Tuesday 31 August 2010

"Here's Looking At You, Kid"

Ingrid Bergman was born in Sweden on 29th August 1915 and died in London on 30th August 1982. She had been a star of Swedish films before she achieved her first major Hollywood success in the remake (opposite Leslie Howard), of Intermezzo in 1939. Of course, she will forever be remembered mainly for Casablanca (1942) - apparently, a film which neither she nor Bogart rated at the time! Yet it is now one of the world's best-loved films. Fine performances followed in several films, including: For Whom The Bell Tolls (1943), Gaslight (1944) - Oscar for best actress; Notorious (1946); Joan of Arc (1948), shortly followed by a seven year absence from Hollywood, as a result of her running off with director Roberto Rossellini, for which she was heavily criticized. She returned to Hollywood and won her second Oscar for Anastasia (1956). She carried on making films up to the end, the last being A Woman Called Golda (1982), the year of her early death from cancer.

A Selection of Great Comedy Films

There are almost too many of these but the following are some of my undoubted favourites: first Jacques Tati's Monsieur Hulot's Holiday (1953) was one of John Le Mesurier's favourite films and is a splendid seaside mime about the hapless M. Hulot but it is so packed with fun that you just don't miss dialogue and the sound effects and the music are superb. Also from 1953 is the film Genevieve, about a vintage car race between two friends in the annual London to Brighton veteran and vintage car run: John Gregson, Dinah Sheridan, Kenneth More, a radiant Kay Kendall and Joyce Grenfell all turn in superb performances. The Titfield Thunderbolt (1953), starring Stanley Holloway and Sid James, as well as several real railway employees, is a touching little comedy about a community struggling to save its local railway and, when the fiendish local 'bus company sabotages their train, they wheel out an old engine from the museum and cobble together a makeshift train for the day of inspection...Brothers in Law (1957), stars Terry-Thomas and Ian Carmichael in a classic English comedy about a greenhorn (actually called a 'white wig') barrister and a manipulative crook. Our Man in Havana (1959) stars Alec Guinness, Ralph Richardson and Noel Coward and is a comedic take on the Graham Greene novel of the same name. Carlton-Browne of the FO (1959)is a similar caper, cast headed again by Terry-Thomas, about a British diplomat who gets into a fix. Make Mine Mink (1960) yet again stars Terry-Thomas, with Hattie Jacques and Athene Seyler and a great supporting cast (Irene Handl as Madame Spolinski is an absolute caution): it tells the tale of how a group of apparently respectable, middle-aged house-mates become fur thieves to raise money for charity. School for Scoundrels (1960) stars Alistair Simm, Ian Carmichael and Terry-Thomas in a story from Stephen Potter's One-Upmanship books, of how an underdog can become a winner. Yet another Terry-Thomas vehicle was Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines (1965) about skullduggery in an air race. That Riviera Touch (1966) is Morecambe and Wise at their very best as a pair of English traffic wardens caught up in a complicated criminal conspiracy in the South of France. Barefoot in The Park (1967) already has its own post in this site. Then there is The Italian Job 1969, Michael Caine, Noel Coward and a host of others (not to mention several Mini Coopers), in this famous caper.

I think that the picture for this post has to include Terry-Thomas, a master of English comedy. The still is from Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines and he is shown (at his diabolical best), with Eric Sykes.

Greatest Romantic Films

Last night TCM showed An Affair To Remember on the big screen on the Far Side, the 1957 remake of the 1939 classic Love Affair . Both were directed by Leo McCarey with the same screenplay. Leo McCarey was one of those Hollywood directors who knew how to play and please the audience. The 1939 version starred Charles Boyer and Irene Dunne and the 1957 version starred Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr. The remake has the advantage of the musical score and being in colour. Anyway, if you haven't seen them, I recommend them. The scene at the end of the Grant/Kerr version is one of Basil Fawltie's favourite film scenes and it is such a landmark film that it featured in the background to the more recent Sleepless in Seattle (Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan). Other great romantic films? - Included must be: Gone With The Wind (1939); Philadelphia Story (1940); Casablanca (1942); The Ghost and Mrs Muir (1947) [I once watched that with a female work colleague and, quite out of her usual, cool character, she just burst into a fit of unrestrained sobbing after the line, near the end: "And now you'll never be lonely again". This was one of those rare occasions when I have been relieved to have had a clean spare handkerchief up my sleeve, to give to a damsel in distress.].

Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr are in the above picture from the 1957 film (in which, incidentally, he has far better suits than that dog-garn suit in North By Northwest) that so many rave about.

Monday 30 August 2010

Jinnah in Indian Dress

Someone asked for a picture of Jinnah in Indian dress. This seems quite a good image and, taken with the one posted previously, shows that he was equally comfortable in western and eastern dress. The Jinnah cap (sometimes called a karakul cap) that he is wearing is normally worn by Muslim men who have undertaken the holy pilgimage to Mecca, known as Haj. However, these hats are also generally worn by many men around the world. The coat collar here is often, these days in the West, referred to as a 'Nehru', although it had long been an Asian fashion on the knee-length sherwani, before the mandarin collar was taken up for suit coats by fashion houses in the 1960s.

Thurgood Marshall

On 30th August 1967, Thurgood Marshall became the first African American to be made a Justice of the Supreme Court, a post that he retained until he retired twenty fours years later. He had graduated from Lincoln University in 1930 and then attended the Howard University Law School (graduating magna cum laude), before establishing a thriving private practice in his native Maryland; specializing in the rights of the individual. He appeared in the landmark case of Brown -v- Board of Education of Topeka in 1954, in which the US Supreme Court unanimously declared unconstitutional the 'separate but equal' policy of racial segregation although, in 1933, Marshall had already successfully pursued a case against Maryland University and forced it to admit a black student (it had refused to admit him to its Law School in 1930). President J F Kennedy gave him an appointment in 1961 and President Lyndon Johnson made him Solicitor-General in 1965.

He seems to have thoroughly applied the principle to be found in something that he once said: "Our whole constitutional heritage rebels at the thought of giving government the power to control men's minds."

The photograph is of the portrait by Simmie L Knox.

Sunday 29 August 2010

A Safe Pair of Hands

I just get the feeling that David and Sam Cam are safe hands and let's just hope that they can sort out the mess that decades of ill-conceived Thatcherite 'policies' (even under 'New' Labour), based on selfishness, have caused.

Alec Douglas Home

Alec Douglas Home (1903-1995) became Conservative Prime Minister by default. Harold Macmillan resigned, in the mistaken belief that he was gravely ill, and advised the Queen to appoint Home as a caretaker in October 1963. In fact, he felt that he needed to be a member of the House of Commons so he disclaimed his peerage under a statute that Tony Benn had introduced and fought and won a by-election and entered the House of Commons. But for some days, the UK had a Prime Minister who was not a member of either of the Houses of Parliament. He was also the first Prime Minister, since Lord Salisbury (1830-1903), to be chosen from the House of Lords - and the last. In fact, Cameron is the first patrician choice of the people since Home. The fact that a toff is back at the helm might presage a new age. Let's hope so.

Harold Wilson taunted him with the suggestion that, as the 14th Earl of Home, he was not a man of the people and Home famously replied that "Mr Wilson, when you come to think of it, is the 14th Mr Wilson". According to Lord Hailsham's diaries, Home was nearly kidnapped in April 1964 by a group of left wing students in Scotland who found him left alone at the house of friends. He joked with them that, if they did kidnap him, there was a risk that the Labour party would not win the next election. After plying them with beer and signing a £1 pledge for charity, instead of being kidnapped, his host and hostess returned and the kidnap attempt fizzled out. He narrowly lost the election in October 1964 to the 14th Mr Wilson, later observing that, in his year in office, his government had done absolutely nothing. The best quote from him is probably: "There are two problems in my life. The political ones are insouble and the economic ones are incomprehensible."

Douglas Home was probably the last Prime Minister to dress as formally as in the above picture, taken at Downing Street, which provides an example of what Julian Fellowes (mentioned in the post Past Imperfect), meant about the customs that were still being practised in the 1960s.

Saturday 28 August 2010


Quaid-i-Azam ('Great Leader') was Muhammad Ali Jinnah (1876-1948). He was the founding father of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan and is pictured above standing next to Jawaharlal Nehru, the Hindu leader. Although he was instrumental in the removal of the British from India, Jinnah had been educated in Britian and was one of the youngest students ever called to the English Bar. His sartorial tastes included English suits, co-respondent shoes and an eyeglass on a ribbon, all of which he carried off with panache. Of course, he was often seen in Indian dress as well and it was this catholicism of taste and inclusivity which evidenced a moral superiority.

Another Anniversary: Rudolph Valentino

Another anniversary, but this time mentioned late instead of in advance: 23rd August marked the anniversary of the death of silent film star Rudolph Valentino in 1926. His death is still commemorated at his tomb in Hollywood Forever Cemetery L.A. It is remarkable that his name lives on; although his death at 31 years has, no doubt, helped. Rather like Beau Brummell, he has become a legendary icon.

Sir Richard Grenville and The Revenge

August Bank Holiday in England always reminds me of the Battle of the Revenge, fought off the Azores on the night of 31st August to 1st September 1591. In the summer of 1591, sixteen British ships, under Lord Thomas Howard, were patrolling the North Atlantic looking for Spanish treasure ships, returning to Spain from South America. Second in command was Vice-Admiral Sir Richard Grenville, of an ancient Cornish family. His ship was The Revenge, which had been Drake's ship during the defence against the Spanish Armada. He had been, amongst other things, an M.P.and, in his youth, he had been pardoned for murder, resulting from a street fight. He had also been known to eat glass to steel his crew to bravery.

A Spanish fleet of fifty three ships was reported as approaching the British fleet off the Azores and Howard decided not to engage them and made out to sea. Grenville, who had sick men ashore, stayed back in The Revenge to pick them up and then made straight for the Spanish ships and engaged them for fifteen hours until dawn on 1st September, by when the ship was all but a wreck and most of the crew dead or injured. Grenville wanted to sink her but the surviving officers and crew persuaded him to surrender. The Revenge was, shortly after, broken up in a great storm and Grenville died of his wounds.

Alfred Lord Tennyson wrote a stirring poem called The Revenge: A Ballad of The Fleet http://www.bartelby.com/42/646.html, which English school children used to learn to recite.

The picture is from a contemporary portrait of Sir Richard Grenville.

Friday 27 August 2010

St Endellion

I see that the Prime Minister and his wife (seemingly known to the press as 'Sam Cam'), have decided to include the name 'Endellion' in their latest daughter's name as they were on holiday in St Endellion when she was recently born. Excellent choice and wonderful for the little Cornish village of St Endellion (above is the Church)!

Other Bond Actors

Someone just mentioned to me George Lazenby (in the film of OHMSS) and the recent incarnation through Daniel Craig in Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace.

First of all, I think it a pity that Fleming did not make OHMSS the very final book, to be the very final film but, with a different ending; one in which Bond and Tracy head off for an early retirement, splitting their time between Switzerland and Jamaica and racing each other from London to Cannes. But that might have been too simple. However, Lazenby, with little in the way of acting experience, did make a good job of the actual story, helped along by Diana Rigg. So far as Craig is concerned: his casting was not met with universal approval because, arguably, he does not really look the part. But Craig is a fine actor and he took the box office for a Bond film to a new high. Casino Royale was at least supported by an actual Fleming book, whereas Quantum of Solace was not and, to my mind, it shows. However, there are some weaknesses in Casino Royale: Vesper produces a 'tailor-made' dinner jacket for Bond that Bond knows nothing about and then Bond's incapacitating intake of vast quantities of alcohol and a lethal drug, a near-death experience, followed by a car chase, are hardly credible. Nevertheless, the last two films have been commercial successes and have attracted critical praise; so who am I to say that Craig is not my favourite Bond; even if he isn't. He is, though, the Bond of the age.

The still picture is of George Lazenby and Diana Rigg in OHMSS.

Thursday 26 August 2010

Past Imperfect

Past Imperfect is a novel centred on the top drawer social whirl that the sixties forgot, seen through the eyes of someone who seems to be like the author, Julian Fellowes. Fellowes describes himself, self-effacingly, as from the bottom end of the upper crust but he is an engaging novelist, as well as a prize-winning screenwriter (remember the film Gosford Park? That was his) and actor - Killwillie in Monarch of The Glen.

There are a couple of observations in Past Imperfect, which are especially illuminating: describing the social code, which was fast fading in his own youth, he describes: "The girls who wouldn't kiss on a first date, the boys who were not dressed without a tie, those mothers who only left the house in hat and gloves, those fathers wearing bowlers on their way to the city. These were all as much a part of the sixties as the side of it so constantly revived by television retrospectives. The difference being that they were customs on the way out, while the new, deconstructed culture was on the way in. It would, of course, prove to be the winner and, as with anything, it is the winner who writes history."

Mentioning the white tie revival after the Second World War, he says: "Of course, what Dior and so many others failed to understand was that white tie was not just a costume, it was a way of life that was already dead."

Published by Phoenix, it's a jolly good read. The picture shows Fellowes in an inadequate looking hat but he appears as pleased as Punch.

Sean Connery

Now just eighty years old, Sean Connery is pictured here as arguably the best screen James Bond, with Bernard Lee, as a convincing M, in a suitable office.

Dalton Bond

Timothy Dalton trained as a classical actor and was the first to bring an element of seriousness to the James Bond role. Although he appeared in only two The Living Daylights and Licence To Kill, for my money (and including Daniel Craig), he is second best to Sean Connery for the part. Moreover, here he shows that he can wear a hat.

Roger Moore

Roger Moore, pictured here at a book signing with his wife Kiki Tholstrup, found fame as Simon Templar in the 1960s' television series, The Saint, based on the books by Leslie Charteris and was then cast as James Bond for seven films, although he has always been (as all must be) somewhat in the shadow of Sean Connery in that role. Lately, Moore has been extremely active as a UNICEF ambassador and is currently spearheading a campaign to send aid to Pakistan. For this work he received a knighthood. He is another of the few modern celebrities who knows how to dress.

Wednesday 25 August 2010

Boxer Style

The boxer, Chris Eubank, always strikes me as a man who dresses as he chooses, with a touch of flamboyance, but generally keeping within certain traditional boundaries, and carries it off very well, rather after the manner of boxing stars of yore.

Mind you, plainly, anyone who mocked him might be in for a big surprise...

Tuesday 24 August 2010

Joseph Box & Co

The photograph shows part of the Joseph Box & Co Shoemakers' collection in the Powerhouse Museum, Sydney, Australia. This London firm was founded by a ladies' shoemaker, James Sly, in 1808 and they proceeded to acquire royal warrants and to win medals in international exhibitions. They were, eventually, taken over, in Conduit Street, by Gundry & Sons and they, in turn, were taken over by John Lobb after 1953. In a collection of records relating to Joseph Box & Co and artefacts collected by the firm (now in the Powerhouse Museum), are examples of ancient footwear from many different sources and examples of fine stitching by this firm's workers, at the amazing rate of twenty stitches to the centimetre.

Monday 23 August 2010

Of Tribal Feeling and Fish and Chips

I am sure that those of us who can confidently claim to be largely descended from the ancient British people and have less of the Viking, the Norman, the Anglo-Saxon about us, share a deeper tribal feeling than the rest of the modern British people. This is, probably, why Cornwall has (apart from a couple of risings for good cause and the piracy that I have mentioned before), been loyal to her kings and why Pendennis Castle was the last royalist stronghold to surrender in the Civil War. When I lived at Tresillian Bridge near Truro for a while, I often used to go to The Wheel Inn for something to eat with a fine pint of Bass. It was here that the Civil War peace was signed and there is a stone monument to that effect in a nearby meadow.

The landlord's wife used to go to the fish market on Friday mornings and buy fresh cod to make each Friday's fish and chips and mushy peas: delicious. I suppose that this abiding tradition of fish on Fridays (which is observed all over Britain, if you notice),is a Roman Catholic tradition that survived the Reformation of the Church.

Sunday 22 August 2010

What a Lovely Way To Spend An Evening

I can date this photograph exactly because we were in Singapore for only twenty three hours and so, according to the stamps in my old passport, it must have been the evening of 4th January 1999. It was a stop-off on 'round-the-world' tickets. We arrived, without telling my friend from University (far right in the picture) or his wife (next right) that we were arriving: just called him up and said "What are you doing this evening?" So they came and picked us up at the hotel and took us to dine at the Singapore Cricket Club. He gave me a pair of club cufflinks, as a souvenir: overall, a lovely way to spend an evening.

Right click to enlarge the picture.

Saturday 21 August 2010

A Royal Relic

Once, when I was invited to a dinner party, at the end, I asked the hostess exactly what curiosity was framed on one of the walls. She took it down and showed me: it was an enormous monogram in Gold thread on deep velvet: "GR" (it might also have said "IV", I forget) and, on the back of the frame, there was pasted a handwritten dedication to one of the courtiers responsible for arranging the Coronation of George IV. It was nothing less than the principal part of the back of the cape from George IV's Coronation robes.

The Old Crockies' Building

Just having been on the subject of Brigg, here is a phoograph of part of the original Crockford's Club House, at 50 St James's Street, bang next to the current site of Swaine Adeney Brigg. Owing to the fact that it was, for a time, used as the Jamaican High Commission, some of the windows actually have bullet-proof glass.

Gold-topped Brigg Malacca Cane

And finally (for the moment, anyway), here is a fine, simple gold-topped malacca cane, hallmarked and stamped by the maker 'Brigg London'.

Two More Canes

Above, are two more malacca canes; the first with a fancy gold top and the second one a 'life-preserver' (note the sprung quillions).

Collecting Canes and Sticks

A rustic walking stick, such as a stout blackthorn with a crooked horn handle is a great friend on a country walk and can be adapted to: knock fruit off trees overhanging roads; fend off unfriendly dogs; kill poisonous snakes and give a lift to get up steep slopes. However their suaver cousins, town canes and sticks, are seldom seen now; except, maybe, at a wedding or very formal event. However, because of the wide variety of materials and high levels of skill often involved in their manufacture, they make very collectable items. Here, from the bottom up, is a little selection, from the range of antiques available from www.antiquewalkingsticks.co.uk:
First, a carved ivory monkey head, cleverly inset into the briar stick; a malacca cane topped by a wood nymph carved in ivory; an ebony swordstick; a gold-topped snakewood stick and a horn-handled, silver-lapped partridge cane.

Friday 20 August 2010

The Mitre, Ely Place, Off Hatton Garden, London EC4

Here is a picture of the ancient and historic Mitre Tavern, in Ely Place, just off the lower East side of Hatton Garden. I shall say no more about this one here as there is quite a bit about it in Book II. But I will say that it is a delightful place on an early summer's evening.

John Speed's Map Of Cornwall

John Speed (1552-1629) was a tailor and eventually a Freeman of the City Guild of Merchant Tailors, later on devoting his time to historical studies and subject to a state stipend for the purpose. His famous map of Cornwall, reproduced as hand-coloured engravings, is especially prized; but mainly by Cornishmen!

Left clicking the image enlarges it slightly.

A Bell Called Noel

St Paul's Church in Charlestown, near St Austell, Cornwall was built and consecrated in 1851. Originally there were just two bells; one of these was in a wooden tower. The spire was missing for over a century but in 1972 a fibreglass spire was added and six bells were hung. Cast by John Taylor of Loughborough, they are called: Morwenna; Petroc; Piran; Michael; Paul, and Noel. Noel Coward's maternal aunt had lived in Charlestown and so, as a boy, he had been sent off there for his summer holidays (one of the earliest surviving pieces of his writing, a letter home, dates from these times) and, when he had become famous much later on, out of nostalgia, he revisited the place. Just before the bells were cast, he was asked whether he would contribute to the cost and so he paid for the one that is named after him. When he died in 1973, they tolled it out to sea for him.

Thursday 19 August 2010

Formality and Friendliness

I am not sure where I actually stand in establishing a balance between everyday formaility and friendliness; for example, between contemporaries, I can see a good deal to be said for the ready establishment of first name terms but I can certainly see where the balance is missed when someone who is maybe very old is suddenly addressed by his or her first name by a twenty year old nurse. I am sure that the motive is good but it sounds presumptuous, patronizing and inappropriate. I should never dream, even now, of addressing my parents' older friends direct by their first names and, certainly, never by their nicknames; although, on one occasion, when my father returned from seeing a friend when I was about eight years old, I said "So, how was 'Jacko' then?" and 'Jacko' then followed him through the door, smiling broadly and chuckling. But the humour was seeded in the incongruity and the fact that all knew that I should never have said this had I realized that 'Jacko' was within earshot. The same thing can be said in relation to tailors et al.. There was a cutter at Davies & Son, who retired in about 1999 and he was always 'Mr Matthews' to me and I was always 'sir' to him. I know that all this is falling away too and I can see good and bad consequences - friendliness between all people is a great boon but so can be keeping a certain distance in business relations. Out with the old observances also go the forms of ceremony, such as proper hat-doffing, as recently mentioned, and we are left lurching from one practicality to another as though we never had any use for custom and ceremony and the observance of occasion, or the recognition of age, accomplishment or station; as though every day were the same as every other and every man and woman the same as all the rest. That I see as a very great pity.

In the picture is William of Wykeham (1324-1404) whose motto was Manners Makyth Man.

Wednesday 18 August 2010

A Shop And A Pub

If you are looking for a nice little silver and jewellery shop, try the delightful A Woodhouse & Son, At The Sign Of The Silver Mousetrap (established 1690) in Carey Street, WC2 and, when you are done there, have a pint of bitter in The Seven Stars Inn (established 1602), a few doors along....but mind the stairs to the lavatory. Quaint is the word.

Left click images to enlarge.

George III Silver Snuff Box

Eminently collectable and, if you like snuff, usable too, is this sterling silver snuff box, from the reign of George III; the beginning of the heyday of snuff in England, later largely stamped out by Victorian fastidiousness.

Tuesday 17 August 2010

Wearing Softer Hats

If one is wearing a soft hat, whether a soft, felt or a panama, there are different ways of wearing them. The post of Charles Boyer on 15th August shows him in a high fedora style and there is only one way to wear this - as he does it with the front of the brim snapped down. However, the first picture here shows him wearing a smaller trilby style and he wears it, to some effect, with the brim up all round. On the other hand, Jack Buchanan, in the second picture (in a still from the film The Bandwagon), used to bring down the front brim on this style.

One other way to wear a low but broad-brimmed, soft hat is to bring the back of the brim down as I demonstrate, with my own panama hat, in the entry on 5th July 2010.

Yet another way (and this applies more to narrower-brimmed soft, felt and tweed hats), is to wear it with the whole brim turned down.

Modern Pirates

After one of the periods during which England had been at war with France, the King sent his messenger to various ports to advise that hostilities had ended. The King's messenger accordingly went to Fowey (which had sent more ships to the seige of Calais than had London), where the local privateers, called The Fowey Gallants cut his ear off for his trouble and continued their raids and they did not confine them to foreign ports either, for they were forever raiding the Cinque Ports of: Hastings, Hythe, Dover, Sandwich, Rye and Winchelsea (formerly New Romney). Eventually, the leaders of the rebels were hanged and the name The Fowey Gallants lives on in a lively yacht club in the harbour. At least these pirates had some daring and style about them.

Modern pirates seem to comprise: incompetent bankers, greedy real estate agents, rather mucky stock and currency dealers (such as Gordon Gecko) and the owners of the rapacious land developers who are uglifying so much of England in general, and Cornwall in particular, at this very moment: Ampersand with its abortion (actually truly aborted) half-built development scarring Crinnis Beach, and Wainhomes (with their gutless policy of employing only sub-contractors) to throw up their shoddy matchbox developments, at will, here, there and everywhere, without hindrance from local planners.

No, give me the old-time pirates, anyday.

In the picture is Sir Henry Morgan (1635-1688), pirate and sometime Governor of Jamaica: Aar, Aar Aar!!

Hat Etiquette

A couple of days ago, Sky showed, on my Big Screen (on the Far Side) a 1995 film of Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility, which, the makers and actors seem, in an important respect, to have forgotten was written in 1811. I did not watch it all as such, it was just 'on' in the background but I did watch a couple of scenes. I was impressed by the very suitable settings and the costumes looked spot on but then there came a scene outside in which a hatted male character was introduced to a female character in the midst of a spectating assembly. The dialogue (screenplay by Emma Thompson) seemed fine, the acting itself was at least workmanlike but there was something terribly wrong. During the direct introducton, the male character did not even touch his hat. It was as though the actor were in his everday situation of hatlessness because, without a hat, you need no hat etiquette. But the Georgians and the Victorians and all the way down to the mid Neo-Elizabethans were absolute sticklers over such basic manners and knowledge of hat etiquette transcended class and age and everything. Anyway, for me, this gaping lapse (uncorrected by the director Ang Lee), made the whole film completely unconvincing and I turned the channel over to National Geographic. Book I (History of Men's Fashion)has a very adequate passage on hat etiquette.

In the first picture is Lord Cowper (1738-1789); in the second is WSC and in the third is former US President Herbert Hoover in 1946. They all knew very well how to doff their hats.

Monday 16 August 2010

Real Pictures

Many modern commentators on men's dress feel compelled to hark back to the cartoon illustrations of pre-1950 Esquire magazine and Apparel Arts to demonstrate their points. These illustrations were often fashion-house led phantasies and better sources for what real people were wearing in the age in which the modern classics were settled (before the Second World War diverted everyone's attention to simple survival), are the Spy cartoons of the old Vanity Fair, newspaper and magazine photographs and film stills, as in the above still, from the 1937 film, The Prisoner of Zenda, starring Ronald Colman and Madeleine Carroll.

I jest.

But I jest slightly.

The Greatest Half-Briton And Two Wonderful Photographs

Dispute might rage over whether Nelson, Wellington or Churchill is the greatest Briton. I can see the force of the arguments for each of them: Nelson's smashing blow at Trafalgar; Wellington (and his allies) finishing Napoleon off at Waterloo; Churchill steeling a bombarded nation against amazing odds. But Churchill was half American and it is (at least partly), because of that fact, that he got through to the American people and induced them to turn the tide of opinion in favour of the New World coming to the rescue of the Old, at a crucial moment. That, and two wonderful photographs, which should stand in any gallery of the World's most influential art. The first is of St Paul's Cathedral, inviolate in a swirl of smoke (taken by Herbert Mason, on the roof of the former Daily Mail building in Fleet Street, on the night of 29th December 1940; front page picture, in The Daily Mail, on New Year's Eve 1940); the second is of three year old Eileen Dunne, blitzed, bandaged and stoical, with her teddy bear, in a hospital in the North of England in 1940 (by Cecil Beaton).

A Room With A View - For Your Eyes Only

Noel Coward discovered Jamaica as a result of a trip in 1944 and Ian Fleming discovered it on a Naval mission at about the same time. Fleming was the first to commit to building there and returned after the war, bought land off Blanche Blackwell on Oracabessa Bay (Orcabessa means 'Golden Head') and built a simple Spartan house, which he called after a Naval operation; Goldeneye. It was here that he created James Bond, taking the name of his spy from the author of the reference book Birds of The Caribbean. For the rest of his life, he left England in the first week of January and spent until the first week in March, each year, at Goldeneye, turning out the Bond novels. In 1948 Noel Coward rented Goldeneye from Fleming and set about finding his own land on which to build. At first he bought land on the seafront at Ocho Rios and built a villa which he called Blue Harbour. Shortly after this, he also found land high up, over Port Maria, called Lookout, which had belonged to the pirate and sometime Governor of Jamaica, Sir Henry Morgan (there is in fact still a little building in the grounds there dating from Morgan's time). He named this house Firefly because of the abundance of these creatures there.

Goldeneye (first picture) is now open as a private resort; Blue Harbour (second picture) is an hotel and Firefly (third picture, showing where Noel Coward is buried) is a Museum to his memory. All are worth a visit, if you happen to find yourself in that part of the world.