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  1. #1
    Senior Member Country: Scotland julian_craster's Avatar
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    Reading this obituary, Neil North does sound like a bit of a sharp operator/sponger

    Would you buy an antique from this chap ?

    Obituary: Neil North

    Star of 'The Winslow Boy' (1948) who took part in the 1999 remake

    The Independent

    Published: 19 March 2007

    Neil Dermot North, actor and antique dealer: born Quetta, India 18 October 1932; died London 7 March 2007.

    Neil North played young Ronnie Winslow, a naval cadet accused of stealing a postal order, in the 1948 screen version of Terence Rattigan's hit play The Winslow Boy. Fifty years later he played the First Lord of the Admiralty in the 1999 remake. "It would be interesting," states The Encyclopaedia of British Film, "to know what he was doing in the intervening half-century." Though he never totally gave up acting, North became a prominent antique dealer during those years, while enjoying a colourful life characterised by uncommon enterprise.

    Born in 1932 in the Indian province of Quetta, Baluchistan, he was the youngest of three boys - his twin brothers were three years older. His father was an officer in the Indian Army and his mother, born Audrey Martineau, was a descendant of the Huguenots.

    His brother Desmond recalls that their education was erratic, at a series of schools in England and India, until the Second World War when North became a pupil at King's School Canterbury. There he studied drama, and, when the college staged a production of Laurie Lee's play Peasant's Priest (set in the Chapter House of the cathedral) for the Canterbury Festival in 1947, North was given a prominent role as the Boy King, Richard II.

    Lee later disowned the play, the only one he wrote, which dealt with the revolutionary John Ball and the Peasants' Revolt of 1381, but its director, Bernard Miles, was impressed by North and recommended him to the producer Anatole de Grunwald and director Anthony Asquith, who had been searching public schools for a boy to play young Ronnie for a film version of The Winslow Boy.

    Based on the true case of a 13-year-old naval cadet, George Archer-Shee, who was expelled in 1908 for the alleged theft of a postal order, the film had a distinguished cast, including Cedric Hardwicke as Ronnie's father, who wrecks his health taking the case to the Admiralty and the House of Commons, Margaret Leighton as the boy's suffragette sister, and Robert Donat in the prime role of the QC who takes up the fight. North displayed a convincing mixture of spunk, mischief and sensitivity as the boy, particularly in the famous scene in which Donat browbeats him with a fierce interrogation before declaring to his parents, "The boy is plainly innocent. I accept the brief."

    North enjoyed the experience and determined to remain an actor. He was in Britannia Mews (1948) with Maureen O'Hara, played a schoolboy in Mr Perrin and Mr Traill (1948) and in Tom Brown's Schooldays (1951), and had a small role in The Deep Blue Sea (1955) before his career changed course when he became liable for National Service.

    After his failure to report brought a visit from the authorities, he climbed out of a window and clambered across the rooftops to escape, and with the help of a resourceful actor's agent took a boat to Ireland, eventually getting to Italy, where, ironically, he found acting roles in recruitment films.

    North was always an enterprising lad - his niece Sophie remembers stories of his collecting broken glass in Canterbury after the pubs had emptied on a Sunday and selling the pieces to tourists as parts of the cathedral's stained-glass windows blown out during the Second World War. He would also tell tourists that a record of visitors was being kept and would ask them to write their names and addresses in a notebook he carried. Years later, he used the book to contact people when he was in America and thereby enjoyed enormous hospitality.

    He had settled in the United States after setting up an antique business with a millionaire lover, Charles Gibson, whose family had made a fortune in shrimping. The two had a shop in New York at East 57th Street, North and Gibson, which became a prime lure for collectors. They lived in a beautiful house near West Point, overlooking the Hudson River, and North, who called himself Lord North (which helped open doors), became noted for his ability to find rare pieces. His brother says, "I'm finding letters addressed to 'Lord North' or 'The Right Honourable Neil North'."

    North never gave up acting, and during the 1950s appeared on several television shows, including Robert Montgomery Presents and You Are There. He starred in the Kraft Theatre adaptation of Walter Lord's account of the Titanic's sinking, A Night To Remember (1955), playing Second Officer Lightoller, the role played by Kenneth More in the 1958 screen version. After he and Gibson parted, North moved to Palm Beach, Florida, where he raced classic speed boats, then moved to Cuernavaca, Mexico, in 1980.

    On his return to the UK, he telephoned the agent John Hubbard, whom he had learned was casting a new screen version of The Winslow Boy. "He rang to tell me he had been in the earlier version," Hubbard recalls, "though he didn't ask for a part. I was fascinated that he had played Ronnie all those years ago, and arranged to meet him - he had a quiet charm, an understated, genial quality and the attribute of really listening to what you have to say - a rarity in this business. I took him to a reading for the director David Mamet without telling him North's history, and Mamet was highly impressed and cast him on the spot. I then told him that North had been Ronnie in the Asquith film and he thought that was a wonderful bonus."

    As First Lord of the Admiralty, one of the boy's prosecutors, North was an imposing presence, as he was when later playing one of the ballet school examining committee in the 2000 film Billy Liar.

    North's final screen appearance was in a "pub" scene, filmed in Battersea, for Robert DeNiro's The Good Shepherd (2007).

    Tom Vallance

  2. #2
    Senior Member Country: England
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    It's really fascinating what you find out on this site.

  3. #3
    Senior Member Country: England
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    North, as already mentioned in this thread, played Ronnie Winslow in 1948 and the First Lord of the Admiralty in the 1999 remake of The Winslow Boy. Jean Simmons played Estella in 1946 and Miss Havisham in the 1989 mini-series of Great Expectations. Michael Caine played Jack Carter in 1971 and Cliff Brumby in the 2000 remake of Get Carter. Caine also played Milo Tindle in 1972 and is Andrew Wyke in the latest production of Sleuth. There must be many other examples of actors (sticking with the British ones) who have appeared in both the original film and also in the remake. Anyone like to add to the list?

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