It’s my birthday today, the 8th of January. Every year, on this day, I post a review of a film that features someone born on January 8. This year, it’s William Hartnell. Born on January 8, 1908 in London, Hartnell was best-known, in the early decades of his career, for his role as Sergeant Grimshaw from the popular Carry On films. In 1963, however, came a breakthrough that was to immortalize Hartnell on screen: he became the first Doctor Who.
In 1948, however, Hartnell acted in this somewhat unusual film about a fugitive, the girl who helps him, and the police inspector who’s on his trail. Hartnell was not the protagonist; that role went to Rex Harrison—but Hartnell put in a nuanced and restrained performance as a cop who’s not infallible, not hard-bitten and cynical, not incompetent or corrupt. A human being, and a cop.
One of the good things about growing up in a family that loved reading was that even as a child, I was surrounded by books—novels, of course; and treatises on everything from Wordsworth’s poetry (thanks to my mother) to gardening and homoeopathy (thanks to my father). Those books, big tomes that were all words and no pictures, were of no interest to a 6-year old who wasn’t too deeply into literature.