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I've moved my blog to here: ramblingfancy.typepad.com , but will still be keeping up with my favourites on livejournal. Please come visit at my new place!

Paris and Goodnight Vienna

I had a lovely time on Sunday afternoon with skirmishofwit at the lostmusicals production of Cole Porter's Paris (1928) at the Sadler's Wells Theatre. Miranda reminded me of the Lorna Hill/ballet associations of the theatre as we sauntered up the road from the tube, and, whilst there was no ballet, no orchestra and really only six actors/singers and a pianist  to entertain us, it was a most enjoyable afternoon indeed. I recommend anyone who is interested in musical theatre history to treat themselves by booking to see a Lost Musical production. 

Ian Marshall Fisher gave the audience a little background to the musical as an intro and mentioned how it was made into a film starring Irene Borodini reprising her Broadway role and the debonair Jack Buchanan as her on stage partner Guy Pennell. Strangely though few of the original Cole Porter hits were included, but new  songs were written by the much lesser known (to me anyway!) Al Bryan and Ed Ward.  The blog Vitaphone varieties gives fascinating detail about the now sadly lost -as-well film with the most marvellous images here: vitaphone.blogspot.com/2007/11/crystal-girl.html.

I remember reading at some point, although of course I can't remember where now, that Hugh Laurie is most appreciative of Jack Buchanan's musical and comedic gifts and watching Paris on the stage, I couldn't help but think how Jeeves and Woosterish the whole plot was. Wodehouse himself of course collaborated with Porter in Anything Goes (1934). Does any one else remember a short scene in the Jeeves and Wooster television series where Hugh Laurie as Bertie Wooster strums along on the piano whilst trying to remember the lyrics to Goodnight Vienna? It's a deliciously funny scene, and here's a recording on You Tube of Jack Buchanan himself singing the straight up version:www.youtube.com/watch

A Light in the Piazza

I re-read this novella by southern writer Elizabeth Spencer this morning, and what a fine piece of writing it is. A story of romance and love: young love, married love, family love and, crucially for this story, the love between a mother and her daughter. There's the American love affair with Florence and Rome as well, and what a perfect read it would make before a city break to Italy. Years ago now, I watched the 1962 film with Olivia de Havilland and Yvette Mimeux. Unfortunately, it seems to have vanished from tv and doesn't seem to be available as a DVD. Hmmph! I remember both Miss de Havilland and Yvette Mimeux giving fine performances and there were gorgeous shots of Italian sportscars and scenery as added bonuses!

As a young girl, Clara Johnston was kicked in the head by a momentarily bad-tempered Shetland pony, and the result has left her with a mental age of 10, a truly charming naivete and a devoted mother, Margaret, who has nutured and protected (perhaps to the point of being overly protective) her now beautiful, 26 year old, chestnut-haired daughter. The story opens with them basking in the late afternoon light at a cafe in the Piazza della Signoria in Florence as Margaret sips an aperitif and Clara an orangeade after spending the day with a guidebook tramping around admiring the sights of Florence. Throughout, there's much made of the differences between the Italians (the young man who falls madly in love with Clara is an upper middle class Florentine) and the Americans. It might all seem a bit Jamesian, but in fact the feel is very different.

It's so easy to feel the warmth of an Italian June afternoon, see the colourful dresses and swimming costumes and settle comfortably into the smoke-filled 1950s of the first few pages. We see how Margaret begins to lose the sorrow that has been a constant in her life for many years, and her daughter's flowering in the relationship with the young Fabrizio Naccarelli is both a time of great joy and great fear for her. Should she tell the Naccarellis of her daughter's true condition or will difficulties of language and differences in culture make a marriage between the young Italian and her daughter one that will bring blessings and happiness to all? I won't say any more about the book other than to say do try to read it and see the film and the recent much-lauded musical if there's a performance anywhere near you.

Sadly, I didn't see the Tony winning production of the novella that set NYC alight a few years ago (interestingly the original Broadway cast starred Michael Morrison as Fabrizio who has gone on to star on tv as the music loving Spanish teacher in Glee!). Miranda's grandmother and my 14 year old niece who live in Canada, however, are lucky enough to be heading down to New York to see my talented brother-in-law conducting a NYU Steinhardt student performance of this musical, and oh how I wish I could be there too. I'm sure it will be brilliant!!! Here's a taster from the Tony Award show from a few years ago on you tube: www.youtube.com/watch

What I bought in London

I'm in Hampstead for the weekend to enjoy the company of skirmishofwit. I'd been going to be very sensible as I strolled about while she was getting her hair trimmed, but then I saw this bag marked down (slightly!) today in a small shop and of course I bought it! It isn't you understand that I lack book bags (ahem, far from it!), but this print is so adorable! Do think Cath Kidson is such a clever businesswoman. Then I saw a bunch of hardcover Berrys by Dornford Yates in Hampstead's secondhand book shop very cheap indeed which I fondled, but didn't buy.  Though it did cross my mind, I had just the right bag to carry them back to Dorset!

In the post/ inbox

I have four treats to share. This newly translated Mankell arrived in the post on Friday. It sounds wonderful: if rather dark and cold! It isn't a Wallander, but features Judge Birgitta Roslin and bills itself as "a gripping and perceptive political thriller and a compelling detective story." Sounds good!

Probably all but me have already discovered this wonderful blog, but I had to share just in case! I got to it through another favourite: www.weebirdy.com/. One of those fascinating blogs where the person seems not only genuinely very nice and interesting herself, but also "in the know" and "finger on the pulse" in a way I find delightful. Her blog recommendations are well worth a browse and, when I hit on spitalfieldslife.com/, I soon came to realise this one was something very special indeed. Boy, oh boy! The 'Gentle Author' has made a promise to share a story a day of life in Spitalfields including the history and the people of the place. It's a joy to read. For me the experience of reading from the first post (last August) to the latest can best be compared to seeing a rich tapestry of life being unrolled as it is created before your eyes. The Valentine's post this morning was especially lovely.

I woke up to spot in my email box not only the above blog update, but also notification of yet another Amazon boxed set sale. This time though there is a genuine bargain, the David Lean Collection DVD,  if you don't already own most of the nine films included, but frankly at £11.48 you could keep the ones you don't own and give any others away. Skirmishofwit I know will love the ones I don't take, and I would love to see the charming and atmospheric This Happy Breed again. It's been years since I last saw it. It's based on the Noel Coward play and stars Robert Newton, Celia Johnson, Stanley Holloway, Kay Walsh and John Mills. It will have you humming London Pride too! And in case you can't wait here's Noel's rendition:

Happy Birthday, Barbara!

Happy Birthday to callmemadam! Wishing you Many Happy Returns of the day!

Paris, the Musical?

I have just bought tickets for the musical Paris. I love the idea of these "lost musicals" being restaged after all this time:www.lostmusicals.org/ .
I would love to see them all in fact, but it's the Cole Porter that sounded irresistible! Irène Bordoni  was obviously a sensation of the time. Here's
a wonderful clip of her singing "Let's Misbehave" from the same musical.

Not enough Mad Men?

I'm waiting to pop up to London to see skirmishofwit - not just for the pleasure of her company, but to borrow her Mad Men Series 1 and 2 boxed sets - a show she has been raving about. In fact, she's been so enthusiastic, I decided to leap in and watch the current Series 3 on BBC 4, and, whilst I can tell there's a lot of back story going on I've missed out on, it didn't spoil the show for me at all. Now I can understand a bit of what all the fuss is about - the dresses, the values, the times, the stories. I'm starting to be obsessed with films, books and food reminiscent of that time too! I must confess I nearly weakened and popped off a "next day" order to Amazon for my own boxed sets , but common sense prevailed, and I've booked my train ticket for next weekend instead with the idea we can see the marvellous sounding Van Gogh exhibition at the Royal Academy and go for a ice cream sundae at The Parlour restaurant in Fortnum's afterwards with the money my self-denial has saved!

I was also emailing Miranda's grandmother in Canada about the show to get her take on it and the times a little. She was a physiotherapy student at McGill in the mid to late 50s I believe. I do wish I could see some photos of her in those salad days! She hadn't managed to click with Mad Men (late 50s -early 60s), but she commented on how much the attitudes of the Wellesley girls in the film Mona Lisa Smile, starring Julia Roberts seemed true to the attitudes present at that time in the group of  "daughters of privilege from the U.S. and wealthy Montreal anglos and Ontarians taking Arts and aiming to marry doctors." So I'll be sitting down with that film again in the next week when I need something to satisfy my Mad Men craving! If you haven't yet seen it yourself, it's lots of fun, as is the soundtrack, and without spoiling the movie for others I will say one of my favourite scenes involves a Van Gogh Sunflowers "Paint By Numbers" kit. How timely is that!

Happy Birthday to gghost!!

Wishing you a very happy birthday with lots of celebrations!

The Way to the Stars

I've been watching the wonderful black and white film The Way to the Stars (1945) starring Michael Redgrave and John Mills. Events unroll as flashbacks from1940 to 1944 mainly at a RAF airfield in Yorkshire and at the local hotel.  For a war film, it's perhaps unusual in that there are no combat scenes and hardly any inside an airplane. I find it an incredibly sad and moving film, but there is also witty dialogue and gentle humour especially as the Brits adjust to the arrival of the American fliers and vice versa. The "female interest" is acted very well by Rosamund John and Renee Asherton (both lovely actresses and in their prime for this movie). The main American part is played by the Canadian actor Douglass Montgomery (who I remember best as Laurie in the 1933 version of Little Women with Katherine Hepburn).  Trevor Howard and Stanley Holloway have supporting roles, but are very memorable in them. All in all, a lovely film and, for me, as good as The Dam Busters in its own way. Watching this interestingly has made me want to reread James Herriot's memoirs of the same time and his RAF training Vets Might Fly and Vet in a Spin.