Watched the movie “Fried Green Tomatoes at the whistle stop café.” Amongst all the dross Hollywood churns out, now and again it comes up with a gem and this is one of them.
What a delightful surprise for the start of the New Year. Our friend Ian Dean sent us a DVD “At The Haunted End of the Day” a biography of William Walton whose music I am particularly fond of, especially monumental works like “Belshazzar’s Feast.” We played it almost immediately and all three of us thought it quite wonderful. What a history, what a career, what music! If you are unfamiliar with Walton’s music you might know it from Olivier’s three Shakespeare films, the beautiful haunting funeral music from Hamlet for example or the truly thrilling Agincourt music building up to its climax with the shower of arrows desiccating the galloping French knights, a scene I never tire of watching and it is the music that really makes it.
Books, books, books, another Christmas treat, this time from our friend Ray Peters who sent me “Bull’s Eyes,” some memoirs by the actor Peter Bull. It is not a volume I would have thought of buying or even reading for that matter but having opened it, it has been difficult to get my nose out of it; what larks, Pip, as Joe Gargary would say. I haven’t laughed so much over a book in quite awhile. Sometimes a little on the twee side but for the most part written with such refreshing wit and self-effacing charm, how it evokes memories of my early days in the theatre despite his career being well ahead of mine, starting in fact in 1931, the year I was born, and mine starting twenty years later. But the experiences were so similar. He died ‘unmarried’ but he had a friend so you know what that means and it would seem he was a great person to know. I’m sorry our paths never crossed. These memoirs are extracts put together and edited by Sheridan Morley from different writings and very well done too. Apart from his early experiences I particularly enjoyed his description of Hollywood where he was under contract for six months, did four days work and finally didn’t even end up in the picture. A young English actress put under contract had to undergo two film tests a week, one on Monday, one on Thursday, because the studio simply had no idea of what to do with her. Eventually having done precisely nothing she returned to England where she immediately made a big hit in an English picture. I wonder what the studio executives in Hollywood thought when they watched that. As William Goldman said, in Hollywood nobody knows anything.
Brooding on the name Morley brings to mind another book I have just finished, this one called “The Muses darling” and based on the life of one of my favourite Elizabethan characters, that roistering boistering (no such word according to my computer) boy genius, one Christopher Marlowe whose name was sometimes spelt Morley but that can wait till another time.