It’s been a long day, and all I wanted to do when I got home was relax and catch-up with what the Internet had to show me about the last twelve hours. It wasn’t overly impressive, but at least it wasn’t too ridiculous until I got to the Guardian and discovered this little piece under Culture about a New Dad’s Army film. A NEW Dad’s Army film.
And yes, people are planning to do this, and Jimmy Perry is going to be involved in the writing, which is the most outrageous piece of treachery imaginable because he, of all people, must know that it can’t be done. It can’t be done, because with the exception of once young and naive Ian Lavender, they’re all dead, and you’ll never be able to get him playing Private Pike and convince anyone anymore.
Dear old Arthur Lowe, with that unmatchable fussiness and pomposity and self-importance built upon a core of genuine patriotism and unshakeable belief. The elegant John Le Mesurier, detached, relaxed, so carefully amused at everything around him. Clive Dunn, gone beyond the years of his aged character, always a half-step behind himself. John Laurie, with his rolling eyes, his perpetual air of gloom, prophet of unending despair. Doddery Arnold Ridley, the forever gentleman, gamely going on beyond his ancient strength. James Beck, poor, died-too-soon Beck, the conniver and fiddler, and of course Lavender himself, a boy being asked to do a man’s job, without ever being accorded the respect due the man.
How can you possibly think that there are seven actors who could begin to measure up to these men in the perfection of their casting, in the communal spirit of their acting, in the conviction they brought to the truly English ability to see ourselves in the most serious of situations and yet wring laughter that exposes, yet does not mock, lacerate or tear? What unfathomable arrogance animates the people who might take on these roles to think that they can by anything but a pygmy in comparison to the originals? It can’t be done. The people can’t do it, the writing is no longer possible in these times where cynicism has become an integral part of all our souls, whether we want it or not.
The past cannot be remade and yet be recognisable.
So far, the only names put forward are Toby Jones as Mainwaring and Bill Nighy as Wilson. I don’t know Jones, have no idea of his talents, but he can never overcome not being Arthur Lowe. As for Nighy, he is a consummate actor, a genuine player of strength, easily capable of the bones of what made Arthur Wilson, but he can only ever be Bill Nighy displaying those characteristics. He cannot be John LeMesurier.
Those people no longer are with us. Their moulds are all broken. Worse even than the travesty of Still Open All Hours, a Dad’s Army project has no hope of success. We have all of us seen Dad’s Army so many times over, enough to practically recite each script, see each joke from the instant its foetal seed enters the script, yet we still laugh, each time, over and again, at the dozenth repeat.
How can you hope to take away the face, the twist of the mouth, the cast of the shoulders, the very voices that have done all that, and pretend that strangers are these old friends? You can’t. It’s impossible.
Don’t do it. Don’t be so utterly stupid as to waste so much time, energy and money on a thing that will never have a soul.