Archive for George MacDonald Fraser

The Old Sex Thing

Posted in FILM, literature, Theatre with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on February 8, 2019 by dcairns

I’ve just been to York to rummage and guddle through the treasures in the Charles Wood Archive. An essay/book chapter will result.

Multiple drafts of Richard Lester films THE KNACK, HELP!, HOW I WON THE WAR, PETULIA, THE BED-SITTING ROOM — I had to restrict my searchings somewhat as I just had a day, so I concentrated mainly on the sixties, taking in THE CHARGE OF THE LIGHT BRIGADE and THE LONG DAY’S DYING too. And then I could resist peaking at the dialogue rewrites for THE THREE MUSKETEERS, partly just so I could hold George MacDonald Fraser’s jumbo script in my hands. Interleaved throughout are bits of suggested dialogue on tissue-thin pages, where Fraser’s brisk yet literary exchanges are substituted for Wood’s strange, informal yet archaic word patterns, full of hesitations, repetitions, non-sequiturs and talking at cross-purposes. In the finished film, often the scenes combine both texts, always favouring the tightest construction.

In THE THREE MUSKETEERS, Raquel Welch hitches a ride on a sedan chair, hanging off the side so she’s concealed from pursuers, but part of her is revealed to the chair’s occupant (Frank Thornton, Captain Peacock from Are You Being Served?). Fraser, I think, tried some dialogue for this guy, but Wood was asked to give it another go, and came up with ~

Pretties, a maiden’s bobbing pretties, bobbing … bub, bub, they go … oh!

Which didn’t make it into the film, possibly for reasons of taste, maybe because Welch’s “pretties” don’t bob, they jut like an escarpment.

It’s a cleverly devised visual gag, but maybe a bit creepy and that dialogue would have pushed it over, I think. But pushing things into an area of discomfort or conflicted response is rather a Wood speciality, it’s what he normally got paid for.

There’s a suggestion that Thornton’s aristocrat, off-camera (after blowing on his fingers to warm them) has a fondle of the pretties, at which Raquel jumps down from the sedan chair, and then oddly waves to it before running off, a peculiar, sweet touch — as if she thinks she now has a friendship with the occupant — which maybe softens the creepiness.

Wood’s textual descriptions are as great as his dialogue, and the only way to enjoy them is to get ahold of the scripts. There’s this bit from THE BED SITTING ROOM, in which Michael Hordern invades a woman who has mutated into a cupboard (while Rita Tushingham enjoys her reunion with the cupboard-woman, who is her mother) ~

 

“He enters the cupboard sexily.”

Michael Hordern’s radiant leer and the caressing hand on the door — eeewwww!

Lots and lots of fascinating stuff on THE KNACK which I’ll devote a whole post to.

Here’s a nicely described moment from HOW I WON THE WAR which made it in more or less intact ~

A WOMAN LOOKS THROUGH THE CURTAINS AND WATCHES ANOTHER WOMAN IN TURBAN AND STRAP SHOES BEING KISSED BY A FLAPPY TROUSERED MAN IN A RESERVED OCCUPATION WHICH HE HAS WRITTEN ON A PLACARD AROUND HIS NECK. HE HAS HIS HAND UP HER UTILITY SKIRT. THEY ARE BOTH SLIGHTLY DRUNK. WITH GAS MASKS.

The movie adds some dialogue, also no doubt by Wood — they would keep him around during filming to invent bits and bobs — “Here, you’ve brought your child’s gas mask,” says the woman, “Oh no, not in front of your child’s gas mask.”

The man is Frank Thornton, of course, whose presence always fires the erotic imagination.

Wood did a lot of uncredited work on PETULIA — enough to deserve a credit, really. He moved it definitively away from the source novel and the Barbara Turner draft (both of them are credited) before Lawrence B. Marcus came on and produced the final version. I *think* Marcus came up with the line “Was it the sex thing, Archie? Was it the old sex thing?” because I read two versions by Wood of the topless restaurant scene it is uttered in. But it sounds Wood-y, showing that his influence on the film remained — the fractured timeline/s were certainly introduced by Wood, no doubt with Lester’s encouragement.

A good bit ~

ARCHIE TOUCHES HER AND IT LOOKS LIKE ONE OF THOSE MOMENTS WE ALL KNOW AND LOATHE THAT ARE HOLLYWOOD SHORTHAND FOR YOU ARE A WONDERFUL HUMAN BEING AND I DEARLY TRULY LOVE YOU ABOUT TO BE SEALED WITH SPITTLE.

JUST BEFORE WE PUKE SHE SCREAMS AND FAINTS.

Advertisements

Activate wallets

Posted in FILM with tags , , , on January 23, 2016 by dcairns

DSC_5314

Photos by Sue Osmond.

I’m not in the habit of asking you for favours, all you wonderful people out there in the dark, but just this once I’m allowing myself the privilege.

We’ve started an Indiegogo campaign for our short film THE NORTHLEACH HORROR, which I have directed from a script by regular Shadowplayer Alex Livingstone & myself. We got a nice grant from the Scottish Film Talent Network which then got eaten up by costly things which you can hear about in our video ~

THE NORTHLEACH HORROR – Indiegogo from Dave Jack on Vimeo.

David Jack, a recent graduate from the film course I teach on, worked all of his socks off to get the film done on budget, and succeeded, so the idea of the Indiegogo is to enhance the film rather than rescue it. In other words, if you’re starving in a garrett somewhere, you probably need your money more than we do. But we can put it to some awfully creative uses…

If you’ve been enjoying the free jokes and observations on Shadowplay for some time now, this is your chance to pay something back. And you won’t just be helping one little short film — the plan is to use the short to make the feature, THE WHITSUNTIDE EXPERIMENT, and possibly the TV series, The Whitsuntide Experiments, and basically to rescue Fiona and I from the slightly horrible financial situation we’re in. Richard Lester told me, “George MacDonald Fraser was the night editor at the Glasgow Herald and he didn’t like it. So he said to his wife, ‘I’m going to write us out of this.'” Thus was born the Flashman series of novels.

The character of Whitsuntide is consciously designed to be hugely successful and change my life, the way Harry Flashman changed Fraser’s. He’s kind of like the Flashman of mad science, and kind of like Jerry Cornelius, and kind of like Colin Clive and Peter Cushing as Frankenstein. But not that much like anyone you’ve seen before.

Here’s Freddie Fox in the role ~

DSC_5540

As it turns out, Freddie is a huge fan of the Flashman books, which seems auspicious. This production has been blessed with good luck and synchronicity. If you believe in that sort of thing, I think it might actually be lucky for you to get involved.

If you can’t contribute financially, please shout about the film on social media. Share the Indiegogo everywhere. We have a Facebook page also, where we will be posting images and trailers and stuff.

Here, once more, is the crucial link.

The Monday Intertitle: Victor McLaglan is stalking me

Posted in FILM, literature, Sport with tags , , , , , on December 16, 2013 by dcairns

vlcsnap-2013-12-15-16h57m20s88

So I’m reading Flashman and the Angel of the Lord, the last of George MacDonald Fraser’s Flashman books that I’d yet to read — I read them all out of order and with decades between the first batch and the second, I’m afraid — and there’s a reference to heavyweight boxing champion Jack Johnson, a man much disliked by his opponents, partly out of racism. But Fraser, for balance, quotes actor Victor McLaglan’s memoir, Express to Hollywood (which sounds like it’d be a worthwhile read). Before his acting career, VM was a boxer, as his face amply testifies, and he fought Johnson, of whom he writes, he “fought like a gentleman,” and “was undoubtedly the hardest man to hit whom I’ve ever met.”

I like the genteel “whom” — and the inference that McLaglan presumably tried to hit every man he met. I can believe it.

vlcsnap-2013-12-15-16h57m47s108

But the very same day, I received in the post my copy of the marvelous Lost & Found: American Treasures from the New Zealand Film Archive, published by the good people at the National Film Preservation Foundation. And featured amongst the treasures (all deserving of the name) is a trailer for STRONG BOY, a presumed-lost John Ford film starring McLaglan himself. Indifferently reviewed at the time, the film looks mouthwateringly desirable to us today, and the trailer itself offers up exciting clips and some charming animated title cards.