The Forties Boys (Played by Patrick Malahide)

We’ve taken a look at Patrick Malahide’s Three Clergymen, so how about we now analyze his 1940s era gentlemen?

DCI Alleyn | Robert Blair | Mark Binney | Raymond Binney | If There Could Be Only One

Detective Chief Inspector Roderick Alleyn
(“Inspector Alleyn Mysteries“, 1993-1994)

His Natural Disposition:

All this, and lethal dimples, too. - Patrick Malahide's Forties Boys Characters

All this, and lethal dimples, too.

Admin:  Perfection?  If perfection is possible, Alleyn has somehow managed to achieve it.  He is charming, compassionate, loyal, sincere, moral, excels in his career, looks ridiculously good, and is of the aristocracy.  He is also modest.  How does he do it?

My favorite aspect of his disposition is his natural calmness.  He isn’t boring, far from it, but he has a smooth, comfortable way about him that I adore.  His detecting partner, Inspector Fox (William Simons), also has a cozy quality.  Put them together and you have what I consider to be the best television policing partnership.  Don’t mistake Alleyn’s calmness for a lack of verve.  He is as sharp as a dagger, knows how to put awkward suspects in their place, and can quickly take charge of any situation at any given time.

RF:  Very true, Alleyn has it all.  He’s unfailingly polite, considerate to a fault, intelligent, witty, extremely observant (a good thing, in his job), and is devoted to his job with a strong sense of justice.  He also seems to be completely snobbery-free.  If he has any flaws at all, it might be that he can sometimes be so bound up in his job that he neglects relationships, and even himself if he feels particularly driven.

Sense of Style:

Sharp-dressed man

Sharp-dressed man

Admin:  Impeccable.  He is always in beautifully tailored suits with those gorgeous 1940s silhouettes featuring the narrow waists.  He also wears the most fetching homburg.  He accessorizes well with his pocket squares, signet ring, and cuff links.  It is all very high end and never loud or garish.   The messiest we ever saw him was in Death in a White Tie (it is a very good episode) when he awoke in Troy’s flat (Gasp!  Don’t worry, he was the perfect gentleman and slept on a chair.) in slight state of discombobulation.  He seemed very shocked.  I suppose that is because he usually sleeps in pajamas with buttons done all the way to the top (Death at the Bar).

RF:  I’ve been known to go into ridiculous raptures at the sight of Mr. Malahide in his Forties wardrobe, so I’ll try to maintain my dignity here.  :-)  He looks absolutely wonderful.  Everything is tailored for him and is fitted and matched impeccably.  I loved the “Death in a White Tie” discombobulation scene for many reasons, but among them was the fact that we so rarely get to see Alleyn so uncharacteristically mussed and confused.  We also got to see him in white tie, and he looked quite gorgeously at ease in it.  It somehow figures that even his pajamas would look as if they were ironed.  We do get to see Alleyn in some slightly more casual wear in “Scales of Justice” (yet to be recapped, but it will be), but even then, his white trenchcoat hasn’t got a single smudge on it.  Dirt wouldn’t dare come near him!

Achilles Heel:

Driven by work to the exclusion of all else

Driven by work to the exclusion of all else

None! OK.  Perhaps he takes on too much and has unrealistically high expectations of himself.  He certainly takes any criticism that Troy (Belinda Lang) might have to heart.  Especially when she suggests that perhaps he is more interested in being a policeman than a significant other.  Thankfully, she doesn’t stay cross with him for long.  In Death in a White Tie, we saw what can happen when Alleyn takes tragedy personally.

RF:  His main flaw seems to be that he can become so consumed by his work that everything else takes a back seat, although that might be sort of expected for a policeman.  It’s true that he does seem to feel any of Troy’s criticisms keenly; Ngaio Marsh emphasizes in the original novels that Alleyn puts a lot of effort into keeping his professional and personal lives as separate as possible.  This frequently means keeping Troy as far away from any murder scenes she might incidentally happen to be involved in (and she’s involved in quite a few, strangely enough) as possible.

Relations with the Opposite Sex:

Oh, he gets by...

Oh, he gets by…

RF:  Generally speaking, Alleyn’s an absolute charmer with the opposite sex.  Sometimes he doesn’t even have to try very hard, as when teenager Bridget O’Brien flirts with him unabashedly in “Death in a White Tie”.  Alleyn’s irresistible good looks are a running theme in the Marsh novels.  ;-)  His squabbles with Troy usually seem to involve his work getting in the way of attending her art functions, or his extended absences meaning that they’re apart for a while.  However, any squabbles they have are temporary, as they know they’re meant for each other.  He could possibly use a few tips on make-up gifts; a pineapple might work once, but it’ll never work a second time!

Admin: I have to say, I am rather glad they toned down the “Alleyn is so good looking” comments for the series.  He is good looking; we can see that for ourselves.  The series wisely kept flirtation mostly to a minimum.  That being said, I agree, Alleyn is absolutely charming with the ladies.  But, he is loyal, and knows Troy is the only one for him.

Would You Show Him to Your Nan?:

Being charming over bikkies and tea

Being charming over bikkies and tea

Admin:  Imagine showing him to your Nan!  The word “jackpot” springs to mind.  🙂  The main drawback would be that any Nan might think he’s just a little too good to be true.  But, he’d win her over with his manners, pitch-perfect storytelling, interest in whatever she had say,  and insistence on helping with the washing up.   Of course you’d show him to your Nan.

RF:  Anyone’s Nan would be overjoyed to see him at her door!  You’re quite right about “too good to be true”.  :-)  Alleyn would win over Nan in short order with his utter charm and appreciation for her baking.  And if by some strange stretch he couldn’t do the job, he’d get Br’er Fox to come in and soften Nan up for him.  But it probably wouldn’t be necessary.

Admin:  I hadn’t thought of Br’er being a possible secret weapon, but he would be ideal should the need arise.
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Robert Blair
(“The Franchise Affair“, 1988)

His Natural Disposition:

A provincial Alleyn

A provincial Alleyn

Admin:  He’s like Alleyn in that he is loyal and charming.  However, he is a bit bored with his post-war legal career.   Mr. Blair makes me think of a Provincial Alleyn, to be honest.  He’s what Alleyn might be if he weren’t born quite so well placed.

RF:  You’re right, he is rather like a provincial Alleyn, although he obviously hasn’t been at his current career nearly as long.  He’s a bit more inexperienced and nowhere near as worldly or polished, although by the end of “The Franchise Affair”, you can sense that he’s got great potential.  He does seem to have a lovely sense of humour and once he takes on the Sharpes’ case, he’s determined to see that justice is done.

Sense of Style:

Lethal combination of trenchcoat and fedora

Lethal combination of trenchcoat and fedora

Admin:  He has  a very classic style, but his suits are a titch baggy.  They don’t have the sharp silhouette that the more fashionable versions would have.  There are even a couple of moments where his necktie gets a bit wonky.  That looser style at least means he can go to bed without buttoning his pajama buttons all the way to the top. 😉

RF:  Fedorraaaaahhhh!!  *kaff kaff*  Excuse me.  ;-)  Very true, Blair doesn’t quite have the clothing resources that Alleyn has.  His wardrobe is a few notches down the style scale and rather more workaday.  One gets the impression he bought everything a while ago and it has to last, as opposed to Alleyn’s bandbox perfection.  That being said, I absolutely adore Blair’s trenchcoat and fedora combination; he looks like he stepped straight out of a Bogart movie.  I did like the additional detail that when Blair  appears in court, his suit is noticeably better tailored and newer-looking, sort of like what Alleyn wears every day.  He keeps the big guns back for when he really needs them. ;-)

Admin:  That is so true about the trenchcoat / fedora combination.  He looks very much like how a hero should look in that get up.  And, yes, his courtroom gear was smashing!

Achilles Heel:

Having some doubts?

Having some doubts?

Admin:  He is moral and brave, but is set back by a certain insecurity.  He wants to help the Sharpes, but he isn’t used to criminal cases and is reluctant to forge ahead.  However, when he divines that they truly are in distress, he becomes far more tenacious in helping them.  Nonetheless, I think Robert Blair would do well to see himself as the capable sort he actually is.

RF:  Blair quickly finds out that he’s in a bit over his head when he takes on the Sharpes’ case, which is unlike anything he’s ever tackled before.  Nonetheless, he’s determined to do his best for them and even enlists everyone in his firm to assist, including his somewhat feckless partner, Nevil (Alex Jennings).  He’s also spurred on by the fact that he’s fallen in love with Marion Sharpe (Joanna McCallum) by this time.  I think Blair’s ability to overcome his inexperience and insecurity are part of what makes him an interesting character.

Relations with the Opposite Sex:

I kinda doubt it, but eeeyeeaahh, okay.

I kinda doubt it, but eeeyeeaahh, okay.

RF:  There’s a certain amount of “c’mere c’mere, go ‘way go ‘way” that goes on in Blair and Marion’s courtship.  She’s a rather prickly person, to put it mildly, and while appearing to like him at times, at other times she’s shoving him away with both hands, even refusing his (first) offer of marriage (I have no idea how she was able to resist him in that fedora!).  I admit I didn’t find their romance all that convincing, although Blair was a very sweet guy who’d just gotten a big boost to his confidence by the end, which might explain his persistence in pursuing Marion.  However, he was completely delightful and believable with his auntie.

Admin:  Yes, she was prickly.  I guess she did have other things on her mind though. 😀  Still, even with Betty Kane looming in the background, you’d think she’d be a bit more appreciative of her dashing hero!

Would You Show Him to Your Nan?:

Looking very at home with his pipe and music on the wireless.

Looking very at home with his pipe and music on the wireless.
(Alleyn would never be caught dead in that sweater.)

Admin:  Of course! And he would get on with any 1940s Nan.  He has loads of experience after living with his aunt.  The scenes of him eating cake and smoking his pipe show how homey he can be too.  He looks so blissful.

RF:  Blair would easily win over any Nan, hands down.   He might even have an easier time of it than Alleyn, since he’s not part of an aristocratic family and therefore less intimidating.  He’d certainly show a proper appreciation for her home-cooked meals and baked goods, and she’d be determined to fatten him up.  He would, of course, volunteer to do the washing-up as well.  And he’s a solicitor!  A perfect catch. ;-)
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Mark Binney
(“The Singing Detective“, 1986)

His Natural Disposition:

Mad, bad, and dangerous to know.

Mad, bad, and dangerous to know.

Admin:  Slimy, creepy, and (outwardly) all too smooth.  It is a forced smoothness though.  The tiniest snag seems to make him crack.  Oh, he is a nasty customer.  Try not to cringe during his scenes with Sonia (Kate McKenzie) in episode two.

RF:  Dangerous, unreliable, shady, out for number one, untrustworthy, entirely too slick for his own (or anyone else’s) good…  I could go on and on.  Did I mention dangerous?  Mark Binney is a scary, scary man.  Do not be fooled by his impeccable wardrobe.  Run, do not walk, screaming into the night if he approaches you.

Sense of Style:

He's a terrible person, but he dresses <i>really</i> well.

He’s a terrible person, but he dresses really well.

Admin:  Gorgeous.  He at least as that going for him.  His style is defined, once again, by that impeccable 1940s elegance with a flair for accessorization.   The most interesting element of his style is how fey he looks.  The very pale skin and pink lips look down right ethereal (the seemingly ever present cigarette smoke helps).  I suspect this is a way of illustrating that Binney is not of flesh and bone.

RF:  Very true that Binney wears his clothes with a definite panache and looks absolutely stunning in a Forties wardrobe.  More’s the pity he’s such a snake!  Maybe it’s protective camouflage.  He’s impeccably groomed at (almost) all times and has a keen appreciation of the finer things in life.  He would never stint himself with inferior clothes, nor be seen in public as anything less than perfectly turned out.  It’s perhaps ever so slightly disturbing that he and Alleyn seem to share a taste for homburgs, though.

Achilles Heel:

More than a hint of insecurity

More than a hint of insecurity

Admin:  Feeling small! 🙁  Awww, he hates feeling small.  There is something rather boyish in his fear of feeling small or being vulnerable.

RF:  You’re right that Binney has an underlying (and somewhat surprising) strong sense of insecurity.  Surprising because he appears very brash and confident on the surface and it’s an unexpected flaw – although perhaps not quite so unexpected when we gradually learn that he’s actually Marlow’s (Michael Gambon) avatar.  This also explains why he seems so easily cowed when Marlow accuses him of hiding something and being responsible for Sonia’s murder.

Admin:  Ha-ha-ha. 🙂  Basically his Achilles Heel is being Marlow. I can see why that would bother him.  😉

Relations with the Opposite Sex:

No really, we mean it.  Just run away if you see him.

No really, we mean it. Just run away if you see him.

RF:  Bad.  Just… bad.  To be avoided at all costs.  Do not succumb to his lethal dimples.  Do not be fooled by his flat full of “nice things”.  Do not accept a drink from him.  If by some misfortune you’re button-holed by him at a nightclub, you might be able to escape if you employ Sonia’s survival techniques.  Or mention that you think you just saw Marlow coming in the door.  He doesn’t seem to like Marlow.

Admin:  He is such a creep and something of a misogynist.  He deserved that bloody nose courtesy of Sonia.  But, we can charitable and blame his hangups on Marlow.  He’s like Jessica Rabbit; it’s not his fault he’s drawn that way. 😀

Would You Show Him to Your Nan?:

Every nan's nightmare

Every nan’s nightmare

Admin:   Noooo!  Any Nan worth her salt would know what a no-good sleaze he really is.  No matter how much he tried to turn on the charm, he’d be recognized for a spiv and snake…and that is only if she is feeling charitable!

RF:  Oh good grief, no!  You’re absolutely correct, any Nan would recognize him for what he is a mile away and greet him at the door with a broom – or possibly a shotgun – and chase him off.  She would not be taken in by his charm or expensive wardrobe.  Once she’d run him off, she’d then regale you with tales of the sharpies she had to fend off in her day, the ones who were running black market operations and forging ration books during the war, and the various bad ends they came to.
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Raymond Binney
(“The Singing Detective“, 1986)

His Natural Disposition:

He's no angel.

He’s no angel.

Admin:  Friendly, I think.  But he isn’t a good friend.  We don’t really get to see much of his personality.  Based on what we were allowed to see, I’d say he is charming, but not worldly.  He is definitely a rural country boy.  Back to his not being a good friend:  He doesn’t seem to have any concept of loyalty.  He is a married man with a child.  Yet, he is having an affair with his best friend’s wife.  He makes it perfectly clear that he sees the whole thing as meaningless and harmless, and there is also a very strong suggestion that this isn’t the first affair he’s had.  But, he’s not a wicked fellow — at least I don’t think he is.  To be honest, he seems a bit dopey.  Or maybe unsophisticated is the better word?  I don’t know.  Raymond is a tough guy to analyze.

RF:  Raymond seems to be a relatively uncomplicated guy; so uncomplicated that he doesn’t appear to be overly concerned with the possible consequences of his actions.  He’s not rich or well-educated; he’s a working man in a village of working men.  Very true that he seems like a loyal friend to Marlow Senior (Ben Carter), but he’s having an enthusiastic affair behind Marlow’s back.  I suspect not much planning went into it; it was probably more of a deed of opportunity than anything else, due to Mrs. Marlow’s discontent and vulnerability.  He’s not a trustworthy friend, but it may not be a conscious thing, unlike Mark Binney.  Raymond is just not a deep thinker – that we can see.

Admin:  I think you nailed there with uncomplicated.  He is uncomplicated to a fault.

Sense of Style:

Singing at the pub

Singing at the pub

Admin:  He has pretty much the same style as all the men in his village do.  His hair, short on the back and sides and long on top, isn’t very fashionable.  He wears functional clothing with no particular flair.  Oh, and he has dirty fingernails.  Hardly surprising since I expect he probably works in the pits.  He appears to have the distinction of being the handsomest man in the village.

RF:  Raymond’s sense of style pretty much indicates that he’s a rural working man.  He dresses much like everyone else in the village – utilitarian clothing without much of a sense of style, but a sense of style isn’t exactly required.  It’s interesting to contrast him with Binney, when you compare his dirty fingernails and ruddy tan to Binney’s well-manicured hands and indoor pallor; one is obviously used to manual labour and the other is… not.   And Binney would never have that sort of a haircut voluntarily!

Achilles Heel:

Not a good friend, despite appearances.

Not a good friend, despite appearances.

Admin:  His lack of empathy.  Not that he would be aware of that being an Achilles heel. He doesn’t seem like a horrid person, but he sure has a tough time attaching importance to the feelings of others.  He appears totally oblivious to the death glare his wife shoots him in the pub.  When his lover, Mrs. Marlow, starts to cry (somewhat in regret of having had an affair with him in the first place) he makes the most hamfisted attempt at comforting her.  “It’s just a bit of fun,” isn’t really what she wants to hear.

RF:  Raymond seems to pretty much live for the moment, which might be where his lack of empathy comes from.  He doesn’t appear to do much considering of what the long-term effects of his actions might be – he’d probably be a bit surprised that it should matter at all.  However, I could easily picture Raymond escaping the consequences of his actions quite easily; he’d let the whole thing just roll off his back and continue on his merry way.  He’s probably done so before, given that his affair with Mrs. Marlow doesn’t appear to have been his first.

Relations with the Opposite Sex:

Intense while it lasts

Intense while it lasts

RF:  Raymond knows how to get his foot in the door, and certainly appears to have recognized Mrs. Marlow’s unhappiness and capitalized on it.  On the one hand, he gives her the attention she perhaps isn’t getting from Marlow Senior, but on the other hand, he has nothing more in mind than “a bit of fun” and isn’t overly concerned about what might happen in the long term.   He’ll probably move on to the next lonely lady in an eyeblink.  BUT… it does look like it’s a very intense affair while it lasts, even if he’s not bothering to understand Mrs. Marlow’s feelings very much.

Admin:  He sure knows how to smolder.  I thought his “thee’s and thou’s” were very attractive, but I suppose they were pretty commonplace in that village since everyone else seemed to speak that way.  Still, I can’t help but feel he uses them in such a way to give him an edge.  Too bad the rest of his pillow (not that any pillows were involved) talk was a bit lacking.

Would You Show Him to Your Nan?:
Admin:  He’s a tricky one there.  I could easily see someone being smitten enough to show him to Nan, and he might initially pass muster.  But, that is only because he probably wouldn’t say enough to get himself into hot water on the first meeting.  It wouldn’t take long, though, before he put the first foot wrong and earned himself a place in Nan’s bad books. 🙂

RF:  He’d probably be considered a perfectly respectable catch in most villages, until word started to get around that he has a bit of a wandering eye (and everything else).  Once Nan hears about that, it’d be the broom and/or shotgun again.  But before that, Nan might really enjoy his singing at the pub, and fondly reminisce about how Grandad used to serenade her like that.
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If There Could Be Only One?

The winner!

The winner!

Admin:  Raymond Binney! Ha-ha.  Just joking.  Of course, DCI Alleyn is my favorite.  Who else could it be?

RF:  I’d say Blair is a close runner-up if only for the panache with which he wears fedoras (fedooorraaaahhh!), his homebody lifestyle, and the fact he’s an ex-RAF bomber pilot, but yes, Alleyn wins this one hands down.  Sophisticated, witty, intelligent, humourous, attentive (when he’s not working), and looks smashing in white tie.  He can even keep a straight face when looking at Troy’s sketches.  What’s not to love?  ;-)

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