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Bob Hoskins (1942-2014)
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Hoskins: Goodbye to the popular star of ‘Pennies from Heaven’,
‘The Long Good Friday’, ‘Mona Lisa’ and ‘Last Orders’.
death of Bob Hoskins at age 71 in April 2014 has left us saying a
reluctant goodbye to a favourite son of British cinema and
Tell me that Bob Hoskins is in a film and I
instinctively think of a cockney ducker-and-diver, living on his
wits. He was an enormously popular character. It was very noticeable
in his obituaries that no one in the showbiz world had a bad word to
say about him. And the public took him to their hearts as a "lovable
rogue": the archetype "little man" who although often
a victim is ultimately a survivor.
In terms of Bob Hoskins and
screen adaptations of accomplished literary works I'd like to
highlight his memorable roles for the scriptwriter Dennis Potter in
BBC television's 'Pennies from Heaven' and for the novelist Graham
Swift in the cinematic version of 'Last Orders'.
from Heaven': BBC television series (1978)
was an unknown before he burst into our living rooms as the lead star
of Dennis Potter's innovative and imaginative musical drama set in
He established himself as a household name with his
touching interpretation of Arthur Parker, the earnest, frustrated but
ever-optimistic plate-spinning chancer. Parker was a travelling
salesman (sheet music) with parallels surely to George Orwell's
fictional George Bowling in his novel 'Coming Up for Air' (1939),
Bowling and Parker shared the same profession; wore 1930s
herring-bone suits; struggled to live on their modest salary in the
outer London suburbs; and considered themselves to be stifled by
married life. Bowling ultimately accepted his lot, but Parker was
allowed by Dennis Potter to meet Eileen (Cheryl Campbell). She later
enjoyed the euphemistic status of being his "travelling
companion" as the pair of them went on the run.
Potter was in the vanguard of taboo-breaking post-war television
writers who clashed with the guardians of good taste (the BBC
council; Mary Whitehouse). 'Pennies from Heaven' had its baring and
its daring moments, and Parker was an immoral character at times, but
the six-episode drama was not the most extreme example of Potter's
predilection to shock our suburban sitting-rooms.
Orders': MBP, Scala and Winchester Films (2004).
the infamously violent movie 'The Long Good Friday' (1980), a big
success at box-office, Bob convincingly portrayed the head of a
gangster syndicate operating from Docklands in London.
another top-rank gangster movie 'Mona Lisa' (1986) Bob again starred
in the lead role. But this time he was at the opposite end of the
spectrum: a small time ex-convict employed as a car driver and
odd-jobber on the fringe of the sex, drugs and prostitution
underworld of seedy Soho.
Bob was verging on veteran status as
a British film star by the time that he co-starred in the Fred
Schepisi directed 'Last Orders' (2001). The movie was an adaptation
of the Booker Prize winning novel by Graham Swift.
was a poignant one: the death of local butcher Jack Dodd (Michael
Caine) brought much emotional baggage to the surface, requiring what
is nowadays referred to as "closure" for his family and
friends. A male group journeyed from a south London pub on a
fractious journey to Margate, to scatter Jack's ashes in the sea and
thereby exorcise a number of unhealed wounds from the past.
Caine, Tom Courtenay, David Hemmings, Bob Hoskins. Helen Mirren, Ray
Winstone. Six of the very top stars of British screen acting their
socks off: what a superb movie this was! And although outnumbered by
five to one in the male to female stakes, Helen Mirren in my opinion
emerged as first among equals. She stole the show as Jack's widow,
the quiet and stoic Amy who asks for very little from life, and whose
companionship with Bob Hoskins becomes touchingly closer when she is
faced with widowhood and financial uncertainty.
for Bob Hoskins and Helen Mirren was a reprise of their pairing in
'The Long Good Friday' when, twenty years earlier, they oozed wealth
and power as confident upwardly mobile London penthouse
Now in 'Last Orders' they each looked old, faded and
diminished: but as ever, the Bob Hoskins character had a little glint
in his eye, and a trick or two to turn, to help bring a positive
ending. It was exactly this feature of Bob Hoskins the real-life man
and the screen actor that endeared him to the British public.
In the closing scenes of the film we saw two simultaneous
"last orders". The five men decided to order a last pint,
at the nearest pub on the sea front, after their long car journey and
the disposal of Jack's ashes. Meanwhile in outer London at a nursing
home Amy was instructing her severely retarded grown-up daughter that
the time had come for her to carry on alone, for Amy had decided to
stop making her weekly visit to see her: a visit that Jack always
said was pointless, because the daughter never once gave Amy any sign
And now alas in real life it has become "last
orders" for Bob Hoskins himself. He will be sadly missed, but
his legacy as a favourite British actor will always be with
Previous articles by Jerry Dowlen in the Books Monthly Archives include:
Muriel Spark & Jane Gardam
The Story of Edith Nesbit
Anthony Gilbert and Michael Gilbert
Rebels With A Cause
Inspector Winter: Gwendoline Butler's First Detective
The Carlton, The Commodore, and the Embassy - Orpington's Three Cinemas
The Bergerac Police Adventure Series
It's All In The Mind - Margery Allingham and Graham Greene
Berlin: Cold War Spy Thrillers
The Life and Centenary of Barbara Pym
D H Lawrence: The Sniggering Legacy of Lady Chatterley's Lover...
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