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chris-l



Joined: 27 Nov 2008
Posts: 731



PostPosted: Tue May 16, 2017 8:58 pm    Post subject:  Reply with quote

Good to see you back, Ann. I have missed you. I don't post all that much these days, but I like to drop in now and again.


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Chibiabos83
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Joined: 19 Nov 2008
Posts: 3390


Location: Cambridge, UK

PostPosted: Thu May 18, 2017 7:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Someone posted an excerpt from Matthew Sweet's book Shepperton Babylon: The Lost Worlds of British Cinema on Twitter, and I knew I had to read it. It's an exploration of the kind of British films that are overlooked by the academic field of film studies. Anything not by Powell and Pressburger, basically. I went straight to the index. You can't help falling instantly in love with a book that has an index entry for The Ups and Downs of a Handyman, and several for Robin Askwith. Well, I can't.

Anyone who's familiar with Matthew Sweet's radio work (he's always popping up on Radio 4's Film Programme) will know he has an in-depth knowledge of his subject and a love of the unusual. This kind of thing appears throughout, in this instance an example of the fleeting fame of silent-era stars:

In 1916, John Marlborough East, a leading actor and founder of the Neptune
Studios at Borehamwood, received 3,640 votes in Picturegoer magazine's
poll to determine the identity of 'the Greatest British Film Player'. In 1924, he
was plugging his rotten teeth with candle wax and being paid peanuts by the
Daily Sketch to galumph up and down the promenade at Margate, disguised
as Uncle Oojah, the newspaper's cartoon elephant.


The tone is informed but gossipy, as Sweet leads us through silents, early talkies, quota quickies, up to exploitation and sexploitation movies, ending around 1980. It's an important book as a document of the views of a number of stars and directors of the past interviewed by Sweet in person and now almost all dead (the book was published in 2005), but mainly it's enjoyable for the tiny details – for instance, that the parts given to Dulcie Gray were so boring that she was known to others as Gracie Dull. Sweet is acute, but can be catty – of John Mills: 'Watch his pre-war films, and you'll be struck by a salient aspect of his performances: he can't act' – but one finds it hard to argue with him. I relished his withering assessments of the work of George Formby and Norman Wisdom, two stars I have known all my life but somehow never watched.

It's given me lots of new obscure byways of film to explore. 1970s horror/exploitation pictures like The Blood on Satan's Claw, Killer's Moon and Frightmare sound simultaneously enticing and repellent. I'd recommend it to fans of this sort of thing. A final funny story about Alec Guinness's anonymity:

He was fond of relating how he had once handed in his coat at a hotel
cloakroom, been told that it was unnecessary to give his name, and
discovered at the evening's end that his ticket bore the inscription 'bald
with glasses'.


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Mikeharvey



Joined: 22 Nov 2008
Posts: 3353


Location: Lancashire

PostPosted: Fri May 19, 2017 11:48 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I read and enjoyed SHEPPERTON:BABYLON some time ago.  And recommend it to anyone with an interest in the history of British films.
I think you should watch at least one Norman Wisdom film for completeness sake.  George Formby..? Erm...not so sure. You'll be admitting you've never seen an Old Mother Riley film next.............


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Chibiabos83
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Joined: 19 Nov 2008
Posts: 3390


Location: Cambridge, UK

PostPosted: Fri May 19, 2017 11:58 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I've seen Formby and Wisdom and Old Mother Riley in passing, but never a full film I confess. I certainly knew of Old Mother Riley from an early age, because I remember borrowing from the public library, aged 8 or so, an EMI double cassette of what were called 'Comical Cuts', containing audio of sketches and songs by Old Mother Riley, Flanagan and Allen, Sid Field, Cicely Courtneidge, etc. I thought they lacked something without pictures, and they certainly didn't come close to displacing Laurel and Hardy in my affections. My brother's girlfriend is a fledgling film academic who specialises in postwar British film and Michael Denison and Dulcie Gray in particular, so that era is a constant topic of discussion.


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Mikeharvey



Joined: 22 Nov 2008
Posts: 3353


Location: Lancashire

PostPosted: Fri May 19, 2017 1:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

MD and DC were constant presences in my early playgoing days.  In fact you could hardly escape them.  The last time I saw DG was in TARTUFFE with Paul Eddington, John Sessions and Jennifer Ehle.  MD played Andrew Aguecheek at Stratford in 1955 (my first visit) with L.Olivier and VLeigh. he was also in Peter Brook's 'Titus Andronicus' the same year..........

Speaking of British films I'm starting to compile a list of essential films that an American resident I know ought to see.  (He thinks movies begin & end with Hollywood), It'll begin with IF, then 'A Taste of Honey', Olivier's Henry V, 'Kind Hearts & Coronets', 'This Happy Breed', 'Victim', 'The Red Shoes', 'The Happiest Days of Your Life', 'The Way to the Stars', 'The Browning Version'......................and so on.


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Caro



Joined: 22 Nov 2008
Posts: 2961


Location: Owaka, New Zealand

PostPosted: Fri May 19, 2017 10:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Although I haven't watched many old British movies I would have expected to at least know the names of them, but I've never heard of IF, This Happy Breed, The Way to the Stars. I'm not sure I've actually seen any of these - maybe A Taste of Honey, Henry V, and I am pretty sure I have seen Kind Hearts and Coronets. I am amazed at all your erudition.  And I mean "you" in the plural.


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Joe McWilliams



Joined: 10 Feb 2012
Posts: 672


Location: Canada

PostPosted: Fri May 19, 2017 11:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

See how many New Zealand films they can name, Caro.  Very Happy


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Chibiabos83
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Joined: 19 Nov 2008
Posts: 3390


Location: Cambridge, UK

PostPosted: Sun May 21, 2017 9:59 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

An Angel at My Table, Whale Rider ... erm ... I'm out. Wait, Heavenly Creatures? I've actually seen that one.

Caro, Kind Hearts and Coronets and If.... would always make it into a list of my favourite films, and This Happy Breed is a superb film written by Noel Coward, about a family during World War 2. Propaganda, I suppose, but of a very classy kind.


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Caro



Joined: 22 Nov 2008
Posts: 2961


Location: Owaka, New Zealand

PostPosted: Wed May 24, 2017 12:11 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well, there's also Boy, Goodbye Pork Pie (updated this year to unanimous cool reviews) and The Lord of the Rings trilogy.  Filmed here by Sir Peter Jackson. And dozens of others.  

I came here though to update my month's reading.  I have read Reach by Laurence Fearnley (a woman despite her name) - a novel about three main characters and I was going to say their relationship, but really they barely interact.  More their interior thoughts and activities.  A very quiet novel.

I have just finished Death at the Bar by Ngaio Marsh.  I didn't rate it very highly.  It is quite intellectual and finely written, but the detail about iodine bottles, darts, what was where and when got a bit tedious, and I guessed the murderer, purely by a process of elimination.  It couldn't be the lovers who come together near the end, or the pub owners, or the bouncy fat woman, or any of the others.


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Chibiabos83
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Joined: 19 Nov 2008
Posts: 3390


Location: Cambridge, UK

PostPosted: Wed May 24, 2017 8:49 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hunt for the Wilderpeople was quite a hit over here last year. I meant to see it at the cinema, but never got around to it. My brother said it was great.



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