Friday, May 15, 2009

Charles "Bud" Tingwell 1923 - 2009

I don't do obituaries here on Cinema Styles for a couple of reasons. First and foremost, I'm never prepared and feel others are more up to the task. Second, I don't want to pick and choose, doing the big stars but not the smaller ones. As such, if I did do obituaries I would feel obligated to include everyone, not just the big stars, at which point this blog would become nothing more than a long chain of unending death notices. That's why usually I just put up a picture on the sidebar with the necessary dates and call it a day.

But this time's different. Why, you may ask, would I not do obits for so many big stars but make an exception for Charles "Bud" Tingwell, the Australian actor who died from prostate cancer this morning in Australia? Because Bud was virtually a member of the family, that's why.

My youngest daughter (seven years old) adores the Miss Marple movies of the sixties with Margaret Rutherford. My wife and I got her into the habit of watching old films from around the age of two and she is now fully versed in their rhythms and pacing. Oh sure, she still watches what other kids watch too but she understands classic film and will watch it on her own without any pushing or prodding. More often than not, if she has her choice of a movie to watch, it will be a Miss Marple film from the sixties. Miss Marple (Margaret Rutherford), Mr. Stringer (Stringer Davis) and Inspector Craddock (Charles "Bud' Tingwell) have thus become familiar faces and names in our household and now the last, Craddock, played with such charm and wit by Tingwell, is gone. It's like saying goodbye to a favorite uncle.

I visited Tingwell's blog a couple of times (he only updated it twice, years ago) and read about him after we first started watching the movies a few years back. He even had a mild career resuscitation when he began appearing on The Late Show in the role of "Gramps" in the "Charlie the Wonderdog" segments that ran on the show in the mid-nineties. If you read his bio here you'll see that he had a full and rich life. And I recommend going there for biographical details because I intend only to talk about Inspector Craddock, and how wonderful he was in the role.

The Miss Marple movies of the sixties, Murder She Said (1961), Murder at the Gallop (1963), Murder Most Foul (1964) and Murder Ahoy (1964) will never be remembered as great examples of the art of cinema or even as the best examples of the mystery genre on film but they have a charm about them that is undeniable, and that charm has two actors at it's epicenter, Margaret Rutherford and Bud Tingwell. Rutherford as the nosey and headstrong Miss Marple constantly running up against, and intellectually besting, Inspector Craddock every time, in every movie, is formula to be sure but one given vigorous new life by those two eminently appealing actors. Tingwell did more than hold his own against Rutherford, at times you felt he was making her hold her own against him and that's no mean feat considering the immense screen charisma of Rutherford. But there's more.

Moviegoers and cinephiles are forever discussing chemistry between actors and usually, if not always, it centers around a male and female in a romantic relationship movie or two actors or actresses playing off each other in a Buddy picture. Well, I'm here to say that Rutherford and Tingwell had some of the best chemistry I've ever seen from a screen couple and their characters were not romantically involved nor were they buddy buddy. Nevertheless, those two played off each other as well as any team I can think of.

It may not be much of an honor to be written up on Cinema Styles but it is certainly an honor for me to write a goodbye to an actor that did something immeasurably important for me and my wife: He helped our youngest daughter fall in love with old movies and that's not something so easy to do these days. If not for him and his chemistry with Rutherford, it might not have happened. Thank you Bud. You were a gifted and charming actor and somehow, a good friend. You'll be missed.