Archive for the ‘actress’ Category

Latest photographs in the ArkAngel collection

ArkAngel has a small but perfectly formed collection of photographs and these are the latest additions. Three of these four come from Magnum photo agency which offers small signed or estate-stamped prints. The fourth is direct from the photographer (Danny Clifford) with whom I had a fascinating chat in Marlow, Buckinghamshire before the plague hit.  

Eve Arnold – Marilyn Monroe reading Ulysses by James Joyce. Long Island, New York (1955)

‘Ulysses’ is my favourite book and Marilyn is an important name in our family (and our Marilyn is blonde too). I read a concise biography of Marilyn Monroe as a teenager and was struck by her intelligence and intellectual aspirations. This image, which was on a poster in Black Gull Books, East Finchley in recent times, says body and mind, natural beauty and artistic beauty, ‘low’ culture and ‘high’, adult and child.

Eve Arnold’s grandson Michael wrote: “This image was made by Eve during her first shoot with Marilyn Monroe. Monroe had shown Eve her down-to-earth, relaxed personality as they worked together. But the photographer had yet to really witness the actress’s candour. The following is an excerpt from a passage in Eve’s book, In Retrospect, in which she recalled meeting with Marilyn a second time, in order to show her the photographs she had taken:

She met me at the door in a diaphanous black negligee. She had a hairbrush in her hand. Would I mind sitting through an interview for a European magazine—then we could talk? Almost immediately the reporter showed up. Marilyn greeted her, and while the woman had her head down, looking in her purse for notebook and pencil, Marilyn asked if she minded if she (Marilyn) brushed her hair during the interview. No, of course not. When the woman raised her head, Marilyn was brushing her pubic hair.

Due in no small part to Monroe’s laidback temperament, the two were to become close over the months that followed.”

Elliott Landy – Bob Dylan in Woodstock, NY (1968)

This is the second Elliott Landy shot of Dylan in the collection. This is the first:

Elliott Landy – Bob Dylan with son Jesse, Byrdcliffe home, Woodstock, NY (1968)

The collection has print 7/100 which is 50 x 35cm.

The new infrared shot is most striking of course for its colour. It derives from a Saturday Evening Post cover image assignment. Landy was just starting out but his work with The Band had impressed one of Dylan’s friends and that’s how they first connected. The connection and subsequent friendship eventually yielded an album cover (Nashville Skyline). The shot was taken outside Dylan’s home in Byrdcliffe, New York state, as was the shot with his young son, Jesse.

Danny Lyon – Bob Dylan behind the SNCC office. Greenwood, Mississippi (1963)

This shot is reminiscent of the brilliant 2019 creative documentary Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan story by Martin Scorsese (to give it its full title) in which Bob takes his guitar out at times in a spirit of activism and solidarity. 

After giving a concert in a cotton field with folk singers Pete Seeger and Theo Bikel, Dylan played behind the office of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC – pronounced “snick”). Bernice Reaon, one of the original Freedom Singers and later the lead singer of Sweet Honey in the Rock, is the woman listening intently in front of Dylan.

The Freedom Singers started in 1962 as a student quartet in Albany State College, Albany, Georgia. Their sound combined  black Baptist church singing with protest songs. They were big supporters of the SNCC during the emerging civil rights movement and they played a significant role in making communal song a key means of empowering and educating audiences about civil rights issues and combatting Jim Crow segregation.

Mendy Samstein is sitting behind Dylan and talking to Willie Blue. Samstein quit his Ph.D. in history at the University of Chicago to join the civil rights movement in the South as a full-time organiser for the SNCC. Black Panther leader Stokely Carmichael (previously chairman of SNCC) said Samstein was “one in a million”.

Danny Clifford – Amy Winehouse backstage at 4th BBC Radio Jazz awards, Hammersmith Palais, London (2004)

Amy Winehouse was another one in a million. This July marks the 10th anniversary of her sad passing and I have been working on a documentary to mark the event.

The deliberate choice of such an early image comes down to the way this shot captures the youthful promise of Amy before other pressures intruded. It was exhibited in a church in Hampstead a couple of years ago as part of a Danny Clifford show. 

Danny had a studio set up backstage at these BBC jazz awards. Amy had just come off stage after performing some songs from her debut album Frank. She was reluctant to go over to the press wall and didn’t really give them what they wanted. Danny managed to steer her into his makeshift studio after and got much more relaxed shots including this beauty. Katie Melua came over a couple of minutes later and Danny suggested taking shots of the two of them together. Katie was well up for it but Amy said: “I ain’t having a picture with her. She’s shit. She doesn’t even write her own songs.” Danny thought she was joking at first but there was no sign of that. “I’ll take that as a No then” was his retort.

The Casting Game No. 227

Glenn Close (in ‘Hillbilly Elegy’)

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Robin Williams (in ‘Mrs Doubtfire’)

 

 

Barbara Windsor

I interviewed the East End actress Barbara Windsor when I was writing about Joan Littlewood in 2013/14 during a sabbatical I took from Channel 4. This is a summary of the conversation:

Today I did an interview with Barbara Windsor who was one of the third generation of Joan Littlewood’s acting ensembles doing Fings Ain’t Wot They Used T’Be at the Theatre Royal Stratford East in 1959, before transferring to the West End, as well as Oh What a Lovely War on Broadway in 1965 (where Barbara was Tony-nominated). It was fascinating to hear how tricky Barbara found Joan’s loose, improvisational approach after a training in the West End where the script was the script and you did exactly what the director told you to do. But what emerged from the experience ultimately was the actress getting more in touch with her real self, after years of playing down her East End background. Joan really admired her work in EastEnders – and thought she was the only one with a decent Cockney accent. Barbara learnt from Joan during Fings at the Garrick when she was drifting into artifice and over-blown performance, too Judy Garland, not enough Bethnal Green, and carried that lesson forward for the rest of her career.

with Joan Littlewood in 1964

She told me a story about how she was first cast by Littlewood – something about getting mistaken for a cleaner in the theatre. I can’t quite recall it without digging out my notes.

I’ve just had a look online and found the anecdote. I got it the wrong way round – Barbara mistook Littlewood for a cleaner. Zoe Wanamaker seems to have played Littlewood in a 2017 BBC drama called Babs and she recounts that same story in her blog:

Despite mistaking Littlewood for a cleaner when arriving at a theatre in late 1950s London, the young Windsor dazzles the director with her raw talent. ‘Where have you been all my life?’ Littlewood wonders during the particularly memorable audition scene. Babs made clear that although Windsor didn’t always see eye to eye with her mentor, who favoured an unusual, experimental approach to rehearsing and staging plays, the director’s mixture of encouragement and tough love helped the starlet to shine.

with actor Murray Melvin (R) backing fundraising for the Joan Littlewood sculpture by Philip Jackson now in Theatre Square outside the Theatre Royal Stratford East

I met her in person one other time at Littlewood’s Theatre Royal Stratford East. She was in a foyer huddle with Gary Kemp (Spandau Ballet) at a performance of Fings Ain’t Wot They Used T’Be  (I think, certainly one of the classic Theatre Workshop plays) around the same time.

The work she did with Joan Littlewood was probably the highlight of her career. Not that’s there’s anything wrong with a little Carry On…

Barbara & Sid James

Looking down on Stars of Brighton by the gutter

“We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.”

― Oscar Wilde, ‘Lady Windermere’s Fan’

 

“…he happened to have a first-class ticket for Worthing in his pocket at the time. Worthing is a place in Sussex. It is a seaside resort.”

― Oscar Wilde, ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’

East of Worthing, east of Hove, at the eastern end of Brighton, just below Kemptown, sits Brighton Marina (site of ArkAngel Productions’ regional office). It was built from 1971 to 1978 and opened in 1979 with the age of Thatcherism. Rumour had it that it was some kind of scam to secure European (EEC) money.  In 1985 it was taken over by Brent Walker, nicknamed ‘Bent Walker’, a property and leisure business run by the former boxer and Soho gangster George Walker. Earlier in his career he was jailed for stealing nylon stockings in Victoria Docks, London.  

Among the shops Walker established in the Marina is a rather incongruous Walk of Fame, a set of stars built into the pavement Hollywood-style. I’ve walked over them often over the years, frequently asking myself the question what have they got to do with Brighton? Like Kevin Rowland of Dexy’s Midnight Runners – he’s a Brummy as far as I know (Wolverhampton?), of Irish descent (Co. Mayo) and he has lived in London a fair bit, but what’s Brighton got to do with him?

Young soul rebel in 1980 (front left)

Whilst tramping over them during the summer I decided to use the stars as the basis of an occasional series on Simple Pleasures Part 4, of which this is the introduction.

So Brighton Marina’s Walk of Fame is the first such one in the UK. It was the brainchild of David Courtney, a Brighton-born songwriter/music producer who had an internationally successful partnership with Leo Sayer in the 70s which brought him to L.A., spiritual home of Walks of Fame. That prompted him to bring the concept back to his home town and to the Marina his uncle, Henry Cohen, helped conceive and realise.

So the first star in this series, given the business of ArkAngel Productions, will be Ray Brooks.

Ray Brooks is the voice of Mr Benn, the sober suited businessman from Festive Road who made regular visits on the sly to a certain dressing up shop. There The Shopkeeper offered him outfits to try on and when he went into the changing room there his magical adventures began. From knight in armour to cowboy, he lived a more colourful, adventurous life for a brief while until the Shopkeeper fetched him back to the changing room. The character was conceived by David McKee originally for children’s books but became the star of a much-loved BBC animated series in 1971/72 (the year the Marina was born).

I worked with Ray Brooks only once – he did the voice-over for a film I directed for Barnardos about whistleblowing, ‘Sounding the Alarm‘. 

His Brighton connection is simple: he was born there just before the Second World War. His career as an actor started in ‘Coronation Street’ in the early 60s. A breakthrough came in 1965 when he joined Michael Crawford and Rita Tushingham in Richard Lester’s comedy ‘The Knack …and how to get it’ which won the Palme d’Or in Cannes that year. 

Interlude: Coincidence No. 266

That’s the second time ‘The Knack’ has come up in the last couple of days. Someone in my circle posted a picture of the LP sleeve of the soundtrack by John Barry because they’d dusted it off and were giving it a Lockdown2 listen.

The following year Ray appeared in the landmark ‘Cathy Come Home’. Throughout the 60s he got parts in cult classics from ‘The Avengers’ and ‘Danger Man’ through to ‘Dr Who’. 

He was the voice of the storyteller in ‘Jackanory’ throughout the 70s. At the turn of the millennium he starred in ‘Two Thousand Acres of Sky’ with Paul Kaye and did a spell in ‘Eastenders’ in the mid-noughties. 

He lives in London but still goes to Brighton to write. He clearly remains attached to the place as his final blog post (17th March 2019) ends with a reference to it as the place he’d go to get rid of his ego:

But what could I expect.? The old ego was popping up again. I’ll put it into a box and chuck [it] off the Brighton Pier I’m sure David Attenborough  wouldn’t complain ‘cos fish with egos wouldn’t eat plastic bags any more they’d be too full of themselves.

Jane Birkin (uncredited) & Ray Brooks in ‘The Knack …and How To Get It ‘ (1965)

Jane Birkin was married to John Barry, composer on ‘The Knack …and How To Get It ‘ before moving on to hook up with Serge Gainsbourg at the end of the decade. This is a CD cover my old friend Marcelino Truong drew and designed for Gainsbourg. Marcelino has stayed at ArkAngel South-East in Brighton Marina.

Gainsbourg ‎– Mon Légionnaire (1988) by Marcelino Truong

Hitchcock’s Leytonstone

On my East London wanderings today I ended up in Leytonstone where I’d been meaning to go on a Sunday morning Hitchcock guided walk for months but never made it and then Corona kicked in. As I was driving into the High Street where Hitch was born (at No. 517) I spotted a mural of him on a side street and that prompted a small Hitchcock pilgrimage.

I got my very first job in the industry by attending a talk about Hitchcock’s The Birds at uni given by playwright David Rudkin – I met his friend, producer Stephen Mellor, after the talk and managed to get a runner job out of him at his company AKA in Farringdon. Director Alastair Reid was also at the talk – he’d recently completed the debut episode of a new series called Inspector Morse.

The first place I found was the site of the police station where Hitchcock was locked in a cell for a few hours at the behest of his father, William. Here’s how Hitch told the story of this formative event to François Truffaut:

“I must have been about four or five years old when my father sent me to the Police Station with a note. The Chief of Police read it and locked me in a cell for five or ten minutes, saying, ‘This is what we do to naughty boys.’ … I haven’t the faintest idea why I was punished. As a matter of fact, my father used to call me his ‘little lamb without a spot,’ so I truly cannot imagine what I did …” 

The lifelong impact of the trauma was an unwavering suspicion and fear of the police and judicial authorities reflected in his movies.

site of the Harrow Road police station (616-618 High Road)

Here’s a model of what the cop shop looked like when Hitch was a lad, made by illustrator and model-maker Sebastian Harding

Next I went in search of Hitchcock’s birthplace above his father’s greengrocery and poultry shop W. Hitchcock at 517 High Street. In 1899 when Alfred was born it looked something like this

one of the Alfred Hitchcock mosaics at Leytonstone Station

It was demolished in the 60s and the site is now occupied by a petrol station. Let’s just call it short-sighted.

The plaque is on the wall just to the left of the skip
Presumably he hasn’t got an English Heritage Blue Plaque here because the twats knocked down the actual building

While he has no national plaque here one was put up in in 1999 on the centenary of his birth by English Heritage at 153 Cromwell Road, South Kensington, London, SW5 0TQ in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea near his adult home. (I suspect he would have preferred Leytonstone).

In the vicinity of his birthplace there were various nods to Leytonstone’s finest son. 

Birds embedded in the pavement (though they don’t look much like gulls – the 3rd one up looks like one of the notorious London parakeets)
More un-gull-like birds in a mural beside his birthplace
complete with ‘lead pipe’ fit for murder in the billiard room
pub on the High Street

When I got home from the outing I stumbled across Vertigo on Netflix and hit play. It brought back memories of my last Hitchcock pilgrimage which was in San Francisco in August 2015.

Where Madelaine (Kim Novak) jumps into San Francisco Bay in Vertigo
Vertigo: Madeleine jumps
Coit Tower – how Madeleine finds her way back to Scottie’s apartment
Paramount Studios in Hollywood – from the same 2015 Highway 1 revisited road trip

Vertigo trivia: The opening Paramount logo is in black and white while the rest of the film, including the closing Paramount logo, is in Technicolor.

The original press book (or “showmanship manual”) for the film
A long way from the greengrocery in Leytonstone
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Hitch’s cameo in Vertigo

(Apparently this is my 1000th post on Simple Pleasures part 4 – in August 2012 Vertigo was named the best film of all time in the BFI’s once-a-decade The 100 Greatest Films of All Time poll making it more than worthy to be the subject of this 1000th post)

The Casting Game No. 76

Monica Vitti actress Italian

Monica Vitti (L’Eclisse 1962)

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princess diana

Princess Diana

The Casting Game No. 58 – Messiah Complex

michelle monaghan eva messiah actress netflix

Michelle Monaghan (Eva in Netflix’s Messiah)

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michael jackson singer

Michael Jackson (singer of Earth Song)

michael jackson singer earth song the brits 1996

Earth Song at The Brits Awards 1996 where Jarvis Cocker of Pulp accused him of “pretending to be Jesus”

The Casting Game

vita virginia gemma arterton

Gemma Arterton (Vita & Virginia – Vita Sackville-West)

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Audrey Tautou (Amélie)

Audrey Tautou (Amélie)

Marilyn & Ulysses

marilyn monroe reading james joyce ulysses

Marilyn reading the best book ever written

In my last post I included this photo by Eve Arnold, shot in Long Island in 1955. If you’re wondering whether it was just a pose and whether blondes prefer Irish gentlemen as a source of reading matter, this letter from Eve Arnold contains the answer:

eve arnold_letter to Richard Brown about _marilyn monroe_ulysses

Eve Arnold to Richard Brown, 20th July 1993

The letter is a response to Richard Brown, Professor of Modern Literature at the University of Leeds, a Joyce specialist. Brown subsequently wrote an essay entitled Marilyn Monroe Reading Ulysses: Goddess or Postcultural Cyborg? Which is the kind of title that puts people off of academia. But his query to Arnold was an interesting one and I’m glad he asked.

Marilyn Monroe Reads Joyce’s Ulysses eve arnold

The Long Island playground shoot 1955

Marilyn was frequently photographed reading – which in my book is a big plus even when you are a blonde bombshell.

Marilyn Monroe Reads Arthur Miller's Enemy of the People

Close to home: Arthur Miller

Marilyn Monroe Reads walt whitman's leaves-of-grass

Turning over an old leaf: Walt Whitman

Quotation capturing the essence of the digital age

 

    “sometimes good things fall apart so better things can fall together”

marilyn monroe reading james joyce ulysses

Marilyn reading the best book ever written

This quotation is often attributed to Marilyn Monroe but that seems to be a typical web copycat quote error. Marilyn was pretty articulate and said plenty of interesting things but nobody seems to have a source for this. It derives from a longer quote:

    “I believe that everything happens for a reason. People change so that you can learn to let go, things go wrong so that you appreciate them when they’re right. You believe lies so that you eventually learn to trust no one but yourself and sometimes good things fall apart so better things can fall together.”

I like the last line because it captures how, when established institutions and practices fall apart due to the disintermediation made possible by the internet, new opportunities emerge in the gaps between the crumbling edifices.

marilyn-monroe actress

Marilyn thinking about Ulysses

 

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