Saturday, November 09, 2019

Some fun, and some not so, facts about the clean old man

Paul McCartney, Wilfred Brambell
I just watched the Beatles "A Hard Day's Night" recently and became curious about whatever happened to the guy who played Paul's Irish maternal grandfather in the movie.

So after googling Wilfrid Brambell I discovered that he was 52 years old when he played Paul's grandfather. 52! It boggles the mind. 

McCartney's mother Mary would have been 55 at the time the film was made, if she hadn't died in 1956.

Paul's actual maternal grandfather, Owen Mohin was also Irish but was born in 1880 so would have been 84 when A Hard Day's Night was made. I assume he was dead by 1964 but couldn't find anything online about when he died. I didn't really look all that hard.

Wilfrid Brambell, who died in 1985 at 72 was a complete alcoholic and gay:
In 1962, he was arrested in a toilet in Shepherd's Bush for persistently importuning and given a conditional discharge
The contemporary NYTimes review of the HDN by Bosley Crowther said:
With practically nothing substantial in the way of a story to tell — nothing more than a loosely strung fable of how the boys take under their wings the wacky old grandfather of one of them while preparing for a London television show—it discovers a nifty little satire in the paradox of the old man being more of a problem, more of "a troublemaker and a mixer," than the boys."'e's a nice old man isn't "e?," notes one of the fellows when they first meet Granddad on a train. And another replies, with courteous unction, which parodies the standard comment about the Beatles themselves, '"e's very clean."This line, which runs through the picture, may be too subtle for the happily squealing kids who will no doubt be its major audience, but the oldsters may profitably dig.
But there was more to the "clean old man" schtick than just a generational gap. Apparently it was a nod to a British TV character played by Brambell on a TV series Steptoe and Son which was the inspiration for Sanford and Son:
A constant thread throughout the series was Albert being referred to by Harold as a "dirty old man"; for example, when he was eating pickled onions while taking a bath, and retrieving dropped ones from the bathwater. 
So after all these years I finally get the "clean old man" bit from Hard Day's Night. Yah learn something new every day.