Tuesday 6 October 2020

Strangers In The Night

Douglas Hodge as Tertius Lydgate

Douglas Hodge stalked me last month. Or perhaps I did him. I suspect it is more likely to be the former, as I had to seek the expert advice of the Closing Credits to Middlemarch to be reminded of his name.

In three consecutive and randomly selected, evening, televisual entertainments, he popped up on the screen. And so it was on his third appearance that I decided I should be on my guard. Fortunately, our borders are still closed to Foreign Visitors so I won't need affixing an eye to the peephole in our front door.

There used to be a time when we Pipistrellos would take ourselves off to the cinema on a regular basis and the joke would be that there were only 6 actors in France, (French films being a fancy), as the same faces would recirculate about everything we ever watched, like a small repertory company touring the provinces.

Then when Boxed Sets took over our lives, we could easily say the same thing of television actors. But as we are both hopeless for remembering the names of theatrical types*, our typical exclamations of recognition from the sofa when a familiar face crops up would be any one of:

"Virginia from The Braithwaites!" [once a lot but not recently. Where are you, Virginia?]

"Red Cap!" [just the other week and we were both amazed at our recollection of that old chestnut]

"The main guy in the first Spooks!" 

"Poldark! ... The new one ... It's Warleggan!"


"Soames!" [principal character, no less, in The Forsytes, so you'd think we'd know his name]

"Soames' sister!"

"He played Soames' sister's useless husband!" And always confused with "Young Jolyon!" for some reason, so we never make the right attribution.

"He was in Rome!!!"

"Game of Thrones!!!!" &c., &c.

The otherwise educational Credits typically furnish us with opportunities to soak up some Atmosphere and hum along (GoT, par exemple), or, as is more likely, to attend to glasses of wine and whatnot. The actors just swirl around us and still we never learn so many of these household names. Although, in truth, we both called out "Tamzin Outhwaite!" in unison after a few more minutes cogitation after our "Red Cap!" moment, so it must be the unusual-ness of her name that made it stick.

Our Northern Lineup: Spooks!, ?, The Clerk!, ?, Rome! (& sometimes labelled Peaky Blinders!), ?, ?

For some reason, an actor who has appeared in many, many things, still gets referred to as "The Clerk in North Square". I'm sure Phil Davis (I looked it up) would be a bit cross about that as his is a terribly easy name in the scheme of things. 

DH as the sour puss Roger Carbury, and Peaky Blinders!
[Thank you, Mr. P!! How did I not realise?!]

But Douglas Hodge seemed the unlikeliest of stalkers. First off the rank was the 2001 adaptation of Anthony Trollope's The Way We Live Now, where ol' DH was really only a support actor whose face I recognised but, typically, whose name eludes me. TWWLN, by the way, I love for so many reasons and David Suchet & Shirley Henderson are utterly brilliant (and since I adore them both unfailingly, their names do stick), and this last viewing there was a "The Butler in Downtown Abbey!" moment. 

No DH hints on the covers of these delights

Needing to follow this favoured televisual delight with something equally worthy in the Costume Department, I picked out the 1994 adaptation of George Eliot's Middlemarch and up he pops again, playing the same irritating, wet sort of character ... Oh, coincidence.

And once that show was done, we randomly pick out a Maigret we'd recorded from the telly, Maigret in Montmartre, 2017 and there he is again, (putting in a great turn as a Sleaze for a change, I might add). When Douglas Hodge appears on your screen every night for over a week, I call that Downright Peculiar.

Red Cap Tamzin! & DH

Imagine my surprise when I resort to the interwebs to see where he may be these days, (not tip-toeing through Elizabeth Bay, surely?), I discover that he's an exceptionally busy actor, indeed! And we've seen him in so many things that I'm perplexed that when we see him on the screen we don't immediately cry, "Red Cap!" (And why don't they ever repeat that on the telly? It was such a great programme).

Buy! Sell! DH front and centre circa 1990!

But surely for strangeness, back in the Olden Days, a very young DH appeared in a show that I remember for rather a personal reason, Capital City. For the majority of the civilised world who won't remember this, it was set in the trading room of a fictitious, London investment bank, and it came onto our screens in Australia during the shoulder-padded-era at a time when Your Correspondent was also working as a shoulder-padded Dealer in Sydney, and was seen as much as Essential Viewing at the time as when Wall Street was released and a flashy broker organised a champagne-fuelled Private Viewing for we clients. 

And when I moved to London to work in a (non-fictitious) merchant bank a few years later, my (still there) shoulder pads brushed up against fellow workers who gleefully reported they were the Inspirations, no less, for several of the characters in the TV-show, and were still basking in the, ahem, notoriety.

* Except for our own retired resident thespian about the condominio, whose name we have been known to delightedly exclaim when we occasionally see his face pop up on an Olde Show!

Image credits: 4: Flying With Hands; remaining: via Google


  1. I'm not a follower of actors or actresses, nor do I watch any TV series. In the evenings I prefer radio; on which David Suchet often shines as Poirot.

    I too was in The City. My first job after leaving school was on The London Stock Exchange as a Blue Button (trainee broker). It didn't last!

  2. Cro: We've probably listened to the same readings as we used to be entertained with the Poirot audio books back when we had a car. He's a fabulous reader ... My own rather inglorious City career was in Eurobond sales for which my personality was decidedly ill-suited. Eg: "Not interested in buying any of these junk bonds? Oh well, don't blame you, and how was your weekend?" It nonetheless gave me the necessaries for living in London for a while, so for that I cannot complain!

  3. The same old actors turn up in all of the series .... if you see one in Midsomer Murders you can bet your bottom dollar you will see them in Lewis, Poirot, Miss Marple, A Touch of Frost, Vera and every other series, period or modern.... do you think I might watch too much tele ? 🤣🤣🤣 XXXX

  4. Jackie: Ha, is it you in charge of my remote control?? It is a truth universally acknowledged that an actor in possession of a good equity card, must be in want of an appearance in all of the above, or something like that, said Ms. Austen. xx

  5. Hilarious! Yes, I am constantly wondering why somebody is so familiar, only to realize that they were on another show or in another movie. Especially in France. I recently binged on "Dix Pour Cent" and just now finished "Emily in Paris." The cheated-on wife in the first plays a mistress in the second.
    Worse for me is the dubbing. There are even fewer dubbers, so you hear the same voices again and again. I would overhear my husband watching something and would be shocked to discover that the person on the screen wasn't the actor I was accustomed to using this dubbed voice. It was a real mind-bender.

  6. ToF: Proof there are still only six actors in France! Dubbing adds a whole other flavour, I agree. A friend travelling in Romania in the 90s reported back that the dubbing was allegedly done by one voice, which sounded such an Eastern bloc thing to inflict on a population. So, that mismatching could be worse, ToF!


  8. Contessa: I would guess they'd be Strangers in the Night to you, too, unless you've been subsisting on a British televisual diet for some goodly amount of time now! xx

  9. Douglas Hodge is also a very good stage actor. He is/was married to Tessa Peake-Jones who played 'Rodders' wife in 'Only Fools and Horses.' Both he and Phil Davies are very versatile and have enjoyed busy careers since their youth.

  10. Rosemary: It is nice to know some actors can stay happily married without resorting to tabloid shenanigans. OFAH passed me by, for some reason, but it's been on my List for future viewing stuffs for ages. I do like a traditional English sitcom. Since the trilogy of DH viewings, he also popped up for us as Grimes in the recent 'Decline & Fall' adaptation, which finally made it to the screens here. Busy busy!

  11. You've been closer to the Rothschild family than you realise: the character Melmotte is a thinly-veiled caricature of Lionel de Rothschild. The Rothschilds were not best pleased with it, particularly since Trollope had enjoyed their hospitality.

  12. John: Oh, an excellent tidbit, thank you, for which I was unaware! It's certainly an unflattering portrait of Lionel and the contemporary readership must have been fascinated by Trollope's audacity. Libel would have been on most person's lips! I shall have to look into this further ...

  13. Oh, yes! He was in Spooks, wasn't he? I really like his work. DH was in an ep. of Black Mirror that I especially liked as well.

  14. Bea: Oh, I don't know Black Mirror so just had to check it. Sci-fi! There's not enough on the telly these days. DH was also in Lost in Space but I couldn't get through more than a couple of episodes, whilst Mr. P did the lot and was perfectly satisfied.

  15. I haven't watched any of these shows but I know what you mean. I can never remember an actor's name, or rarely ( or it's Aidan Turner or Sam Heughan), so he/ she ends up getting the name of the character he/ she had portrayed.

  16. Loree: There's certainly no forgetting Aidan Turner! Ross Poldark! SH I had to check - ho, Jamie in Outlander! His co-star Tobias Menzies (checked again) goes by the name Rome! in this household (Brutus). I did have to bail out of Outlander in the 3rd season as Claire was driving me mad.


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