Mid-October Roundup

–The US cable channel Turner Classic Movies (TCM) has announced two broadcasts of The Loved One in November and December. They have also published what look like they may be expanded program notes (by Jeff Stafford) for the occasion:

In  [Tony] Richardson’s memoirs, The Long-Distance Runner, the director recalled that, “most of the actors entered the film with [a] sense of fun and pleasure. An exception was Robert Morley, who became a boorish prima donna. Terry Southern had written a very funny scene, an appearance by Morley in drag at a leather-bikers’ bar which was meant to be the key to the secret life of his character. Once he’d been shot in another scene and therefore knew he couldn’t be replaced, Morley refused to perform this, saying it would upset his children. Liberace, on the other hand, loved his role as the casket salesman so much that he wanted more.” […]

Richardson clashed with producer/cinematographer Wexler over the look of the film: “We had envisaged everything in high-contrast black and white. Haskell still subscribed to the absurd myth….that you couldn’t photograph pure black and white. Clothing next to the skin – shirts, blouses, etc. – had to be dipped in tea to give it a beige look. To come out black, paneling had to be brown. It was all rubbish, and their eyes should have told them so. We had converted the former mansion of the mining prospector turned oil tycoon Edward L. Doheny into the headquarters of Forest Lawn. Rouben (Ter-Aruntunian) had painted it a shiny glossy black. When we got to the set to shoot it, it was a muddy brown – Haskell had been in the night before and ordered a crew of painters, all on overnight overtime, to repaint it. I reordered it black, so there was no shooting that day. And that was how the production was run.” Under the circumstances, it was inevitable that The Loved One would end up a chaotic mess but it’s also a lot of fun and enjoys a better reputation now then when it was first released.

The film will air 13 November 1230a and 15 December 545p. Check local listings for correct times in your area.

–It has been reported in the The Times that a memorial stone for PG Wodehouse will be laid in Westminster Abbey. According to Patrick Kidd, this was announced at a meeting last week of the PG Wodehouse Society. No information as to where it will be placed has been issued, but Kidd hopes it will be next to Noel Coward. Kidd also quotes Waugh’s remark that he considered Wodehouse the “head of my profession.” A subsequent story in The Scotsman also quotes Waugh, referring to Wodehouse’s controversial broadcasts from Germany during WWII:

These days most would agree that the broadcasts were the act of an innocent abroad rather than a deliberate act of treachery. To Wodehouse lovers, the quality of his writing transcends his foolish mistake, while other great writers regard him as a master of his craft. “Mr Wodehouse’s idyllic world can never stale,” said Evelyn Waugh. “He will continue to release future generations from captivity that may be more irksome than our own. He has made a world for us to live in and delight in.”

–The Daily Mail as winter approaches has compiled two lists of TV series that it considers worth watching. The first contains 50 classic serials and at number 25 they have placed the 1981 Granada production of Brideshead Revisited:

It’s impossible to imagine Brideshead without seeing Anthony Andrews (above, with Jeremy Irons) as effete Sebastian Flyte, clutching his teddy bear Aloysius, one arm around Oxford chum Charles Ryder (Irons), who is seduced by the seemingly glamorous lives of a family of wealthy Catholics ensconced in a palatial country mansion. ITV’s 1981 adaptation of Evelyn Waugh’s tale of yearning for a lost past, filmed at Castle Howard in North Yorkshire, scooped multiple awards and helped pave the way for our love affair with Downton Abbey. DVD, 1 series

The other list contains current serial dramas and includes A Very English Scandal and Patrick Melrose (both mentioned here previously) but oddly ignores the excellent BBC adaptation of Waugh’s Decline and Fall.

–The books blog longreads.com contains an excerpt from a new book by Julia Boyd entitled Travellers in the Third Reich. This reports visits to Nazi Germany by foreign writers.  The reactions of two of Waugh’s contemporaries are included in the excerpt:

[John] Heygate, an old Etonian, had a few years earlier caused a scandal by absconding with Evelyn Waugh’s wife, whom he later married. As with many in his social circle, his political sympathies were well to the right. Consequently, although there was much to make fun of in the new uncouth Germany he also found much to admire. The flags fascinated him. Driving along village streets “roofed with swastikas,” he passed “like a modern knight beneath crusades of ruddy banners.” It occurred to him that it might be “fun” to fly his own Hakenkreuz so he had one fitted to his car by a delighted garage attendant. But the fun faded when, as he watched the tiny swastika beat “proudly” in the wind, he experienced a “sudden awe.” For a moment the flag seemed to him “much more than something to be waved and draped from windows. It was a fighting banner which went before and men followed after.” […]

Heygate’s contemporary, Robert Byron, moved in similar circles (they both knew the Mitfords) but reacted very differently. “I hardly know how to contain myself,” he wrote to his mother from Danzig, “when they say Heil Hitler to one another down the telephone. And that salute, when a couple of friends happen to part in a crowded bus, also has an hysterical effect, but I suppose I will get used to it.”

Waugh apparently never visited Germany during the Nazi period but he visited Fascist Italy frequently and left what are mostly favorable or ambivalent reports of that regime. He did visit Germany just after the war and reported on the Nuremberg trials in a letter to Randolph Churchill that was recently reproduced in Lara Feigel’s book The Bitter Taste of Victory. See previous post.

–Another books blog, Room of Joy, carries a review of Waugh’s 1938 novel Scoop, in which his views on Mussolini’s Fascism are reflected. Here’s the conclusion:

I have two main things to say about Scoop, and they’re an uncomfortable pair: comedy and racism.  Which to address first: it’s really racist, but don’t worry, it’s also really funny?  Or, it’s genuinely funny but – watch out! More than a little racist.  And can you really have one with the other?  This moral dilemma aside, let me tell you a bit more about both. […]

Ultimately I realise that this novel was written in the 1930s, and it’s problematic to judge historic writing by today’s standards, but I don’t think we can call reasonable human representation of any African in the novel an excessively high bar.  The fact is that Waugh is very happy to take each and every passing swipe at the local black population.   So it’s a mixed picture – a truly hilarious read on management, journalism, reluctance, naivety, incompetence and charlatanism – but one that’s heavily compromised.  I recommend you read it – probably laugh a lot – and come to your own decision on how we should judge it today.

–A columnist in the Guyana Times International has been reporting on books written about trips into Guyana’s heartland. The books considered ths far have included Stan Brock (Jungle Cowboy) and Gerald Durrell (Three Singles to Adventure) as well as Zoo Quest to Guiana by David Attenborough. The story continues:  “I was unable to get my hands on Ninety-two Days by Evelyn Waugh (an account of his travels in Guyana and Brazil)” so the latest report is about Charles Waterton’s 1826 book entitled Wanderings in South America. The inability to acquire a copy of Waugh’s 1934 travel book is odd because it is available from the same source (Amazon.com) as the others in a 2007 paperback edition published by Serif.

UPDATE (18 October 2018): Reference to a story in The Scotsman about the Westminster Abbey plaque for PG Wodehouse was added.


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