The Casting Game

vita virginia gemma arterton

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

AS

Audrey Tautou (Amélie)

Audrey Tautou (Amélie)

20/20 Vision

Here’s a thought for 2020 and the new decade…

“The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and all science. [People] to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, [are] as good as dead: [their] eyes are closed.”

Albert Einstein

glasses-vision clear trees nature

What a fascinating face

Virginia Stephen (Woolf) in 1902 Photo: George Charles Beresford

Virginia Stephen (later Woolf) in 1902 photographed by George Charles Beresford

George_Charles_Beresford_-_Virginia_stephen Woolf_in_190

Best of 2019

 

joker joaquin phoenix actor movie stairs

The scene of the year

Film:

Joker

Mid90s

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Rolling Thunder Review

Booksmart

Last year: Vice, Cold War

 

Foreign-Language Film:

Parasite

Last year: The Square 

 

Documentary:

Rolling Thunder Review

Marianne & Leonard: Words of Love; Knock Down the House; Apollo 11

 

Male Lead:

Joaquin Phoenix (Joker)

Sunny Suljic (Mid 90s)

Paul Walter Hauser (Richard Jewell)

Taron Egerton as Reggie Dwight/Elton John in Rocketman; Leonardo DiCaprio as Rick Dalton in Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood; Michael B. Jordan (Just Mercy)

Last year: Rami Malek – Bohemian Rhapsody

 

Female Lead:

Elizabeth Debicki (Virginia, Vita & Virginia)

Beanie Feldstein (Molly, Booksmart)

Gemma Arterton (Vita, Vita & Virginia)

Last year: Joanna Kulig – Cold War

 

Male Support:

Robert De Niro as Murray Franklin in Joker

Al Pacino – The Irishman

Olan Prenatt as Fuckshit in Mid90s; Lucas Hedges as Ian in Mid90s; Stephen Merchant as Deertz in Jojo Rabbit; Brad Pitt as Cliff Booth in Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood; Na-Kel Smith as Ray in Mid90s

Last year: Terry Notary (The Square)

 

Female Support:

Kaitlyn Dever as Amy in Booksmart

Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Laura Rose in Motherless Brooklyn; Scarlett Johansson as Rosie in Jojo Rabbit

Last year: Amy Adams(Vice)

 

Director:

Todd Phillips (Joker)

Jonah Hill (Mid 90s)

Last year: Adam McKay (Vice)

 

Writer:

Todd Phillips & Scott Silver – Joker

Jonah Hill (Mid 90s)

Taika Waititi – Jo Jo Rabbit

Last year: Adam McKay (Vice)

 

Editing:

tbc

Last year: Vice

 

Cinematography:

Roger Deakins – 1917

Last year: Lukasz Zal (Cold War)

 

Film Music:

Rolling Thunder Review

Last year: Bohemian Rhapsody / Cold War

 

Single/Song:

Lately – Celeste

Last year: I Want You (Sam Reid & Claudia Jolly – The Girl from the North Country)

 

Album:

Ghosteen – Nick Cave

Kiwanuka – Michael Kiwanuka; Western Stars – Bruce Springsteen

Last year: The Girl from the North Country (London cast)

 

Gig:

Nick Mason’s Saucerful of Secrets (Roundhouse)

Kamasi Washington (Brixton Academy)

Patti Smith (Westminster Central Hall)

The Midnight Special – Abbey Road anniversary (Jazz Cafe)

Abdullah Ibrahim (Cadogan Hall)

Proms: Jonny Greenwood (Albert Hall)

Last year: David Byrne – Hammersmith Odeon

 

Play:

A Taste of Honey (Trafalgar Studios)

Last year: Girl from the North Country [2nd viewing]

 

Art Exhibition:

Van Gogh in Britain (Tate B)

Preraphaelite Sisters (NPG)

Tate St Ives

Last year: Picasso: 1932 (Tate Modern)

 

Book:

A Woman of No Importance – Sonia Purnell

The Order of the Day – Eric Vuillard

The Cut-out Girl – Bart Van Es

The Quiet American, To Have & Have Not, The Catcher in the Rye, The Drowning Pool

Last year: The Leithen Stories – John Buchan

 

TV:

After Life (Netflix)

The Boys (Amazon), The Crown – S3 (Amazon)

Last year: Mrs Wilson

 

Podcast:

13 Minutes to the Moon

The Tip-Off

Sport:

England beating the All-Blacks at the Rugby World Cup, Japan

 

Dance:

The Red Shoes (Sadlers Wells)

 

Event:

150th anniversary of Girton College (including event at Trinity, Dublin)

50th anniversary of Moon Landing/Apollo 11

Mythos: The Gods – Stephen Fry

 

Dearly departed:

  • Emily Hartridge (who I made Oh Shit I’m 30! with)
  • Judith Kerr (with whom I was on Woman’s Hour)
  • Leon Kossoff
  • D.A. Pennebaker
  • Clive James
  • Jonathan Miller (who I walk with in Aldeburgh while he was having a cheeky fag)
  • Albert Finney
  • Gordon Banks (his Esso medal hangs on my wall along with his 1970 World Cup team mates)
  • Peter Fonda
  • Ginger Baker
  • Doris Day
  • Dr John
  • Mark Hollis (who I have a vague memory of meeting briefly at Solus, my first job)
  • Agnès Varda
  • Mary Warnock (Mistress of Girton in my era)
  • Jeremy Hardy (he contributed to my Omagh project at Channel 4)
  • Terry O’Neill
dylan-doc-rolling thunder review scorsese

Performance of the year

 

Best of 2018 and links to earlier Bests Of

Coincidence No.s 309 & 310 – Bernstein

No. 309 Electric Chair

I am reading Sidney Bernstein’s biography (founder of the Granada cinema chain and Manchester-based Granada TV) by Caroline Moorehead. It mentions a trip he took to the USA in the 30s during which he visited an Alabama prison where the governor proudly showed off his electric chair – which, Bernstein noted, was yellow.

The same day I am watching the movie Just Mercy with Jamie Foxx and Michael B. Jordan as part of my BAFTA awards viewing (it’s released on 17th January in the UK – well worth seeing). In one of the scenes we see the electric chair in the Jamie Foxx character’s Alabama jail – (half a century on) it is bright yellow.

just mercy poster jamie foxx michael b jordan film movie

The poster is also yellow

 

No. 310 Duff Cooper

I am reading Sidney Bernstein’s biography by Caroline Moorehead. It talks about his efforts to join the Ministry of Information once WW2 was declared. He finally got into the organisation through Duff Cooper, Minister of Information from May 1940 under Churchill.

With the Bernstein biog on the go, I also started reading today Paris After the Liberation: 1944 – 1949 by Antony Beevor and Artemis Cooper. Duff Cooper it turns out was Artemis’s grandfather. She is married to Beevor. The intro mentions that some of Duff Cooper’s personal papers are used as sources for the book.

Paris After the Liberation: 1944 - 1949 by Antony Beevor and Artemis Cooper

 

Update to Dive into The Box

This update to my post of 22nd December concerns the Empire Studio(s).

The Photographers of Great Britain and Ireland 1840 to 1940 website kindly informed me that there were 2 studios called Empire Studio in Cardiff and Edinburgh, plus 5 in London, and about 10 in other parts of the country. The London ones were active 1909 – 1932.

The London ones were:

  1. 60 High Street, Stoke Newington, London N
  2. 491 New Cross Road, New Cross, London SE
  3. Empire Studios – 106 Shoreditch High Street, London E – 1922-27
  4. 133a High Street Deptford, London SE
  5. Empire Studios – 305 Kentish Town (Road?), London NW – 1931-?

My guess was Shoreditch, being closer to Dagenham, but the dates aren’t right for what is evidently a WW1 photograph.

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I’ve been to visit the Kentish Town site and the Shoreditch one over the last two days, taking advantage of the quiet time in the city between Christmas and New Year.

Here’s the Kentish Town site:

site of the Empire Studios photographic studios

305 Kentish Town Road

The Art deco flourish seems to match the 1931 opening

site of the Empire Studios photographic studios

And here’s the Shoreditch site:

site of the Empire Studios photographic studios

106 Shoreditch High Street (right)

Nothing left of the building but you can see from 107 what it may well have looked like. I like the fact it is now More Joy as JOY is a resonant word for me – my daily mantra is “I will enJOY my day”.

Talking of buildings no longer there, yesterday I also went to seek out 8 Praed Street as featured in yesterday’s post. My great-grandfather’s tobacconist is no more – it’s under the Hilton hotel.

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8 Praed Street, Paddington (right)

That’s the name of the game – some stuff survives, other is but a memory.

Dispatch from The Box

The daily thing is not quite working for me, so for this dispatch from The Box I’ve selected the next two documents (a telegram and a hand-written letter) and the next two photographs to make up a bit for the inactivity of the last three days.

49277840557_c24ae9f5d8_o me and dad

This one is 1963 or 1964. That’s me on the right, my dad on the left. It was taken at 2A Selvage Lane, Mill Hill, London NW7 (that was the full extent of the postcode back then), my childhood home. I remember those curtains from later but not the drawers. My dad’s haircut and glasses look pretty 60s to me, the vestiges of 50s quiff styles with regard to the hair, a predictive touch of the Ipcress File in those specs.

49277640021_21bf9e4273_o school assembly

The second photo looks like a school assembly. The Post Card / Correspondence / Address print on the back doesn’t give too many clues as to the vintage. My grandfather Ian would have been this age in the early 20s but this has more the 40s feel about it so it’s possible it is my mum’s school (except she was at an all-girls school for most of her school career) or my uncle John’s. The Chinese lanterns are an odd touch – was the hall decorated specially or was this not a school hall? It looks like they may be watching a performance, with which several are clearly engaging emotionally and almost all are giving their attention. Standing adults punctuate the scene, they have the teacher vibe. The crowd is mixed boys and girls, though with big blocks of boys together. Many seem in school uniform of some kind; lots of hats are being worn indoors, especially by the girls. I can only see one child in glasses (John Lennon-style – extreme right, half-way up). There are no non-white kids in sight.

49277840682_8b762e16be_k telegram ma

This is a telegram from my grandfather Ian (when he was still called Isadore in 1940 – he changed his name by deed poll on 14th October 1949 at a cost of ten shillings. His hit-rate on job applications immediately went up.) The off-the-shelf design of the celebratory telegram form is a bit more holiday than Watford. So this was sent from Watford where my mum was born (not sure why, I think they were still living in Dagenham – maybe the war-time demands on hospitals meant you had to travel further to give birth).

In March 1940 Hitler was planning the invasion of Norway and Denmark. Meat rationing had just started in Britain. A German air raid on Scapa Flow in the Orkney Islands resulted in the first British civilian casualties of the war. Within two months Dunkirk will be under way and by September the Blitz will be unleashed.

On 26th March 1940, the day after my mother’s birth, this telegram is sent home to my great-grandmother in Dagenham, 30 miles away to the east. Is 6.54 the time? morning? how did he pull that off?

The concision is almost poetic: GIRL BOTH FINE

Now 79 years on there’s some irony and poignancy in the message. The younger is far from fine. She’s only a couple of days out of another hospital – UCH in London which two of said great-grandmother’s forebears were involved in founding in 1834, one of whom served as its treasurer for 18 years. Both my sons were born at University College Hospital.

49277166588_dca995a50e_k letter rita

This address in Paddington where my grandmother Rita lived was above A & J Falk, a tobacconist owned by her father (Jacob Falk).  This letter is written a month before her marriage – see wedding menu at Murray’s in first Box post. So by 1938 postcodes in London had evolved from London W to the likes to London W.2 but not yet added the next 3 characters of the modern postcode.

Although it is addressed to My Dear Ma I think this is to her prospective mother-in-law, the same as the telegram above. Her mother-in-law-to-be was profoundly deaf and that I believe made her life really difficult, and her children’s – Isadore and Henry referred to in this letter. Rita was born in June 1916 so had just turned 22 when she wrote this.

The fact that she is fantasising about having her own dressing table aligns well with the Rita I knew – she always had pretty objects on her dressing table, plenty of silver on the art deco wooden (walnut?) piece of mirrored furniture. She always used the acronym P.G. Cheerio I don’t recall her saying.

It was thoughtful of her to remember Henry, Ian’s younger brother. He was a lovely bloke and had one of the most splendid deaths I know. He goes to White Hart Lane with his son to watch a Spurs match and they win. He goes home and tinkers a bit in his garden – his profession was as a gardener. He goes in to have a rest in the armchair in front of the fireplace. He falls asleep. Forever. Way to go…

 

 

Dive into The Box

Here are the first three photos from The Box

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The photos and documents in The Box seem to belong to both Ian Harris (my maternal grandfather) and Samuel ‘Choc’ Harris (his father). Ian was born in 1915. Choc in 1886. As a child, I did get to meet Choc and his wife, Marie. He died in 1977; Ian died in 2004.

Neither of the dapper young men in this photograph remind me facially of any family members. They are evidently on a camping trip, probably in England, given the tent is supplied by Smith & Co. They seem to be part of a club or team in light of the casual uniform they are sporting. I’m not sure when those huge collars, thin belts and high-waisted trousers were in vogue – I guess the interwar years. The shoes are similar to a rather eccentric pair of Adidas my younger son has just acquired online – that’s fashion for you, round and round.

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This one has a hand-written note in ink on the reverse.

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The 3rd Eleven football team. October 1930 – Ian would have been 15 so it could well be his team. U Coopers? There’s a school called The Coopers’ Company & Coborn School in St. Marys Lane, Upminster just 6 miles from where Ian grew up in Becontree or Dagenham, East London. However in 1930 it was still located at 86 Bow Road in the East End (Bow, London E3) which is 18 miles further into the city, due west. It’s possible Ian went to school there.

I’m pretty certain that is Ian front row, 2nd from right with his right foot almost touching the ball. The 1930s boots make a stark contrast with his great-grandson’s boots who plays for Fulham FC. The goalie’s polo-neck is also charmingly period. Choc must have trained Ian up although the 3rd Eleven status indicates football was not his passion – as an adult I only ever saw him swim to keep fit.

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This is a curious find. On the back my grandfather has written his name in pencil in what looks like his childhood script:

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So presumably he was given this around 1920 which makes sense, in the immediate aftermath of the Great War. Choc was 28 at the outbreak of the war – I’m not sure if he served. He was a cabinet maker and quite slight of build when I knew him in his old age. I guess somewhere among these 21 is a blood relative.

Why the two civilians at the heart of the military unit? Perhaps they were patrons or sponsors of some kind? Perhaps they headed an institution or school associated with the unit?

The man doesn’t look that much older than the soldiers. The pair of them have clearly dressed up for the occasion of a formal photograph session at Empire Studio(s).

There’s still an Empire Studio located between Hackney and Bethnal Green, East London, on the top floor of the Empire building. Both Empire Studio and Empire Studios are listed on this Photographers of Great Britain and Ireland (1840-1940) website.

Details that stand out include the cane or swagger stick (front, 2nd from L); the corporal with the darker complexion (front, 2nd from R); the uniform with the wide lapels and broad ties (front, far R); the jaunty angle a number of them wear their cap, something we tend to think of as American.

The Box

Last week I was given this box

box of telephone equipment

It seems to be from some kind of telephonic equipment, some sort of exchange

box of telephone equipment detail

Inside was a load of family photographs and a couple of old documents

pile of family photos photographs

My plan is to upload and explore two or three a day starting today. Here’s the first – a document from my grandparents:

wedding party menu murrays soho london

It’s the menu from their wedding party in 1938

wedding party menu murrays soho london 1938

Why it caught my eye was because of the venue, Murray’s in Beak Street, Soho – that’s where Christine Keeler and Mandy Rice-Davies, made notorious through the Profumo Affair in 1963, worked as dancers/good-time girls. Here’s Keeler in 1960

christine keeler 1960 murrays club

Murray’s had opened just five years before the wedding (under that particular name – the venue originates from 1913 and finally closed in 1975). The sign is still there, or at least it was a couple of years ago when I noticed it walking by.

Murrays Cabaret Club 16-18 Beak St soho london profumo affair

16-18 Beak Street, Soho

menu murrays club soho 1938

So this was the era of French menus (to posh things up) and 3-letter telephone exchanges (STE for Stepney). Consomme Palestine is an interesting item. All in all not a bad meal.

My last Profumo adventure is here

The second document to catch my eye was this one from 1943:

national registration identity card britain

It belonged to my great-grandfather, Samuel, who was known as Choc. This was because he was rewarded with chocolate for good performances on the football field as a boy – and it stuck.

national registration identity card britain 1943

I’ll have to take a trip to Lichfield Road, Dagenham sometime soon. I did a talk out that way for Robert Peston’s Speakers for Schools this time last year  and knew I was in my grandfather’s manor for the first time.

identity card 1943 britain

“You must produce it on demand by a Police Officer in uniform” – how very unBritish. I blame the Nazis.

I’m currently working on a feature documentary about the Nazis with journalist Martin Bright and director André Singer. The Nazis, they do quickly get you down – the dregs of humanity.

Tinkety tonk old fruit, and down with the Nazis

Sign-off used by the Queen Mother in a letter two years before this Identity Card (in February 1941) and later adopted by Kermode & Mayo on their movies podcast.

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

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