The Queen of Spades - Michael Medwin interview

The Queen of Spades - Michael Medwin interview

As the rediscovered 1949 classic The Queen of Spades returns to cinemas, original cast member Michael Medwin talks to Miles Fielder about his 60-year career

‘The Queen of Spades is a terrific film,’ Medwin says. ‘It’s a very gripping piece. At the time, it was one of the most expensive British films and, at the time, it was critically acclaimed. It’s nice that it’s being resuscitated.’

Born in London in 1923, Medwin made his acting debut in the 1946 wartime drama Piccadilly Incident. He subsequently went on to enjoy a long and distinguished career as a character actor on the stage and screen, in recognition of which he was awarded an OBE in 2005. Medwin has played Alfie on the London stage, appeared in Carry On and James Bond films and on television in everything from Minder to The Bill. Last year, he was opposite Keira Knightley in The Duchess and in the New Year he’ll be at the newly refurbished Bristol Old Vic in a new version of Romeo and Juliet set in an old people’s home.

‘Acting was something I wanted to do,’ Medwin says, ‘and by good fortune I found I could do it quite well, which is a help in a high risk business. I’m very excited about Romeo and Juliet, in which I play an ageing Paris. I’ll probably be hobbling around from ward to ward.’

In the mid-1960s, Medwin began producing films starting with Charlie Bubbles starring Albert Finney and continuing with If... and O Lucky Man! for director Lindsay Anderson, Spring and Port Wine with James Mason and Gumshoe, again for Finney. He is currently chairman of a theatre company whose celebrated London production of Brief Encounter has recently enjoyed success New York.

‘My friend Albert Finney had a production company that was moribund and has he asked me to activate it. I said, ‘I’ll have a go.’ And Lindsay, he was a fantastic filmmaker and a dear friend. I was actually directed by him on stage in Joe Orton’s What the Butler Saw, which was said to be the definitive production. I still miss him terribly.”

The Queen of Hearts, Filmhouse, Edinburgh from Boxing Day and on DVD from Mon 18 Jan.

The Queen of Spades

  • 5 stars
  • 1949
  • UK
  • 1h 35min
  • PG
  • Directed by: Thorold Dickinson
  • Written by: Alexander Pushkin (story), Rodney Ackland, Arthur Boys
  • Cast: Anton Walbrook, Edith Evans, Yvonne Mitchell

Re-release of Dickinson's classic in which a young officer in the imperial Russian army tries to wrest the secret of winning at cards from a strange old countess. Dickinson's eerily prowling camera and designer Oliver Messel's sets give this adapation of a Pushkin story an effective atmosphere. Faintly ridiculous on a…

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