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It’s All Been Rather Lovely (2012)


Remembering John le Mesurier in the centenary year of his birth (2012)

From the Guardian

This is how John Le Mesurier, best known as Sergeant Wilson in Dad’s Army, proposed to Joan Malin, his second wife. “Well, I don’t suppose you’d take me on, would you?” She completely missed what he was talking about. “I’d no idea!” she recalls. It was only when he mentioned to a friend that she had turned him down that she realised (and later accepted).

It was all of a piece with the man and the actor, lovingly remembered on John Le Mesurier: It’s All Been Rather Lovely (BBC 2). Friends and family gathered to paint an almost perfect picture of an almost perfect gentleman, complete with charm and an elegant unwillingness to do anything so vulgar as make his feelings known. He was happy to keep working, paying the bills with (admittedly scene-stealing) cameos in more than 100 films before the Dad’s Army script that would forever change things came his way. Most things – especially kind women prepared to take care of him – eventually did.

His attitude had its pros and cons. Everyone loved him and his talent, so he was always employed but rarely encouraged to stretch himself. He had his pick of women and married Hattie Jacques – by most accounts, the great love of his life – in 1949. But he became increasingly busy with work and Jacques took up with another man. He moved in and Le Mesurier moved over – into another bedroom (cum sitting room) in the same house, shouldering the blame in the divorce in order to save Jacques’s reputation.

After he and Malin married, she fell in love with his best friend, Tony Hancock. Le Mesurier told her he quite understood and became her confidante and counsellor when Hancock was drinking. Eventually, Malin returned to Le Mesurier and they never spoke of the unfortunate business again. The title of the programme was taken from his last words to her before he died.

The story was so English it could be used to replace the citizenship test. But then, it really had all been rather lovely.

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