(Pam Green alerted us to McKellen’s tribute.)
At Cambridge, beneath Corin’s austerely handsome face and tall body, anger brewed. He didn’t laugh at silly things as much as the rest of us: but he could tell a story well, with killer punch-lines. If his eyes sometimes looked beyond you coldly, the argument was hot. A minor example: older sister Vanessa paid him a visit at King’s College and the three of us walked along the avenues by the River Cam. I idly asked “What’s that tree?”. Immediately he pronounced: “It’s an oak, Ian.” I knew he was wrong and showed him the evidence of a fallen leaf which was not oak-shaped. “Ah, that’s because it is an unusual type of oak; one you haven’t seen before.” I protested and he persisted. Perhaps sensing some verbal violence, Vanessa took my arm and quietly said: “Corin is always right, you know.” I wasn’t sure she meant it.
Amongst us stage-struck undergraduates, Corin trailed awesome family glamour. Sir Michael, his father, was up there with Olivier and Guinness. My step-mother never forgot his early acting at Liverpool Playhouse in the '30s, where he met his lady Rachel Kempson. From the Old Vic stage, on the night of Vanessa’s birth, Olivier/Hamlet announced to the audience, “Laertes has a daughter. A great actress has been born.” Too right, guv’nor. Only later did we learn that playing Orlando in As You Like It, Michael had fallen in love with his Rosalind, Edith Evans. Corin is the name of a shepherd in the play.
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