Wednesday, 25 October 2017


My obituary of the actor Robert Guillaume has been posted at The Guardian online, you can link to it
here. It should be in the paper paper soon; in fact, they called me while I was out taking the dog for a fall swim at Waggoners Wells, and asked for it in two hours as it was intended for today's paper, before Fats Domino died.

Guillaume was a very late starter in many ways, but his good luck in being spotted a number of times, and his hard work at a number of good roles where he was the first to take over from the original lead, or to take a show on the road, was impressive. Apparently, despite his success as Nathan Detroit, which ought to have convinced almost anyone, network executives were very hesitant to offer him the Benson role on Soap: I probably should have mentioned that as well as being the show's anchor, his work with Katharine Helmond was the best relationship in the show. Benson, in a sense, was less successful because his was more a two-hander with James Noble, who had to stand in for any number of characters from Benson.

Charles Gordone was, I believe, the first black dramatist to win a Pulitzer, and No Place To Be Somebody was the first Off-Broadway play to win as well. I read that this was Guillaume's favourite role. I never saw an episode of the Robert Guillaume Show, but would be very curious to view it now: it must have driven the network Standards & Practices people crazy. Interracial romance? What next?

Similarly, Sports Night never made it to Britain (I assume because they would assume American sports was of no interest to anyone) but a takeoff on ESPN Sports Center could easily be seen as a precursor to Studio 60 (Saturday Night Live) or Newsroom (CNN). I've also never seen the movie Prince Jack, but alongside Guillaume as King and Robert Hogan as JFK you have Lloyd Nolan as Joe Kennedy, Cameron Mitchell as Gen Walker, Kenneth Mars (Franz Liebkind in The Producers) as LBJ, and Dana Andrews, Theodore Bikel, William Windom and Jim Backus. How did I miss that? RIP, Robert Guillaume.

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