Gary Raymond must have been wondering if it was the end of a promising career — curtains. He was starring in The Rat Patrol, a wartime adventure series. Co-star Justin Tarr had managed to roll the jeep Raymond and fellow actor Christopher George were travelling in. Raymond escaped with a badly broken ankle (he tells me it still gives him jip). George had more serious injuries, including an injured back and a heart contusion.
Raymond lived to act another day, but when The Rat Patrol ended after two series, it really was the end of his Hollywood years. But what a few years he’d had, in El Cid alongside Charlton Heston and Sophia Loren, The Greatest Story Ever Told (playing Peter) and in Jason and the Argonauts.
I’m interviewing him in the canteen at the National Theatre. It’s utilitarian, noisy and full of young people talking excitedly. Raymond and I are sharing a table with a pile of dirty plates and some dishcloths. I can’t help thinking: it’s no way to treat an 83-year-old legend. Still, he is about to play Dimitri Weismann in Stephen Sondheim’s Follies in a cast of 40 and with an orchestra of 21.
I’m really here to talk about his beautiful performance in the film version of Look Back in Anger, based on John Osborne’s seminal stage play. Raymond is Cliff, the Welsh flatmate of Jimmy Porter and his much-suffering wife Alison. This year is the film’s sixtieth anniversary and it’s as raw and difficult as ever.
Osborne wrote the play quickly, almost in one go, and in it he voiced the frustrations of a country that had been humiliated in the Suez Crisis and wasn’t sure where it was going next. The critics didn’t know whether to laugh or cry, but they did agree that this was something new.
Watching the film now, it’s Cliff who really steals the show.