Inspector Alleyn on Radio Times: April 1993
I managed to get this copy of the Radio Times with “Toff Guy” Patrick Malahide is Inspector Alleyn cover off Ebay sometime back. The article is very interesting and goes into a fair bit of detail about Dame Ngaio Marsh. But, I’ll focus more on the Patrick Malahide element. The original article was written by Tim Heald and appears in the 17-23 April 1993 edition if you want to look it up on Ebay.
The Inspector Alleyn Mysteries
The series of five, feature-length stories is set in 1948. Patrick Malahide plays Alleyn, and his loyal partner — Lewis to his Morse, as it were — Inspector Fox, is played by William Simons, who also played the role opposite Simon Williams in a one-off drama shown at Christmas 1990. Then, Alleyn’s romantic interest, Agatha Troy, was played by Belinda Lang, who re-creates the role in this new series.
I love the chemistry between Alleyn and Fox. I don’t really see them as Morse and Lewis-like as those two, although excellent together, could engage in a bit of head butting. (See Driven to Distraction for proof of that!!) To me, Alleyn and Fox are completely in tune with one another showing a genuinely warm and comfortable chemistry. Their relationship is almost sepia toned while avoiding sickly sweetness. Their warmth stands as a welcome contrast to the horrible murders and people they encounter throughout their investigations.
Alleyn vs Chisholm
Patrick Malahide understands the complexity of the role. “Alleyn’s as different as he could possibly be, both professionally and personally, from Chisholm,” he says, referring to his previous incarnation as Det. Sgt Chisholm in ITV’s Minder, who rates rather lower in the charm stakes. “I enjoyed playing him because he’s a very sympathetic character. He’s referred to as ‘that thoroughly nice man Alleyn’. He’s extremely intelligent, very mercurial, with an intuitive grasp of things. He got a double first in Classics from Oxford and went into the diplomatic corps, but he would think snobbery one of the worst social vices. He is very old-fashioned with a great sense of duty, and he turned his back on the aristocracy to go into the police.
“He’s not Biggles. there’s a real edge to him. You would be foolish to make an enemy of him. It would be unnerving to be interviewed by him, even though he would never resort to bullying tactics and he’d be unfailingly polite. In public he’s a very serious-minded person, but in private he’s got a very keen sense of humour, with a real vulnerability, which we get to know about through his relationship with Agatha Troy”
Mr. Malahide has a real understanding of Alleyn which shows in his excellent portrayal. I especially like his description of Alleyn being intimidating without ever being a bully. It shows how Alleyn has a deep assurance of his own character and world view.
The Cutest Thing!
Dame Ngaio was plainly rather in love with Alleyn. This is true of several female crime writers, notably Dorothy L. Sayers (though not Agatha Christie, who came to to loathe Hercule Poirot). She therefore makes him devilishly attractive. As the ship’s flirt on a long ocean voyage exclaims: “Look at him! Isn’t he the cutest thing!”
Can’t disagree with the cutest thing part, but I don’t really think Chisholm is “chopped liver.” 🙂 I had no idea that Christie came to hate her own Poirot. Maybe she should have kept my beloved Captain Hastings in all of the stories 😉 Fun fact: the lovely Hugh Fraser, who plays Captain Hastings, is married to the equally lovely Belinda “Agatha Troy” Lang in real life.
Another note of interest: Patrick Malahide narrated Sayers’ Five Red Herrings story, something that will be certainly recapped here sometime in the future. 🙂
A Realistic Detective — but with a long career!
Despite his sudden intuitive flamboyances, he is essentially scrupulous and methodical. “At the Yard,” the author tells us once, “Alleyn was often heard to lament the inadequacy of his memory, an affectation that was tolerantly indulged by his colleagues. His memory was, in fact, like any other senior detective -officer’s, very highly trained.”
His first case was in 1933 and his last in 1980, just two years before his creator’s death. He always gets his man and at the end of the book he invariably explains how — often in the library, where there will appear such lines as: “Alleyn said, ‘What happened was this. Constance Cartell, on the hunt for her Pekignese, came into your garden.'”
Alleyn, despite his aristocratic background, is a very real detective. He isn’t a superman or hyper genius. His relationships with Fox and Troy are very natural, genuine and believable. I particularly like that his relationship with Troy was rather straight forward. Too often, in other dramas, the “will they or won’t they” element gets stretched out to mega-tediousness!! But not with Alleyn, it is as stable as he is and makes the Inspector Alleyn Mysteries all that much more enjoyable.