Famous Film Star

I knew it wasn’t my father

Who was bankrupt and poor.

He had a war.

He had a scar.

He was on Famous Film Star

Cigarette Cards

with Janet Gaynor.

It couldn’t be my father

who hit the registrar

and had to be bound over for a year

to keep the peace,

so who were they talking about

in the newspaper?

~ a poem by Hugo Williams, son of British movie star Hugh Williams, quoted in Shepperton Babylon by Matthew Sweet.

I’m apt to be a bit critical of Sweet sometimes: I thought his TV series British Film Forever was disgracefully poor (it’s now verboten to mention it within the BBC, so ashamed were they), and in his seminal work above he does have a bit of a tendency to recycle other writers’ research… But he also personally dug up a lot of fascinating stuff and presents it in an accessible, often amusing form.

Hugo Williams’ poem is a touching insight into the stars and┬áscandals of another day, a day of hair-oil and cigarettes, big bands and slow dances.

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