David Lister: Sexy or not, it's best to keep quiet

Share
Related Topics

When Laurence Olivier and Marilyn Monroe starred in a film together, Monroe took particular exception to Olivier, who was also directing, saying to her before a scene: "OK, Marilyn, be sexy." The suggestion that her greatest natural asset was a mere technique that any decent actress could turn on did not go down well.

Sixty-two-year-old Maureen Lipman, on the other hand, seems to believe precisely that. As a good actress, she is as capable of "doing" sexy as someone half her age and twice as attractive. That certainly appears to be the implication of her rebuttal to a critic, who queried whether she should be playing the role of the sexy mistress, Mme Desiree Armfeldt in the current West End production of Stephen Sondheim's A Little Night Music. The critic in question wrote: "That most angular of actresses Maureen Lipman still strikes me as a wildly unlikely grande horizontale who is supposed to have slept her way round most of the royal families of Europe."

Ms Lipman responded by sending the critic images of some unconventionally handsome loves of kings, including Wallis Simpson and the Duchess of Cornwall. My colleague Philip Hensher applauded Ms Lipman earlier this week for her stance, saying that she "still draws the fascinated eye in her middle age".

I'm less sure that it was a good idea for her to respond. I believe that the best thing one can do in the face of an annoying review is maintain a dignified silence. I once asked Helen Mirren how she felt about a string of bad notices, and she replied: "I am strong in adversity." That's how I like my actresses.

Besides, there's a much more pertinent reason why I think that Maureen Lipman's strategy is very ill-advised. I would refer her to the cases of fellow performers Charlotte Cornwell and William Roache. Ms Cornwell was accused by a television critic of having a "too big bum". Mr Roache, better known as Ken Barlow of Coronation Street, was labelled "boring" by a journalist. Both went to court to prove their critics wrong.

Even those who cannot recall the cases will realise that it is not a smart idea to ask a court to decide on the size of your bottom or your charisma in the full glare of publicity. Few fans of Charlotte Cornwell would have seen the remark about her bum in the People at the time. The Sun's character analysis of William Roache would have come and gone with little fuss. But court cases mean that, for many people, the name Charlotte Cornwell brings to mind the word "bum", while William Roache is accompanied in the subconscious by the word "boring", even though he is not.

And now, for ever, the name of that fine actress Maureen Lipman will be associated not just with the word "sexy", but with how she tried to prove she was sexy. It's better to keep a dignified silence. And if you can't do that, at least give us the fun of a court case.

Behold the battle of the plinth

Applications have opened for members of the public to stand (or dance, somersault or whatever) on the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square as part of Antony Gormley's artwork. Much has been made of this – headlines, news stories, feature articles. So I was surprised to see very little made of a terse announcement this week by Westminster Council that it has not actually approved the scheme, that it was "far from a done deal" and that the council had serious health and safety concerns about the whole project.

No doubt there are many in the art world who would think it a terrible blow if the Gormley extravaganza had to be cancelled. But I think that the opposition of Westminster Council could be good news. I relish the prospect of the first member of the public mounting the plinth, a Westminster Council officer trying to pull him down and Antony Gormley wrestling the official to the ground in the name of art. Now that tableau would be a work of art, one worth entering for the Turner Prize.

*What is it about these Beatle wives and their need for collective responsibility? Heather Mills says that she is angry about receiving only 5 per cent of the McCartney money in her divorce settlement, after "all the work I put in on the tours".

I saw some of those gigs and I don't recall Heather being on stage or helping the roadies. Perhaps she was away writing "Eleanor Rigby" at the time. And then there is Yoko Ono who has taken to saying: "When we wrote 'Imagine'..." Only John Lennon is credited as composer on my copy.

It's shameful how their contribution has been ignored. It's almost as shameful as the lack of recognition for PR guru Max Clifford, who keeps reminding us how he helped launch the Beatles in his early days at the EMI press office. Appallingly, not a single Beatle has ever acknowledged Max's efforts.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for spe...

Business Analyst - Surrey - Permanent - Up to £50k DOE

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***ASP.NET Developer - Cheshire - £35k - Permanent***

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***Solutions Architect*** - Brighton - £40k - Permanent

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Taking on Ukip requires a delicate balancing act for both main parties

Andrew Grice
Today is a bigger Shabbes than usual in the Jewish world because it has been chosen to launch the Shabbos Project  

Shabbes exerts a pull on all Jews, and today is bigger than ever

Howard Jacobson
Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker