The League of Gentlemen

This film from 1960 was a favourite of mine when I was growing up.  I must have seen it many times over the years, always on television and never minding that it was in black and white as the original film was.  Growing up in the 60s, one of the big differences between cinema and television was that the ‘pictures’ were always in colour while television was black and white. The films they showed on television back then were nearly all black and white so we didn’t miss out!

This film starred the great Jack Hawkins as a former army officer who hatches a plan to rob a bank.  He enlists other former officers, all in difficult circumstances who use their skills to gain entry to an army base in Dorset where they acquire weapons and supplies.

The film is a caper.  It was directed by Basil Deardon whose cast included Richard Attenborough, Nigel Patrick, David Lodge, Bryan Forbes and Roger Livesey.  Bryan Forbes also wrote the screenplay.

Such is the fun of the film that I wanted the thieves to get away with it.  However, the police are on to them and the ending, when it comes, is very clever.  The telephone ringing in the penultimate scene is highly effective.

Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads?

I loved this television comedy series from the 70s, broadcast on BBC television.  There were only two series of ‘Whatever…’ but there had been a series before that called ‘The Likely Lads’.  I was too young to see that so only knew the characters Terry and Bob through the later version.

Set in Newcastle, the series was about two friends who took different paths in life but maintained a friendship.  As was the way with 70s sit-coms, the comedy came from the pretensions of Bob, the aspiring middle class one, and Terry’s down to earth views on his friends new place in the social order.  The first series started with Terry returning to Newcastle from the army.  Bob is about to marry Thelma, someone who isn’t keen on any continuing friendship with the uncouth Terry.

The series were broadcast between 1973 and 1974. There had been about a six year gap between ‘The Likely Lads’ and the return to see what had happened to Terry and Bob. Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais were the writers of both versions.  I also liked the theme tune called ‘Whatever Happened to You’ which was co- written by La Frenais.  James Bolam played Terry and Rodney Bewes played Bob.  Brigit Forsyth was Thelma.

The programme had a strong theme of nostalgia for lost youth which appealed to me when I was young.   Looking back, that seems odd- and the characters themselves were not that old.  They were, though, on the cusp of settling down to mortgage and marriage so perhaps that is the rite of passage that set off the nostalgia.

‘Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads?’ is in my hinterland.  What’s in yours?

 

Carry on Teacher

The final scene of this film moved me when I was a child.  It all seems a little sentimental now but the moment when Ted Ray stepped out to face his pupils who had wrecked his chance of promotion to prevent him from leaving them is one of my all time favourite film moments.

I was a fan of the early Carry On films.  This 1959 film was the third in the series that eventually totalled thirty-one.  I saw it on British television in the 60s since it was released in cinemas before I was born!  The black and white story of an ambitious headteacher who sees the arrival of inspectors as his opportunity to snatch the headship of a brand new school is a good one.

Two of his pupils overhear him telling a teacher that, should he get the job, there will be opportunities for others.  They decide that the only way to keep their headteacher is to ensure the inspection is a disaster and they enlist their friends to make sure it is.  The comedy comes from the thwarted efforts of the head to impress and the inability of the teachers to cope with the breakdown of order.

In the current British education system the inspectorate is a malign growth and there is little to amuse there but this is from a kinder age and the story leads to the final scene which I loved as a boy.

The ‘Carry On’ films continued into the 60s and 70s and I loved most of them until the bawdy humour became distasteful.  Kenneth Williams, Hattie Jacques and Charles Hawtry were favourites of mine but, in this film, Ted Ray was the star. It was his only ‘Carry on’ role.

‘Carry On Teacher’ is in my hinterland.  What’s in yours?

That Love Is All There Is

This poem by Emily Dickinson reminds me of those days in English lessons as a teenager reading things that did not speak to my condition, only to lodge in my brain and come back to me at a time (and an age) when I made sense of it.

That Love Is All There Is

That Love is all there is,
Is all we know of Love;
It is enough, the freight should be
Proportioned to the groove.

Emily Dickinson

BlogEDickinson

The Blood Stone

This novel by Jamila Gavin is called an epic on the front cover of the version I have and I do not think this is misplaced.  I could see this story of spies and intrigue making a very good film or television series.

The story centres around young Filippo whose family is in dire straits after the disappearance of his father into India many years ago.  Geronimo Veraneo is a jeweller in search of precious stones, hence the trip to India to find them.  He never returns and the family fear he is a prisoner of an Afghan warlord.  His wife refuses to believe he is dead even though her son-in-law wants to have him declared so and thereby inherit the family fortune.  He believes the family holds a precious diamond, the Blood Stone of the title, and he wants to find it.  He has spies among the servants but is unable to track it down.

When news reaches them that their father is still alive, it is decided that Filippo should be the one to travel to India to pay the diamond as ransom money.  The blood stone is sewn into his head and the adventure begins.

It is unclear who to trust but young Filippo makes the journey across the Middle East from Italy to India.

There are sub-plots involving the daughter married to the unscrupulous son-in-law, Filippo’s friend and his family, and the brothers who are apprentice jewellers.  Like other stories by Jamila Gavin, there is the crossing of borders, both physical and cultural but the main narrative is one of adventure and intrigue.

‘The Blood Stone’ is in my hinterland.  What’s in yours?

Film 74

The announcement at the weekend of the death of Barry Norman was another sad passing of someone from my early years who played a significant part in building the person I am today; my interests were formed in my teenage years and have strengthened over the years.  Barry Norman was on one of the first experts I came across who talked to me about film.

As I remember it, Film 74 was a fortnightly programme broadcast by BBC television on a Sunday night.  Each other week, the book programme ‘Read All About It’ was screened.  I liked both!

The format was simple but effective.  Norman sat in a studio and talked to the camera about the releases of the week and clips were shown.  This was enough for me.  His comments were cogent and his tastes were mainstream but the idea of someone, who knew more than I did, telling me about something I wanted to know more about was just the sort of thing I needed.

I read in his obituaries that Barry Norman presented the programme from 1972 until 1998.  The title of the series made the small adjustment with each new year.  I first became aware of it in 1974 and watched until the late 70s when I left for university.  The programme became weekly at some stage and, although I still watched occasionally, my time in front of a television diminished and I found other experts on film to turn to.

However, Film… was part of my growing up.  It was one of the first places I realised that ‘foreign films’ were worth finding out and, each New Year, his programme of his favourite films of the year was a must see.  In essence, this is what made him the very best of critics:  he talked about what he liked and why and was unapologetic about the idea that the list was personal.  One person, talking to camera- amazing television.  They should do that again.

Boy with a Dolphin: Book

BlogBoyDolphinBookI have long been a fan of David Wynne’s work as a sculptor.  There are so many London landmarks improved by the siting of one of his sculptures. Other places, too, have benefited from his talent, including Newcastle, but it is London I know best and it was here that I first put the name of the artist to the work I most admired: Boy with a Dolphin.

This book, which takes its title from his most famous work, is actually a review of his career.  Published before his death in 2014, the book includes photographs of him working as well as of the final pieces in situ.  There are still places I need to go to see his sculpture and some are in the hands of private collectors or private companies so will possibly be beyond sight unless there is a retrospective at a major gallery.

The best aspect of the book is the insight into the creative process.  There are quotes from interviews with Wynne himself as well as excerpts from newspapers and magazines.  David Wynne was friends with people in high places and many of his commissions came from someone who knew someone.  As an essentially self- taught artist, though, the fact that so many pieces are on public display is the best outcome for me.

This book with its extensive illustrations is in my hinterland.  What’s in yours?