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4.4 out of 5 stars
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4.4 out of 5 stars
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on 8 December 2009
I, like countless others, have been - since about 1950 - a lifelong fan of Alastair SIM and this long overdue in-depth Biography is expertly researched and produced.

With the help and memories of many notable people who worked with and were personally attached to Mr Sim, it is a warmly felt story with a degree of sadness and triumph.

The author pulls no punches in personal views and it is, overall, an honest and fine memorial to a great artist.
I only finished the book two days back and was sad that it ended.

The Index of Alastair's acting career in both films and on the stage and in Television is comprehensive.

What a great career this gentle man had and what pleasure he gave - and will continue to give to so many people.

Even tho he would decline to warm his fans by signing their bits of paper with his autograph they still loved him.

And we do have his films to treasure, with repeated viewings.

This is one Biography you should not miss.

Thanks so much, MARK SIMPSON, a beautiful job.
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on 12 July 2008
Alastair Sim is one of my very favourite actors, one of those rare talents who only needs to turn up in a film for me to start smiling. Capable of great drama but more often hilarious comedy, Sim remains an inspiration to me.

Simpson's book is certainly better than any biography of Sim we're likely to get and it must be difficult to research and interact with the life of a man who refused all media attention, not giving interviews or autographs. However, this book reads like one of those hour-long retrospective documentaries you catch on Channel 4 or BBC2: a nice, fairly warm account of a comedian's life with lots of talking heads and a basic chronology of everything that happened in his life, but that ultimately lacks something. You never really feel as if you're getting to grips with Alastair Sim as a human being - you don't get inside the actor's head and feel his dreams and desires - and Simpson's basic prose style doesn't convince you that he's especially enthusiastic to write about the man (despite the 10 years of research) making for an informative but not especially entertaining read.

The book feels rushed: An Inspector Calls is barely discussed, despite being one of Sim's most celebrated roles, and Sim's declining health and eventual death are glossed over with no thought given as to what Sim must have made of his life and successes. I'm definitely glad this book was written as next to nothing is known of this great performer but Simpson's handling of the material is sorely lacking compared to such works as Graham McCann's biography of Frankie Howerd.

I'd rate it as a 7/10, though I give it an extra half star purely out of gratitude that Simpson attempted this book in the first place.
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on 30 January 2009
It is interesting that the author, or more likely I guess, the publishers, felt that this account of the life of Alastair Sim required a sub-title: 'The star of Scrooge and the Belles of St Trinian's' as though, without this reminder of two of the actor's best known films, the reading public, or, at least, those under forty, would not know who he was.

And yet, during the 1950s, Sim was a very popular and much loved actor. This is the first biography to appear since his widow published her own memoir in the 1980s. I wish I could say this new book was worth waiting for, but for many reasons it is unsatisfactory.

To be fair, the author Mark Simpson had two problems to contend with: Sim guarded his privacy carefully and never gave interviews, so the amount of documentation available is small; and the fact that many of the actors, directors and producers who worked with Sim are no longer alive.

It is a competent account of Sim's life. Comments on films and plays are pithy, though in some cases, I would have liked rather more in-depth analysis. Simpson is also quite candid about Sim's limited acting range and his choice of roles in some poor films, though I suspect this might have been a deliberate ploy on Sim's part to make him stand out from his fellow actors. More information on James Bridie and his plays which formed such an important part of Alastair Sim's career would also have been helpul, particularly as Bridie is a forgotten playwright nowadays. The author touches on the reasons why Sim's film career declined after the 1950s, but again, I feel this subject could have been explored more fully.

The publisher's blurb informs us that the author spent ten years reseaching this biography and I am tempted to ask: what did he spend the ten years doing? It is a slim volume and yes, we have comments from actors who worked with Sim, but these are few and far between. There are singular omissions in this area, Patricia Routledge being the obvious example.

The author gets himself in a bit of a lather about those aspects of Sim's private life which have drawn comment over the years, viz his promotion of young actors and speculation about his sexuality. He almost apologises for not finding any salacious tittle-tattle.

Fans of Alastair Sim will be grateful to Mark Simpson for writing this biography and it is an enjoyable read. It just needs fleshing out more.
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on 10 August 2008
Simpson should be lauded, not just for eloquently filling a significant gap in British film biography, but for spending ten years researching his subject and eventually turning out a measured, intelligent and - above all - extremely readable account of the life and work of Alastair Sim.

Straining vainly to rake up scandal in its review of the book (young wife, young actors as proteges...) the Daily Mail has only made itself look as befuddled and ridiculous as one of Sim's own masterly comic creations. Even a cursory glance at the text shows that the author has dealt clearly and calmly with such nonsense. Instead he focuses on, and carefully dissects, the personality and talent of what must have been a ferociously difficult subject.

Simpson deals equally well with both Sim's more familiar outings, such as Scrooge and St. Trinian's, and the far less well-known theatre work; in particular the rich and brilliant partnership with the playwright Bridie.

Overall then, this is a highly-readable account of one of Britain's best-loved performers. Simpson shares with Michael Parkinson, the rare talent of being able to allow the star subject to dominate the centre stage; whilst, at the same time, maintaining a thoughtful, sensitive probing to reveal the creative person behind the public perception. Quite superb. This is how film biography SHOULD be written.
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on 2 February 2010
It is likely that most people today are familiar with Alastair Sim as the delightfully eccentric performer who brightens - indeed, dominates - many a classic British comedy of the 1950s, now to be enjoyed on television on the proverbial `wet Sunday afternoon'. This beautifully written book fleshes out an actor and director who achieved so much on the stage as well as on film, and gives as candid an insight as I would imagine possible into the background and domestic life of a very private man.

The ups and downs of Sim's career are clearly set out, his better and poorer films are identified (though this might be subject to one's opinion) and his human failings and virtues are honestly addressed. The question of his relationship with, and eventual marriage to, a girl whom he first met when he was 26 and she only 12 is discussed frankly but, as a fan of Sim's, I am pleased to say the reassurance offered by Simpson carries authority. Sim emerges from this literate, well-researched biography as an intelligent, principled, but occasionally distant person. I finished the book still believing that, when we see him in such wonderful movies as 'Green For Danger', 'School For Scoundrels' or 'The Green Man', we are seeing some part of the man himself behind the character he's playing.

All told, we are left with a well-rounded picture of Sim as a man and a theatrical professional.

Recommended.
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VINE VOICEon 19 June 2010
With so many books about film stars and suchlike that are at most lightweight - or why did they bother in most cases - this shines with so much detail WITH reference sources detailed..

It reads well from his birth, his work and much more as any reader would gather from seeing his many films - sad I never ever saw him on the stage - that gives you an insight into this wonderful actor, who would wipe the board if he were about today as he WAS an actor and not the now accepted form of today where 'actor's' wander from scene to scene, film to film in the same stance or to put it in context, just play themselves..

Very worthy of five stars as the work that went into this book must have been great and you get the sense that this was a labour of love by the author, unlike a lot more supposed 'authors' in the same position who do it for the money - and it shows..

Nuff said! - order it now and get reading! - there is nowt on the telly or ever likely to be for some time, unless you like Ant and the Other One, who seem to be clogging the place up!
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on 24 November 2013
I wouldn't call myself 'diehard' but interested enough in Alastair Sim to buy this (and there are very few to choose from). There are almost 50 pages at the end listing his performances and plays etc. Quite a lot of quotations from fellow stars and assistants etc. which I wouldn't expect from a more accomplished biographer. Also there are the obligatory summaries of plays/films (a little too long). Controversies are dismissed in the last two pages rather abruptly with a little bit of short sermonizing. Not a 'cut and paste' job, but a little more polish for a polished performer would have helped. One small bone: his acting is assessed as 'unoriginal' towards the end in a general summation. A little harsh and not really backed up. His style of acting was pretty singular and even in non-fantastic scripts, he managed, in my view, a little alchemy and made it turn out better than maybe it deserved. Still worth buying and reading.
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on 14 May 2010
If you enjoy British comedy films of the 40's and 50's you will enjoy Alastair Sim's style of gentle humour. What a great book, looking at the man himself, a man who kept out of the public eye, a most enjoyable read.
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on 20 March 2015
Among his. Films my favourites are st Iranians, the green man the first two with George Cole and the Christmas classic scrounge. It was interesting to read about him from an author with no axe to grind and seems to genuinely his subject. Would recommend.
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on 3 March 2009
Mark Simpson has produced a real gem of a book about Sim. Not only does it provide insights about the man but also about cinema of this time. Admittedly, I'm not a big fan of biographies but I loved this book and found it difficult to put down, particularly as it got into its flow in the later chapters.
It had some wonderful details which demonstrates Simpson's exacting research. To his credit, Simpson refuses to speculate in the more torrid aspects of Sim's life, concentrating instead on the man's talents and contributions.
I am looking forward to Simpson's next biography - I only hope it will not be ten years before it materialises.
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