On this date in 1922, Denholm Elliott was born in Ealing, Middlesex, England. The great British actor — who passed away in 1992 — distinguished himself in many movies, most notably Station Six Sahara, King Rat, Alfie (as the seedy abortionist hired by Michael Caine’s irresponsible womanizer), Too Late the Hero, The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz, A Doll’s House, Robin and Marian, Raiders of the Lost Ark and Trading Places.
But I must confess: Whenever I hear or read Elliott’s name, the first movie that pops into my head is The Hound of the Baskervilles, a spoofy 1978 take on the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle story directed by Andy Warhol protégé Paul Morrissey, starring Peter Cook and Dudley Moore as, respectively, Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson. Although it went unreleased in the United States until after Moore had scored box-office hits with Ten (1979) and Arthur (1981), my wife and I saw it during a day trip to London, Ontario while attending the 1978 Stratford Shakespeare Festival (where, by the way, we saw Maggie Smith in Macbeth and Private Lives, so feel free to turn green with envy).
Critics have never been kind to this film, but I count it among my most treasured guilty pleasures. And the first time I saw Elliott aiming a urinating canine at Moore — well, it’s the closest I’ve ever come to literally falling onto the floor laughing since I first saw the killer rabbit scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
P.S. The one time I ever got to do a telephone interview with Denholm Elliott, during my 1982-95 run as film critic for The Houston Post, I figured it would be a good idea to wait until the very end of the conversation to mention how much I was amused by this scene. And I can’t tell you how relieved I was to hear that he, too, thought it was pretty damn hilarious.
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