Patrick Malahide’s ability to completely transform himself through his acting is always amazing, so RFodchuk and I feel it is time for another installment of Are We Sure They’re Played by the Same Guy?
DS Chisholm and DCI Alleyn
Admin: My picks this time are DS Albert “Cheerful Charlie” Chisholm of Minder fame and DCI Roderick “Rory” Alleyn of Inspector Alleyn Mysteries. Could two policemen be more different, and yet played by the same guy?
Well, we’ve rather covered their backgrounds in loads of posts, but here we go again: Chisholm is London’s much put upon Detective Sergeant who has made it his life’s mission to put Arthur Daley behind bars. We can probably assume he was born sometime in the 1940’s and, based on his very fetching Cockney accent, has most likely lived in London his whole life.
Inspector Alleyn is the brother of a baronet, but has risen to the high ranks of Scotland Yard on his own merit. No Cockney accent for Alleyn. He has the smooth, cultured (but not affected) tones reflective of his station. As far as the television series goes, he was probably born sometime in the early 1900’s. He is worldly and has served his country in the army and the British Foreign Service as well as the police force.
Chisholm takes a very conventional and somewhat old fashioned approach to his personal style. He seems to wear the same outfits over and over again, and often has his trusty brown trilby on. He seems more interested in the practicality of his wardrobe rather than in making any sort of fashion statement. Still, he looks very attractive even though that is never acknowledged in the series. His limited wardrobe has been known to let him down. He doesn’t seem to have a warm coat which causes him a lot of discomfort on bitterly cold days. And, he doesn’t have evening wear….or if he does he didn’t think to pack it before going on board the Orient Express…a mistake that did not escape the notice of a French Interpol agent.
Inspector Alleyn clearly takes great pride in his appearance, though not to the point of being flashy or vain. He wears tailored suits that are all beautifully structured and nipped in at the waist. Whereas Chisholm tends to wear a plain, thin mac, Alleyn can be seen in a beautiful cream coat which RFodchuk has astutely noticed seems to repel any speck of dirt that might dare look its way. And he always has the perfect outfit for every situation, so he’d never find himself in the same position Chisholm did on the Orient Express.
Well, technically Chisholm’s demeanor can change depending on how he is being written, but for the most part he is usually only missing a little black raincloud. On the plus side, he is tremendously witty and has a deliciously sarcastic streak running through him. The Cockney accent really comes in useful when delivering his bon mots. He is also a man obsessed which, again, is something that has been discussed several times on this blog. Chisholm’s spirit animal could well be the stoat: he is inquisitive, alert, tenacious and always after his quarry. Also, like the stoat, he is super cute and slinky, but that doesn’t really fall under demeanor. 😉
Alleyn’s demeanor is of particular interest to me, because I think Patrick Malahide gave him far more than what can be found in the Ngaio Marsh books. I tend to find Marsh’s Alleyn a blank slate, and sometimes he seems to be kind of petty with his internal thoughts. However, the book/series comparisons are probably best left for another post. Mr. Malahide’s portrayal of Alleyn is one of warmth and gentle but unwavering sincerity. He is always committed to finding the truth and justice. In short, Mr. Malahide’s Alleyn is far more charming, confident, understanding and (above all) warm than Chisholm.
One way they show their difference in demeanor is through their facial expressions and deportment. Chisholm’s face is more tense and he has a tendency to jut his lower lip out a bit. He also carries himself in a constrained manner that strongly suggests that he does not like to have his personal space invaded. Alleyn, on the other hand, has a much softer and more open facial expression. Facially, they are so different that they really do look like different men, which of course, they are. They just happen to be played by the same guy. 😉
Believe it or not, Chisholm does have a soft side. He has shown it a few times, such as when he has taken pity on the escaped prisoner Micky, who Chisholm recognized as a gullible mug who had been taken advantage of by conniving criminals, or when he showed some wry affection for Incapable, a fallen surgeon whose life had been ruined by drink. Chisholm also has a somewhat boyish delight for adventure, which we saw when he was told he would be accompanying an Interpol agent on the Orient Express, or when he was excited at the prospect of being in a helicopter in An Officer and a Car Salesman.
Of course, Alleyn is a good and warm-hearted man which is not to say he is a push over or soft. He really shows his gentle side when interacting with his partner DI “Br’er” Fox. Despite coming from very different backgrounds they have an amazing chemistry and an unspoken bond. He also shows an immense warmth with his girlfriend/fiancee Agatha Troy. He also connects deeply with a number of other random characters shown in the series. If Alleyn recognizes an attack on someone he cares for, he strives to find justice. He felt that most acutely when his dear friend Bunchie was murdered in Death in White Tie, and that was when we saw how solid and caring his relationship with Fox is as the older man resolutely took care of the temporarily shattered Alleyn. When compared to DS Chisholm, Alleyn’s warmth is much more believable, but that is largely because Chisholm is in many ways written as a comedic character.
It is really amazing to me how two London based policemen played by the same actor could be so utterly, utterly different. They are so unalike that they genuinely look like different people. And it is almost entirely all down to Mr. Malahide’s acting skills and mastery of accents since the only help he receives cosmetically is different hair. Yet, somehow, Chisholm and Alleyn manage to be so completely different both visually and audibly from one another that it is hard to believe that they are played by the same person.
Sir Myles and Uncle Ebenezer
RFodchuk: And I’m comparing two guys who exist in more or less the same time period, but couldn’t be more different from each other: the dashing, heroic, and romantic Sir Myles (“The Abduction Club“, 2002) and the decidedly UN-dashing, scruffy, and misanthropic porridge enthusiast (and one of Admin’s favourites 😉 ), Uncle Ebenezer Balfour (“Kidnapped“, 1995). Hmm, it seems they also have abduction as a common theme, although they diverge completely in their reasons and methods.
Sir Myles is a second or third son of a (we presume) well-to-do family who, faced with the prospect of no inheritance and either becoming a priest or joining the military for his living, decided he’d rather abduct an heiress wife instead. He crashed a dinner party in a tricorn and highwayman’s mask, snatching away Lady Margaret (an uncredited Stephanie Beacham). Unbeknownst to him (she certainly didn’t mention it), she was already betrothed to the much older and vastly more boring Lord Femoy (Edward Woodward). Given the choice, we wouldn’t have mentioned it either, not that it would’ve stopped Sir Myles anyway. But Sir Myles’ plan wouldn’t have worked at all if he hadn’t successfully wooed Lady Margaret’s socks off so she was soon saying, “Femoy who?” They got married and left Lord Femoy nursing a serious grudge against Sir Myles forever after. But Sir Myles recognized that other second sons with no prospects might also need heiress wives, so he started up an abduction club. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Ebenezer Balfour is also one of two brothers born into a wealthy (at the time) family, although to look at his house, Shaws, you’d think he’d fallen on extremely hard times. Both the house and its owner are currently in somewhat ramshackle and decrepit shape. However, while you might not guess it from his current appearance, Ebenezer actually has a tragic romance in his past. He willingly gave up his fiancée to his elder brother in exchange for Shaws and all of its rental income, a considerable sum (we’ll set aside for the moment the fact that the fiancée seems to have agreed to all of this without a murmur, going off happily with Ebenezer’s brother). Since that time, Ebenezer has lived like a hermit. He’s all alone in his big house, seeing no one, eating nothing but porridge, hoarding his gold, and going, dare I say, just a bit squirrelly. A rather unkempt, grimy, miserly squirrel, that is.
Sir Myles manages to stand out in a crowd, even while surrounded by younger, slightly awkward suitor wannabes. His working clothes consist of a tricorn, Inverness coat (its capelets make a great visual flourish when he’s on horseback), and an extremely dashing highwayman’s mask guaranteed to set ladies’ hearts aflutter. His clothes are always immaculate and he himself is always impeccably groomed, with his long hair (no wigs for Sir Myles!) neatly bound into a queue. Sir Myles tries to impart his sense of style and panache to the members of his Abduction Club, but the results usually end up a bit mixed because they’re clueless, over-enthusiastic, and a bit goofy, especially compared to him.
By contrast, Ebenezer’s personal style, as much as he has any, appears to have been mislaid a couple of decades back under a heap of dust bunnies. He’s a very early adopter of the “grunge” look, owning only one set of clothes that haven’t been mended or cleaned since he bought them. He’s not overly concerned with personal hygiene, either; he usually goes about unshaven and ungroomed, with his hair a wild, dishevelled mess. However, I have to admit his natural hair is an improvement on the “going to town” wig he wears for special occasions (like arranging his nephew’s kidnapping). “Ratty” just barely comes close to describing it. Like his battered tricorn, that wig has seen better days. But it’s not like anyone ever comes to visit him anyway unless they’re meddlesome nephews after his cash, so why should he bother getting dressed up?
Sir Myles is a gentleman and comports himself accordingly at all times. He also tries, with occasional success, to instill the same attitude and behaviour in his young charges, requiring a robust sense of humour. A natural romantic who’s devoted to his wife, he’s outgoing, effortlessly engaging, and devastatingly charming, even from behind his mask (swooooon!). He’s also a witty conversationalist and good listener, coaching his second sons on the best strategies for winning ladies’ hearts. He’s primarily interested in successful romances and marriages developing from these abductions, so he insists on everything being kept above-board with no flouting of club rules. Petty theft from the heiresses’ houses, forcing their acceptance of marriage proposals, or behaving towards them in an ungentlemanly fashion will not be tolerated. And beware if you cross him… he’s not without a temper when his sense of justice is offended. As Lord Femoy finds out to his regret, Sir Myles can arrange a very effective comeuppance.
Ebenezer is as introverted and surly as Sir Myles is outgoing and friendly. He’s so paranoid he refuses to open his door to anyone, greeting visitors from his window with an ancient musket (which looks as if it’ll blow up in his hands the instant he fires it) aimed in their direction. He’s painfully insecure and socially inept to the point of being nearly incapable of normal conversation, actively trying to avoid eye contact. When he does fleetingly meet someone’s eyes, his gaze quickly skitters away again as if he can hardly stand it. Despite all this, he’s able to talk to Davy, albeit in a somewhat rambling, disjointed way. His primary concern is keeping Shaws and its lucrative rents all for himself, no matter what it takes. However, we do get a hint that he must have been a very different person once. When he mentions Davy’s mother, his former fiancée, a softer, almost longing expression steals over his face.
Sir Myles appears to genuinely care about his gang of second sons, even if they do act like a bunch of dolts and cost him money in damages during abductions. He started up the club to help them improve their prospects, and hopefully find true love, the same way he did. He’s irrepressibly optimistic about the whole venture, even when some of the club’s members attempt to misuse it for their own ends. But Sir Myles is also concerned about propriety, which seems a bit strange since he’s arranging kidnappings, albeit romantic ones. The rules for his club are strictly enforced: young ladies must be of a certain age, be treated well during their abductions, and can only be persuaded to accept a gentleman’s proposals through wooing. Ideally, Sir Myles wants the experience to be so romantic they end up as “delighted” with the outcome as his wife Margaret was (but really, who could blame her?). And despite the fact he’s forced to expel two of his gang when they break the rules, he later comes to their rescue when their lives are in danger. It’s all in the name of love and camaraderie for Sir Myles.
We don’t see too much of Ebenezer’s softer side. He’s initially friendly towards Davy, but only to create a false sense of security that makes it easier to lure him into a trap. Ebenezer’s plan is pretty simple; after Davy has a fatal “accident”, Ebenezer will be able to keep Shaws (which rightfully belongs to Davy) for himself. However, the scheme doesn’t go as smoothly as Ebenezer hoped; he’s briefly guilt-stricken by Davy’s screams for help when he realizes the trap didn’t work right away. But he soon gets over it, consoling himself with Davy’s leftover porridge while waiting for the trap to take effect – waste not, want not!
But it’s not all murderousness and death traps at Shaws. We do see a couple of small glimpses of the kind of man Ebenezer might have been: first, when he tells Davy he “could do worse” than to read a religious book given to Ebenezer by Davy’s father; and second, when he wistfully describes Davy’s mother as a “bonnie lass”. The latter scene reveals an unexpectedly sentimental Ebenezer, before lust for gold took over; suddenly the idea of a tragic romance in his past is much more believable. And having failed in his first attempt to kill Davy, Ebenezer arranges for him to be kidnapped by pirates instead, which could be argued is a bit more merciful. He does mention later that the pirates offered him a discount, which is also very practical.
The thing I enjoyed the most about comparing these two characters is that they could almost be related, with Ebenezer as the wacky cousin Sir Myles doesn’t talk about very much. But while Sir Myles finds his fortune through love, Ebenezer gives up love for his, and appears to have lived miserably for it. Sir Myles only becomes more confident, dashing, and charming through the years while Ebenezer gradually shrivels and decays, even as Shaws decays around him. Ebenezer might be sitting on a pile of money (and he is) but he’s done nothing with it, so it’s done him no good. Admin suggests in her excellent review of “Kidnapped” that Ebenezer might’ve unconsciously used his hoard as a means of self-punishment, and I tend to agree with her. He gets no joy from the money he’s cooped himself up with for so long, only a massive pile of neuroses. On the other hand, Sir Myles appears to have gotten a great deal of joy from his marriage, so much so that he wants his gang of second sons to have the same chances for happiness he did. Perhaps if Sir Myles got his hands on Ebenezer and Ebenezer was prepared to learn, Sir Myles could possibly teach him a thing or two about social interaction, and even help him find an open-minded, not-too-picky heiress to marry. 😉
The other thing I enjoyed was that both of these characters are played so effectively by one man. Mr. Malahide makes them both real, appealing (in their own ways), and believable, whether he’s the dashing, self-assured Sir Myles, with his wonderful sense of humour and ineffable style, or the curmudgeonly, antisocial, weirdly dysfunctional Ebenezer. In short, Mr. Malahide portrays two men who are near diametric opposites and makes both of them real. No small feat, that.