Thursday, 30 July 2015

News on Thursday – Followups and Memories



--- blog items inspired by recent news in the world


Nova Pilbeam RIP



Shilling for Candles Nova

I recently did a post on the Josephine Tey book A Shilling for Candles, and also watched the Hitchcock film Young and Innocent, loosely based on the book.

The film starred Nova Pilbeam, who has just died at the age of 95.

My blogpost back in April provoked a flurry of interest from readers astonished to find that she was living in North London at that date. As the wiki entry and the obituaries (such as this one in the Guardian) show, she had a lot of success in her early career, and came close to being a big star – she nearly got the lead parts in The Lady Vanishes (based on a book by Tuesday's author, Ethel Lina White) and Rebecca (from blog favourite Daphne Du Maurier). She was beautiful and compelling, and acted well, and plainly could have had a major career. But instead she made some light and now-forgotten British films, and retired from acting on her marriage in the 1950s.


 
Partners in Crime/The Secret Adversary


 
Secret Adversary Rita



A new TV version of some of Agatha Christie’s Tommy and Tuppence adventures has begun on the BBC. Partners in Crime (name of a short-story collection featuring T & T) seems to be the overall name of the venture, with Secret Adversary first of a number of different stories within the series. The Secret Adversary was the first book in which they appeared, and the new programme has bumped the pair of them right along the 20th century – into the post-WW2, Cold War era instead of the original date of 1922. Rich at Past Offences looks at the first episode here – like him, I enjoyed it and will keep watching.

I re-read The Secret Adversary recently after seeing a very clever and imaginative stage performance of it – a tiny cast playing multiple roles, with brilliant use of props and set-dressing.
 


Secret Adversary 2_thumb[3]


This is part of what I said about the book:
The book was Christie’s second, and introduced us to Tommy and Tuppence, her occasional sleuths. One of my good blogfriends calls this genre ‘the flapper adventures’, and that’s about right – Christie wrote several of them before concentrating on straight detective stories. They featured  annoyingly arch young people, being frightfully amusing, and hiding their strong principles and morals under an air of joking nonchalance.

This one starts – unusually for Christie - with a real-life event: the sinking of the Lusitania in 1915. It then departs from the real world totally, with a ridiculous plot based on the fact that ‘a Labour Government would be a grave disability for British trade’ and that the Bolshevists are poised for a takeover. Tommy & Tuppence must search for some missing documents, a missing woman, and the mysterious Mr Brown – the man behind the Bolshevists. None of this stands up for a moment, there is no logic to it at all, but the plot rattles along, and it’s moderately entertaining in a light-hearted way.

You can read the whole entry here, and the blog looked at N or M? (annoying title, wartime spying adventure with Tommy and Tuppence) in this entry.

The dress is meant for the mysterious Rita Vandermeyer, who wears indigo charmeuse. (Which sounds like the name of a rockstar's offspring, one who is embarking on a modelling and jewellery designing career.)
 


Bloomsbury


Also part of the BBC’s summer collection: Life in Squares, a dramatized version of the lives and loves of the Bloomsbury set.

The blog has featured Virginia Woolf several times, and wildly claims that Woolf herself would have liked the concept of Clothes in Books. In an entry on Orlando, we quote her saying this:
Vain trifles as they seem, clothes have, they say, more important offices than merely to keep us warm. They change our view of the world and the world’s view of us... There is much to support the view that it is clothes that wear us and not we them; we may make them take the mould of arm or breast, but they mould our hearts, our brains, our tongues to their liking.
And then she goes on with this very modern view:
In every human being a vacillation from one sex to the other takes place, and often it is only the clothes that keep the male or female likeness, while underneath the sex is the very opposite of what it is above.
 
orlando


We are also big fans of Lytton Strachey around here. And dancing on the edge were Vita Sackville-West and Violet Trefusis, on whom there were endless entries last year.


Clothes in Books feels completely in the thick of things, culturally speaking. 



















25 comments:

  1. ...as you should, Moira. Terrific round-up, for which thanks. I'll admit, I've not seen the new Partners in Crime, 'though you're not the first to say it's enjoyable. I'd like to see Life in Squares, too; it sounds good. Hopefully that one will be available where I live at some point.

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    1. TBH I don't think you'll like Partners in Crime - they've taken terrific lilberties and I know you are quite purist about your adaptations. I separate them off in my mind - it's not a true representation of Christie, not even close, but I can enjoy it in it's own right. But I totally respect the people who don't want to do that....

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  2. Can't remember who called the genre "My God! The swine have got Phyllis!".

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    1. Yes indeed, fine phrase. Phyllis was the Sapper/Bulldog Drummond other half wasn't she?

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  3. Oh, I'm so sorry to hear about Nova Pilbeam. A talented and very lovely actress who should have achieved more than she did.

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    1. Yes I agree total. It's hard not to sink into clichés, but she really did have that luminous quality and charisma that could have given her a big career.

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  4. Moira: I loved the picture at the end of the post. Could you advise who is in the photo?

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    1. Bill: I have a very bad habit of lifting pictures from earlier blog entries and not crediting them! On my original entry on Orlando I said: The picture is called Sybil Waller in a red and gold dress, is by George Washington Lambert, and can be found on Wikimedia Commons.
      It was very early days of the blog, and I do remember being thrilled to bits with it - like you, I thought it was very beautiful, and fitted exactly the entry. So thank you for liking it too!

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    2. SYBIL CHRISTINA WALLER DECEASED 1973 OF OREIL LODGE WOLLSTENCRAFT RD BOSCOMBE - FATHER PICKFORD WALLER - PORPERTY DEVELOPER AND BUILDER, ARCHITECT PATRON OF THE ARTS AND CRAFT MOVEMENT AND COLLECTOR AND ILLUSTRATOR OF RARE BOOKS AND ART PATRON OSMUND SPARE AND WHISTLER

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    3. Thank you for unexpected extra information!

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    4. "Osmund Spare" is in fact the artist/occultist Austin Osman Spare.

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    5. More information gratefully received...

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    6. Spare has a Wikipedia entry. Yonks ago there was a collection of his art published, Images and Oracles of Austin Osman Spare, which I commissioned from Spare's longtime chum Kenneth Grant. I liked some of the art, as I remember; the occultism was obviously self-delusional bunkum which I regard today as a lot more socially damaging than I did then (on the grounds that it's part of the general brainrot that's destroying our democracies -- see Trump, climate-change denial, etc.).

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    7. This gets more and more interesting. I love the idea that these gems are tucked away here on the comments, and that we can hope that someone looking for info might find them here one day...

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  5. I plan to give PARTNERS IN CRIME another whirl this weekend but on first attempt I just got annoyed and stopped watching - Raine is fine but they seem to have really made a mistake with Walliams -

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    1. I think you have to separate it off in your mind from Christie. I too found Walliams annoying, but am hoping for some character development....

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  6. Moira, it'll be a long while (or probably never) before the new television series on Tommy and Tuppence is telecast in India. We liked Suchet's POIROT and would love to see T&T. I don't think BBC releases DVDs of its TV dramas even after the series plays out. We have been looking for several early British dramas like FAWLTY TOWERS, ARE YOU BEING SERVED? and TO THE MANOR BORN but without luck, although YouTube has a few of them that we watch once in a while.

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    1. Oh that's unlucky Prashant - and you would think the BBC would have a fine big audience in India and it would be well worth their while. We can generally pick up DVDs of old series quite cheaply here - but you don't want to hear that!

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  7. Nova Pilbeam sounds interesting, a shame she did not do better in the films, assuming of course that she wanted to.

    I will probably try the new Tommy and Tuppence show sometime but no rush. I still need to watch most of the old Tommy and Tuppence series.

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    1. I watched the old one at the time, but can't remember much about it. Except that - as ever - they took the opportunity to have nice clothes for the female star.

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  8. Ooooh, I hope we get Life in Squares over here. The Bloomsbury memoir I want to read (hard to find though) is Juliette Huxley's Leaves of the Tulip Tree. She looks so glamorous in her photos - there are two very striking 'clothing' ones via the NPG: http://www.npg.org.uk/collections/search/portraitLarge/mw69238/ & http://www.npg.org.uk/collections/search/portrait/mw52050/ - and also had a bit of a thing with May Sarton. Interesting...

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    1. Fabulous! I had to immediately go and order a copy, should be arriving soon....

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  9. Stunning pictures, particularly the first one. I know nothing about her, and you have really piqued my interest. I will try to get hold of the book...

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  10. I missed the Tommy and Tuppence when it was on.....result!

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    1. Yes. I have mixed feelings about the TV show....

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