Nicol Williamson walks off the stage

January 27, 2012 at 8:52 pm (cinema, jazz, Jim D, literature, music, song, theatre, TV, whisky, wild man)

Nicol Williamson, actor. Born 14 September 1938; died 16 December 2011

A wild, erratic talent:

“Nicol Williamson, whose death of oesophageal cancer at the age of 73 has been announced, was arguably the most electrifying actor of his generation, but one whose career flickered and faded like a faulty light fitting. Tall and wiry, with a rasping scowl of a voice, a battered baby face and a mop of unruly curls, he was the best modern Hamlet since John Gielgud, and certainly the angriest, though he scuppered his own performance at the Round House, north London, in 1969, by apologising to the audience and walking off the stage…” The rest of today’s Graun obit here.

Rather eerily, here he is on the Frost On Saturday show (London Weekend TV, circa 1968 at a guess) talking about death…

That was when chat shows didn’t insult your intelligence.

Here’s one of his finest filmed performances, The Bofors Gun (1968, dir: Jack Gold):

Note the young John Thaw and David Hemmings

Finally, as Jack Gold notes in the Graun, “if ever there was a piano handy, he was immediately seated there, singing ballads, blues, rock, jazz. He loved the great musicians and improvisation. I think that, latterly, that is where his heart truly lay.” Listen to him singing I’ve Got The World On A String:


  1. Roger said,

    Brilliant actor – particularly in The Bofors Gun which with The Hill is a much under-rated example of 60s radical cinema – but being famously ‘difficult’ rarely got the roles he deserved.

    And that Frost segment is indeed extraordinary – and just compare what ITV offer up on weekday nights at 10.30.

  2. Jim Denham said,

    I understand that while visiting New York in the late sixties, Williamson got to know the great jazz trumpeter Max Kaminsky, and sang with Max’s band at Jimmy Ryan’s. When Maxie visited London in 1970, he and Nicol cut some sides together – or so I’m told.

    Does anyone know anything about the Kaminsky- Williamson recordings?

  3. Roger said,

    Listening to his reading of The Hobbit on youtube right now – particularly like his rendition of the Dwarves as bluff Northern Aldermen.

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