"People don't realize how good an actor Dickie Briers really is." - Sir John Gielgud
As the star of the popular British sitcom THE GOOD LIFE, Richard Briers certainly gave audiences an inkling that he was something special. But given that his finest work was, by most accounts, done on the stage, it's possible that most of us never got to see the full range of the actor's gifts.
Briers, who passed away Sunday at the age of seventy-nine, was beloved in England for his performance as the self-sufficient Tom Good on THE GOOD LIFE. Having grown up in the U.S. (where THE GOOD LIFE never really caught on), I find myself recalling Briers's tragically overmatched Polonius in Kenneth Branagh's HAMLET (one of the film's highlights), the ludicrously homophobic Henry Wakefield in Branagh's underrated A MIDWINTER'S TALE, and most of all, the voice of Fiver in WATERSHIP DOWN. I've never been able to hear Briers's voice, or John Hurt's for that matter, without recalling that haunting animated adaptation of Richard Adams's classic novel. "Violet's gone." Still gives me chills. Briers was also a terrific Smee in P.J. Hogan's PETER PAN.
I so wish I could've seen Briers on the boards as the second-string theatre critic Moon in Tom Stoppard's THE REAL INSPECTOR HOUND, but I'm cheered to know that his celebrated work in Alan Ayckbourn's THE NORMAN CONQUESTS is well preserved and readily available. I feel that I've yet to find out how good an actor Mr. Briers really was.
My condolences to Richard Briers's family and friends. Judging from the outpouring of affection I've read today, he must've been a lovely gentleman.