answer. I stand by my assessment of those characters having the qualities I consider 'gentlemanly'. To explain fully, I would need to present a rather lengthy essay on class in the UK and why my concept of values are far from the stereotype of a gentleman. I cannot abide the notion of the gentleman as just coming from the upper tiers of society. Hence my dislike of televisual nonsense like 'Downton Abbey'.

    The decent male characters whose values and behaviour I would aspire to achieve are not modelled on some tweed clad, hunting, shooting - 'What Ho! Have another tot from my hip flask' - gentleman (and all that old cobblers). Try attending events in the UK that are organised by The Chap magazine! You'll soon understand my antipathy to the terrible old image of the English gentleman and the horrors it has spawned.

    I suppose what I am saying is that I'm more Clement Attlee than Winston Churchill (that is a rather sweeping statement that doesn't stand for close analysis, but it is just supposed to give a general impression of my opinion).
    [​IMG]

    I must now try to find other examples from films.
     
  8. LizzieMaine

    LizzieMaine Bartender

    Of all the depictions of "English gentlemen" I've ever seen on screen, big or small, the one who has always impressed me most is Sgt. Wilson from "Dad's Army," which I've always thought of as being a show as much about the British class system as it is about the Home Guard.

    Wilson is a man of aristocratic background and bearing, who is completely comfortable with those of any social class, and goes out of his way to ensure that no one is ever uncomfortable in his presence -- even though his superior, Captain Mainwaring, is a pushy middle-class striver who finds Wilson's gentlemanly manners unbearable. There's no "What ho, old chap" stuff with Wilson, he's more "How so very nice to meet you," and in his general approach to life he reminds me very much of the New England Old Money types I've known, who are close cousins to British Gentlemen in their manner. It's a very careful, nuanced portrayal of a very distinctive character type.
     
  9. Two Types

    Two Types I'll Lock Up

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    Very good answer!
     
  10. GHT

    GHT I'll Lock Up

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    Perhaps you feel more sympathetic towards Atlee's political views than you do towards Churchill's. Atlee was, in my book one of those champagne socialists. Worth remembering he was well and truly one of the aristocracy: Clement Richard Attlee, 1st Earl Attlee, KG, OM, CH, PC, FRS. Just as Churchill was: Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill, KG, OM, CH, TD, DL, FRS, RA.
    Not worth getting into a debate about, and falling out with the forum's political rules. But to me, A British Gentleman is a charlatan that hides behind title, class and priviledge. And believe you me, I am no socialist, more a cynic who has lived too long.
     
  11. dhermann1

    dhermann1 I'll Lock Up

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    Take a look at Night Train to Munich, from 1940, with Rex Harrison.
     
  12. Worf

    Worf I'll Lock Up

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    The first films mentioned are interesting. "The Way Forward" I believe was called "The Immortal Battalion" or Regiment here. And "The Cruel Sea" well... both are great war films. But I don't think they're completely right. In TCS, Jack Hawkins might have started out a "gentleman" but by wars end he's more Ahab than anything else. In TWF Niven is more or less a good soldier above all else charged with whipping civilians into soldiers. To me the epitome of a "gentleman" was Ben Cumberbatch's "Tijeans" (sp) from "Parades End" released on HBO last year. If anything that character was the LAST of the true English gentleman if ever such a thing truly existed. Perhaps Robert Donat's "Mr. Chips" is an even better example if you need one from a non-war setting. Certainly Mr. Miniver held up his end brilliantly, despite not being English if I recall correctly.

    Interesting subject.

    Worf
     
  13. Two Types

    Two Types I'll Lock Up

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    Your answer shows exactly why i said my comment didn't stand for close analysis and was meant as a general point!
     
  14. Two Types

    Two Types I'll Lock Up

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    I would say that by war's end, above all else, he is basically exhausted - and sick and tired of war.
     
  15. Two Types

    Two Types I'll Lock Up

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    I always got a sense of false sentimentality from that character. If we are looking at teachers. I would say Michael Redgrave as Andrew Crocker-Harris in The Browning Version might be a good recommendation.
     
  16. Denton

    Denton One of the Regulars

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    This is the ideal of gentlemanly behavior in Richardson's novel Sir Charles Grandison (Jane Austen's favorite novel).

    Christopher Tietjens in Parade's End is an interesting example. (I only know Ford's novels, haven't seen the adaptation.) Can write a sonnet in under a minute, speaks foreign languages with perfect attention to grammar (but with an English accent, so that no one forgets he is English), always does his duty even when it makes no difference, and turns any information into Tory ideology.

    For a different sort of ideal, how about Charters and Caldicott? The pair of oafs who appear in The Lady Vanishes, Night Train to Munich, and the anthology horror film Dead of Night? Petty, ignorant, obsessed with cricket and golf -- but handy in a crisis.
     
  17. Fading Fast

    Fading Fast

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    dhermann1: "Night Train to Munich" belongs in the Under-appreciated Movie's thread - what a gem of a movie that I almost never hear anything about. And while I wouldn't have thought of it, Rex Harrison in that movie is an interesting example of a gentleman. He does what is moral, what is right, (and at great risk to his life), despite being a bit of a curmudgeon about it.

    Worf: Tietjens is another good one - he put up with a lot of despicable behavior from superiors and his family (wife in particular), but tried through it all to remain moral in what was clearly an immoral world. Ford Madox Ford (have to look up how that name came about) knew how to put a man in a situation to test his limits.
     
  18. Mr. Godfrey

    Mr. Godfrey Practically Family

    I do so agree, however, what about Charles Godfrey! A perfect example of a good manners and very similar to my grandfather. One could also use Henry Palfrey (Ian Carmichael) in school for scoundrels? It is manners, quite reserve and courage to defend the needy when required rather than the stereotypical public school portrail, think Michael Caine portraying Lt. Gonville Bromhead in Zulu.


    sfs3.jpg

    While not quite a film I have always thought about JR Hartley.

    [video=youtube_share;r2TilNclT8k]http://youtu.be/r2TilNclT8k[/video]


    Charles Godfrey

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    Last edited: Feb 12, 2014
  19. Two Types

    Two Types I'll Lock Up

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    One could also point to Ian Carmichael's role in 'Brothers in Law' in which he plays a very similar character to the one in 'School for Scoundrels' (or indeed 'A Private's Progress'). The character's treatment of women is impeccable - in contrast to that of his friend (played by Richard Attenborough) who, though charming, is a bit 'faster' when it comes to the ladies.
     
  20. Shangas

    Shangas I'll Lock Up

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    Lizzie, you remind me of the Dad's Army episode, I think it's called "That Honorable Man".

    In the episode, Wilson receives a letter, and Mainwaring picks it up by accident. On the envelope, it says something like: "To the Honourable Mr. Wilson" (or words to that effect).

    Mainwaring is shocked (as he always is, whenever his command or rank or social position is in question). Wilson confirms that it is in-fact, true. A relation died, and due to a shift in the social ranks as a result, his style of address is now "The Honourable..." etc etc. But that he really doesn't care about it, one way or another, and actually finds it rather embarrassing.
     

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