A man can acquire The Knack


Hell with it — I’m moving Film Club back to Monday, August 10th, so that any New Yorkers who go see it at the Walter Reade Theater on the 8th can join in.

Lester season! And yes, I did look into the price of flights, but there’s no way, man.

If you’d like recommendations — obviously THE KNACK, the Beatles films… damnit, I like all of them. RETURN OF THE MUSKETEERS is problematic, but the previous two MUSKETEERS films are unmissable. Most of these are on 35mm, which is wonderful, depending on print quality — this is a chance to see the cinematography of David Watkin and Nicolas Roeg on the big screen. And Laszlo Kovacs and Gilbert Taylor and Gerry Fisher. Don’t miss PETULIA and ROBIN AND MARIAN. See JUGGERNAUT and enjoy the late Mr. Sharif, being a very good sport in a total cold-fish role. What a treat!

Also recommended — Ann Jellicoe’s Shelley, or The Idealist. I picked it out the library because it has an intro by the author where she talks about The Knack and THE KNACK… AND HOW TO GET IT. It’s quite brilliant — Lester might like it — history, atheism and comedy, three of his favourite things. It reads more like a Lester film than the earlier play.

It seems to me the Royal Court playwrights, including frequent Lester collaborator Charles Wood, are being rather neglected. Their stuff is still regarded as kind of modern, so why produce that when you could produce NEW modern works? But revivals of Look Back In Anger just show what a period piece it is. Shelley, like Wood’s H, Dingo and Veterans, are set in the past, slightly or distantly or sort-of, and still read fresh. There should be a space for them.



17 Responses to “A man can acquire The Knack”

  1. SO glad you recognize how dated Osborne’s “angry young man” is. At the time he was being praised to the skies for pushing all those poofters off the stage. Today it’s plain that Noel Coward and Terence Rattigan (and their godson Alan Bennett) are the real artists and Osborne just a shallow poseur.

  2. david wingrove Says:

    David Ehrenstein, I couldn’t agree more! And how often do I say that?!

    For me, the Angry Young Men were a lot like the French Nouvelle Vague. A bunch of homophobic low-talent yobs, fuelled by their insane jealousy of an older generation of great (and largely gay) creative artists.

    As for THE KNACK, it becomes more enjoyable the further down the cast list you go. Charlotte Rampling, Jane Birkin and Jacqueline Bisset…all in their film debuts!

  3. Yes The Knack is Babe Central!

  4. Also starring: Benedict Cumberbatch’s mum.

    There’s a lot of interesting stuff that follows in the wake of John Osborne — notably Joe Orton — so the movement maybe achieved something good. I mean, Orton on the face of it owes nothing to Osborne, but I doubt if his career would have been possible without the move away from middle-class problem plays. The same goes for Jellicoe, Wood, Peter Nichols, who are a lot more fun than Look Back in Anger.

  5. I very strongly disagree. Unlike Osborne, Orton was devoted to the piece bien fait and when he was getting started his greatest champion was

    (wait for it)

    Terrence Rattigan.

    Rattigan had seen Entertaining Mr. Sloane, which dealt with subject matter he wouldn’t have dared approach professionally (however familiar he was with the Sloans of this world personally.) he wrote Orton a letter praising him and telling him he was on the right track. Orton was Over the Moon when he read it. Osborne would have never written such a letter in a million years.

  6. And now I’m ever-so-happy to turn the floor over to Benedict Cumbebatch

  7. henryholland666 Says:

    David, do you remember the Los Angeles Theater Center on Spring Street, when it was active in the late 80’s/early 90’s? They did a production of “What the Butler Saw” that was a religious experience for me and a friend. We were quoting lines from it for months after.

    I tried to adapt it in to an opera libretto that I (naively) thought could be given to a composer to work on, but I gave up, the play is too wordy for an opera libretto.

    Too bad that Orton’s script for “Up Against It” was returned without comment by that bloody great poof Brian Epstein. Saw this on the Wikipedia entry for the play:

    “Producer Oscar Lewenstein accepted the script, considering Mick Jagger and Ian McKellen for two of the leads. Lewenstein and Orton planned a meeting with director Richard Lester at Twickenham Film Studios to discuss filming options on the script. On the morning the chauffeur arrived to take Orton to the meeting, he discovered Orton and Halliwell dead inside their home”

    Richard Lester dominates all space and time, apparently. :-)

    RIP Orton and Halliwell.

  8. I didn’t see that but I DID see Loot and Entertaining Mr. Sloane when they were done at the Taper with the great Joseph Maher and the babe-a-licious Maxwell Caulfield.


  9. Lester had to hurriedly abandon Up Against It since nobody could finish the script in place of Orton, so he made The Bed Sitting Room without telling UA that the film was going to be slightly different…

  10. When I was in Junior College, we actually had Look Back in Anger as part of syllabus for modern drama (one of many plays) and I really didn’t like it. I thought it was pretty trite.

    Joe Orton’s LOOT though I loved a lot.

  11. One can see in theory that the Osborne would have seemed novel. But what stands out are its retrograde, sexist qualities. Whereas even the cheap misogyny of some of Orton’s jokes seems at least iconoclastic.

  12. I’ll be seeing IT’S TRAD, DAD! in 35mm this week.

  13. Oh great! The Temperance Seven bit is outstanding, but also check out Gene McDaniels, whose “Another Tear Falls” nearly blows a hole in the tomfoolery.

  14. I enjoyed IT’S TRAD, DAD! The print screened bore the American title, RING-A-DING RHYTHM. And you’re right, David, The Temperance seven and Gene McDaniels were the musical highlights.

  15. Cinematic highlights, too. I used TT7 in my piece on the A Hard Day’s Night DVD and Lester agreed it was the best bit to use. Although Acker Bilk’s Frankie and Johnny, done as a kind of fumetti, is also good.

  16. Acker Bilk was my fave of the straight Trad bands. His name alone is memorable.

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