In connection with my current post, I've been in and out of several libraries recently in both Oxford and London, tracking down references relating to the projects I've taken over. This is an Oxford week, and I've been reacquainting myself with several Oxford libraries and getting to know the new configurations of some of them. Accessibility demands mean that the Taylor Institution is now approached from a larger door a little further up St Giles and relying less on steep stone stairs, though it still needs to remind people that it is not the Ashmolean, a determination reinforced by a sign that it is not a public building. The enquiry desk has moved, though thankfully Celtic periodicals were still in their old basement haunt. One never knows when one will need to refer to the Transactions of the Honourable Society of Cymmrodorion, after all, as there is usually something useful about Welsh people, places and institutions within its covers.
The Oxford History Faculty Library has been through a period of dislocation in the past few years. First, it left its long-established home on the upper floors of the Old Indian Institute Building, and was relocated to part of the Lower Radcliffe Camera and to the Gladstone Link beneath Radcliffe Square, itself a recent creation from the old underground bookstacks. The form the collections have taken in their new homes, how they have been classified and located, seems to have gone through several reevaluations. Construction work to create a new entrance on the ground floor, facing St Mary's Church, has had an effect. After a few visits I'm getting used to the new entrance and the need to swipe in twice to get through the doors and entrance gate, and the oddness, for someone who has been in and around academic Oxford for most of the last quarter-century, of actually borrowing books from and taking them out of somewhere which was once a strictly non-lending reading room. Old associations, learned in younger days, fade slowly: I still expect English and Theology collections to be on the Lower Camera shelves somewhere, hiding from view; just as part of me suspects that if one enters what is now the Oxford Martin School at the right time, perhaps after walking widdershins round the Catte/Broad/Holywell Streets/Parks Road crossroads, one can climb the spiral stairs and found oneself in the old History Faculty Library again, and borrow books using pink-tinted carbon paper slips just as one did when I was an undergraduate.
In its tangible form without the realms of faerie, the Bodleian History Faculty Library (as it is now styled, but hereafter HFL) has been rationalising its collection, and there is a small book sale behind the new Radcliffe Camera entrance, much as there often was behind the main doors on the first floor of the Old Indian Institute. Yesterday I picked up the second edition of The Memoirs of Sir John Reresby with the idea that it would be useful in my current job, but it's also full of entertaining gossip informative about late-seventeeth century social norms. There were also a few volumes from the former HFL set of The Dictionary of National Biography. Today, there were more, but still not a full set; I decided to resist the temptation to ask if the missing volumes were in a cupboard somewhere (carrying them all back on the bus was one deterrent, and where to put them in my flat another) and acquired for £2 a bound volume labelled '7 - 8 / FINCH - HARRIOTT'.
This volume had some particular significance for me. I worked as a research editor for seven years at what was first referred to as the New Dictionary of National Biography, and which was eventually published as the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. I'd also been a contributor, first on the 'ten-pound factchecks' and then on full honorarium articles, since 1997, and since leaving the staff in 2006 have been an associate research editor with irregular involvement as a consultant, editor and writer. (This post, I should add, is written in a personal capacity.) I have three articles in hand for the tenth anniversary release this September. Of those articles written or revised by me published in the 2004 sixty-volume set of the new dictionary, six fall within this volume's range, including the longest article contributed by me, Frederick Lewis, prince of Wales. Since 2004 I've added a few more articles to the online edition, and two of those - Anne Fitzpatrick and William Gibbs - would have been included in this volume's alphabetical sequence.
The set of the DNB now being sold by the HFL is unusual in that at some stage its twenty-two volumes were rebound into eleven, with two India paper-printed books in one set of rust-brown covers, rather than Oxford University Press's usual blue. The spines display the HFL shelfmark. The two volumes thus united which I acquired, at least, are from the 1921-2 reprint, the first to be published by Oxford University Press after it acquired the DNB from Smith, Elder and Co. (the more commercial parts of the Smith, Elder list were bought by John Murray). This in turn was derived from the revised 1908-9 edition of the DNB, which reduced the original sixty-three volumes and three-volume supplement of the 1885-1900 serial run to the twenty-two which is still often found on library shelves. A short history of old and new dictionaries, to the publication of the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography in 2004, was published in the first volume of the new dictionary and can be found at the Oxford DNB website. The subjects in this HFL volume are spread through seven volumes of the 2004 dictionary, though they can be found more quickly as part of the online collection.
Revisiting the late-nineteenth century articles which I replaced for the ODNB, I'm inclined to look more favourably on them than I might have done when I was ensconced in the new dictionary's former office of 37A St Giles. Most of the old dictionary's writers were on staff, expected to research at the British Museum Library in the morning and write up at the DNB's office in Waterloo Place in the afternoon. They were largely reliant on published sources which were much more scarce than they were a century later. Thomas Finlayson Henderson's entry on Frederick, prince of Wales, is much shorter than mine and dependent on the dismissive though entertaining memoirs of catty political opponents of the prince like Horace Walpole and Lord Hervey, or would-be mentors such as Sarah, duchess of Marlborough. My piece on Frederick might lack Henderson's elegance, but unlike Henderson didn't set out to disparage the prince as the worthless product of a degenerate age, a minor literary character rather than a person. We did have in common the wish to represent recent scholarship, in my case requiring many hours original research in the British Library and the Bodleian to help fill gaps, and my Frederick is someone whose actions had lasting consequences - the strengthening of the conventions of parliamentary opposition, the character of the monarchy under his son George III - even if they took on a theoretical and ideological shape which were beyond his intentions.
Other old DNB articles whose subjects I inherited were constructed on similar if less partial lines. 'His life was uneventful,' wrote James McMullen Rigg of Charles FitzRoy, second duke of Cleveland and first duke of Southampton; but there was enough to fill a column, and enough to ask the question (to which I sought to fashion an answer from sources to hand, much as my DNB predecessors did) as to why this son of Charles II and Barbara Villiers didn't play the leading part in English politics and society for which his parents (or at least his mother) had wanted to prepare him. Rigg spotted that George FitzRoy, Cleveland's brother, was recognised by John Evelyn as the 'most accomplished' of Charles II's children, but missed what I thought his most dramatic role, his attendance on his uncle James II on the night of 10 December 1688, when he probably looked the other way while James II fled the country. With other subjects, like Samuel Green the organ-builder, Lydia Miller Middleton in the DNB had had nothing much more than Grove's Dictionary of Music to work with; since then enough work has been done on Green, for successive Groves and New Groves as well by authors of scholarly works on the organ, for a slightly more informative piece to be fashioned. One of the shorter pieces which I was able to replace with a longer entry was that on John Geddes, coadjutor vicar apostolic of the lowland district of Scotland, a Catholic bishop serving a Catholic community whose practice and existence was proscribed. Again, this was the beneficiary of twentieth-century scholarship which provided me with a better guide to Geddes's career than was available to Thompson Cooper, the veteran journalist and DNB staffer who shouldered the burden of more DNB articles in the 1880s and 1890s than any ODNB contributor in the 1990s and 2000s. The range of secondary sources was much broader and as a whole the published ODNB included more original research than may have been envisaged when the project started; my impression is that this trend has increased in the updates published online three times a year since January 2005.
The old dictionary text survives as part of the online ODNB (behind a link on the left-hand panel called 'DNB archive') and (proceeding on the assumption that the original DNB is out of copyright) as a Wikisource project. The impact of volunteer-led projects such as those curated by Wikimedia on conventional publisher-led research and reference works such as the ODNB has yet to be fully assessed, but demand still exists for peer-reviewed professionally-published reference such as the ODNB. For now, and at this moment, I am happy with my much-thumbed, sometimes crumpled, ninety-two-year-old impressions from stereotyped plates furnished to Oxford University Press by Messrs. Spottiswoode and Co., while celebrating too the merits of the work of myself and colleagues on the new dictionary in the past two decades.
Since I last wrote about employment I've become a full-time staff member of an historical research project again; but earlier today I left early eighteenth-century bishops behind at my Bloomsbury office, and travelled to the South Bank and 1960s by bus, to see a couple of 1960s television plays
in the BFI's Dramatic Spaces season, which ties in with the recent
AHRC-funded project Spaces of Television, based at the University of Reading. The two plays were Let's Murder Vivaldi by David Mercer (1968) and Miss Julie (1965) by August Strindberg, translated by Elizabeth Sprigge. Both plays were directed (and in the case of Miss Julie adapted) by Alan Bridges, who died in December. There's an accessibly educated and informed post about the choice of these plays on the Spaces of Television blog, which also confirms the suspicion I had that at least one had suffered cuts at some point. Miss Julie suffers from the abrupt realisation of a sex scene which seems an all-too-brief excursion into the surreal, but was intended to be much longer and better integrated into the play as a whole.
Let's Murder Vivaldi was up first, perhaps because it was part of the most well-known strand of the single television play on the BBC, The Wednesday Play,
or because it contained the most familiar faces among its cast, with
Glenda Jackson as young civil servant Julie, and Denholm Elliot as her
boss, Gerald, with whom, at the start of the play, she is on the verge
of an affair. Paul Sumner as Ben, Julie's draughtsman lover, a
frustrated violinist, was perhaps the weakest link in the cast, but Gwen
Watford was calmly authoritative, patronising, manipulative but honest
as Gerald's wife Monica. The play is one of those where the characters'
dialogue comes across as shared inner monologue, but is of interest when
what is revealed is an emptiness. The play even has a touch of
horror-comedy in what its knife fixation builds up to - the slicing of
Julie's face by the misarticulate Ben is in part misdirection. In the
end, those who learn to accept their 'peculiarities' and stop trying to
conform to other people's ideas of what they should be are the happiest.
Denholm Elliot is a uniquely soluble actor, often looking as if he has
consumed gallons of water and is having trouble keeping which is
perhaps appropriate given one of Julie's 'peculiarities', which also
works as a comment on television censorship. It's a powerful piece of
1960s rage against sexual, social and workplace conformity, though
noticeably the voice of a simpler time.
Miss Julie - produced for BBC2's Theatre 625 strand - was a contrast in that it included some sequences filmed on location rather than being entirely in studio. Where Let's Murder Vivaldi is a series of two-handers (Ben/Julie, Monica/Gerald, Gerald/Julie, Monica/Gerald, Ben/Julie), the 1965 Miss Julie is a play with three speaking characters and in this version several non-speaking ones, all appearing on film. Bridges's Miss Julie reminded me of another television play of this era, Philip Savile's version of Huis Clos,
with its largely location-filmed scene-setting. The use of a
foreign-accented Gunnel Lindblom as Julie alongside a very English Ian
Hendry as Jean and Stephanie Bidmead as Christine seemed odd at first,
but perhaps it works as an indicator of class divisions, Jean and
Christine being presented as audience identification figures while Julie
is exotic and remote. Expectations are teased and confounded several
times as sex brings complication rather than a gateway to permanent
happiness and class and gender confine by education and expectation.
It's mostly Hendry's and Bidmead's play, though, Hendry showing a range as Jean
works through his many facets, and Stephanie Bidmead looks on, quietly
confident that Christine is one of God's elect.
The BFI notes suggested that camera and performance in Let's Murder Vivaldi turned rooms into cells; this is too blatant an analogy for the way the play used the television camera, often stalking character by character, portrait shot by portrait shot, perhaps suggesting the characters are prisoners of their preconceptions. There are many ways out, all the same - characters go through doors in bedsitland or country hotels, or negotiate fashionable partitions. Gerald chooses to actualise his imprisonment, but blames only one of his jailers; for Julie and Ben, it's a question of coming to terms with who they are, not what they ought to be.
An Alan Bridges camera script must have kept the camera operators of Television Centre going up and down on their platforms. The many changes of tight angle in Let's Murder Vivaldi were noticeable, providing a fluidity which emphasised the brittleness of the harsh alternation of conversation partners in the penultimate Monica/Gerald scene. Miss Julie used yet lower angles on a staircase set, suggestive of moral hazard as well as the space's geographical location; but compared to Let's Murder Vivaldi and its parallel use of the domestic, especially the kitchen, Miss Julie's set and the way it was captured were more suggestive of space, and so perhaps of choices which could be made in the world outside Julie's father's estate, but in the end were not.
I've noticed recently that the posts I wrote immediately following Jimmy Savile's death have been gaining more attention. They were written before the revelation of his long history of sexual assaults, often directed against people towards whom he too frequently had a duty of care. From what has been reported, one can infer that witnesses seem to agree he abused children and adults both systematically and opportunistically. The post-Savile inquiry into the conduct of leading figures in British entertainment in the 1960s and 1970s is still going on, with police investigations underway and in some cases criminal prosecutions completed or pending.
In the later years of his life I and it seems many others looking back on the popular culture giants of their childhoods had come to believe in Savile's offensive, cold, calculating persona as a shell within which a more sensitive and vulnerable man hid. Evidence is still to be codified but (as many have said in the last two years) it seems likely now that Savile was quite deliberately hiding in plain sight, protected by media and political leaders who respected and needed his connections to a youth culture they did not understand and who were either frightened of him or did not know how to interpret his manner. The examination of these errors of judgement of grievous consequence will take years. In the meantime the man some of us thought we knew and with whom we could sympathise has long been revealed as a creature of imaginations misled and power structures within which it was easy for the skilled deceiver to hide for their own purposes.
Danger UXB negotiates two
production house styles. The early successes of Euston Films could be
characterised as concentrating on the underbelly of society:
criminals and the police who pursued them with dubious methods. In
contrast John Hawkesworth, co-creator, producer and lead writer of
Danger UXB, was conservative by reputation and just as
interested in the upper echelons of stratified British society as the
lower ones. This was seen in his previous series Upstairs
Downstairs for LWT and The Duchess of Duke Street for the
BBC. This formula didn't preclude social mobility, with dramatic
tension being extracted from cross-class liaisons and the
accumulation of wealth and status by outsiders.
Danger UXB is something of a
barracks Upstairs Downstairs, with its cross-cutting between
barrack room and officers' mess. The series' low-intensity character
arcs, burning fiercely in a climactic episode, recall Upstairs
Downstairs too. That concerning the brittle insecurity of
Major/Captain 'Fanny' Francis is perhaps the most successful. It
casts, possibly somewhat against type, Kenneth Farrington then best
known to audiences for a long on-off stint in Coronation Street,
and more recently a regular in Emmerdale. Francis's obsession
with discipline is the barely disguised sadism of a self-hating man
and his enthusiasm for reviving pre-war regimental mess dinners a
sign of his retreat from the realities of the world as well as his
hatred of Ash, transferred from the officer whom Francis blames for
the end of his marriage. It's not the wisdom of the hierarchy which
resolves the crisis, but Ash pulling strings through Susan's father
Dr Gillespie. The episode displays a respect for human beings but a
cynicism towards the ability of established structures and those
educated through them to manage the ongoing crisis, a sentiment as
appropriate to Britain in 1979 as in 1941.
Another more specific borrowing from
Upstairs Downstairs is the presence of nightclub and music
hall sequences in occasional episodes. There was little room for
niche television in the three-channel era, when programmes had to
build a broad audiences. Consequently there's singing and dancing
from Micky and her colleagues in 'The Silver Lining' and 'Butterfly
Winter'. A further indication is the appearance of variety artiste
Sapper Binns, played by real-life variety artiste Bryan
Burdon in 'Butterfly Winter' and 'The Pier',
which seem to have been made as part of the same block. 'Butterfly
Winter' just happens to include a sequence filmed presumably in
Chipping Norton Theatre (given where the relevant exteriors are shot)
where Burdon/Binns can do his act. Not only is the sequence
nostalgic for an audience which could remember pre-television
variety, it draws on Burdon's own pedigree, his father being Albert
Burdon, a star of music hall most associated (I learn from Louis
Barfe's Turned Out Nice Again) with the slosh-spreading
wallpapering routine. Binns's stagecraft, specifically his knowledge
of theatrical mechanics, is presented as an asset to the company and
he becomes, perhaps, Hawkesworth's tribute to the multi-skilled
theatrical turns of his early career.
Binns only appears in two episodes,
both directed by Douglas Camfield and presumably made as one block.
The disappearance and reintroduction of regular characters without
explanation was part of the reality of television production at the
time, but is used to give an impression of the realities of war
service and wartime lives, as people are transferred in and out of
the unit with little notice, or husbands are unexpectedly invalided
back to otherwise-entangled wives. It also helps suggest the passage
of time. As in Upstairs Downstairs, the series had an internal
chronology mapped onto the historical chronology of the period
covered, but was not presented so rigidly that it could not be
retroactively revised should a second series have been commissioned.
The series was launched in ITV's
listings magazine, TV Times, with features concentrating on
the experiences of the real bomb disposal squads of nearly forty
years before. Danger UXB was promoted as a drama with a public
service mission, restoring an obscured part of the war to public
memory. This complemented one of the themes of the early episodes,
the early publicity given to the skills of the anti-explosive squads
in the press, which gave way to silence when it was realised that the
increasingly complex charges were designed with the intention of
killing trained personnel. The first TV Times article provided
a diagram of a typical excavation shaft and images of several types
of wartime German bomb, accompanied by lurid headlines such as 'Your
guide to a deadly war game' and 'Rain of death that fell on Britain'.
The second article, 'The men who had only 10 weeks to live' was
accompanied by a photograph showing Anthony Andrews in the company of
four real-life bomb disposal men and related some of their
experiences, in some cases pointing out that these tales would be
fictionalised for Danger UXB. Coverage for the rest of the
series was restricted to the occasional photograph on the listings
page, aggravated by the end of the run by a printing strike which led
to TV Times being published in an abbreviated form with fewer
Press reaction to Danger UXB
seems to have been cautious. Nancy Banks-Smith in The Guardian (9
January 1979) thought it "not... an important series" fixed
on "nostalgia and noise". Banks-Smith did however note the
appeal of Anthony Andrews as a leading man, "one of those golden
lads with sensitive mouths", and the Daily Mirror also
remarked upon Andrews's emergence as part of a new trend in male lead
towards "The new, gentle man", contrasting him with the
"aggressive virility" of Martin Shaw and Lewis Collins in
The Professionals and likening Andrews to Patrick Ryecart of
My Son, My Son (21 May 1979). Andrews continued to be raised
by Mirror writers as a point of comparison with later male
leads that year, such as the "mean, powerful and ruthless"
John Duttine in The Mallens (who was careful to emphasise that
in real life he vacuumed the carpet and helped with the cooking) (31
July 1979). The Mirror's coverage also promoted Danger
UXB's public service credentials, not only through a profile of
John Hawkesworth as 'TV's Past Master' (5 February 1979) but
reporting how the episode 'Butterfly Winter' had led a Brighton man
to realise he had put a butterfly bomb in his daughter's toy
cupboard. (15 March 1979). This followed the defusing of another
butterfly bomb in a bedroom in Rainham in Kent (The Guardian,
14 March 1979).
With a large cast, high production
values - with at least one explosion required a week - the assumption
that Danger UXB was too expensive for ITV to recommission has
a ring of truth. Though dismissed as a "potboiler" by one
television historian, the juxtapostion of lectures on bomb
engineering every few episodes with the continuing rollercoaster love
lives of the male protagonists, together with a sense that the series
is consciously revising the collective memory of the Second World War
in Britain, encourages curiosity. Anecdotal evidence suggests that
there was at some stage thought of a second series, and there was
even a Danger UXB annual published later in 1979. However,
associate producer Christopher Neame's memoir A Take on British TV
Drama: Stories from the Golden Years (Lanham, MD: Scarecrow,
2004) makes no mention of a second series, instead moving on to
preparations for the next Euston-Hawkesworth collaboration The
Flame Trees of Thika, then pausing to note that the
thirteen-episode run of Danger UXB would have had a longer and
more profitable life had it been made in 35mm colour film as wished
by the creative team, rather than the 16mm imposed upon it as a
budgetary measure. Danger UXB was assumed to be still fresh in
the public imagination when the Daily Mirror profiled Judy
Geeson under the headline 'Blonde bombshell on a short fuse' on 21
July and on 30 October when it ran a news story about Anthony
Andrews, but the latter was leaving the UK to seek work in the USA
following the indefinite postponement of Brideshead Revisited.
Compared to other Euston Films series
of the time, Danger UXB was not an overwhelming ratings
success. Only four episodes made it into the top twenty, episodes
five, nine, twelve and thirteen. The latter did well, with 16.05
million viewers, only 600,000 viewers behind Coronation Street,
boosted perhaps by the heavy promotion given to Thames's Michael
Crawford sitcom Chalk and Cheese which ran in the half-hour
8pm slot for the last two weeks of Danger UXB's run. Its
series format masked serial elements (as Neame notes in his book) and
if the difficult shoot he recounts prevented it from becoming a
Thames/Euston banker, then as it stands it occupies a transitional
space between Euston's long-running series such as The Sweeney
and Minder, and the format which other Euston projects of the
time (such as Out and perhaps also Quatermass) were
exploring, the self-contained 'television novel'.
Having republished a review of the original 1970s series earlier this year, some thoughts on the new version of The Tomorrow People might be in order. The two episodes of the CW's commission which I've seen sadly lack a vital spark. More than that, they miss the hope, however naive, which sustained Thames Television's series even as the budget drained away and changing trends in youth and political culture began to challenge writer Roger Price's ideals. Instead unattractive characters find ways to hurt each other and express their anomie within the confines of a reworked The Slaves of Jedikiah, now hung over a framework of paranoia about government surveillance and genetic modification tied up with off-the-peg concepts of a messianic hero's search for his missing father. The recreators of the series, Greg Berlanti, Phil Klemmer and Julie Plec, need to find more imagination, extract more charisma from their leads, and give the new Tomorrow People more to live for than the freedom to be citizens of a world viewed through a dystopian lens.
Tower of London is near-contemporaneous with the setting subject of my last post here, Edward & Mrs Simpson, but is set at over four hundred years' distance rather than forty. Nevertheless, the scroll which opens the narrative would have left filmgoers in little doubt that they were watching a film with contemporary relevance. There were many ruthless men determined to leave dark stains upon the pages of history in 1939, and the failure of the Munich agreement showed that tomorrow's enemies were already here. Like the film's Henry Tudor from France, many residents of the United States watched from over the sea as their ancestral homelands fell subject to what many would explain as self-interested misgovernment.
Director Rowland V. Lee seems to have used as many British actors as possible, at least where the male characters are concerned. Miles Mander, younger brother of a British Liberal anti-appeasement MP, Geoffrey Mander, plays Henry VI as a confused old man overtaken by events; with his white hair, moustache and beard, Mander's Henry looks more like a ragged version of his brother's target Neville Chamberlain than the pious clean-shaven Henry of the portraits. His enemy Edward IV is embodied in jovial brutality by Ian Hunter, a less powerful but comparable grandperformance to Keith Michell's Henry VIII in BBC Television's The Six Wives of Henry VIII thirty years later. The working classes are represented by a self-promoting and exploitative but ultimately dependable chimney-sweep, Tom Clink, played by Ernest Cossart, younger brother of Gustav Holst.
John Sutton, playing the film's ostensible romantic hero John Wyatt, was from British India and his character is a cut-price version of the kind of role played by his fellow member of the imperial diaspora, Errol Flynn, in whose support he had been previously cast in The Dawn Patrol and The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex. He carries some physical action but is mainly a symbol of hope, of marriage (and 'normal life') deferred for the people of England as embodied in the virtuous but passionate and plucky Lady Anne Barton (played by Texan actress Nan Grey). Both Wyatt and his lady are fictitious but at least one detail of Wyatt's storyline, his imprisonment in the Tower, seems to be derived from the legends which accrued around Henry Wyatt, father of the poet Sir Thomas Wyatt.
The stars, though, are unquestionably Basil Rathbone as Richard of Gloucester, and Boris Karloff as his enforcer Mord. There's a cold charm to Rathbone's Richard which is so precise as to be disarming. Indeed, his private miniature tableau of naively-crafted figurines, whittled down to one over years as Richard disposes of successive family members, is endearing in its simplicity. We can believe that his nephew Richard of York would include "I like Uncle Richard" in his last prayer. Richard is playful and death is his game. Indeed, he does away with his elder brother the duke of Clarence (Vincent Price, visibly much younger than Basil Rathbone despite the best efforts of Rathbone's make-up) by tempting him with the entire Warwick inheritance if he wins a drinking contest, leaving him drunk enough to meet his vinicultured fate. The reason the film shows very little of Richard as king is that there is no-one important enough for him left to murder before Henry Tudor arrives to slay him at Bosworth, both in terms of the film's plot and for Richard as a character.
Mord is the film's invention, a club-footed, bald grotesque whose ears adhere more closely than is usual to his skull. He's a physically deformed and embittered lower-orders counterpart to Richard. He's another opportunity for Universal to present Karloff beneath 'monster' make-up, but also exhibit his talent for physical performance. There's something of the class warrior about Mord, taking revenge on the nobility through beheadings, stabbings and (last but definitely not least) drowning in Malmsey wine, on behalf of the masses. Yet a more urgent compulsion for Mord is the need to be recognised as human, as a man, as a warrior. He begs that Richard let him come to fight at Tewkesbury, but Richard refuses, preferring that Mord plot on his behalf from the shadows rather than take up arms for the wider Yorkist cause. The depiction of Mord's dejection as Karloff takes him back through a Tower gateway, dragging his foot behind him, framed in silhouette, is skilfully done. Mord's devotion to his fellow-sufferer, the crookbacked Richard, is encouraged and exploited by Richard, but nowhere does it appear that Richard's infirmity holds him back. Mord lacks self-belief, but he does believe in Richard. At the end, he fights bravely and well until he sees his master killed; any sympathy the audience might feel for him is challenged when he attempts to fly the field. He is eventually defeated in single combat, but it takes a nobleman to do it.
The opening roller referred to the pages of History, as if it were a foreign land. Though the architecture of the real Tower of London is closely honoured in the long (model? or photographic?) shots, the general shape of the sets owes much to Universal's Mitteleuropa of its earlier horror cycle, though augmented with the appropriate English royal arms for the period. However, the mingling of British and various American accents (including a very southern accent for the five-year-old Richard, duke of York, in his wedding scene) suggests that this is a film made for a United States which very much still saw English history as the main root of its traditions. Richard III might pose as a man of the people, but appeals to the mob (it's tempting to see parallels with Hitler's use of the plebiscite) are no substitute for the rule of law and respect for the wishes of the individual. It's only the advent of Henry VII which allows John and Anne to marry.
Tower of London presents an abbreviated storybook history which concentrates on the villainy of one prince and his henchman. Character suffers: Anne Neville is introduced as the loving wife of Edward, prince of Wales (G.P. Huntley, cast only as sword fodder) but disappears once she is married. The mature leading female role is Queen Elyzabeth (the only name to suffer a cod medievalisation) who suffers from a vocal delivery, gestures and facial expression which suggests Barbara O'Neil was playing to the back of the stalls. Unlike a more recent treatment of this historical period - the BBC adaptation of Philippa Gregory's The White Queen and its sequels - the emphasis is on the fate of a people rather than on the careers of individuals, magic is absent, God is taken for granted (and mocked by Richard as Mord does away with Henry VI) and while liberties are taken with chronology, no-one lives who shouldn't (though some, such as Hastings, just disappear). However, Tower of London works well as a catalogue of grand villainy and the degradation of a people, with the promise of redemption through the intervention of an overseas ally. Physical horror happens mostly just off screen, aside from the bloodied heads in the battle scenes, too real to be made sardonic joke of like stabbings and drunken drownings. Richard survives for so long because Edward IV keeps postponing the cause of right for the benefit of exigencies; his sons (dressed straight out of Millais) pay the price, much as populations were being sacrificed to the rule of Hitler as a result of appeasement. Neither Richard nor Mord is a Hitler, for they are drawn too broadly and their villainies are too specific, but the appeal to the American audience to look at events across the Atlantic is clear.
The latest addition to my collection of portrayals of royalty on television is Edward & Mrs Simpson, produced by Thames Television for ITV in 1978. Like ATV's Edward the Seventh three years before, it took a biography as its source and liberally drew on quotations from correspondence, reported speech and authorial commentary for setting and dialogue. The biography was Edward VIII, published in 1974. Its author, Frances Donaldson, was credited as series adviser. The screenwriter was Simon Raven, much of whose writing had concerned the upper and upper-middle classes of English society. This included both his novel sequences and his television work, including his responsibility for the BBC's epic Anthony Trollope adaptation The Pallisers (1974). Raven's social persona reportedly left those he knew debating whether he was cad, angel, or both - something that might have been said of Edward VIII himself.
There's a self-awareness to the casting which tempts the informed viewer to see Edward &Mrs Simpson as something of an inside job, an emanation from the slightly raffish side of the British establishment, paying its way by commercial breaks. Edward Fox, playing Edward VIII, was the nephew of Frances Donaldson. His first wife was the granddaughter of Freda Dudley Ward, the most enduring of Edward's mistresses when he was prince of Wales, infamously dismissed with the words from the palace switchboard "I'm sorry, but I have orders not to put you through."
Appropriately for a drama leading up to an event which interrupted and accelerated hereditary succession, Edward & Mrs Simpson draws on a wider sense of theatrical genealogy. Several of the older historical figures are personified by actors whose careers were already well under way when Edward VIII left the throne in December 1936. Peggy Ashcroft plays Queen Mary; Jessie Matthews, Wallis's aunt Bessie Merriman; Maurice Denham, Cosmo Gordon Lang, archbishop of Canterbury; Marius Goring, a fatalistic George V. Sibyl Colefax is played by 1920s and 30s comedienne Elsie Randolph. Andrew Ray, as the Duke of York, was the son of 1930s radio comedian Ted Ray. These decisions make Edward & Mrs Simpson not a detached historicisation of events or fictionalised reinterpretation like many more recent television dramas, but an extension of the dance suggested by the title song, Ron Grainer's arrangement of Herbert Farjeon's I've danced with a man, who's danced with a girl, who's danced with the Prince of Wales. Many of the key participants in events were very much alive in 1978, with Mrs Simpson herself, the Duchess of Windsor, a haunting presence not that near the back of the minds of the royal family and household, however fragile she seemed in her house in the Bois de Boulogne.
No conclusive psychological portrait is drawn of the eponymous subjects. At best, both lie outright to those closest to them, but neither are clear what their goals are or can admit as much to themselves. Perhaps Simon Raven was as baffled as Stanley Baldwin professed to be by the king's decision. Much depends, for the viewer, on observation of carefully rehearsed body language and facial expression. Early in the first episode Edward, still Prince of Wales, is the focus of a round of For he's a jolly good fellow in a regimental sergeants' mess. Edward Fox's face is that of a man who doesn't believe it's possible that he can be jolly good. Edward's self-doubt is ignored by his parents and managed by his two mistresses, responsible big sister Freda Dudley Ward and naughty little sister Thelma Furness. Both Kika Markham and Cherie Lunghi endear in these roles - it is their subjects who might grate - and it's a pity, though absolutely necessary to the storytelling, that we never see either of them after the first episode. Though the script and Cynthia Harris's performance suggest that the audience is at first expected to warm to Wallis in episode one, after she shows no enthusiasm for Thelma's safari tales (which follow extended film sequences of animals being slaughtered for fun by Edward and Thelma in East Africa), her appropriation of a vulnerable man is gauche and based upon partial misreadings.
Drama which draws on non-fiction while still being drama is prone to
rearrange matters. The stammering but resolute Duke of York tells his
wife that "I'm only a naval officer," and not (as historically) his
cousin Lord Louis Mountbatten. The impression is left that Edward meets
Wallis for the first time in London and not in Melton Mowbray, more fitting perhaps for a man who sought refuge in a metropolitan smart set.
Director Waris Hussein was by this point extremely adept at realising pasts recent and remote both on film and video and he makes use of the mixed media television drama format well. Wallis's jewellery sparkles in the grey reality of studio-London flats and Suffolk beaches; the yellows of Fort Belvedere suggest a golden fantasy from which Edward could never quite be awakened. There is a particular shot, in soft focus, of Edward and Wallis walking through a field, romantically framed through flowers, which then crashes back into the hardness of politics: studio lights, video cameras, portrait shots of visibly ageing men talking. There's a desolation to the final shot of Edward and Wallis being driven away from their wedding across a sterile gravel road: how much energy has been expended for an unproductive future. Edward & Mrs Simpsonis available on DVD in the UK from Network.While my secondhand copy looks like the image above, the release has since been rejacketed as right.
---------------  Colefax's inclusion in the narrative is cunning: the socialite and decorator was a niece of Walter Bagehot, who famously defined the powers of the British monarch as the right to be consulted, the right to encourage, and the right to warn.
 The song was mentioned on camera by the Duchess of Windsor herself in A King's Story (1968). Thanks to Jim Smith for this reference.