In the heyday of the British film industry, Terry-Thomas and Alastair Sim made respectable careers playing people who weren't respectable. They played characters who were ‘not quite gentlemen', but in different ways: Terry-Thomas was the embodiment of the player or bounder, while Sim depicted seedy, shabby, failed or faded gentility better than almost anyone else. The near-contemporaries coincided on screen on several occasions, so the appearance of this brace of biographies is serendipitous.
Sim was the elder of the two actors, born in Edinburgh in 1900, the son of a tailor. Terry-Thomas was born Thomas Terry Hoar Stevens eleven years later in Finchley and, despite being merely middle-class, affected a dandyish manner almost from the womb, as a way of blanking out his