Alastair Sim, CBE, lived from 9 October 1900 to 19 August 1976. He was an actor best known for his character and comedy roles. The wider picture in Scotland at the time is set out in our Historical Timeline.
Alastair Sim was born in Edinburgh, the son of a wealthy businessman with property interests in Edinburgh and Braemar. He was educated at George Heriot's School, and in 1925 became an elocution and drama lecturer at the University of Edinburgh. He resumed his link with the university when he was appointed Rector from 1948 to 1951.
In 1930 Sim moved to London to appear on the stage in Othello. He made his film debut in 1935 in The Case of Gabriel Perry, and spent the rest of the 1930s playing supporting roles in films. His most memorable were as Detective Sergeant Bingham in three Inspector Hornleigh films made between 1939 and 1941. He then moved on to leading roles and in a poll of cinema audience conducted in 1950 was voted the most popular film actor in Britain. Significant roles during this period were as a detective in the thriller Green for Danger (1946); as a headmaster in the comedy The Happiest Days of Your Life (1950); and as a novelist in the comedy Laughter in Paradise (1951). His greatest success was in the starring role in Scrooge in 1951.
Between 1954 and 1960 Sim starred, in drag, as Miss Fritton, the headmistress of St Trinian's in the first three film comedies about the anarchic girls' school. He also played her shady brother Clarence in one of them. He also had many other film roles during the period, and in the 1960s and early 1970s made a number of appearances on TV. The idea for St Trinian's was said to have been based by author Ronald Searle on a real girls' school in Edinburgh, St Trinnean's. This operated from 1925 to 1946 and for much of that time it occupied St Leonard's House, now a University of Edinburgh Hall of Residence.
In 1932, Sim married Naomi Plaskitt. For a leading actor he was a very private man, avoiding the trappings of fame whenever possible. He was made a Commander of the British Empire (CBE) in 1953, but is said to have turned down a knighthood. He died in 1976 in London.