All Flesh Is Grass

Who knows what terrors lurk in the old graveyard as dusk approaches …


Possible scenario for horror film:

A group of American teenagers have foolhardily agreed to spend a night in Market Harborough cemetery for a bet.

As they go about their teenagerly activities, all seems well … except that from time to time one of them claims to have heard a sort of click-clicking noise, as if someone were cutting a grass verge  (Chill, Mary-Lou, it’s only the wind in the sassafras trees) – another is sure she can smell new-mown grass.

As they settle down for the night and extinguish their campfire, from the deepest recesses of the graveyard – from behind a monument to a Symington perhaps – comes the sound of a motor starting up and then … a hooded figure – his eyes blazing –  looms into view in a cloud of grass cuttings.  He lowers his hood and we see that it’s the GRIM REAPER – clad in a Market Harborough Town Council hi-visibility vest – and riding a lawnmower!!

They are all cut to ribbons (note to self: check plausibility of this).


Any film producers wanting to take out an option on this scenario please contact me at the usual address.  Should be good for three or four sequels, I’d say.

The Early Bird Catches Worms : Norman Wisdom

So, what’s happened since I was so rudely interrupted? 

Well, for one thing, Norman Wisdom’s died.  I can’t pretend that I was ever a great fan of his, though – of course – the further away in time we get the more interesting his fims get, if no funnier.  But perhaps they won’t bear too much interpretation.  In fact I see, from the obituary in today’s Telegraph, that it would have been unwise to subject his act to any interpretation in his presence –

“An upstaged Canadian act took to coming onstage to interpret Wisdom’s routine until laid out by an uppercut”  

(Perhaps they mean “interrupt”?).

The one film of his that does stick in my mind is The Early Bird, in which Norman and Mr. Grimsdale battle the forces of monopolistic capitalism, in the shape of Consolidated Dairies, with a mixture of chronic incompetence and desperate pathos.  Well, these are probably the best weapons we have.

The Early Bird also contains the following scene, in which Wisdom’s hyperactive mugging achieves a genuinely disturbing quality.  It seems to hark back to Bunuel and anticipate David Lynch.  (This may have something to do with the fact that the cinematography was by Jack Asher, who had cut his teeth working for the Hammer studios).

Judy Holliday again, and Tallulah Bankhead

It is odd that the way one thing leads to another.  If East Midlands Trains hadn’t experienced their little local difficulty in the region of the Langtons on Saturday I might not have found the time to read Tanya Gold’s article that I was mentioning the other day and so I wouldn’t have been reminded about Judy Holliday – so thank you for that East Midlands Trains.

If I hadn’t thought about Judy Holliday I wouldn’t also have come across the clip that this is leading to, and I wouldn’t even have known that Tallulah Bankhead had her own radio show.  In this excerpt Miss Bankhead congratulates Judy H. on her Oscar with the help of various stars of the day.  You certainly can’t fault the woman’s bravery – not only did she defy Senator McCarthy, but here she also teases Bette Davis. Note how JH drops her Betty Boop voice ( the one she used when dealing with the Senate) when speaking to Ethel Barrymore, the Grande Dame of the American theatre.  Winston Churchill, incidentally, proposed marriage to Ethel Barrymore in 1900 – he clearly had a thing about Americans – and Tallulah Bankhead – herself an unusually liberal Democrat – had a father who was the Democratic Speaker of the House of Representatives. 

Tallulah Bankhead lead an eventful life, some of the details of which are frankly unsuitable for publication in a family blog such as this  – Eventful life.  Makes the confessions of the wife of our own dear Speaker – Sally Bercow – seem rather tame.  One of the more bizarre things she was alleged to have done was to have “seduced up to half a dozen public schoolboys [from Eton] into taking part in “indecent and unnatural” acts” in a hotel in Berkshire. (See here).  This, however, seems to have been a total fabrication by MI5, proving, I suppose, that our security services were every bit as devious then as they are today, if a little more imaginative in their methods.

Born Yesterday, forgotten today : Judy Holliday

Due to a slight hiccup in East Midlands Trains’ normally reliable services today (and yesterday, and the day before and the day before that) * I’ve had even more time than usual to spend studying my MG, and I have to report that there was an article in it today that frankly got my goat.

It was a column by Tanya Gold.  She had two themes, viz –

  1. “Sport is moronic” – on this one, I think we’ll just have to agree to disagree.
  2. “I have been dead to film awards ceremonies since 1950, when Bette Davis (All About Eve) and Gloria Swanson (Sunset Boulevard) lost out to Judy Holliday (who?) in Born Yesterday (what?) at the Oscars.”

On this point I can provide illumination.  Judy Holliday was a truly wonderful comic actress and, with all due respect to Davis and Swanson, her Oscar was well deserved.  Born Yesterday  was a romantic comedy directed by George Cukor in which a shady tycoon hires a journalist to coach his chorus girl moll in etiquette – with hilarious results!!!  In it we see someone unusually intelligent (Holliday) pretending to be someone intelligent pretending to be stupid, as opposed to … well, some more commonly observed combinations of those qualities.  Particularly in newspapers.

Judy Holliday was also plagued by the House Unamerican Activities Committee for her radical views.  The – Transcript of the hearing suggests that she decided to play it in character.  She seems to me to have run rings around her interrogators and – unusually -escaped without either being blacklisted herself or implicating any of her associates.  Her career did suffer, though, which is perhaps why she is not as well known today as she should be (even to Guardian journalists).  She died in 1965, aged 43.

Here are two clips, the first the set up, as it were, and the second the most famous scene.  Note the Oscar worthy use of a cigarette holder and how – as one commenter points out – the first two minutes of the second clip tell us all we need to know about the relationship between the two without a word being spoken.

(* Liberal England was first on the scene.)

Credibility gap (and a bit of Glorious ’39)

A text message  from my daughter (14) –

“Top up yr fone!  Its dangerous to have no cred”

I think by “cred” she meant credit with the telephone company, rather than – as I think it would have meant in my young day – credibility, although, frankly, I sometimes suspect  I’m running fairly low on the latter as well.

It is  true that I always encourage her to make sure that she has a useable mobile ‘phone on her when she and her friends go on one of their jaunts to Leicester, not because I’m worried about them being attacked by bandits or sexual maniacs, but because there are two trains which depart from Leicester in the direction of London within five minutes of each other, one of which stops at Harborough, the other speeding straight through to London.  One or other of these trains is usually late, the platforms get  switched and it would be perilously easy for them to find themselves on the fast train to London by mistake.  If this were to happen they would not only be unable to get off until London, but would be at the mercy of the much-feared Revenue Protection Team, who might use their new powers of summary arrest to lock them up in the dank cell at St. Pancras that they, no doubt, keep for precisely this purpose.  If she had her ‘phone with her she could at least let us know where she was being held and we could negotiate for her release.

I don’t suppose she thinks that I am actually in any specific danger if I don’t have a working ‘phone on me, but because she has the expectation  that everyone is permanently in contact with everyone else (via MSN, Facebook et al.) the simple fact of someone being uncontactable becomes a source of anxiety in itself.

I saw a film last week – Poliakoff’s Glorious ’39 . In spite of the reviews( “How does Stephen Poliakoff get away with this stuff? – The Independent) I rather enjoyed it.  There were several points in the (on one level Buchanesque) plot where the heroine desparately needed to make contact with somone but couldn’t and I found myself thinking “Why doesn’t she just call him on his mobile?”.  In fact the plots of a great many classic films would have been ruined by the existence of the mobile.

A trailer for the film, if you fancy a look –

Smoke Fairies, or My Lady Nicotine

Some readers might have the impression that the author of this blog is some silly old fool who sits here all day, covered in a thick layer of dust, reading cricket books from the early years of the last century.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  This blog is, as we all must be,  vibrant, dynamic and committed to change.

And just to prove it, here is a tune from a Very Modern Band The Smoke Fairies.  Like a lot of Very Modern Music it sounds as though it could easily have been made in 1971, but I like it.  Not so sure about the video, which seems to me involve the destruction of a perfectly serviceable robot, but perhaps it’s a symbolic robot.

Here it is – Smoke Fairies

Part of the appeal, I must admit, is that they’ve taken their name from this short film from 1909, created by Georges Melies (still haven’t found the accents on this thing) – My Lady Nicotine, or the smoke fairy.  Older readers might remember that this – like a lot of Melies’ other work – was a great favourite of The Old Grey Whistle Test.  Really old readers might remember seeing it at a mobile  kinematograph as a birthday treat.

(Warning – this video contains explicit scenes of smoking).

My lady Nicotine, or the smoke fairy

Ivan Massow questions the very nature of reality (with a bit of help from Joan Collins)

On my way to Birmingham today I pick up a copy of that indispensible publication Countryside La Vie – available free from Market Harborough Railway Station and many other prestigious retail outlets.

I am surprised to read the following article –

Banksy’s coming for dinner film launch party

On 15 June Joan Collins and Ivan Massow hosted a star-studded private party in the Penthouse Suite of the stunning 5* May Fair Hotel to mark the launch of Ivan Massow’s new film ‘Banksy’s coming for dinner’.

Banksy … is a film within a film and questions the very nature of ‘reality’ at every level.  The film stars Joan Collins alongside Percy Gibson [JC’s husband?], Tara Newley [JC’s daughter], Paul de Freitas [of course!] and … Tamara Beckwith.”

I had no idea that Ivan Massow had turned his hand to film directing (direction?).  Politics (Tory turned Labour turned Independent Mayoral candidate who didn’t actually stand), insurance tycoon, Director of the ICA, MFH, yes – but there’s clearly no end to the man’s talents.

So I can only speculate why this artwork – which I’m confident improves on the efforts of such as Antonioni and Resnais in the matter of questioning the very nature of reality – has received so little attention.  Why isn’t it visible at the multiplexes of Leicester and Kettering?  Why can’t I see it at the Market Harborough Film Club?  Why can’t I remember reading any reviews?

I sense a conspiracy by the rascally left-liberal elite to suppress this revolutionary work.  Something must be done!

(I see they even had Gloria Hunniford and Piers Morgan at the launch party – bet they didn’t get that calibre of celeb out for Last Year at Marienbad).