Justice: Whats The Bleeding Time?
etched in the
mind as Sir Lancelot
Spratt in the Doctor films,
is recorded in fascinating
detail in a new biography, James Robertson Justice:
Whats The Bleeding
DESCRIBED BY ACTOR LESLIE PHILLIPS as "a great bear with a bushy beard
and beetle brows, who seemed to scare the pants off most people", James
Robertson Justice was always larger than life. James Hogg's biography,
James Robertson Justice: "What's the Bleeding Time?"
gives his many admirers the chance to learn more about this gentle giant whose
bark was much worse than his bite!
The title of the book is a line from James' masterful portrayal of the St Swithin's
consultant surgeon in the 1954 classic film Doctor In The House. An actor
of stage well, only once! radio and television, his best work
was definitely for the cinema.
With a film career spanning over a quarter of a century, James was a member
of the world famous Players Theatre Club in Albemarle Street. While standing
in for the chairman, he was spotted by Ealing writer/ director Harry Watt and
appeared as an Operations Room Officer in For Those In Peril (1944).
His first credited performance was in Fiddlers Three, also in 1944.
The actor's portrayal of Henry VIII in Disney's The Sword and The Rose
(1953) was little short of magnificent. A superb Little John in The Story
of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men (1952); he also gave a good account of
himself as James MacDonald in Campbell's Kingdom (1958) and shone as
Edward, Prince of Wales, in Mayerling (1968). The late heart-throb Dirk
Bogarde Dr Simon Sparrow in Doctor At Large (1957), and the star
of Campbell's Kingdom also said JRJ was "a bit of a bear".
In his Foreword to James Robertson Justice: "What's the Bleeding Time?"
The Duke of Edinburgh praises James Hogg for writing of James Robertson Justice
and refers to the actor as "a large man with a personality to match". He signs
out by saying: "I can only advise readers to be prepared to be surprised."
A warm and generous host who was the life and soul of the party, James Robertson
Justice enjoyed sharing his good times. He loved falconry and counted both Prince
Philip and Prince Charles as friends. But the actor's private life was even
more dramatic than his films: Between 1934 and 1935 he undertook military duties
in Germany and
he was in the Royal Navy during World War II. And during the Spanish Civil War,
he was a volunteer fighting with the International Brigade against General Franco's
James' spiritual home was Scotland and he'd say he was born there by
1954 he was living at Spinningdale, a single-story building in the North East
of Scotland, but he was born James Norval Harold Justice
in South London before moving to Bromley in Kent. A brilliant linguist, James
went from Marlborough College and University College London
to study Geology at Bonn University.
An ornithologist and conservationist, James acted to finance these passions.
He was good at everything he turned his hand to and claimed to have had some
70 jobs including a Canadian Mountie! He drove a truck in Oregon, tried
his hand at mining for gold and was a journalist for Reuters, where he'd turn
up for night duty in his pyjamas! In 1931, he worked his way back to England
from Canada as a dish-washer on
a Dutch freighter.
James also enjoyed motor racing. At Brooklands in 1932, he entered his Frazer
Nash for Le Mans veteran Roy Eccles and also partnered H H Wanborough, driving
a Wolseley Hornet, in the Junior Car Club 1,000-mile race, in which they completed
397 miles. But the race was won by the celebrated female drivers Elsie Wisdom
and Joan Richmond the first women ever to win a major international motor
race against male competitors.
Qualifying to become a member of the British Racing Drivers Club, James retired
from competitive racing in 1933 but became involved in the Whitney Straight
Driving Team. Straight was also quite a character he went on to motor
racing success, although his first love was flying and the two hit it
James married Dilys Ethel Hayden in 1941 but in 1949 tragedy struck when their
4-year-old son, also James, drowned in an accident in the mill stream adjacent
to their home. The marriage collapsed soon after-wards and, much later, James
married the German film star Baroness Irina von Meyendorff.
In 1962 James was wanted in Denmark for charges of fraud and embezzlement. A
confidence trickster posing as an English eccentric, Lancelot Spratt-type character
and bearing an uncanny resemblance to Justice worked his way through Copenhagen,
tricking organisations out of large amounts of money. Luckily, the mistake was
discovered and James received an apology!
A mountain of a man, engaging and with a great sense of fun, James Robertson
Justice was intelligent, loved nature and was knowledgeable about wine, brandy
and malt whisky. He filmed with both Diana Dors and Brigitte Bardot, had films
produced by Betty Box and had a romantic tryst with Molly Parkin, who said that
James was the "most formative influence in my life". On the set of Rob Roy (1953),
James had met Martin Leslie, who was one of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders
roped in as extras for the battle scenes and they became firm friends
when Martin met his future wife, Catriona, she was welcomed by both James and
Sadly, James suffered a stroke, but he continued with his documen-taries
some with old friend Toby Bromley. This character actor or character
who acted tragically died penniless on 2 July 1975. His final resting
place is a cairn on Birichin Moor in his beloved Scotland.
With a complete Filmography and eight pages of colour photographs and with black-and-white
photographs throughout, James Robertson Justice: "What's the Bleeding
Time?" is a superb biography that cele-brates the secret life and glittering
career of one of British cinema's most recognisable personalities. As Ken Annakin
says, in his Afterword:
"…this book is a fine tribute".
Through detailed research and original interviews this biography un-ravels,
for the first time, the myriad complexities of one of Britain's best-loved actors.
Fully illustrated with over 100 rare photos, this 208-page book is a 'must-buy'
for fans of classic British films and is packed with lots of information about
Robertson Justice: "What's the Bleeding Time?" by James Hogg (with
Robert Sellers and Howard Watson) is out now, published by Tomahawk
Press of Sheffield in paperback and is available at all good bookshops
at an RRP of £12.99. ISBN-10: 0-9531926-7-9;
Did You Know that James Robertson Justice was: a member of the Ruhr police
force? Wanted by the Nazis for murder? A professional
ice hockey player? Twice elected Rector of Edinburgh University? A dedicated
naturalist and a founder member of the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust? Or that he:
Spoke over twenty languages? Taught Prince Charles the art of falconry and was
a long-time friend of Prince Philip?