Sunday 14 June 2009

Altman's Ring

About 15 years ago now, we were watching Mastermind (back in the days when it was still Magnus Magnusson on BBC1) and a contestant took the chair, gave his name and occupation and announced his specialist subject: The life and works of Richard Wagner. Two minutes starting now - first question "In which city was the Festspielhaus which Wagner built to host the Ring Cycle?" Contestant looks blank - Pass. Second question "In which city, then in the Russian Empire, did Wagner become musical director of the Opera in 1837?" Again, contestant looks blank - Pass.

It was developing into one of those cringe-making TV moments until we dissolved into mirth at the prospect that there had been a ghastly mistake - the specialist subject he'd boned up on was Robert Wagner, not Richard! So the boy's sitting there, bewildered, thinking "When's he going to ask me what the name of the dog was in Hart to Hart or what his character's name was in Colditz ... ?"

This didn't start out as another lookalike post but now that I look at it, how similar is that jawline? You can see how confusion could arise.

Anyway, we had a "Wagner moment" of our own whilst watching Eastenders earlier (for my non-British readers, Eastenders is the UK's most popular soap opera which we get about two weeks out of date by satellite) and, rather deliciously, it involved another Robert. God knows why, but we got involved in the question of the name of the actor who plays "Nasty Nick" Cotton. I said it's Robert Altman. To which Carol replied that RA is the director of MASH and Gosford Park (amongst others) and that Nasty Nick is played by John Altman. So just as well I didn't select "Villains of Albert Square" when I went on Mastermind or I could have ended up facing awkward questions about the Korean War.

That's Nick Altman on the left and John Cotton on the right.

PS. - the answers to the Robert Wagner questions are Bayreuth and Riga (but you knew that anyway) and the answers to the Richard Wagner questions are Freeway and Major Phil Carrington. I wouldn't have got any of them but as a follow up (which I would have got), who played the Kommandant of Colditz?

1 comment:

Kathie said...

Talk about a walk down memory lane! Back in the mid- to late-1980s -- when our media market had TWO public TV stations (before the burgeoning of cable) -- one carried the first several seasons of "EastEnders," so we got hooked on the series at the time. John Altman must be a lot nicer person than his character Nick Cotton, that he's still with the show ;-)

I'm amazed to see June Brown (Dot Cotton) listed as still being on intermittently, as she was hardly a spring chicken even when the series debuted 24 years ago -- although good for her! Did she ever get that snaggle-tooth fixed, or was it a prosthesis she wore for her character? (We Americans are more obsessed with good teeth than other cultures, it seems). See her mini-bio at:
Nigel Hawthorne was right that she's actually beautiful:
For the ultimate in odd couples, see THIS photo of her:

Also noticed Judy Cornwell listed in 8 epis in 2007-8, as she's best-known in the US as Hyacinth's sister Daisy (Onslow's wife) from endless rerurns of the Britcom "Keeping Up Appearances" on PBS (paired with "Are You Being Served?" for which Wendy Richard is well-known -- sad about her recent death).

You might enjoy checking out the unabridged listing for "EastEnders" on IMDb: