January 02, 2015

Staff Announcement

Anthony Blanche (played to perfection by Nickolas Grace) from Brideshead Revisited.
Colin over at The Red Lion always has 4 Brandy Alexanders
at the ready for the Den's Senior Artistic Advisor.

The Den is delighted to announce we have recently added Mr. Anthony Blanche to our illustrious roster. What?! You've never heard of Anthony Blanche?!?! Shame on you, my dear!  He is none other than that flamboyant aesthete from Evelyn Waugh's brilliant Brideshead Revisited who GSL only recently visited (the novel) for the first time. I have listened to Jeremy Irons' brilliant narration of the unabridged Brideshead twice through on audiobook and recently watched the 1981 production with Irons as Charles Ryder now available for free on youtube...all 11 hours!

Jeremy Irons as Charles Ryder in Brideshead Revisited from 1981.
Anthony Andrews as Lord Sebastian Flyte with Aloysius

The 1981 Granada production (not done by rival  BBC as often assumed even though Castle Howard owned by then head of BBC allowed them use and advised) is as scrupulously faithful a literary adaptation as I've ever seen. After hearing Irons do the audiobook, I was a little miffed that John Mortimer (Emily Mortimer's father btw) was given a writing credit as they really only condensed it with every scene not even slightly altered from what I could see. I read where Mortimer only got that writing credit due to prior contractual obligation.

'Bubbles by Sir John Everett Millais


Spoiler Alert! disregard next paragraph if you aren't familiar with Brideshead as I'd hate to deprive you of taking in this literary masterpiece and perfect screen adaptation without prejudice.

Anthony Blanche is the most interesting character for me and I am certain he was speaking for Waugh in many of those scenes. Blanche's assertion that the English have a "keen zest to be well bred" and his devastating assessment of Ryder's paintings, and life, as nothing more than "simple, creamy, English charm" and how that 'charm' really only exists in the British Isles along with how 'charm' "kills love and Art". The scenes at the gallery and then in the Blue Grotto were sublime.

GSL &'Sam-Sam' circa 1968
Memory a little hazy but I don't think this was at Oxford.
As noted below in comments, Sam-Sam follows in a long line of cuddly literati
starting with John Betjeman's Archibald Ormsby-Gore, Lord Sebastian Flyte's Aloysius
and now the Hattatt's Edward & Teddy the Beguiling Bears of Budapest
Ladies, watch how retro GSL vanguards a high-waist revival.


I also love Waugh's novel Scoop and consider it (as do many others) a comic masterpiece. I'll be working my way though the Waugh canon in 2015.

This is what "simple, creamy, English charm" looks like. Notice how this milquetoast
candy ass arranged those lucious locks just so...isn't that cute! Hugh Grant is our official
Den Whipping Boy. I wish him no harm but the prospect of slapping him around
in the alley behind the The Red Lion has great appeal.
All pics from Pinterest

Please share with the Den your feelings regarding Brideshead, Evelyn Waugh, or cite a public figure you wouldn't mind giving a smack.


46 comments:

  1. Love. Everything about brideshead. I have watched it so many times and if it's on tv I watch that even in mid episode. I love every character. I wonder what's happened to everyone and what their children might be like. I would love a part two. But of course it would fail unless it was written by the original. A lot of people say it's about class but the English are so polite that excess is the only way to bring out their character whether posh or poor. Middle England is defined by it's lack of outwardly attributes so I feel this was about England as a whole and the war rather than this family plus Charles. Ps Hugh is a funny one now with his surrogacy arrangements no? But he shows if you want to avoid the press then you can.

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    1. Every character in the Granada production was so perfect. Even those tiny little parts such as the red headed man on the boat watching the ice sculpture melt was just as I imagined him listening to the audiobook. I haven't really thought through those larger questions regarding England and the class system but his takedown of how 'charm' kills Art and love was certainly aimed at his peers in the Arts.

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    2. As you're such a fan of "Brideshead" you might be interested in reading "Mad World: Evelyn Waugh and the secrets of Brideshead" about the real family that Waugh drew on, the Lygons of Madresfield. Eccentric, glamorous and fascinating. The account is quite illuminating. In addition have always felt Waugh was also rather in love with the Mitfords too, at least with some of them. When young he was attracted by the beautiful Diana (eg he was invited to a fancy dress party where guests had to come as the person they'd most like to xxxx, so he came dressed as Diana - but she came as Paul Robeson, as did Cecil Beaton!) though he also great friends with Nancy. There's an interesting volume of the letters exchanged.
      Quite a few of his books were v influenced by what had been happening in his life around the time, eg some of the bitterness and blackness in "A Handful of Dust" and his cutting and quite cruel depiction of the women probably stems from his unhappiness and disillusionment when his first wife "She-Evelyn" (he was known amongst their friends then as "He-Evelyn") ditched him for someone he felt was completely unworthy.
      He was really quite an extraordinary man and had some extraordinary friends. When in Yugoslavia during WWII he was holed up on a special military mission with Randolph Churchill and Lord Birkenhead. Evelyn enjoyed pretending he thought Tito was a woman and always referred to him as her - if they had problems with him Waugh always said it must be the wrong time of the month. This eventually leaked out to Tito. Randolph almost drove them both mad as he was hypermanic and wouldn't stop talking. So they challenged him to read the Bible from beginning to end to keep him quiet. This eventually backfired on them. Spectacularly original decision to match up these three for a mission together. An extraordinary man and a great comedic writer. Pammie

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    3. Fascinating stuff Pammie! I knew of EW's connection to the Mitfords and had heard that amusing Paul Robeson anecdote and will definitely someday read 'Mad World' as nourishment after I've picked the EW canon clean like I did for Sherlock Holmes and started reading all those delicious arcana books that expanded on minutiae and speculated on those case Watson so humorously mentions in passing.
      EW's WWII years are of great interest. Thanks Pammie!!!

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    4. You're going to have a wonderful time indulging in a Waugh feast! When you get to reading books about him, his friends and times, you might also enjoy "Evelyn Waugh and his World" edited by David Pryce-Jones, a collection of accounts of him by his friends and others, most of whom knew him well. For your interest in his WWII years, it includes a contribution from the Earl of Birkenhead about their time together, along with Randolph, in Yugoslavia, and references to Waugh on War. Not sure if it's still in print though. My copy is Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1973.

      Wondering how you enjoyed the latest Sherlock TV offerings - the ones with Cumberbatch in the role? C was quite brilliant in "The Imitation Game" - as I think I've already mentioned in another comment. Pammie

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    5. I will definitely follow your EW guidance for background material, I liked the Jeremy Brett Holmes series from the mid '80s better than the installments from early '90s when Brett had thickened up a bit and at Bebe's urging reluctantly watched the Cumberbatch series. For what it was, it was very well done and he was superb but with me 221b Baker Street is sacred ground and artistic license should be revoked and strict adherence to ACD's text should be imposed.

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  2. Happy New Year, GSL!
    I adore Brideshead Revisited! A good friend gave me the entire series a couple of years ago so I can watch it over and over again. I first watched it when it came out as a schoolgirl in the UK and I was obsessed with all those beautiful boys!
    Evelyn Waugh is a wonderful writer, I love his humour and (not so) subtle digs at the aristocracy.
    Decline and Fall is wonderful, and have you read the Sword of Honour trilogy?

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    1. Happy New Year Ruth! I've only read Brideshead and Scoop but have Decline and Fall next up and want to work through several of his major works this year.

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  3. Ahh Brideshead. Now THAT was a miniseries-no slight to Mr Fellowes intended. Absolutely love it. And I, too, turned to this delicious epic in my downtime over the holidays-what a coincidence! My book is packed away otherwise I would be losing myself in its pages as we speak

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    1. My dear Bebe,
      I can't even bring myself to utter the word 'miniseries' with this masterful literary adaptation as it would then place it in a 'category' of which nothing else I've ever seen seems qualified to share.

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    2. how very true. They just don't make them like this anymore. Here on your blog (wouldn't say this in front of the offspring) I can say that the only thing I like about Downton Abbey is that my girls love it and we watch it together. I love Julien Fellowes but the writing makes me cringe. Acting/costumes/scenes beautiful though.

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    3. I thought DA was well done but I've only seen Season 1; Julian Fellowes is an excellent writer and highly recommend his 'Past Imperfect' and the very unwisely titled 'Snobs' which the Queen B included in a care package she sent me in Iraq which I had to rip the cover off of as if it were child porn as I was fighting off a perception as something of a 'grandee'. I'm certain that title prevented it being taken seriously, biased critical reception in this country, and depressed sales.

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  4. Darling G,

    We are delighted that you have discovered Evelyn Waugh and, indeed, Brideshead Revisited is certainly a major work. If you are not familiar with his other novels, then we should certainly recommend them to you most highly for he, so much more than anyone else, captures so exactly the English Upper Classes of the 1920s and 1930s.

    The 1981 television series was a triumph. The deliciously decadent and fatally flawed Sebastian Flyte, complete with teddy bear, has always held a special place in our hearts. Anthony Andrews played the character fabulously. And, although there have been other attempts to bring the novel to the screen, they are pale imitations of the 1981 Granada Television production.......seen when for a brief period when we did own a television!

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    1. Darlings J & L,
      Your Edward & Teddy very appropriately follow in a great tradition that Waugh celebrated with his 'honoring' "Archibald Ormsby-Gore" the devoted teddy-bear of Waugh's classmate and future Poet Laureate John Betjeman which of course I know you're well aware but mention it as a little tidbit to reward the attentive loyal Den readers across 6 continents...and counting.

      I inhaled 'Scoop' the first time nearly at 1 sitting and will continue my readings of the Waugh canon in the coming year.

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    2. Darlings J & L,
      Have another look as Edward & Teddy now have a well-deserved mention in the post.

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  5. Love Brideshead so much. I saw it back in the 80's as a child, and have watched it in its entirety probably every 10 years since. Love Waugh's other books too, you're in for a good year if you're getting to read them all for the first time GSL! I remember reading "The Loved One" when I was around 14 years old and laughing a lot, and "Vile Bodies"….might pull them out of the bookshelf and have a reread.

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    1. Heidi,
      If you saw BHR when it first came out then it must have been from the crib. I grew up in North Carolina and don't remember hearing about it at all although I wasn't keen on PBS (our BBC) back then; those Bible thumpers might have blocked it or at least have put up a big fuss.
      I don't know why I am so late getting to Waugh but glad to have finally arrived.

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    2. Glad you think I'm such a spring Chicken! I seem to remember I was around 8? My mother, who was an avid reader and loved the classics would have thought it entirely appropriate for us to watch. I have to say that some of the subtler homeo-erotic nuances would have gone a little over my head at that age though!

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  6. I remember my mother watching this when I was a girl and having a teddy bear named Aloysius. I've watched it as an adult and it's superior to the film version, which was very boring. I was a big Waugh fan in college but have only revisited the tv series. Anthony Blanche was terrific.

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    1. Jen,
      We're glad you feel AB is a good addition and we're delighted to have him on board. Waugh is a brilliant writer!

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  7. Mr. Hex gave me a Waugh bio for Xmas. He and I have watched the Granada version a couple of times.

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    1. Mr Hex sounds like a fine fellow. I think the PC Gestapo give EW too tough a time.

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  8. Bravo GSL, for making this most wonderful discovery and addition to the Den's staff. I simply adore Nickolas Grace's portrayal of Anthony Blanche, played so sublimely and perfectly that I cannot imagine anyone else would have ever been considered for the role. Every word uttered with such passion, every flamboyant move, every doe eyed glance, all so utterly heavenly.

    I think it is time to crack open my DVD copy and rewatch one of television's masterpieces, which as you've discovered for yourself, follows the book like a shadow.

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    1. So well said Dearest CD and just reading this makes me want to dash out, leap into a taxi, and shout "take me to Anthony Blanche's utterly heavenly doe eyed glances"!!!

      **my dear CD, I have added a little something to the body of my post I had forgotten in all the excitement so please take another peek when you get a moment.

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    2. And what an utterly charming "little something" indeed. How could you have forgotten THAT? Every little person deserves a special teddy friend, and every teddy deserved a special little person. My own teddy is safely at home with my parents and I hope your is still in your company.

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    3. Oh no my dear CD, as I noted rather morbidly over at the Hattatts salon one day. Sam-Sam met his demise at the paws of my very jealous beagle pup 'General' who tore him limb from limb. We gave him a good Christian burial with full honors and a very contrite General howled 'Taps'...

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  9. You know I love me some Waugh, right? He left an outstanding body of work that sometimes was overshadowed by his offensive persona. Having said that, I don't know what to make of the fact that I consider his finest work to be actually his first one, Decline and Fall. Good to know you are enjoying his work and I look forward to discussing with you the chain of events set off by the "great crested grebe feather footed though the plashy fen" in Scoop.

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  10. Scoop was wickedly funny I do a lot of audiobooks which can be burdensome on first go-rounds with intricate plots, numerous characters, and in dialect not immediately familiar as I got lost a bit in Middlemarch but listening to Brideshead brilliantly narrated by Jeremy Irons and Scoop narrated by Simon Cadell who have such a deep intimacy with Waugh and virtuosos of voice take those masterpeices into an even higher realm. I like writers who primarily write for the ear which Waugh clearly does and George Eliot less so I think...brilliant as she is.

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    1. ...and Marie I should have mentioned that I'll be reading Decline and Fall next and am very interested in hearing your recommendations for my Waugh excursions.

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    2. Since you seem to abhor Hugh Grant and his ilk, definitely read Vile Bodies, a satiric look at the phony lives of Pretty Young Things (though Hugh may be past his sell-by date as a PYT).

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    3. Marie,
      I am not familiar with Vile Bodies other than seeing 'Bright Young Things' ages ago and I actually like and respect characters such as A. Blanche, C. Ryder, and S. Flyte as in AB's case he actually stands for something and Ryder and Flyte are at least looking. The public persona of Hugh Grant I'm familiar with only at a distance doesn't seem to stand for anything nor does he appear to be looking and diminishes everything he touches.

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  11. Get 'Vile Bodies' and 'A handful of dust' under you belt and report back...Keep up the good work. We'll have you on Chaucer and Rabalais in no time!

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    1. Will do Curator...I'm late for everything!

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    2. Are you on Instagram yet GSL? You're missing out on all the fun!

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    3. I hate hearing that! I'm signed up but can't figure out how to launch off my profile page...hearing those giggles echo in the distance may help me focus.

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  12. Funny how one person in a famous series becomes even more famous and the other fades away. The main character, Anthony Andrews, I've not heard or seen of him in years. As for the teddy bear???

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    1. AA was superb and well cast as Flyte but that role is best played by someone without a magnetic presence portending superstardom and AA did perfectly capture what A. Blanche described as that light airy bubble (from the Millais painting above) that pops into nothingness.

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    2. Gosh what a great phrase...must try and work that into my conversation today.

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    3. Jody, my instincts (and your charming telly appearance) tell me your magnetic presence trumps any phrase...esp. with those summer frocks you featured and that blue dress/updo smoking hot number....and now you've even got some Camino swagger to walk your talk...and an absolute Den full of smitten admirers over this way.

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  13. Well, Hey There Mr. Mossy! It's been quite a Christmas Season, and I'm trying to catch up before my usual January hibernation. Just the mention of BHR is to conjure rapt evenings of the early eighties, a friend and I ensconced cross-legged on my twin bed, with the tiny black-and-white TV the only one in the house whose rabbit-ears (rather more a set of six-points any deer hunter would love) would pick up anything other than Channels 3, 5, and 13 out of Memphis---CBS, ABC and NBC. We'd have to close the door to drown out Perry Mason or some such from the big TV in the den, where the kids and who-all of their friends had dropped in, and the scent of popcorn or Tacos-in-the-making provided an incongruously common note to the black and gray elegance flitting before us.
    She'd come over maybe thirty minutes early, and we'd get our big glasses of tea, swipe the "Herman" off Caro's bed for her, and line it and mine up against the wall for proper propping, and go simply mesmerized at the wonderful of it. How we'd have lingered for hours, re-winding and discussing and clearing up "What did he say, again?" had we had all the convenient show-stoppers of today.

    Blanche was, of course, our favourite character, and it seemed SUCH a waste of screen time when he wasn't on it. I later seemed to sort of "find" him again in the delightful Berkeley of OUT OF AFRICA---something just reminded me so much of his paradoxical hesitance AND tendency to blurt outrageous things.

    That marvelous young blondie with the sturdy stance and here-I-am grin is amazingly familiar---I will be going back to an album we got out last week when DS from Mississippi was here---there's a little doppelganger in there with the same neatly-tugged pants and Mama-combed hair, though the toy was most probably a tractor for that little country-raised farm boy.

    Looking forward to a thorough read of this and the EP post. I've missed your wit and wisdom. Stay warm and well.

    r

    PS doncha think the photographer shouldn't have looked away just at the MINUTE HG flung those saucy locks back like Rita Hayworth?

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    1. PS Absolutely stunning and clickety-clack clever comment on LT just now---perfect.

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    2. Your beautifully evocative prose had me in the room with you and friend as a faint "No further questions Your Honor..." echoes down the hall from the 25" Zenith. I can smell the enticing Jiffy Pop garnished by the yellow dressed girl under the umbrella and squeeze bottle margarine.
      Those lush auburn locks flipped so sensuously by Rita Hayworth occupy a special room in GSL's House of the Holy.

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  14. Oh what a hilarious post. I just love it. I'd be happy to give Hugh (circa Bridget Jones when he was a complete bastard) a smack, but only if he's been a bit naughty and really really wants it. Hee hee hee. Oh I do love a cute whipping boy, hooray that you've added one here in the Den (of Lust?). Ha. I read BR a long time ago and survived it but it was not my favorite novel. Maybe if I see the movie and then re-read the book I will have a greater appreciation for it? XO, Jill

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    1. Hi Jill,
      BR is one of those books you must be receptive to being swept away and into that world which I often am but understand how it can be be a difficult read if it were an academic assignment with deadline eminent or some other hindrance held our imagination hostage. Also, it's not everyone's cup of tea.

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  15. Thanks for the youtube tip GSL. I had to check our Kalaidiscape system, as I have so many British series on it. BHR is one I don't have; and have never read. I do vaguely recall watching some of it on television. My mum watched all the PBS series broadcasts, and bought many DVD's which I now have loaded into our system.
    I do have all episodes of the original Upstairs, Downstairs, The Forsyte Saga, Jeeves & Wooster, amongst many others.
    I just noticed The Aristocrats series; which I plan to watch today.

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    1. HI Donna,
      BRH is well worth your time and I've seen all those you mention except Upstairs, Downstair and especially liked those Jeeves/Wooster Fry/Lawrie adaptations.

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