I just finished reading a book again, that I read for the first time over 20 years ago. We had a community garage sale a few weeks back and I stopped at one of my neighbors house and there it was, the book that I wanted to read again was for sale on her table for 25 cents. I grabbed it quickly, couldn’t believe how lucky I was. I paid and held the book tight.
The book was written by Sir Peter Ustinov, one of the many geniuses that hardly get mentioned anymore in today’s world -and that’s a shame. Some of you will remember him, he played crazy Nero in the movie “Quo Vadis” and he played it well. I hated him when I was a child, couldn’t believe he had burned down my Roma (Rome) and I never wanted to forgive him. He played in many other movies and he played each and every character very well. By the early 21st century, Ustinov had made more than 70 films in Rome, London, and Hollywood during a career of nearly 60 years. A lot of my older blogging friend will remember him in “Spartacus”, “Topkapi” and of course as Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot in six films made throughout the 1970s and ’80s.
Sir Peter Ustinov was not just a great actor, he was although a very skilled writer and a master of the English language. He wrote many famous screenplays like “Romanoff and Juliet” or “The unknown soldier and his wife” and he received an Oscar for “Hot Millions”, that he although directed.
He wrote many books and short stories and one of them is called “The old man and Mr. Smith”. If you ever see it laying around at an garage sale or in a bookstore…grab it. You will be in for a treat.
After almost an eternity GOD and his counterpart Satan meet again. They take on the form of human beings and decide to check out what happened to mankind on Earth. They realize that one can not exist without the other and both appear out of nowhere and materialize on a sidewalk in Washington DC, where they want to start their journey.
They run into the first problem when they try to check into a hotel, GOD spells his name G-O-D and insists that he doesn’t have a last name. GOD reaches in his pocket and tries to pay the bill with a currency, that is not in accordance with the time they are in. They get arrested for counterfeiting and are sent to jail. Getting out of jail is easy for the old man and Mr. Smith and they continue their journey with the FBI close on their heels.
The turbulent journey continues through America, Great Britain, Russia, India, China, Japan and Israel and in every country they meet people and try to make them believe. The old man and Mr.Smith try to figure out what had happened, that people tend to believe in the existence of extraterrestrial beings, rather then GOD and the devil. They try to convince people all over the world of their existence, but the fact that they are traveling companions doesn’t work in their favor.
This thin book looks so harmless, but it changes when you start reading it. I can not imagine anybody reading this without a smile, but although with the realization, that Ustinov painted a pretty good picture of us. GOD, the older, funny and forgetful man and his “devilish” malicious companion, show us the reaction of people, when they are suddenly confronted with the impossible. The books shows us how we react, when our view of the world gets shaken up a little bit.
Sir Peter Ustinov wrote many books and I read them all, but “The old Man and Mr. Smith” will always be my favorite.
He was a genius and I hope he won’t be forgotten. He received many awards and honors like the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, Emmy Awards, Golden Globes and BAFTA Awards for acting. He spoke English, French, Spanish, Italian, German, and Russian fluently, as well as some Turkish and modern Greek. He was proficient in accents and dialects in all his languages and that’s a hard thing to do.
I hope that some of you still remember this great man!