There is surely no one living on planet earth [or at least in Dorset] - however fleeting their interest in the movies - who is unaware of the seminal influence exerted by the young Professor Thrupiece on the evolution of both the British and the American cinema. Following his rapid rise to prominence in - admittedly sometimes overly-ambitious and ultimately abortive - projects [mostly grounded in attempts to translate into film his early musical theatre triumphs [see, for example the troubled Sound of Brian - full story HERE ]] the young Professor was, for several decades, the subject of repeated attempts by Hollywood moghuls to lure him to Tinsel Town and to tie him down to long-term studio contracts. Chronicling such efforts as well as adumbrating the extravagant blandishments offered by MGM, Warner Brothers, 20th-Century Fox, Universal and others has been the leitmotiv of many a history of Hollywood's heyday, rehearsed in more than a dozen works dedicated to charting the never-ending [12 month] project to bring the elusive Thrupiece Factor to the screen*.
* Professor Thrupiece's decision to concentrate instead on developing a methane-based rocket fuel for both the US and Soviet space programmes together with his associated career as a pioneer astronaut/cosmonaut has been described as "the making of space exploration at the expense of a galaxy of blockbusters and who knows how many choc-ice sales" [Dorset Film Monthly].]
Rather less often seen than documented are the numerous screen tests which the studio bosses made in their frantic effort to find suitable parts for the rising star. In what appears to be a reversal of the normal casting process [whereby an ingenue is subject to innumerable indignities in their effort to convince producers and directors to employ them] the various studios [20th-Century Fox in particular] appear to have offered the Professor any number of vehicles in the hope of tempting him to sign on the dotted line. None, it seems, captured his imagination sufficiently or were thought worthy enough of his talent, to "seal the deal", despite the fact that many of the roles were later to prove pivotal in the careers of less illustrious [and dare we say less fastidious] actors.
Now, in a timely celebration of those efforts, 20th Century Fox Pictures - A Threadbone Corporation Company - has released a showreel of more than a dozen hitherto unseen clips featuring the Professor in a variety of try-oiuts for potential roles - any and all of which might have been huge box office successes had he agreed to proceed. Tantalising they may be - an almost voyeuristic glimpse into a career in embryo - but each is substantial enough to make clear just how versatile and convincing the young actor's talent was and how completely he inhabited the very different characters he portrayed. In so doing, they also underline the extent of the joy and entertainment of which we have been deprived and what shadows of the full Thrupiece-portrayal lesser talents have instead provided.
Though allowance needs to be made for the quality of the clips themselves, no apology is required for the performances - each a small masterclass in the art of acting and powerful evidence of an illuminating talent in the tantalisingly evanescent penumbra of which others still stand. And the Oscar, BAFTA etc etc might have gone to ....
WARNING: The following clip includes a portrayal of a black Professor by a "blacked-up" white man [also coincidentally a Professor] - a practice not uncommon in the 1940s and 1950s but now clearly offensive to modern sensibilities and rightly anathema to all right-thinking people. Wherever possible, viewers are asked to make appropriate allowance and to try to understand the poorly developed moral sense of previous generations. We ask, in particular, that no unnecessary level of opprobrium be attached to the otherwise stainless reputation of Professor Thrupiece himself who would surely be as appalled as we are at this - to our minds - inexplicable lapse.