SHMUTTER KING TO BIG SCREEN

The Jewish Chronicle - - FRONT PAGE - IN­TER­VIEW SU­SAN REUBEN

AT THE age of 75, Jack Lind­say em­barked on a brand new ca­reer as an ac­tor. Un­til that point, he had spent more than 50 years man­u­fac­tur­ing and sell­ing cloth­ing all over the world. Now, aged 85, he con­tin­ues to do reg­u­lar act­ing jobs, ap­pear­ing in ad­verts, movies and tele­vi­sion dra­mas.

Much of the work is in ad­ver­tis­ing. “I do a lot of med­i­cal prod­ucts, nurs­ing homes, that sort of thing,” he says. “My agent will call and say: ‘Jack, I’ve got a job for you. I’m afraid it’s a grand­fa­ther again.’ I’ll say: ‘Can’t it be a young lead­ing role?’”

Lind­say was born in Beth­nal Green in 1931. “My mother had a cou­ple of ladies’ gown shops and I was born above one of them.”

As a boy, he wasn’t al­lowed to play out in the street, be­cause of the strong fas­cist pres­ence in the area. “Mosley’s of­fice was just round the cor­ner.”

His fa­ther, a master tai­lor, was killed in 1943 in the Beth­nal Green un­der­ground dis­as­ter, when nearly 200 peo­ple, rush­ing to shel­ter from an air raid, were crushed to death in a blocked stair­way. Lind­say, aged 12 at the time, was an evac­uee. “The per­son I was bil­leted with, said: ‘Your fa­ther’s dead. Now go to school.’”

When he re­turned to Lon­don at end of the war, he joined Hack­ney Boys’ Club. “It com­pletely changed my life. All of a sud­den, I was a Jew again. When I first came back, I had no knowl­edge of Ju­daism what­so­ever. I learned my bar­mitz­vah par­rot fash­ion.”

He did a lot of am­a­teur act­ing at the club through­out his teens, and had a few act­ing and mod­el­ling roles as a young man. “When I was in my 20s in San Fran­cisco; they were film­ing Bul­litt on one of the hills. I just hap­pened to be watch­ing. Steve McQueen took a break and they wanted to get a cam­era an­gle. So the guy said: ‘Can you spare a minute?’ They put a jacket on me and I got into his car. So I was a stand-in for Steve McQueen!”

How­ever, there was never any ques­tion in young Jack’s mind that he should be­come a pro­fes­sional ac­tor — although his son, Nigel, did just that. In­stead, it was com­pletely clear to him that he needed to go out and earn a sta­ble liv­ing. He at­tributes this to his Jewish back­ground: “It was bred in me that I knew I had to have my own busi­ness and work for my­self. So much so that I could al­most taste it. It was an ob­ses­sion.”

Lind­say bor­rowed £30, bought some ma­te­rial and made some shirts. He sold them and made some more. Within six years, he had a group of com­pa­nies with a fac­tory in Fins­bury Park.

The com­pany, called Wenslow, sold men’s clothes to all the shops in Carn­aby Street just as it was be­com­ing the cen­tre of the ’60s fash­ion world. “I was known as the King of Carn­aby Street. We did things like lace shirts for men — see-through. And lace trousers. The Amer­i­cans wouldn’t ad­ver­tise them — they said they were lewd.”

Be­fore long, Lind­say branched into women’s cloth­ing, too. “We used to pay mod­els to wear our clothes on the Un­der­ground trains. Jilly Cooper was one of them.”

While his cloth­ing com- pany was go­ing from strength to strength, Jack mar­ried and had three boys: first Nigel, and then twins Michael and Richard.

Nigel is now an award-win­ning ac­tor. He played the lead role in the orig­i­nal cast of Shrek The Mu­si­cal, was Barry the Mus­lim con­vert in the Bafta-win­ning Four Lions; and could be seen as Sir Robert Peel in Vic­to­ria.

Does Nigel Lind­say feel that he has made a ca­reer do­ing some­thing that his fa­ther would have liked to do? “I think Dad was al­ways an ac­tor man­qué,” he tells me, adding that his fa­ther hadn’t had the fi­nan­cial sta­bil­ity to choose such an un­cer­tain pro­fes­sion.

Nigel says that his fa­ther has al­ways sup­ported him in his own choice of ca­reer. He started off as a stock­bro­ker. “When I turned round and said I was go­ing to drama school, my mother nearly had an heart at­tack. But my fa­ther said: ‘You must do what you want to do.’”

In the mean­time, Lind­say père con­tin­ued to man­u­fac­ture and sell fash­ion­able clothes for about 20 years, un­til the de­mand died down. At that point, he moved into buy­ing whole con­sign­ments of stock from abroad and sell­ing it to stores and whole­salers.

Then, about 10 years ago, he re­alised that he didn’t need to carry on do­ing this if he didn’t want to. “My wife said to me: ‘Why don’t you go back into act­ing like when you were a youth?’ I went into an agent, and they said: ‘You got any pho­tos?’ I said: ‘I’ve got some hol­i­day snaps.’ They said: ‘All right, give us the hol­i­day snaps.’ And that was it. I haven’t stopped since.”

As well as fea­tur­ing in nu­mer­ous ad­ver­tis­ing cam­paigns, he has acted along­side Brad Pitt in The Coun­selor, ap­peared

in The Pic­ture of Do­rian Gray, The Sus­pi­cions of Mr Whicher and many more.

He de­scribes how he was asked to dress up in a fly­ing uni­form for a heart pill ad­vert. “Then, the next day, I had to come back be­cause they de­cided I wouldn’t be fit enough to fly a plane, hav­ing taken the heart pill.”

In­stead, they filmed him be­ing chauf­feured around in a car.

Has he ever worked with Nigel? “Just once, in Wak­ing the Dead.

We went past each other. He was a de­tec­tive, and I was in a wheel­chair, com­ing the other way.”

And what im­pact has Ju­daism had on his ca­reer? In the cloth­ing busi­ness, he had many Jewish busi­ness as­so­ci­ates, whereas in the act­ing world he in­hab­its now, it isn’t rel­e­vant. “I now go to shul reg­u­larly, but I’m not say­ing how reg­u­larly that is,” he says.

New clothes: Jack Lind­say has gone from rag trade to act­ing

Look­ing suave: the young Jack Lind­say

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