Sunday, July 12, 2015

"I'm Off!"

President Jed Bartlett (Martin Sheen): "The world is coming apart at the seams."
Lord John Marbury (Roger Rees): "Well, then. Thank God you sent for me!"
The West Wing, "Lord John Marbury," Season 1, Episode 11 (2000).

Noting the passing of actor Roger Rees.

Roger Rees was a Welshman who came to America to work, and to live. His acting credits span several decades, and ninety roles. He was adept on the big screen, or the small one. Several of his stage performances won him accolades, and awards.

His obits mention, among other things, appearances on Cheers, and Grey's Anatomy. I will remember him fondly for his portrayal of the daft alcoholic, womanizing Lord John Marbury on The West Wing. Summoned to help avert the escalation of a war between India and Pakistan, he arrives at the White House calling his flight "intoxicating" and requesting a light for his cigarette. Not for nothing did the President call on him, as his international connections and understanding of the region turn the trick. Later, he becomes Great Britain's ambassador to the United States.

Although writing genius Aaron Sorkin provided the words, Rees supplied the artistry. One could imagine His Lordship's particular brand of eccentricity; a marvelous combination of charm, wit and searing intellect, educated at Cambridge and The Sorbonne, hopelessly ego maniacal but brilliantly capable. He sometimes confused White House Chief of Staff Leo McGarry (the late John Spencer) for a butler named Gerald, or so it seemed. McGarry's pain at the mere mention of Lord John often stole the scene, until His Lordship made his typical grand entrance and stole it right back.

Mr. Rees passed away in New York this week. His home. He had become an American citizen years ago.

On The West Wing, to a room full of people, instructions from the President in hand, he announced with a flourish "I'm off!" Indeed, and far too soon, sir.

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