I have always enjoyed the international flair of Ustinov. Whether as a Roman noble in Spartacus or a strange eccentric traveling with Australian sheep shearers in The Sundowners or as Detective Hercule Poirot in Christie’s Murder on the Nile or as the patron of Luther longing for his own Testament in the German.
His command of dialects is hilarious. His exposure to high halls of power and protocol, fascinating. See any videos on You Tube and appreciate the brilliance of this man of no particular country, but seeming to be of all of them.
I once heard of a summer when Ustinov was in Stratford, Ontario at the Festival playing King Lear. He became partial to one particular grill on the main street for lunches. The owner was thrilled to make his acquaintance and approached him gradually for larger tid-bits of the life.
Then one noon-hour he got Ustinov into displaying his many language take-offs. Before long the actor suggested, “My dear man, it is apparent that your guests are getting big ears and would like to share in this. Stop the grills. Pass around the coffee. Bring the staff out from the back, and let’s make a wee show of it.”
What followed was an unforgettable forty-five minutes with the great actor and humourist at a small “Mom and Pop’s” on the main drag of a modest Ontario town.