IF YOU went to see war drama The Long and the Short and the Tall when it came to Glasgow in August 1959, you were part of a theatrical treat.

Not one, not two but THREE now legendary British actors appeared in the King’s Theatre production of Willis Hall’s play about a patrol of army officers during the Battle of Malaya in 1942.

Michael Caine, Frank Finlay and Terence Stamp were all on stage, playing British Army officers holed up in an abandoned hut in the middle of the Malayan jungle as the patrol’s radio malfunctions and a Japanese soldier stumbles upon them.

At the time, Caine was a young actor taking his first steps into the career which would make him a stage and screen star. He understudied another great, Peter O’Toole, in the London theatre version of the play and when it went on a Scottish tour, he got his chance at the role.

In an interview with The Independent newspaper, he recalls: “When I was a young actor, I understudied Peter O’Toole in The Long And The Short And The Tall in which he became a star… that was funnily enough the first play I think ever written about English privates.

“I remember when I was a young man, we always went to see American war films because they were about private soldiers. We never went to see the English films because they were all about officers.”

Glasgow Times:

In fact, Albert Finney was originally cast as the North Country Private Bamforth but a bout of appendicitis meant he had to be replaced by the then unknown O’Toole, who turned the character into a Cockney.

Caine was born Maurice Micklewhite in south London, the son of a char lady and a Billingsgate fishmarket porter. His acting career began in school panto, and during the 1960s, he became Britain’s biggest film star.

The Scottish tour of The Long and the Short and the Tall also included Frank Finlay as Sergeant Mitchem and Terence Stamp as Whitaker.

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Lancashire-born Finlay was a fine actor who made his reputation on stage at the Royal Court and the National Theatre. He won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination for his role as Iago in Othello in 1965.

The son of a butcher, he left school aged 14 to follow his father into the trade, but he also began acting with Farnworth Little Theatre, where he met his wife Doreen Shepherd, a fellow member.

They married in 1954 and had two sons and a daughter. Finlay died in 2016.

Glasgow Times:

Finlay played a string of fantastic parts and had been the front-runner to play the James Bond villain Blofeld in Diamonds Are Forever, but in the end Charles Gray took the part.

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Stamp and Caine shared a flat together in London after the tour and began hanging out with O’Toole and other leading lights of the Swinging Sixties scene in the capital. Stamp made his film debut in Billy Budd in 1962, a portrayal which brought him not only an Academy Award nomination but also international attention.

*Were you there? Did you see Caine, Stamp and Finlay on stage in Glasgow? Get in touch to share your stories.