James Robertson Justice: What’s the Bleeding-Time?: A Biography

James Robertson Justice: What’s the Bleeding-Time?: A Biography

James Hogg

This biography of James Roberston Justice celebrates the secret life and glittering career of one of British cinema’s finest and most recognisable screen personalities. With his unforgettable presence and his trademark bulk, whiskers, and fierce bark, James Robertson Justice made a treasure chest of classic British movies.

He is best remembered as the bombastic Sir Lancelot Spratt in Doctor in the House (1954), but also starred in many wonderful films, both comedies and drama, often portrayed as a domineering (if frequently soft-centred) ogre. His on-screen temper tantrums often resembled those of a gigantic, irate toddler.

This book unravels for the first time, through detailed research and original interviews with those close to him, the myriad complexities of one of Britain s finest actors. The book is fully illustrated with many rare photos. A must buy for fans of classic British films.

Throughout the fifties and sixties he built a career on scene stealing performances in comedies and action thrillers. A bittersweet fling with Hollywood even landed him the enigmatic role of Vashtar, architect of the Great Pyramid, in Howard Hawks historical epic Land of the Pharaohs (1955). However, for his many fans, Justice’s true metier remained farce. A pivotal role in the creation of his recognisable screen persona was the punctilious, ‘thrash happy’ Dr. Grimstone in Vice Versa (1948). It was from this seed of a condescending Victorian headmaster that a succession of characters flourished, epitomised by Lord Scrumptious in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968).

Woe betide anyone who attracted his beetle-browed displeasure. From Dirk Bogarde, through Stanley Baxter and Dick Van Dyke, JRJ was the towering authority figure par excellence, releasing a hilarious barrage of vitriolic slap downs and insults. His recurring role as fathers to beautiful ingénues, such as Sir Beverly Grant in Father Came Too! (1963) and Charles Chingford in Ken Annakin’s The Fast Lady (1962), offered older cinema goers a reassuring bulwark against the (would be) excesses of the ‘permissive society’. James Robertson Justice was a “brilliant raconteur, indifferent to money” — part Walter Mitty, part Sir John Falstaff. There is no actor we can think of with a life story that screams so loudly for a biography.

This is the definitive story of one of Britain’s greatest actors.