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Carmichael, Ian (1920-2010)


Main image of Carmichael, Ian (1920-2010)

In the latter half of the 1950s, Ian Carmichael was one of the most popular of British stars, adept in ringing changes on the image of well-meaning, somewhat bumbling young innocent abroad in a corrupt world. Muriel Box gave him his first big film chance by insisting on having him reprise his stage success in Simon and Laura (1955), as the frazzled young TV producer dealing with temperamental stars.

However, it was the Boultings who made him an indisputable star in a series of amiably satirical comedies: Private's Progress, Brothers-in-Law (1956), Lucky Jim (1957), Left, Right and Centre, I'm All Right Jack (1959) and Heavens Above! (1963), which took swipes at a range of British institutions, with crises spiralling around the hapless Carmichael. He was also, unlike many British comedians, a satisfactory romantic lead, as he showed in Happy Is the Bride (d. Roy Boulting, 1957), the sunny remake of Quiet Wedding (d. Anthony Asquith, 1941), and Hide and Seek (d. Cy Endfield, 1963), an enjoyable comedy thriller.

Born in Kingston-upon-Hull on 18 June 1920 and RADA-trained, he first appeared on stage in 1939 and, after war service in the Army, made a name for himself especially in revue (e.g., The Lyric Revue, 1951) and in popular comedies such as Tunnel of Love (1957). He had considerable TV success, particularly in The World of Wooster (BBC, 1966-67) and Lord Peter Wimsey (BBC, 1972-75), as upper-class ass and sleuth respectively, and in 1999 appeared in Wives and Daughters (BBC). As much as anyone, he epitomises the good-natured, undemanding pleasures of '50s British cinema, and his engaging autobiography, Will the Real Ian Carmichael? (1979) reinforces the screen persona.

Brian McFarlane, Encyclopedia of British Film

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Thumbnail image of Heavens Above! (1963)Heavens Above! (1963)

Comedy of clerical misunderstanding starring an on-form Peter Sellers

Thumbnail image of I'm All Right Jack (1959)I'm All Right Jack (1959)

Peter Sellers is a militant trade unionist in this peerless workplace satire

Thumbnail image of Lucky Jim (1957)Lucky Jim (1957)

Adaptation of the satirical Kingsley Amis novel about a disaffected lecturer

Thumbnail image of School for Scoundrels (1959)School for Scoundrels (1959)

Alastair Sim teaches Ian Carmichael how to be a cad like Terry-Thomas.

Thumbnail image of Simon and Laura (1955)Simon and Laura (1955)

Soap opera satire: a real-life couple plays a happier version of themselves

Thumbnail image of Trottie True (1948)Trottie True (1948)

Lavish, Technicolor romance with Jean Kent as a rising music-hall star

Thumbnail image of Wind in the Willows, The (1984-88)Wind in the Willows, The (1984-88)

Definitive animated version of the Kenneth Grahame children's classic

Thumbnail image of World of Wooster, The (1965-67)World of Wooster, The (1965-67)

Ian Carmichael and Dennis Price give P.G.Wodehouse the sitcom treatment

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