Updated: Apr 17
He was in the later years Sir Peter Ustinov. Rightly knighted for his very many services to the arts and charity. Here at the later part of the year, he is , in memory and inspiration, Santa Peter. He, unlike his contempory and colleague in the world of film and humanitarian involvement, Lord Attenborough, did not play the festive man who was a friend to all, especially reindeer, in a film, but did so in a guest entertainment , available to view on You Tube, on a 1970's Julie Andrews show, only! I say this, only, not to denigrate the form or genre, actually, the delightful Ms. Andrews, then, now, Dame Julie, is in good form in the show, but to indicate that the performance of our much loved Sir Peter, is hardly the stuff of great characterisation, in such a scenario! I think in a fully developed screenplay, he might have excelled in the role, as he did as a sort of Santa in life.
He would have been ideal in the part. His version, might, and a suggestion of it was glimpsed in the Christmas show, have been a little world weary, cynical about the cynicism he finds in society, one with too much for too few, and with too little for too many. He would enter, perhaps, not only houses with the traditional chimney, but mud hut, without them. Surely his presents, as when he was UNICEF ambassador, never possible completely, without the power or magical touch that allows for it, would be those like, thorough alleviation of poverty, ongoing hope for humanity.
As a very small boy my mother took my brother and I to see a festive revival of Blackbeards Ghost, a Disney film, in which Peter Ustinov had the title role. I loved it and it holds up well today, as soulful a performance, amidst the silliness, as possible. Sir Peter was able to be silly but never stupid. Silliness is a way of alleviating something all too serious at times. Stupidity for some is an almost semi-permanent condition! Sir Peter never suffered from it, and even if he suffered fools, he did it with humor , most welcome.
As we celebrate Christmas, in whatever way we might, if at all, and for those for whom it is not quite their festival, we can see the meaning is special and it benefts from thoughts and associations similar in values and vision of something special.
Sir Peter was special, and this Forum and the organisations carrying out the efforts on behalf of his legacy , humanity at large the beneficiary in ideas and actions, started by Son of Santa, Igor Ustinov, we, in our ways keen on it, are involved in a worthwhile venture. We all spread goodwill, and defeat the outright cynicism and prejudice that are it's antithisis.
If Sir Peter was ever Santa Peter, the Ustinov Claus, would have in it's contract, a clause, " For the good of all."
And Igor, as with his father, has the beard that really does suit this time of year too !
Author : LORENZO CHERIN