PRINT May 1990


English Drag

WHEN ALASTAIR SIM WAS APPROACHED to play two roles instead of one in the 1955 Ealing comedy The Belles of St. Trinian’s, he hesitated. One was Clarence Fritton, an unscrupulous racehorse owner. The other was his sister Millicent, the headmistress of a girls’ boarding school. Thankfully, the hesitation was short-lived. Heavy-busted, broad-shouldered, Sim minced his way through the movie wearing an elaborately marcelled wig, pince-nez, buckled shoes, drop earrings, any amount of pearl and jet chokers, fur everywhere, and a skirt that looked like a converted hammock. “I suppose I’m just a foolish, weak woman,” Millicent tells Clarence, stuffing a ten-pound note into her ample bosom. It is near the start of the film, yet the illusion is complete. “Sometimes I think it’s just the frustrated mother instinct in me that urges me on,” she later admits, musing over why she runs a school at all. The

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