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The Times (28/Apr/1962) - Obituary: Angus MacPhail

(c) The Times (28/Apr/1962)


The death of Mr. Angus MacPhail on April 22 at the early age of 59 is the end of a sad struggle against ill-health which, over the past 10 years or so, had robbed British film production of an unusually gifted mind. A lovable man with a great capacity for making friends, his passing will be felt as a personal loss by many people in the film business and out of it

Angus MacPhail was educated at Westminster School, and afterwards at Trinity Hall, Cambridge, where he read English, edited Granta for two years, and (as he often used to boast) wore the widest Oxford bags in Cambridge. He entered the film business in 1926 as a film title writer for silent films. His favourite contribution to this work was: "Love, like catch-as-catch-can, is a game that only two can play — and Mary was no novice" — and one wonders now if this were not the inspiration for the title of Mr. Peter Sellers's recent comedy Only Two Can Play.

He liked best to write his own film scenarios, but most of his active years in film production were devoted to the self-effacing task of helping other writers. He was a brilliant scenario editor in the old Gaumont-British days and later at Ealing Studios at the time when, under the aegis of Sir Michael Balcon, these studios gained an international reputation for such comedy films as Passport to Pimlico, Kind Hearts and Coronets, Lavender Hill Mob, and Whisky Galore. On the last named he also collaborated on the screenplay. During the war he was for some time m charge of the script department in the Films Division of the Ministry of Information.

In recent years he led a very solitary life. But while he discouraged visitors, including his close friends, he kept up a prodigious correspondence in which self-pity never intruded and in which his delightful sense of humour always predominated. Many breakfasts in his friends' homes must have been enlivened by these always amusing and sometimes outrageous letters.