Saturday, 13 July 2013

Style icon: Terry-Thomas

In which G.M. Norton celebrates the greatest British bounder in showbiz history.


Yes avid readers, it’s once again time for Norton of Morton to accurately examine the life, times and non-sartorial crimes of a particular gentleman.  

As I may have given away slightly in the headline, the subject in question is none other than the late comic actor Terry-Thomas (by a strange coincidence, Terry-Thomas is also a subject taught at the Phileas Fogg School for Amateur Balloonists).


Despite the appearance of coming from aristocracy, Terry-Thomas was in fact the victim of a bizarre mix-up at St. Swithins Hospital. Instead of being handed to Lord and Lady Luck and returning to a stately home and an easy life as a burgeoning playboy, Nurse Nightingale mistakenly handed over baby Terence to a middle-class couple. If that wasn't bad enough, they resided in the awfully dull London suburb of Finchley. The poor blighter!

Convinced of the hospital mix-up (there wasn’t one really), Terry-Thomas concocted a dastardly deed to climb himself out of a dreary life by cleverly using clothes as part of his ‘escape kit’.
Terry-Thomas wearing his escape kit
After a short stint working with his father at the local meat market, Terry-Thomas managed to escape a life of pigs blood when he received a call from the army in 1942, requesting his services in the field of combat. I honestly don't know why Hitler didn't surrender then. After all, fancy taking on Britain when we had T-T and his like? 
T-T's 'slightly adapted' army uniform
Terry-Thomas did rather well serving King and Country, rising to the rank of Corporal by merely pretending to be one. He found he was so good at this ‘pretending to be somebody else’ lark that he decided to try his hand at acting.

His big breakthrough came when he was cast as Major Hitchcock in The Boulting Brothers' Private’s Progress and after that; he never looked back (unless a particularly fine filly had just walked past).
Terry-Thomas discussing showers with Ian Carmichael
Terry-Thomas was known for many things – being a bit of a bounder, his gap-toothed grin, his crisply modulated tones and of course, his catchphrases "Hard cheese", "Jolly good show" and "You're an absolute shower." First and foremost though, Terry-Thomas was known for the very thing that helped him to escape his humble beginnings – his striking dress sense.
 
Terry-Thomas, or T-T as I'll now refer to him as, was a firm favourite with tailors, amassing 80 bespoke suits and a whopping 150 waistcoats of every colour and material. Rumour has it that T-T even had a waistcoat made out of real leopard skin which he regularly returned to the tailor for a re-spotting.
T-T was a firm believer in the little things and the finishing touches to an outfit (he was also a firm believer in big things too by all accounts). His trademark of course was the long cigarette holder and a button-hole carnation.
T-T was the quintessentially English cocktail of dandy and dastardly. Despite always portraying rotters and cads on the lookout for number one, he always had the audience on his side. That was part of his inimitable charm. For this reason and the fact that he sought fit to found a Waistcoat Club, I tip my hat to T-T. He was a true English gentleman who will always be missed and always be remembered. 

G.M. Norton
Protagonist of 'Norton of Morton'

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