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    From Firth to Last

    Posted by Mike Finnegan on

    Today award-winning actor/international heartthrob Colin Firth turns 55, and throughout his 30+-year career has played an outstanding range of roles since his first breakthrough in the 1983 London stage production and 1984 film of Julian Mitchell’s Another Country. His versatility is no more apparent than in two marvelous movies available on Twilight Time hi-def Blu-ray. In Fever Pitch (1997), he plays a wickedly wobbly variation on novelist Nick Hornby, whose autobiographical novel and screenplay are the basis of this pitch-perfect look at the struggle of a struggle of a North London teacher – crabby, disorganized and befuddled –to grow from man-child to man as two major events in his life converge. An ardent – no, make that obsessed and fanatical – follower of the Arsenal Football Club through its turbulent run-up to the firm’s 1988-89 championship, he reisists any entanglements that can distract him from willing his team to triumph. And yet, there’s this new teacher (Ruth Gemmell) – also initially resistant to romance – who fascinates and utterly amazes him that she may be in for a long-haul relationship. From laddie to lover, Firth offers a charming and crotchety portrait of a sad-sack who just may be kicked in the direction of a happy and fulfilling future. In Firth’s hands, still waters also run deep. Ten years earlier, the film version of J.L. Carr's award-winning novel A Month in the Country (1987) cast him as a World War I veteran, shattered by the terrors of battle, who also may have a chance at redemption. Contracted to restore an intricate wall mural inside a Yorkshire countryside church two summers following the armistice, this bitter, broken man, saddled with a stutter and a downcast worldview, opens up, slowly and unexpectedly, to the possibilities of a better life, with the help of a fellow vet (Kenneth Branagh) and the church pastor’s wife (Natasha Richardson). Throughout a film that unfurls its pleasures delicately and sensuously, Firth lets us see how the shell of a man can be reconstituted under the summer sun, drawing strength and reassurance from a surrogate “family.” By film’s end, he has lost almost all his stutter, an accomplishment echoed 23 years later in his Oscar®-winning portrayal of George VI in The King’s Speech. Cheers to a remarkable career to date, with fingers crossed that his rumored casting as Henry Higgins in a 50th-anniversary Broadway revival of My Fair Lady will come to fruition. Surely, Colin Firth will speak trippingly on the tongue from experience.