Opinion - Cooper will survive this airing of dirty linen

Charles Graham
Charles Graham

I HADN’T intended to watch the Tommy Cooper biopic this week.

There had been so many articles building up to the ITV drama Not Like That, Like This which suggested that it was going to portray him as the most appalling of abusive monsters (“you’ll have gone right off him by the end,” warned one reviewer) that it held little appeal.

After all, I’ve seen the reputations of so many entertainers from my childhood trashed in the last few years (some of course completely justifiably), that I just didn’t have the stomach for it.

But curiosity got the better of me and I ended up staying the course. I think I’m glad I did.

While it hardly presented a glowing portrait, I thought David Threlfall made Cooper sympathetic enough for most of the audience not to have turned against him.

The stand-up clearly did have a shambolic private life, drank far too much for his own and other people’s good and had a volatile streak.

But from what we saw in the two-hour drama, his wife Dove seemed to instigate the violence in their relationship and, while I am in no way condoning it, he was seen to attack his mistress Mary but once, before she quite rightly walked out on him.

The reconciliation did not appear to rekindle any violence and the fact that both women were clearly devastated by his death highlighted the love and loyalty he fostered despite his faults.

There was more about Cooper’s charm and humour than I expected from a forecasted hatchet job too.

I think Threlfall is a shoe-in for a best actor Bafta (only Cooper’s look of myopic bewilderment was missing from the stage performances).

And, like that other short-fused binge-drinker Tony Hancock, I think Cooper will survive this airing of dirty linen to entertain future generations.