Published last month in Old Wyves’ Tales are excerpts from the memoirs of Chris Lowe, the head of English at City of Leicester Boys Grammar School while Michael Kitchen was in attendance:
I suppose my most famous pupil was Michael Kitchen, who became a star of the Royal Shakespeare Company in the seventies and eventually starred in the TV series Foyle’s War. He was a marvellous actor even at school, and a natural for RADA where he went at eighteen. His style was, and is, to play himself then subtly transmogify that into the character he was playing. It is very understated, but brilliantly done. One day Mary (Presumably Mrs Lowe?) and I took the fourteen-year-old Michael to the RSC costume department in Stratford On Avon to choose a pile of Shakespearean costumes for the school play. I don’t suppose it had any dramatic effect on him, but it did to us! We have followed Michael’s career with great interest and he was kind enough to meet your daddy, Simon, backstage at the National Theatre when he was but a slip of a teenager.
Betty Kitchen passed away last September. Funeral announcement here.
We had the pleasure of meeting him in person not as an actor as well looked after his mummy betty .. rip. – Deputy Manager at Wyggeston Hospital in Leicester
His mum used to cut my grandma’s family’s hair, he used to sit on the hearth and watch. – Facebook comment
A time when murder investigations rarely involved a multitude of bullets (and victims) at the crime scene.
A comment on the Previously TV forum:
In the second part (To Play the King), Michael Kitchen did IMO a helluva good job as the Prince of Wales/King; this was in 1993. I just looked him up; he’s almost exactly the same age as the PoW. I’m thinking he might be a good choice for the PoW in the final (old guy) stretch of The Crown.
With award season around the corner, I wonder if anyone’s campaigning for “the coveted Michael Kitchen Award for the Most Watchable Performance in a Second-Rate Drama”, first handed out 8 years ago today by Times critic, David Chater. (Later that year (July 24, 2010), Chater tweaked the name, calling it instead the “Michael Kitchen Award for the Best Performance in an Eminently Forgettable Drama Series” when describing how another actor “just like Michael Kitchen … performs the written text while appearing to listen to a complex internal dialogue going on inside his head”.)
From the somethingawful.com forum:
One of my favorite character actors is Michael Kitchen, now probably best known for playing Foyle in the Foyle’s War series, but he’s played villains, romantic leads, supporting grey-moraled characters, etc. and he always always turns his characters into real people living in the present moment. It’s like you can see him going through the process of making decisions (as the character), you can see him thinking and having mental revelations and shifting loyalties and all other sorts of dynamic internal processes that real people have in their daily lives. All of his body language and facial expressions seem like personal quirks of that particular character occurring organically in the moment, rather than gestures called for by the script.
I’ve never seen him be himself in an interview, and I couldn’t begin to tell you what the guy is like in real life because he so completely disappears into his roles and makes them feel like real, distinct, individual living people. Is he gregarious and charming? Is he quiet and cold? Who knows?
Also, take the character of Foyle for a moment — the character is emotionally very guarded and more cerebral. Michael Kitchen can be standing there with a poker face and (in-character) convey nothing, but to the audience, you somehow know exactly what’s going on in his head. He’s working on two levels.
Love this take on Michael Kitchen and his acting. I do hope we haven’t seen the last of his mastery on screen, as he seems to have vanished altogether of late. Wherever he is and whatever he’s doing, here’s hoping he’s enjoying a very happy birthday today.
Peter Hall was also co-director, albeit a mostly absent one, with Alan Ayckbourn for the latter’s hit comedy play, Bedroom Farce, in which Michael Kitchen was one of the six original castmembers. In this marvelous video from the National Theatre Ayckbourn talks of rehearsing the play and how all the actors doubted their own abilities in the weeks leading up to the premiere:
By the time we got to Birmingham, the cast was suicidal…
I think every single one of them, including Joan Hickson, the great Joan Hickson, and Michael Kitchen – wonderful cast – they all came up to me and said, “I know I wasn’t the first choice*. Uh, but, uh, I want you to know that I’m- I’m rotten at comedy. I’ve never- I’ve never liked doing comedy. Uh, and uh, I was so sorry, I’m letting down your play, and uh, I’m rubbish.”
*Ralph Richardson and Peggy Ashcroft were on the original wish-list.
Hard to imagine that Michael Kitchen with his superb comic timing once thought he couldn’t do comedy. It hadn’t occurred to me that Bedroom Farce was indeed his first major foray into comedy. Thank goodness the Birmingham audience went barmy on opening night and Michael Kitchen went on to many more roles that showcased his comedic talents.
(Also on the photostage.co.uk site, photos of Michael Kitchen in Romeo and Juliet.)
Not only should Netflix retain Foyle’s War, but it should change its cover art for the show to this:
Mr. Kitchen is possibly the eighth wonder of the world. Never flashy … but nevertheless the center of every frame in which he appears. – hikari
From John Powers’s review of Foyle’s War on NPR:
What makes the whole thing irresistible is Michael Kitchen’s enthralling performance as Foyle, who, in his reticence, sly humor and triumphant decency, is our fantasy of the ideal Englishman.
Elizabeth Addis is probably wishing she could restart her life right about now.
A spoof ad featuring voice impressions of all six James Bonds plus Michael Caine, Edward Fox, and Michael Kitchen. 🙂
Found the ad posted on the MI6Community.com forum where another member posted about meeting Michael Kitchen:
Michael Kitchen lived very close to where I grew up in the UK. I was awestruck when he visited my fathers farm one day on business. He was incredibly nice and signed my making of Goldeneye book for me. He did seem genuinely shocked to be recognised. This was before he become more well known in Foyles War.
Michael Kitchen visiting your family’s farm? How does one get so lucky?!
Seems that whenever I come across a mention of Michael Kitchen in the Bond franchise, there is agreement that he was a brilliant Tanner. Again from the MI6community forum, a comment that amused me:
Kitchen’s Tanner is the closest we’ve ever seen of the character being properly portrayed…
Now if I worked for MI6 and was sitting around doing bugger all I can imagine Kitchen giving me a bollocking…
A shame Michael Kitchen had only brief appearances in two Bond films.
A submission from Steve Mellor to the April 2016 issue of “Old Wyves’ Tales”, the newsletter for ex-pupils and staff of Michael Kitchen’s alma mater, City Boys Grammar School Leicester:
Mention of the clock tower brings memories flooding back of the nearby men’s barbers shop – Ron’s. Used by a clique of the more fashionable pupils, therefore excluding myself, Ron used to sell a concoction for holding the most difficult quiff in place – Ron’s Pink. It was a pink-coloured cream, sold in a bottle bearing a black-and-white label bearing an image of Ron and the clock tower. Much favoured by Michael Kitchen, this cream set like concrete after application, resisting wind and any physical attempts to disturb the styling.and far more effective than greasy alternatives such as Brylcreem.
Michael Kitchen started at CBS in 1960 and “went from the 1st year to 3 alpha, ‘O’ levels in 1964 and ‘A’ levels in 1966”. – Old Wyves Tales – Volume 5
Love the interview with Honeysuckle Weeks in the Spring 2015 issue of Prose ‘n Cons™ Mystery Magazine. True to form, she reveals some wonderful behind-the-scenes details about Foyle’s War and Michael Kitchen.
On Sam and Andrew:
Weeks concedes that delaying Sam’s marriage took a bit of persuasion. “There was talk of a marriage to Foyle’s son Andrew (the R.A.F. pilot) as early as series three I think, but I fought with Anthony for years to allow Sam to remain a ‘spinster of the parish.’
On whale meat:
In one scene, food shortages reduce Sam and Adam to eating whale meat as a protein source. If she looks a bit queasy, admits Weeks, “it was because I had a very hard time not retching at the smell of those whale steaks sizzling in the pan.”
On Sam and Adam’s house:
The interiors of Sam’s house were shot in a former brewery the art department turned into a sound stage. “You could still smell that oddly yeasty aroma from the fermenting hops,” says Weeks.
And on Michael Kitchen!
Considering the seriousness of the subject matter, you might assume that the set of Foyle’s War was a reserved and quiet place, but Weeks assures it was not. “If you were to go into Michael Kitchen’s trailer at lunchtime you could hear him playing the classical guitar. Or, if we happened to be filming at some grand country house, you’d often hear him behind its equally grand piano.” …Weeks prizes her relationship with Kitchen. “He is a decidedly avuncular figure in my life and a person I often go to for professional advice.”
So that’s how MK passes the time in between takes. Doesn’t really dispel the notion of a reserved set — unless he was pounding out a rock tune… 🙂
Wonder if he had a go at this piano:
Playing the piano really should have been another one of Foyle’s pastimes.
(Location: Menston Library, Yorkshire)
On this final day of National Library Week…
From the Glencoe Public Library blog:
There is a bit of wall in a staff area of the library where librarians for a time posted pictures of their favorite actors. One by one, the handsome men were replaced by beloved dogs, past and present. Eventually, only one man’s picture remained among the pooches. That actor? Michael Kitchen. Interpret this as you will, but it does seem to speak to the appeal of the distinguished Mr. Kitchen.
Another librarian commented on the blog, Read Roger :
…a little while back, I displayed the whole stack of [Foyle’s War] DVDs on the circulation desk. The sign just had an arrow pointing to Michael Kitchen with a note that said, “My new boyfriend.”
You wouldn’t believe the number of patrons who came in and got all gushy.
Would have been nice to have Hugh around beyond the first series. Speaking at the WSW London Equity Branch Meeting on December 3, 2015, Michael Simkins brought up Michael Kitchen during the Q&A:
I know that Michael Kitchen has his [nemesis] – he’s frustrated because he doesn’t get enough film parts.
As a fan, I certainly share his frustration. It would be great if he were offered not just more film parts but more substantial ones, too.
A Radio Times (Jan. 1, 1980) interview with Ian Holm recounted the actor’s difficulty in finding work after he left the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1967:
The world outside [the RSC] turned out to to be full of American film directors who took one look at him and said, “Sure, he’s a great little actor, but a bit on the short side, y’know?” None of his film roles gave him great scope…
Makes me wonder if Michael Kitchen faced similar obstacles.
(I had no idea what a talented writer Michael Simkins is. The weekly column he wrote for The Guardian around the time he was doing Foyle’s War is illuminating and often hilarious.)