Officious Gits (Played by Patrick Malahide)

Once again, Fearless Admin and I have stumbled upon a common theme to many of Mr. Malahide’s characters… we’ve noticed that he sometimes plays a lot of Officious Gits, although we mean that in the most appealing and endearing way.  What’s an Officious Git, you may ask?  Oh, just those guys who are the rules sticklers, clipboard carriers, rules followers… because they love having their lives (and everyone else’s) well ordered.  We’ve singled out a few of our favourites for discussion, because Officious Gits need love, too.

Admin:  And, as will become apparent, it is really amazing how different each one of these officious types is from one to the other.  And, also pretty amazing, that despite their stubborn ways (or maybe because?) they manage to be very compelling.  No wonder they are our favourites!

Rev. J.G. Keach  |  Mr. Ralston  |  Inspector Carson  |  Mr. Lancing  |  Ambassador Polidori  | Who’s the Most Officious Git of All?

The Reverend J.G. Keach
(“A Month in the Country“, 1987)

What Makes Him an Officious Git?

Meeting Birkin and becoming aware of his stutter  Officious Gits Played by Patrick Malahide

Meeting Birkin and becoming aware of his stutter

RF:  It appears to be a case of Art versus Commerce.  The Reverend’s fabric fund (he seems to go through a lot of fabric!) is being held hostage by his church’s Executive Committee, effectively forcing him to employ art historian and World War I veteran, Tom Birkin (Colin Firth), to restore a 1400s religious mural.  However, just because Keach has to have Birkin there doesn’t mean Birkin has to enjoy it, so Keach extends the bare minimum of hospitality to him, along with the bare minimum amount of pay – which would likely be a lot less if Birkin had negotiated it with Keach instead of the Executive Committee.  He’s not exactly welcoming, let’s put it that way.

Admin:  Keach satisfies some of the stereotypes about Protestants.  I’m no expert, but I think he might be a “low church”, bare bones kind of guy, so no wonder he extends only the bare minimum of hospitality.  He is also very quick to explain to Brikin why he isn’t in favor of the mural’s restoration:  It would serve as a distraction to his sermon.   He really must be desperate for that fabric to tolerate this.

How Much of an Officious Git is He?

Checking up on Birkin's work

Checking up on Birkin’s work

RF:   As mentioned, Keach offers no luxuries (what others might consider “bare minimum living requirements”) during Birkin’s tenure, not even offering so much as a blanket, lamp, or mattress to ease his stay in Keach’s belfry (an actual belfry with a very loud bell in it, not a metaphorical one).  No meals, either.  And no fraternizing with Keach’s gorgeous wife!  However, he’s not officious to the point where he’s constantly checking up on Birkin’s work, either, because he shows complete disinterest – one might even say antipathy – towards the mural.  But he is extremely officious when it comes to calculating Birkin’s salary.

Admin:  And of course much of that antipathy stems from his fear of being overshadowed by the mural.  So, he’s officious, but he has his limits.  I think a lot of his officiousness also stems from a general sense of awkwardness.  Keep in mind that he was kind of left out of the decision making aspect of the committee.  He called it an oversight, but it is probably very likely that they just didn’t think to (or want to) include him.  That probably had a big effect on him.

RF:  That’s true, Keach was completely left out of the decision-making and seems to feel a bit put out by it, even though he attempts to explain it away.  So basically the committee has done an end run around him for a mural he doesn’t want, for money he’s unwilling to spend, and an art restorer he’s unwilling to host – you’re right, he must really want that fabric!  Perhaps his being officious is a means of trying to regain some control.

Admin:  It is probably is.  He’s determined to flex some authority and get his oar in somehow.

Who is the Main Target of His Officiousness and/or Gitness?

RF:  That’s easy:  Birkin.  Also amateur archaeologist James Moon (Kenneth Branagh) who, unlike Birkin, doesn’t even get a roof over his head.  He’s searching for a particular grave site in the churchyard and is forced to rough it in a canvas tent.  Moon is also being paid from the same fund as Birkin, and it’s safe to assume neither of them would be there if Keach could veto their employment.

Excruciating awkwardness

Excruciating awkwardness

Admin:  And to a much lesser extent his wife.  He is certainly displeased, or maybe disappointed is a better word, when he found out she’d already seen the mural.  Though, he didn’t make a fuss about it.  He just looked mildly discomfited and made everyone feel more awkward than what they already where feeling….and that was pretty awkward.

RF:  He did seem put out (although trying not to appear so) when he found out Mrs. Keach had already seen the mural – almost as though she wasn’t supposed to see it without him, even though he’s not thrilled to have it there.  Definitely an excruciatingly awkward scene!

What Does He Have in His Filofax?

An artist?  In <i>his</i> belfry?

An artist? In his belfry?

RF:  Exquisitely accurate Fabric Fund measurements and costs, calculating yardage to the half-inch.  Detailed notes on how much footage Birkin is taking up in his belfry and for how long, down to the minute, with a running tally for when Birkin can be expected to leave.  Same notes for Moon out in the churchyard.  A detailed daily budget for Mrs. Keach (Natasha Richardson) to adhere to when buying household necessities, and a long list of “No Extras!”  Oh, and it would be a plain black, slim Filofax, of course.

Admin:  I’ll tell you what he doesn’t have!  He doesn’t have any home decorating tips.  No detailed floor plans for placing new furniture.  He probably has a few articles on the merits of Mendelssohn clipped out along with some tips on frugally maintaining antique violins.  He might have some theological type notes arguing against incredibly distracting pieces of decoration in church, such as wild murals that are best left covered up.

RF:  Maybe he’ll use his fabric fund to buy some big curtains to hide the mural.  😉

What Does He Do to Unwind?

Interrupted while relaxing(?) with his violin

Interrupted while relaxing(?) with his violin

RF:  Plays the violin, surprisingly enough.  And rather well, too.  He also takes Mrs. Keach on occasional excursions to market, but those seem to be very rare events.

Admin:  I think he might have been kind of happy when they were at the market together.  He does play the violin beautifully.  And it seems to be a time where he completely shuts off the outside world, especially when the world consists of annoying art restorers pestering him for money.

Would He Ever Bend the Rules and/or Have Any Redeeming Qualities?

A brief but very honest outburst of feeling

A brief but very honest outburst of feeling

RF:  We never see Keach as willing to bend the rules, but he does have a brief outburst where he expresses discontent with his job and his lot in life – so I think he has enough self-consciousness that it’s possible he might bend the rules at some point.  There is a real thinking, feeling person inside there.  I also think he actually loves his wife (or is at least very fond of her), even though he seems to have no idea how to show it, or would regard a display of affection as embarrassing.  So, while Keach’s redeeming qualities aren’t immediately evident, I think he has the potential to develop them.  I highly doubt he’d ever voluntarily make friends with the likes of Birkin or Moon, though!

Admin:  There is an irony to Keach.  He *wants* to reach people and touch lives through his Church, but, he doesn’t seem capable of lightening up enough to do so.  No, I don’t think he’d bend the rules either, but he does have a lot of redeeming qualities.  He is far more sensitive and artistic than what he initially lets on.


Mr. Ralston
(“Goodbye, Mr. Chips“, 2002)

What Makes Him an Officious Git?

He loves the smell of schoolbooks and fear in the morning.

He loves the smell of schoolbooks and fear in the morning.

RF:  Mr. Ralston adheres to the job he’s been given to do, no matter what – and his job as the new headmaster is to make Brookfield School profitable.  If that means he has to run roughshod over a few people, kowtow to wealthy parents, and get rid of namby-pamby, well-beloved softie teachers, he’ll do it.  He’s not in this business to make friends, dammit!

Admin:  That’s right.  He’s a man with purpose.  It is little wonder he is a soldier because everything about him screams military bearing.  It is also kind of weird to think of him in the same category as the aforementioned Keach because they really have nothing in common aside from their general officiousness.   Just goes to show that there is no one single type of Officious Git. 😉

How Much of an Officious Git is He?

He lives for his job

He lives for his job

RF:  A lot.  He lives for his job.  If there’s a Mrs. Ralston, I wouldn’t be surprised if she breathed a sigh of relief when he went off to Brookfield.  He’s so committed to doing what he thinks is right for the school that he forces parents, students, and the board of governors to take sides when his arch-nemesis Mr. Chipping (Martin Clunes) threatens to leave over a cancelled bursary for poorer students.  Unfortunately, Ralston fails to realize that “because I said so” is an unconvincing strategy, so his gitness forces him out of a job.  Also, he carries a clipboard with him everywhere he goes, and that’s never a good sign.

Admin:  Again, it is also very much displayed through his general appearance.  He is neat and trim to the point of sharp bristliness.  There is just no doubting that this guy is a stickler for the rules and loves making fresh, new rules to stickle.

Who Is the Main Target of His Officiousness and/or Gitness?

A look of utter disdain for Chips and Staefel

A look of utter disdain for Chips and Staefel

RF:  Mr. Chipping is the name of his pain.  He thinks Chips is too soft, too pacifistic, too philosophical, too old-fashioned, too… you name it.  He’s not fond of Chips’ best friend, fellow teacher (and filthy Hun!) Herr Staefel (Conleth Hill) either, but he really despises Chips.  He also doesn’t seem to like the fact that most of the students prefer Chips as well, and he’d probably expel the whole lot of them if he could get away with it.  Or send them off to military college, which would be even better.

Admin:  Well, he was at least able to get rid of poor Herr Staefel.  No such luck with good ol’ Chips who had the benefit of being the title character.  Personally, I think Ralston would have gotten more boys on his side, at least some of the bullies would have preferred him over “soft”, egalitarian Chips.  But, it seems he didn’t have any allies and his nemesis won the day.

RF:  It’s really a case of Art versus Commerce again.  Chips wants the boys to get an education for education’s sake, while Ralston wants to train them up to go into the army so they can be good officers – hmm, rather like another schoolmaster we know, Mr. Quarles in “After the War“.

What Does He Have in His Filofax?

He has a list and he's checking it twice

He has a list and he’s checking it twice

RF:  Ralston would never have anything so coddlingly fancy as a Filofax.  Instead, he has a very manly, practical clipboard, with no adornments.  It contains an extensive list of Chips’ various insubordinations, infractions, and instances of disrespect (cross-referenced by date and time), a list of Staefel’s suspicious activity marking him out as an enemy alien, and many lists of various boys’ misbehaviours and assigned penalties, all probably encouraged by Chips.  If Ralston could prove Chips tried to assassinate Queen Victoria, he’d do it.

Admin:  Being a motoring man, he’d also have detailed notes on oil changes and general auto maintenance.  And with a war on he probably also has a detailed plan on taking down the Kaiser.  At least he got to put those military skills to good use.

What Does He Do to Unwind?

RF:  He doesn’t – another reason Mrs. Ralston is glad to have him out of the house.  His method of unwinding is probably to schedule their lives for the next five years in advance, no exceptions allowed.  I suppose he might unwind by thinking up especially fiendish comeuppances for Chips or new ways to torment the students, though.

Admin: Awww, he must unwind.  He vrooooms around in his motor. (Poop-poop!) He grooms his mustache.  I bet he even treats himself to the odd John Buchan novel, nothing namby-pamby about Buchan.  And I’m sure his wife loves him.  I know I did!  Is it so bad to root for the Officious Git? 😉

RF:  I admit I felt a little badly for him being so outnumbered.  😉

Would He Ever Bend the Rules and/or Have Any Redeeming Qualities?

A stickler to the end

A stickler to the end

RF:  Well, Ralston is extremely dedicated to what he sees as his duty, if one could call that a redeeming quality – but it also has the effect of making him extremely unwilling to bend.  It’s that unwillingness to bend even when his defeat is plain that sees him ousted from Brookfield, when he could’ve stayed on if he’d allowed himself to compromise on the bursary.  This is a man who’d rather take a commission and rejoin his regiment to fight World War I than compromise and continue teaching in a boys’ school, so I think we can safely say that no, he’d never bend the rules.  Not even for himself.

Admin:  He’s certainly committed to his cause.  And he’s brave; I don’t think that can be argued.  Oh, and he has a really cool car!


Inspector Carson
(“A Man of No Importance“, 1984)

What Makes Him an Officious Git?

Making sure the riff-raff have their tickets.

Making sure the riff-raff have their tickets.

RF:  He’s a stickler for the bus company rules even when enforcing them makes him a complete meanie – or probably because it makes him a complete meanie.  But he just doesn’t care because he loves his job and the amount of petty power it gives him.  He’s a tyrant of Irish bus routes!

Admin: I think it is his uniform that contributes massively to making him an Officious Git. For all his flaws, and Carson has a few, I don’t think anyone would doubt that he has a magnificent deportment in that uniform. He just looks so utterly official in the thing. Oh, and when he swaggers (seriously, he swaggers) down that bus aisle, he looks so determined and purposeful that it is little wonder the “tinkers” (as he charmingly calls them) tremble.

How Much of an Officious Git is He?

RF:  Very much.  He’s willing to put a mother and baby off the bus because they don’t have a ticket (I suspect he’d probably boot his own mother off if she didn’t have one), and he’s willing to turn on his colleagues for letting them ride for free, so maintaining the rules is far more important to him than showing any sort of compassion.  I think one could guess that Inspector Carson doesn’t have many friends – but he also probably doesn’t notice.

Admin:  Oh, he’d boot his Mum and Gran off if they broke a rule. He certainly lives for this stuff.

Who is the Main Target of His Officiousness and/or Gitness?

Keeping an eye on Alfie

Keeping an eye on Alfie

RF:  Coworkers bus conductor Alfie (Albert Finney) and driver Robbie (Rufus Sewell), two bleeding hearts who let the poor ride for free.  They also seem to enjoy doing end runs around Carson’s rules wherever possible.  However, note that Robbie is a Trouble-making Curly-top, and they seem especially inclined to flout the rules of Officious Gits.

Admin: He goes out of his way to hunt them down and check up on them too. He’s a big fan of surprise inspections.

What Does He Have in His Filofax?

RF:  Notes on bus makes and models in the fleet, meticulous bus schedules, details on bus maintenance (cross-referenced by bus, date, time, and job), a list of infractions for both Alfie and Robbie, another list of anyone aided and abetted by Alfie and Robbie letting them ride without a ticket, and a detailed listing of when all the girls’ schools in the area let out for the day, so he can avoid them.  Also, a note of his favourite notebook supplier.

Admin: It would have a reminder to always avoid the St. Trinians area. He probably has a gorgeous green Filofax, decorated like the buses. Got to say, Irish buses are pretty.

What Does He Do to Unwind?

Revenge or adoration, it's hard to say which

Revenge or adoration, it’s hard to say which

RF:  I’m not sure if he ever does unwind.  I suspect he goes home and talks buses and Troublesome Curly-tops to the Missus, thus boring her to tears.  But if he does unwind, it’s probably by running away from feral schoolgirls, who seem to find his swagger and his long, black trenchcoat irresistibly attractive.  Or all of those schoolgirls have been nabbed by Carson for riding without tickets in the past and now they’re all out for revenge, ready to rip him limb from limb.

Admin:  Maybe he also has secret penchant for trains. He just never dared get a job on the rails. I really want to know what the deal was with those school girls. Did Robbie send them after him? Is Robbie like an Irish version of Flash Harry?

RF:  I’d like to know the mystery of the schoolgirls, too.  I pictured Carson barely escaping from that encounter with his life, his cap stolen and his black trenchcoat torn to rags!  They were coming running from a block away, so something had to be going on.

Would He Ever Bend the Rules and/or Have Any Redeeming Qualities?

Naaaah, he'd never change.

Naaaah, he’d never change.

RF:  Probably not, not even for his Missus (if he has one).  Maybe if he was forced to it by a sufficient number of schoolgirls, though.  But mostly I’d say that Carson really likes who he is and doesn’t see any need to change.  Everyone else should change to follow the rules instead!

Admin:  Alas, he is just a horrible person. He even flat out lied to Alfie saying that Robbie was disgusted by him and wouldn’t work with him anymore. I’m sure he’d bend the rules to suit himself, but he’d never do it to help another person.


Mr. Lancing
(“Captain Jack“, 1999)

What Makes Him an Officious Git?

“Mr. Lancing. The Mr. Lancing. Principal Surveyor, Marine Safety Agency, Department of Environment, Transport, and the region’s Middlesbrough office.”

“Mr. Lancing. The Mr. Lancing. Principal Surveyor, Marine Safety Agency, Department of Environment, Transport,
and the region’s Middlesbrough office.”

RF:  He’s a complete and utter rules-stickler.  Actually, it’s a good quality in his job and just going by the way he introduces himself (“The Mr. Lancing, Principal Surveyor, Marine Safety Agency, Department of Environment, Transport, and the region’s Middlesbrough office”) you can tell he absolutely adores what he does.  He probably has a name plate on his desk that he polishes every morning.  Bureaucracy and red tape are his life.

Admin: Yes, he’s the original jobsworth. Unlike Carson above, he’s not actually a bad person, but Lancing takes rules and regulations, health and safety, and all that sort of stuff very, very seriously.

How Much of an Officious Git is He?

Gleefully speculating on how much Jack owes in fines

Gleefully speculating on how much Jack owes in fines

RF:  Enough that he takes truly joyous glee in being able to rack up enough violations on Captain Jack’s (Bob Hoskins) ship, the Yorkshire Beauty, to take it out of service and force Jack to either fix all of his violations or pay his unpaid fines – or both.  He’s also such an Officious Git that he can clamber around Jack’s decrepit, filthy boat in a suit, dress shoes, safety vest, and spotless white hardhat, and emerge without a speck of dirt on him hours later.

Admin: Specifically, he’s a comedic Officious Git. He’s a very funny character who plays up on the all the stereotypes and tropes of the overzealous bureaucrat and he fills that part perfectly. You’re right about the spotless vest and white hardhat. Lancing’s another one whose attire really gives some big clues as to what he’s like. And, as always, Patrick Malahide looks great in that outfit. He really knows how to wear something to its full effect.

Who is the Main Target of his Officiousness and/or Gitness?

Bamboozled by Quakers

Bamboozled by Quakers

RF:  In this case, Captain Jack Armistead, who seems to have been getting away with murder (not literal murder, but ships’ regulations murder) for a long time, but probably anyone with a sea-going craft in Whitby, Yorkshire.  Also, anyone aiding or abetting Jack, and that includes a congregation of Quakers who best Lancing without even trying very hard.

Admin: True. I suppose he doesn’t go for any one foil in particular. He’s just doing his job and taking it very seriously. He actually turns out to be quite reasonable in the long run.

RF:  I think both he and Jack got something out of the thrill of the chase.  😉

What Does He Have in His Filofax?

Mr. Lancing and the Clipboard of Doom

Mr. Lancing and the Clipboard of Doom

RF:  Not a list of Marine Safety Agency rules and regulations, because he has those memorized.  However, he would keep a running tally of all of Jack’s violations and penalties, and whether he’s paid them (he hasn’t).  Admin and I suspect he might also have a special ruler for measuring ships’ bells and the amount of sand in ships’ fire buckets, as well as lots of extra pens, in case he runs out of ink while writing everything down.  Oh, and in the back he also keeps a list of all the gifts he’s ever given Mrs. Lancing for their anniversaries, because he wouldn’t want to duplicate any.

Admin: He probably takes copious notes and copies drawings from Janes’ Fighting Ships. You never know when the Yorkshire coast is going to get an unfriendly visit from a foreign vessel!

What Does He Do to Unwind?

RF:  He probably studies Marine Safety Agency manuals, as well as catalogues of different makes of ships’ bells and whistles from around the world.  Oh, and he acquaints himself with the shadowy criminal underworld that produces cheap, knock-off Danish fire safety sand for sale in foreign markets.  Then when he’s done all that, he might unwind with a cup of tea.

Admin: He spends time browsing the office supplies section since Mrs. Lancing leaves him there when she does the shopping, being sure to bill all (Marine Safety Agency approved, of course) purchases to the office.

Would He Ever Bend the Rules and/or Have Any Redeeming Qualities?

Trying to be a good sport, sorta.

Trying to be a good sport, sorta.

RF:   Contrary to Jack’s opinion, I’d say that Mr. Lancing does have a sense of humour – it just happens to be a very sarcastic one that doesn’t allow Jack any wriggle room.  I don’t think he’d ever willingly bend the rules for Jack, although I do think he could be persuaded to lighten up just a bit when enforcing them.  I also suspect Jack was/is a long-time nemesis, so Mr. Lancing likely isn’t too inclined to cut him any slack in the first place.  But hey, he didn’t even add any extra violations when Jack referred to Mrs. Lancing as “Mrs. Dracula”, and he did try to be a good sport (mostly) when Jack returned from the Arctic, so maybe he is getting soft.

Admin: He always tries to be polite. He really did well to keep his cool with those Quakers. Agree, he’s got a good sense of humour and he and Jack seemed to have a bit of fun with their gentle verbal sparring at the end. And look at that face above – he’s actually kind of impressed at Jack’s bravado and success. Mr. Lancing is actually an OK guy and I bet “Mrs. Dracula” adores him. 🙂


And One Honourable Mention:

Ambassador Polidori
(“Sahara“, 2005)

The look he gets when asked to handle things beyond his paygrade<br>(Image source: cineplex.com/People/patrick-malahide/Photos)

The look he gets when asked to handle things beyond his paygrade
(Image source: cineplex.com)

RF:  “Sahara” is a rather long movie and we don’t see very much of Ambassador Polidori for very long, but when he does appear, his main purpose is to be as officious, and therefore as unhelpful, as possible to Dirk Pitt (yes, that’s really his name – played by Matthew McConaughey) and his merry band of adventurers.  Pitt and his gang are being chased across Saharan Africa by Bad Guys, because they’ve discovered they’re carrying out biological warfare that’s killing innocent villagers.  Unfortunately, the first civilized outpost they come to has Polidori as its ambassadorial officer; he’s only been in the job three months and intervening in a civil war to prove biological warfare is being carried out is *far* above his paygrade.  So, for retreating behind his officiousness like any sensible man would do, he gets an honourable(?) mention here.

Admin:  It would have been nice to have gotten a little bit more of Ambassador Polidori.   I like his name. 🙂


Who’s the Most Officious Git of Them All?

RF's pick:  the exquisitely officious Mr. Lancing!

RF’s pick: the exquisitely officious Mr. Lancing!

RF:  This is a toughie!  I think I will have to go with… Mr. Lancing.  He’s maybe not the meanest Officious Git of them all, but I have to choose him for the sheer amount of glee he takes in enumerating Captain Jack’s violations, his excruciatingly detailed knowledge of Marine Safety Agency regulations, and the doggedness with which he pursues Jack’s ship on its way to the Arctic.  I also really enjoyed seeing him bamboozled by Quakers, and I loved the way he reacted when Jack called his wife “Mrs. Dracula”.  😉  But even after all of that, he kept his sense of humour and (mostly) tried to be a good sport about all the accolades Jack got – so he’s my pick for Most Officious Git.  🙂

He's like a gun-slinging bus inspector.  Note the rag & bone man's horse behind him.

Admin’s pick:  Mr. Carson, the gun-slinging (not really) bus inspector.

Admin:  Well, they are all quite officious and I actually like them all.  But, I’ll go with Inspector Carson.  He’s darkly funny and very compelling. I found myself wondering about what he might be like when he’s not swanning about in his sharp uniform.  Also there is the whole issue of him being harassed by the schoolgirls which was weird but hilarious.  He has the most fetching Irish accent (it is *lovely*) and that cool gunslinger swagger.  And you know that once the movie was over, he just continued being officious and awful to everyone as per normal.  There weren’t really any lessons learned with this guy.

Back to Top

This entry was posted in Comedy, Drama, Film, Joint Post, Television, Variations on a Theme and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *