Sunday, 19 April 2009

Cutting the Mustard

A couple of days ago I received a copy of an article entitled Mustard brings back tasty fond memories.

It was kindly sent to me by the writer of the piece, Carol Ferguson, Feature Writer for the Herald Banner in Greenville, Texas, who had been in touch wanting to find out if there was any progress on getting the book published Matador.

I must admit that I'd found it a little galling that for many Americans, Ian was best known as 'The guy in the Grey Poupon commercials'. What cheek, I thought, when you consider all the wonderful performances Ian gave in his 15 years at the RSC; as Henry Higgins in the 20th Anniversary Broadway Revival of My Fair Lady; and in a vast number of great screen performances - IMDB

However, reading Carol's article, I discovered that the advert, run in the 1980's, was highly successful - three in all were made and,

"American consumers were willing to venture beyond yellow mustard and pay a little more for Grey Poupon with its air of sophistication and its unique flavor. Sales rose, and marketers later said Grey Poupon was responsible for the fact that the standard American supermarket today has an entire mustard section rather than just the ordinary yellow product.

Another kind of fame came its way when Richardson's line, 'Pardon me, would you have any Grey Poupon?' was chosen as one of TV's 100 greatest catch phrases in a survey by TV Land cable network."

So, I suppose I have to acknowledge the fact that the adverts - which also starred Paul Eddington (who played another famous TV Prime Minister, Jim Hacker in Yes Prime Minister) did indeed have a big impact on Americans, though I would hope that our friends across the Big Pond will have seen many more of Ian's great works.

As it so happens, Ian also helped sales of another product - the malt whisky, Bruichladdich. Was he seen in an advert for the drink? No - but it was the favourite tipple of Francis Urquhart in the House of Cards series. I remember Ian telling me that the distillery was in the doldrums until HOC was broadcast in 1990 but then experienced a revival. The boost of sales brought about by it being seen to be 'FU's' drink appears to have been short-lived, however, as the Isle of Islay-based distillery closed in 1994. It was, however, bought over in 2000 and completely remodelled Bruichladdich.

So, what could be more enjoyable than having some Grey Poupon on your steak and relaxing afterwards with a glass of Bruichladdich.


  1. Lovely to see the ad - and the others listed among the other videos at the end -- especially "Too Far' with the two toffs trying to pass the Grey Poupon from one Roller to the other...

    Nice, too, to see Ian working with another favourite actor of mine, the late Paul Eddington.

    Did they ever work together on stage?

  2. I'm almost certain that they didn't work together - apart from when they were inside Rolls Royces!

    Yes, I did enjoy the work of Paul Eddington too.

  3. But they both played Prime Ministers! :-)

  4. True, but had Jim Hacker - and Sir Humphrey - been around at the same time as 'FU' he'd have eaten them both for breakfast.