Sunday, 29 December 2019

The Dawson Watch

This was very nearly a post about Carry on Christmas, but I don't think anyone would read it at this stage. I may post it in August and see what happens. Actually I have been taking notes of some of the searches which bring people to this site, and some are hilarious. Let's just say that entitling the last post Designing Women has caused a significant spike in page views!
Instead a general post about this show which arrived the day before yesterday and is so good I have watched almost all of it already. It is somewhat late for me, having been originally broadcast in 1979-80, but surely I don't need to tell any readers of this blog that anything Les Dawson did is wonderful. The whole series is on region 2 dvd by Simply Media but if you need any persuasion to buy (or even get a multi region dvd player if you don't have one) you can see episode 1 gratis here.
What makes this show particularly suitable for the readers of this blog is that you shouldn't be deceived by the reviews online which describe this show as stand up comedy. There is a strong streak of the style of comedy for which Dawson is so famous, but in addition it parodies many of the TV shows of the time, including documentary, nature and so on. Hence the title, Dawson watching what is going on, in the style of many a TV programme of the time.
The only caution I would give is that much of the humour is as dated as Dawson's synthetic suits and some viewers may find some of his jokes offensive. This box set contains the whole two series of this show to a restored standard, without extras but with subtitles. Unusually for me, I am raving about the famous faces who constitute the guest list - normally of course I don't like familiar faces but in this setting it is wonderful to see great actors in unusual roles. There are a number of the wonderful Cissie and Ada sketches with Roy Barraclough.
I particularly love the bit where he introduces Ceefax as the latest thing.

Sunday, 22 December 2019

Designing Women (1948) Starring Joyce Grenfell

Last Christmas I made a post about Fanny Cradock and fortuitously this weekend I have bought the Central Office of Information volume 2: Design for Today and thus discovered this gem which provides an excuse for a post featuring Joyce Grenfell. I realise that I am being inconsistent but some people, like Fanny and Joyce  are so much themselves that I make an exception to my usual rule about familiar faces for them.

In my opinion it is worth buying the set for this sweet film alone, but you can also watch it on YouTube above or at the Internet Archive here. It is about a young couple moving into their first home without much idea of how to go about it, and the film is about the contrasting demands of design and art. Grenfell plays Miss Arty and Audrey Fildes plays Miss Design - the booklet describes them as ethereal beings - who just appear in the couple's house. Grenfell plays her artistic part wonderfully, and the arrangements she makes in the house are hilariously impractical. Of course the most incredible thing is that virtually nobody gets to select all things they want for their first or any other home, every kitchen I have ever seen has been marred by at least a few design blunders, and nobody gets to change things once decided. But then perhaps this short film embodies the post-War optimism that I am always banging on about here. Also ironic is that it is amongst the oldest things I have pontificated about and looks so old fashioned. Nonetheless it is a joy (ha).
Joyce must be familiar to regular readers here by her appearances in such films as the St Trinian's series and her monologues - the one featuring George is below. She had difficulty with theatrical people because of an uneasiness around 'queers', despite being friendly with Noel Coward. What drove Joy was her Christian Science faith, which does tend to seem strange to those who don't belong to it, and she didn't publicise this aspect of her life. Reggie her husband did not share this faith and prompted her to see a doctor about the cancer which killed her, although Wikipedia says she was never told she had cancer.

Sunday, 8 December 2019

Armchair Cinema: Regan

I have been watching some episodes of Armchair Theatre. I am finding it terribly worthy, rather stodgy, and frankly rather prefer the superficial soufflĂ© TV shows I normally watch  and don't want to have to feel like I should be in evening dress to watch TV. It appears I am not the only one and this page (which I really do recommend for good background to this show and also Special Branch) indicates that Euston Films were recruited to shake it up. Regan was the second episode of the revised show.
To be frank my first impression of this was not at all favourable, for a single reason. At this length of time, when the population and language of London have changed beyond recognition, it would be difficult or impossible to find someone who would think it natural to refer to the Flying Squad as the Sweeney Todd, but you could have done in the early seventies. But I myself went in pubs in the seventies and I find it difficult to believe that a pub would have been full of people singing 'My Old Man Said Follow the Band' to a piano accompaniment. It feels anachronistic in the forward-looking seventies, with everyone wearing synthetic fibre and going back to homes which should really have led to a prosecution for crimes against taste. Did you spot the orange wallpaper in the scene in which Regan first says the famous line, 'Get your trousers, you're nicked'?
Fortunately there are no further anachronisms and the episode goes on to lay the groundwork for the Sweeney, and do it in style. It is like being transported back to the seventies, and having all the more dodgy aspects of that decade laid out at once. The music is gorgeous. And the cars... What can I say about the cars? Apart from the fact that they are probably all now scrapped and was there ever a time when Fords were any good?
The post I reference above rightly places Regan in the contexts of police corruption and soaring crime of the time. In the face of these two things Regan presents a more philosophical answer, because it answers the problems with Regan, who is a total maverick. I feel no modern organisation could contain him, but it is his approach which enables him to deal with the situation.
A valid criticism is the patchy pacing, and of course a lot of people just wouldn't like this. Additionally there are a lot of familiar faces.
So if you don't like it... Shut it.