Glowed the London News Chronicle:
"The funniest Falstaff in living recollection, and the best." The solemn Times intoned: "Great."
This was whopping praise, in a land where Shakespeare is almost a trade and understatement almost a trademark. The target was 43-year-old Actor Ralph Richardson in the Old Vic's smash revival of Henry IV, with Sybil Thorndike and Laurence Olivier in supporting roles.
Richardson himself had suspected that his Falstaff was going to be a failure. Only once since his teens had he seen the role performed. He had read very little about it, and he...