Thursday, January 20, 2011

A nice mention of ‘A King’s Story’ in the Daily Mail in a long article on films about the Royal Family – “The first film in which any members of the British Royal, family took part came in 1965 (goodness me, was it as long ago as that?) when American documentary film maker Jack le Vien (of blessed memory) produced A King’s Story in which the exiled Duke and Duchess of Windsor were allowed to recount, with a commentary by Orson Welles, the saga of ‘the love story of the (20th) Century, the Duke’s abdication to marry Wallis Simpson - the woman I love.’ The royal couple attended a premiere in London (It was at the Festival Hall and I bought myself an evening suit for the occasion, the one and only time I ever wore it. Should have hired one from Moss bros, would have been much cheaper.) Although their version of events has since been contradicted by the subsequent release of official documents the film itself passed without controversy. However it marked a watershed in the relationship of the royals with the public.”
At least the duke was gracious enough to thank me for the writing which was more than Jack le Vien ever did!
I read also that “Judi Dench tops a list of the best ever stage actors!” Best ever? There’s a conceit for you. Ever? American actors? Russian actors? German? French? Victorian actors? Georgian actors? Restoration actors? Elizabethan actors? Roman actors? Greek? Ever is a very big word forsooth. Well, of late twentieth century/ twenty first century actors anyway, according to Charles Spence of The Telegraph Miss Dench tops the list of ten and I am not in the least surprised. She is wonderful, a national treasure, and on top of her talent a woman with no side to her at all. I only met her once; the result being that here facing me on my desk is a beautiful glass paperweight inside of which is a white stone with flecks of silver in it. It happened when I wrote a pilot for a possible TV series (another one that was never done) and she did the commentary. When we finished for the day we went shopping, that is Judi asked me to go shopping with her and one of the stops we made for was The Scotch Shop just off St Martin’s Lane as she wanted to buy a woollen sweater. I waited for her outside and when she came out she handed me a present – the paperweight. I think the gesture was typical of her. I don’t hesitate to say I think she is my favourite actress and it started oh so many years ago. I remember attending a performance of Franco Zeffirelli’s Romeo and Juliet at the Old Vic and she was for me the definitive Juliet. What a performance and none that I have seen since has ever equalled her.
Unfortunately I couldn’t say the same of her Romeo, I seem to remember it was John Stride and, despite the fact that the critics gave him good notices, for me he was a big disappointment. If jumping up and down like a puppet on a string denotes passion well then I suppose he had it but, for me, he was an actor jumping up and down like a puppet on a string.
Laurence Olivier by the way comes fifth in the list, Gielgud seventh, Ralph Richardson tenth. So much for the giants of British theatre.

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