Rogues & Vagabonds

theatre, film & tv past and present 2001-2008 & 2013…

Did You Know…? REFUSING HONOURS • 2004

Alan Bennett in 1973, photographed by Allan Warren [Wikimedia]

Alan Bennett in 1973,
photographed by Allan Warren [Wikimedia]

‘I’m putting the phone down now, goodbye,’ said Alan Bennett when, following the leaked document that revealed last month that many notable people in various fields had turned down honours over the years, he was asked why he had turned down a CBE in 1988 and a knighthood in 1996.

Albert Finney turned down a CBE in 1980 and a knighthood in 2000. ‘Call me Sir if you like! Maybe people in America think being a sir is a big deal. But I think we should all be misters together. I think the sir thing slightly perpetuates one of our diseases in England, which is snobbery.’ Michael Frayn finds the system ‘slightly ludicrous’. He was reported to have rejected a CBE in 1989 and a knighthood last year. In December he said, ‘If I have been offered [an honour], I couldn’t possibly say could I?’

Interestingly, Dame Helen Mirren declined the first honour she was offered: a CBE in 1996 while the Tories were in power. She recently accepted a DBE under Labour and conceded that she felt rather ambivalent about it: ‘I see letters addressed to Dame Helen Mirren. It makes me feel peculiar.’ She thought long and hard before going for it. ‘It was surprising to me, slightly, because I thought of myself as the naughty one,’ she said.

The names John Cleese, Kenneth Branagh and Ken Loach were also on the document as having refused honours. Actor and presenter Nicholas Parsons, who was awarded a CBE this year, criticizes the ‘refuseniks’ (as the media has been calling them): ‘If someone offers you an honour which is really like a gift, you don’t actually return it — I think that’s a little bit small-minded and pompous.’

Pete Postlethwaite is ‘delighted to be honoured’ with an OBE. Spielberg’s comment that Postlethwaite was ‘the best actor in the world’ has been quoted everywhere. Postlethwaite said his OBE eclipses the Hollywood director’s praise which sounds, he said, like ‘an advert for lager’.

Virginia McKenna, an actress known latterly for her tireless work in the field of animal conservation was more than happy to accept an OBE for services to art and animals and dedicated to her late husband, Bill Travers, who starred with him in the film for which she is best known, Born Free. ‘I have accepted it joyfully on behalf of my colleagues with whom I work at the Born Free Foundation and all those people worldwide who strive with us to conserve wild animals and their environment, and to reduce animal suffering in all its forms.’

The Times 21-12-03
BBC News Online 31-12-03
The Times 31-12-03
Sarah Vernon © 2004
Originally published on R&V 06-01-04

2 comments on “Did You Know…? REFUSING HONOURS • 2004

  1. blondieaka
    04/20/2016

    Interesting article on to be or not to be 🙂

  2. First Night Design
    04/20/2016

    Thank you!

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