Glasgow Characters on the Big Screen

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It’s official: the Glaswegian is Glasgow’s greatest asset. You’ve probably noticed the announcements adorning street corners – “People Make Glasgow.” In the world of Glasgow film, however, it’s not so much the shiny happy people populating these banners who make our acquaintance. Instead, it’s all walks of life we meet, a rich A to Z of characters from artist, hairdresser, DJ to shipbuilder, teacher, zombie. It would take a lifetime to meet them all, so let’s start with just a few Glaswegians immortalised on celluloid:

nullPop idol Ritchie Hannah from Living Apart Together (1982):
there are several occasions when B.A. Robertson’s Ritchie gets to shine as the pop-star brought back-to-his-roots in this bittersweet film. For instance, his impromptu session singing and keyboard-playing with Dave Anderson in Thomson’s music shop on West George Street which draws an appreciative crowd outside but, amusingly, not so much inside by a disapproving shop manager (played by Hilton Middleton). And later, at Blythswood Square, Ritchie’s attention is grabbed by two workies up a scaffold tower spouting colourful language. Nothing unusual in that, only these two are singing O Sole Mio, substituting the words with insults against the Glaswegian star’s talents. Ritchie joins in the sing-off with his version of the operatic piece, retorting, “Why don’t you take your apology… and walk it sideways… up your jacksie?” The workies promptly remark: “He’s no’ half bad. Don’t call us, we’ll call you.”

nullPub landlord Hanson in Orphans (1997): how this misanthrope, portrayed with hilarious gusto by Alex Norton, ever got into customer service is a mystery. Michael (Douglas Henshall), grieving the loss of his mother, has just been served a consolatory pint only to have the words, “That’s time! Drink up, move it!”, yelled in his ear. Meanwhile, a charity worker collecting for sick children is promptly kicked out by the irascible Hanson who parades through his pub dispensing lines like, “Finish yer drinks now, d’ye think it’s ootside yer in?” At breaking point, Michael challenges the landlord only to find himself thrown into a makeshift holding cell where he discovers others who’ve met with Hanson’s wrath. Incredulous, he asks, “is anyone else in here, like a woman’s aerobic group or a flute band?” One of his cellmates asks “whit ye in for?” She can’t disguise her shock when he says he read Hanson’s Daily Record. Rest assured the imprisoned taste their revenge, but still, just hope you never find yourself in this pub.

nullLastly, bus driver George Lennox in Carla’s Song (1996): a more philanthropic driver you’re unlikely to meet than Robert Carlyle’s convincingly portrayed George. From the second we’re introduced to him in his cab, he’s empathising with an elderly female customer who explains she wants to visit her sister in hospital. George simplifies things: “D’ye want a long ticket or a short wan?” Discovering she’s only got 25p, he advises, “Ah think ye’d be cheaper wi’ a long ticket”. Spotting his anti-establishment outlook more than his good intentions is his colleague, Victor (Subash Singh Pall), who’s already admonished him for his irreverant caricature of Inspector McGurk (Stewart Preston) scratching his privates, and now witnesses George dispensing a neverending roll of ticket to the same bemused passenger. “Ah’m tryin’ to keep you in a job, Picasso,” he says as he forewarns that McGurk is close by and gunning for him. Shortly after, these two personalities clash onboard over a Nicaraguan fare evader whom McGurk wants to prosecute but George wants to help. Culminating in a hysterical shouting match between the two, George is as yet unaware that this ‘introduction’ to Carla (Oyanka Cabezas) will lead him on a life-changing journey, and not just through the streets of Glasgow.

So, next time you’re out and about in Glasgow, just remember that any people you encounter bearing a similarity to what you’ve seen in a Glasgow film is purely coincidental. Or is it?

By Neil Johnson-Symington