News Archives: view stories from Year One of the Club (October 2006 to September 2007), Year Two (October 2007 to September 2008), Year Three (October 2008 to September 2009), Year Four (October 2009 to September 2010), Year Five (October 2010 to September 2011), Year Six (October 2011 to September 2012), Year Seven (October 2012 to September 2013), Year Eight (October 2013 to September 2014) and Year Nine (October 2014 to September 2015)
News Archive: Year Seven
Club overrun by women
23rd September 2013 For our September Film Night, Evadne Raccat presented George Cukor’s comedy-drama The Women (1939), following the lives and power struggles of upper class women in Manhattan, based on a play by Clare Boothe Luce and starring Norma Shearer, Joan Crawford and Rosalind Russell. Although the characters frequently discuss men—in fact the main plot revolves around the apparent affair being conducted by the husband of the woman who thought she had the stablest marriage—the entire cast (some 130 speaking roles) is female. Even pets and portrait images are all female. It somehow suits the atmosphere of rumour and uncertainty that we see our heroine speaking to her husband on the phone, but we never see him.
Cukor was apparently known as “the women’s director”, and he seems to have been able to wrangle his cast. When Norma Shearer and Joan Crawford were called to shoot publicity stills, neither actress would enter the studio first. Instead they remained in their limousines and circled the car park until Cukor summoned them and they were instantly sweetness and light.
No stand-ins were used in the fight scene where Rosalind Russell bites Paulette Goddard—the two women gave it their all. (Despite Russell’s bite leaving a permanent scar, they allegedly remained friends.)
An enormous studio success, The Women was the second highest grossing film for MGM in 1939—first place going to Gone with the Wind. (Cukor was fired as director of Gone with the Wind only a month before The Women was scheduled to begin filming.)
Filmed in black and white, but there was a ten-minute Technicolor fashion parade filmed at the time, showcasing some outré designs by Adrian. You will sometimes comes across editions that claim to have "restored" this sequence, but Evadne told us that it was never part of the director's vision. There is a black and white fashion parade as part of the plot, but the colour version was shot simply as a sop to Adrian who was annoyed that he had designed lush gowns that would only be seen in black and white. Cukor never planned to include it in the theatrical release and, as Evadne pointed out, it would have skewed the film bizarrely.
Club learns of plucky Brit racing hero who tiptoed around the Nazis
4th September 2013 Our lecture this time, delivered by the Earl of Essex, was on 1930s British motor racing hero, Richard Seaman. “Many people believe that Stirling Moss was the first professional British Grand Prix driver," Essex explains, "and the first to drive for the mighty Mercedes-Benz team in the 1950s. But before him was a dashing young Englishman who not only drove for Mercedes in an otherwise all-German line-up, but beat all of them to win the 1938 German Grand Prix—a showpiece event for the Nazi Party to exhibit Aryan supremacy.” Despite photos of the victorious Seaman surrounded by Nazi emblems—perhaps why he is seldom celebrated today—all the evidence suggests that he had no Nazi sympathies himself; in fact, in an increasingly delicate diplomatic situation he still couldn't resist ridiculing the Nazis' pomposity. Tragically after his great victory his career was cut short by an accident.
Clean-Shaven Players fall short under scoreboard pressure
17th August 2013 Once again the New Sheridan Club fielded two cricket teams, the Clean-Shaven Players and the Hirsute Gentlemen (facial hair was grown for the occasion, though in Scarheart's case no one really noticed). The field of battle shifted for the first time from Roehampton to Greenwich Park: everyone seemed to find it easier to get to and the hire fees were significantly lower. Just as important as the match was the picnicking and plenty of Members turned up just to scoff quail's eggs and spectate. A full match report will appear in the September issue of the Club newsletter Resign!, but to cut a long story short the Hirsute Gentlemen won. And it only rained briefly. Then we all went to the pub.
Club befuddled by game of double and triple-cross
12th August 2013 For this month’s Film Night, Mark Davies (left) presented the comedy-thriller Charade starring Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn, concerning a socialite who returns from a skiing trip to find her husband (whom she was planning to divorce anyway) murdered and a CIA agent keen to talk to her.
“Stanley Donen’s 1963 movie is perhaps not strictly chappish,” says Mr Davies, “but it does have Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn, who are respectively gentlemanly and charming. They spar with wonderful dialogue and chemistry that make it perhaps surprising that they never made any other movies together. It’s a mix of screwball and murder mystery with some spy intrigue thrown in and a few twists to throw you just when you think you’ve worked it out. To make up the strong cast, it co-stars Walter Matthau, one half of The Odd Couple, George Kennedy, best known as Ed Hocken from the Naked Gun movies (and wasn’t he in every 1970s disaster movie?) and James Coburn, then a rising star. The best Hitchcock film that Hitchcock never made?”
The film is very much of its time, suffused with Cold War paranoia—although spies, despite being mentioned, never materialise. In fact the MacGuffin harks back to WWII history, but the plot nevertheless consists of a stream of flip-flopping revelations about who is really whom, and whom can really be trusted.
Thanks to Mark for suggesting this film.
Club dazzled by tales of roguery and derring do
7th August 2013 The talk at our August meeting came from Mr Luke Wenban and concerned the WWII ace spy Edward Arnold Chapman. A charming but amoral cad by nature, he swiftly drifted into crime as a young man and was briefly part of the "Jelly Gang" of gelignite-armed cracksmen who were so successful that the police formed a special squad to catch them—ultimately succeeding. In and out of prison, Chapman happened to be in chokey on Jersey when the Germans took it. To save his bacon he offered to spy for his captors. Aided to some extent by the power politics within the German war machine, Edwards found a patron in Captain Stephan von Gröning, head of the Abwehr, who desperately needed to show his masters some success. The Germans spent a year training Edwards then parachuted him into Britain, where he promptly turned himself into MI5 and offered to be a double agent. The Germans wanted him to sabotage the De Havilland factory that made the famous Mosquito bombers, so MI5 created an elaborate illusion of a bomb site, so that, from the air, it would look as if the factory had indeed been blown up. The Germans were delighted and, when Edwards was sent back to Germany, they awarded him the Iron Cross. (He remains the only British citizen to receive it.) He taught in a German spy school in Norway (where he secret photographed the agents) and later returned to London where he fed false information to the Germans about V1 targeting. Overall he came out of the war very well, having persuaded both the British and the Germans to keep mistresses for him and being paid handsomely by both sides, but he did make significant contributions to the war effort. As an MI5 officer wrote, "Chapman loved himself, loved adventure, and loved his country, probably in that order." After the war he remained friends with von Gröning (spilling the beans about being a double agent—they had a good laugh about it), who came to his daughter's wedding.
Club proves to be Mexican rather than Mexican't
20th July 2013 Graced with an inexplicable Mexican theme, our summer party took place on 20th July at the Adam Street Club. Frida Kahlos rubbed shoulders with Zorros, bandidos and Zapatistas, and one guest even came with a bloodied chainsaw and the head of a rival drug lord in a bucket. (Right, Oliver has come as Manny Calavera, a character from computer game Grim Fandango.) We had live music from Mariachi Jalisco, who got people up dancing and played an encore. We had the traditional shooting game with the ancestral foam dart gun (this time shooting a wine glass off the head of William Burroughs' wife Joan, in a recreation of their ill-fated "William Tell Routine", below) and an Aztec sacrifice game (utilising an "Operation" set remounted on a ziggurat), and of course we had a piñata, kindly made by Mrs H. in NSC colours. Our usual complimentary Snuff Bar made an appearance and there were gentlemanly requisites provided in the bathrooms—
cologne, pomade, moustache wax, etc. There was a buffet of rather good Mexican food, plus tequila cocktails courtesy of Olmeca Altos; at the beginning of the evening we were treated to a masterclass from the brand's ambassador Matthias Lataille, who even gave us some pieces of cooked agave to taste, so we can see where tequila comes from. Many thanks to Matthias and to those who donated prizes for our Grand Raffle, which rounded off the evening. You can find many more photos from the event on the Club Flickr page.
Club treated to monochrome erotica
15th July 2013 For our film night this month Member Tim Eyre presented the long-lost 1929 silent masterpiece Erotikon [Seduction] from Czech director Gustav Machatý.
Clearly Tim had a Chappist agenda when he explained that the film boasted a well-dressed cad and a scene in a tailor's, but the film is probably more notable for its frank (if not explicit) depiction of sexuality and moral turpitude, at a time when US directors were labouring under increasingly prudish strictures. Combined with dramatic cinematic techniques, using moving cameras, optical effects and strange, expressionist points of view, this makes for a very “modern”-seeming silent movie. The film was actually considered lost until a crumbling print was discovered in 1993 and restored. The plot concerns Andrea, a trusting country girl who experiences an awakening when seduced by worldly visitor Olaf Fjord. After he abandons her, she endures single motherhood and marriage to another man, all the while nursing an overwhelming passion for her first lover. Andrea finds herself in the upper-class social scene, which is portrayed as fundamentally sleazy, an environment that encourages disloyalty by its own shallowness. Machatý began as a cinema pianist, and debuted as an actor at 16. Moving to the US in the 1920s he learned film-making as apprentice to the great D. W. Griffith and Erich von Stroheim. Andrea is played by Slovenian beauty queen Ita Rina, who was honoured with her own postage stamp in 1996.
Sun smiles on Chap Olympiad
13th July 2013 Once again, the sharp of trouser crease, the fragrant of pipe tobacco and the rakish of hat angle answered the rallying cry from The Chap magazine and descended in their hundreds on Bedford Square Gardens for the annual celebration of games designed to test a fellow's savour faire, loucheness and taste in tailoring—rather than anything so vulgar as physical prowess or so unwise as athletic exertion. After a few years when the rain failed to do its duty and hold off, we had spectacularly sunny conditions; in fact the biggest challenge was keeping remotely cool in so many layers of tweed or stout serge military uniforms.
There was a bit of an organisational regroup too: after last year's two-day event we returned to a solid single-day games. Some games had vanished, such as the long-serving Martini Relay, and also the relatively recent Ironing Board Surfing (following, rumour has it, an accident last time—accident waiting to happen, if you ask me…). New games tended to be less brutal, such as passing a brimming cup of tea between one bicyclist and another, a relay passing of port between a series of ever-diminishing vessels, hobby horse dressage and Bread Basketball, in which one team has to lob bread rolls into a fellow team-member's basket, while a table of diners in between them try to intercept the rolls.
We were treated to half-time musical manna from a 1940s-style close-harmony trio and vintage DJing from Swingin' Dickie. The only damper was that the heightened Health and Safety awareness meant that dancing on the raised performance area was now banned—though a number of couples gave the security staff a cheeky runaround as they tried repeatedly to break this particular rule.
On the subject of breaking rules, I was particularly impressed by the ingenuity and sheer bulk of the booze smuggling that went on this time. (In the early days the Chap Olympics was unticketed and people just brought their own booze and picnic, but since Bourne and Hollingsworth took over—running their own bar—they have policed the gate and confiscated alcohol.) Pretty much everyone seemed to have a hip flask, while Mrs Downer smuggled grog in an emptied bottle of mouthwash (well, it was her own homemade rhubarb vodka, so hard to tell the difference, really…) and Scarheart even went to the trouble of hollowing out a loaf of bread so he could conceal a bottle of gin inside it. In fact we've decided that next year we will have a competition for Best Smuggler.
A melancholy note was struck by the absence of Nathaniel Slipper, who sadly died from cancer earlier this year. Our own Chairman Torquil Arbuthnot opened proceedings with a eulogy: instead of a two-minute silence, it was deemed more appropriate to have a two-minute cockney walkabout, to the strains of Chas n' Dave. At the end of the day, Chap editor Gustav Temple finished the awards ceremony by awarding Slipper a posthumous Black Cravat, wrapped around a bottle of whisky in his absence (see photo above).
Club swoons over Nature's delights
3rd July 2013 Our speaker this month was member Lorna Mower-Johnson, who gave a splendid talk on the eccentric botanists who risked life and limb in the steamy tropics or the frozen, airless passes of Tibet to bring home specimens of rare plants. Perhaps to be sure of capturing her Chappist audience's attention, Lorna pushed the "Boy's Own" angle—Frank Kingdon-Ward, for example, survived falling off cliffs, being crushed by a tree and even impalement on a bamboo stake, as well as finding time to do a bit of spying for His Majesty's Government. But she needn't have worried: her slides depicting such toothsome specimens as the Tibetan blue poppy elicited gasps of delight from the audience as if we were watching a fireworks display. Many thanks to Lorna. If you missed her talk, an essay version will appear in the August NSC newsletter.
Fond farewell for Nathaniel Slipper
18th June 2013 The latest issue of The Chap magazine carries the following obituary for Chap writer Nathaniel Slipper (a.k.a. Alistair Carr), penned by our own Chairman Torquil Arbuthnot and Chris Hankinshaw:
The Chap was deeply saddened to learn of the death of Nathaniel Slipper (known to Interpol as Alistair Carr) earlier this year. Mr Slipper was a highly valued writer on The Chap, and also the co-creator of The Chap Olympics with his chum Torquil Arbuthnot. Nathaniel came from a long line of writers: both his father and grandfather could whittle their own names in shaky capital letters on a chair leg. He was also an adventurer, once getting his head wedged in a tiger's jaws (although the tiger in question was a tiger hearth rug). He bought his first copy of The Chap while browsing the "cheeky" section of York Waterstone's. After an evening with the OED he decided he would like to write for The Chap, as he had finished pencilling in all the 'o's, 'a's and 'p's of his copy of The Sporting Life. Nathaniel went on to write reams of articles for The Chap, including "Letter from the t'North" and "Kipper and Grape's World of Sport". The articles he wrote with Torquil Arbuthnot defined the very heart and soul of the magazine. The Chap extends its deepest sympathies to Mr Slipper's friends and family.
Club swoons to tale of RFC air aces
17th June 2013 Our June Film Night featured a screening of The Dawn Patrol (1938), presented by Derek Duberry, who arrived in appropriate Royal Flying Corps rig. By coincidence the film is, like our last film, in May, set among aviators during the early days of flight, but the tone was very different. The all-male cast featured Basil Rathbone as the flight commander of the 59th squadron in 1915, torn apart by guilt and frustration as he must send ever younger and ever more poorly trained recruits up to their deaths. Meanwhile the pilots, led by star of the picture Errol Flynn, carouse for all they're worth and sing toasts to "the next man that dies". When Rathbone is promoted and Flynn becomes flight commander he gets a taste of what his superior had been going through, unable to fly now himself but forced by his superiors to send green recruits to the slaughter. This drives a wedge between him and his best friend, played by David Niven, especially when one of the latest recruits turns out to be Niven's brother…
In his opening address Mr Duberry focused on Flynn and his career, how the Tasmanian-born chancer bluffed and charmed his way into film roles before being rocked by a charge of statutory rape, of which he was acquitted, but it hammered his self confidence and drove him ever more to the bottle. Although Flynn in his memoirs never mentions Niven, the latter made much of their real-life camaraderie (they did share a house for a while) and their chemistry in the film adds a convincing sense of the public-school japery that somehow enabled the incredibly young RFC flyers to keep going day after day.
Mr Duberry also revealed that many of the plot details—such as the pilot going up wearing polka-dot pyjamas and the captured German pilot spending a day drinking with his British counterparts before being taken prisoner—came straight from real life.
We were also lucky to be graced by the presence of Mr Russell Scheidelman (above), an Overseas Member who normally resides in Seattle but had managed to make it to London for a visit.
Radical trouser theory revealed
5th June 2013 Once again we had a packed house to welcome our speaker, Mr Sean Longden, whose topic was Oxford Bags: The Most Important Trousers of the 20th Century. These wide, loose trousers seemed to spring from nowhere in 1925, outraging the older generation and creating an ensemble look (baggy trousers, double-breasted blazer and flat-crowned "pancake" hat) that nearly caused riots in some cities of the world. The popular origin myth is that they followed the fashion for plus-fours—after some Oxford colleges banned the knee-length trousers, the bags were developed to wear over the plus-fours as a disguise (presumably until the wearer was away from prying eyes and could remove the bags). But Sean used contemporary photos to show that it would not have been possible to fit a pair of plus-fours under any real-world Oxford bags. (He pointed out that everyday examples were much more restrained than the super-wide ones that turn up in some popular photographs—they were usually just fabricated for a wager and got media coverage precisely because they were atypical.) Moreover, he revealed an example of Oxford bags being referred to by name in the late 19th century. His theory is that they were developed for rowers to wear over their sports shorts when travelling to and from the river, the equivalent of a track suit. From this start, he contends, they went on to influence the basic shape of men's trousers—loose, blossoming from the hip via pleats—right up into the 1950s.
Film Night takes off with feast of aerial shenanigans
20th May 2013 After an awkward spring in which the last two of our monthly Film Nights had to be cancelled (in February due to the venue's boiler breaking down and in March due to our curator being detained in Northern Ireland), the programme sputtered back into life in May when Lorella McDonald presented Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines, a 1965 British comedy classic with all the national stereotypes and slapstick that you would expect of this era—even featuring running gags about airmen crashing into a sewage works. We actually had the largest audience yet for one of our Tea House silver screen evenings, including a number of non-NSC types who had just seen it advertised. Admittedly we lost some during the course of the film, including one cluster who turned out to be a local autism group, but it is a surprisingly long film (two hours and 18 minutes). In fact by modern standards the whole first half was quite leisurely in setting up the story of an Edwardian London–Paris air race in which pioneers of flight from different nations compete for a handsome prize. The whole thing really comes together in the second half, filled with splendid aerial footage, much of it shot using replica aircraft built for the film. Throw in some hammy performances from Terry-Thomas, Eric Sykes and Tony Hancock and you have a guffaw-filled treat. Many thanks to Lorella.
Club learns valuable fieldcraft
1st May 2013 The Dowager Duchess of Northumberland gave us a talk which she had previously identified only as not being about her cat Patience (presumably figuring that most people would assume that would be her topic). In fact her oration was on a subject close to most Members' hearts—booze. The Duchess has a number of apple trees on her estate as well as a rhubarb patch and a plum tree. Last year she experimented with making cider from her apple glut, with excellent results. This year the crop was much smaller, and it is too early to judge the results, but the Duchess also tried making rhubarb wine, rhubarb schnapps (using vodka as a base) and plum wine, as well as a lavender mead. She explained how she went about it all and handed out samples of her various brews (see photo). It's good to know that when society goes into meltdown, a Chappist enclave would at least be self-sufficient for grog.
Club battles the forces of Nature
27th April 2013 The Club had its annual battle with the elements when we gathered in Oxford and set off on the River Cherwell in a flotilla of punts filled with picnic hampers. To date we have never actually been forced to abandon the jaunt due to bad weather, and this held true once more, even though we were actually hit by a hailstorm near the beginning. After this early portent, the skies cleared and it was intermittently sunny. However, like last year the current was strong and punting upstream was a struggle. We did not have a high number of skilled punters among us, and some crews resorted to pedalos instead, which are easier to control. However, the pedalos can't be dragged over the rollers that separate two levels of the river. Moreover, the area around the rollers was flooded again, so we abandoned the last part of the route and had our picnic by the rollers. Which was agreeable apart from a keen wind which got up and became quite arctic. It is something of a tradition that every year someone falls in. This year was no exception and the finger of fate pointed at Chico St Martin, who managed to fall in three times. (His explanation was that after the first dunking you stop caring.) The journey back downriver was easier as the current was with us, though we still managed to get to the boatyard rather later than planned. Fortunately the owners so value our custom that they waived the extra money we owed them. It only remained to head to the Turf Tavern and sup some ales before the evening descended into oblivion.
Club ladies receive words of wisdom
3rd April 2013 Mai Britt Møller, a Dane claiming she has been sent on a fact-finding mission, delivered her preliminary findings at our April meeting. Despite early threats, no bacon was actually involved in the end, though Mai did distribute some fine Akvavit through the room (which took longer than expected on account of the huge turn-out) and taught us the Danish toast, "Skol!" The bulk of her talk was actually about identifying and avoiding bounders, accompanied by some amusing slides she had created, showing sepia photos staged by some helpful NSC members, of her narrow escape from a bounder…
Britain's rural soul bared
6th March 2013 Our guest speaker the March Club Night was artist Mr Sean Jefferson, who filled us in on the British pastoral tradition, of which he is a proud torch-bearer. (That's Autumn, Tawny Owl from 2012 on the left.) “The paintings arise out of the historic British sense of the absurd, a love of the supernatural, and a deep spiritual connection with the unique landscape and atmosphere of these Isles,” Sean explained. He exhibits with a group of reactionary artists including founder members of The Brotherhood Of Ruralists who have kept alive a tradition of art that runs in an unbroken chain back to Samuel Palmer and William Blake. You can see examples of Sean’s work at www.clerkenwellfineart.com.
We also once more had a film crew with us, this time from Rugulent, a student production team from Winchester University.
Club cheers the quiet man
18th February 2013 Our February Film Night featured the forgotten classic Dodsworth. Despite being nominated for seven Oscars and having an impressive 8.1/10 rating from IMDB.com, Dodsworth is strangely little-known these days. It was offered partly as a nod to St Valentine’s Day, but it was no sugary romance. Rather, it offers a surprisingly adult reflection on mature love, marriage and what we are entitled to expect out of life. The story begins with a successful industrialist in a small Midwestern town having just taken the decision to sell up and retire, following his wife’s desire just to travel and have fun. She argues that he’s earned it; his friends argue that Midwestern industrialists are supposed to keep going till they drop: to stop working is almost un-American. They feel his wife just believes she’s too good for their small town and wants to get out into wider society while she still has her looks. No sooner do they embark on a voyage to Europe then his wife starts flirting with other men. It’s as if “Europe” is a dangerous Otherworld of moral laxity but also new possibilities.
As much as anything the film is about ageing. Fran Dodsworth married young and how feels that her husband is rushing into old age—while she, on the other hand, tries to deny age by fraternising with younger people. Her wanderlust is clearly sparked by her approaching status as a grandmother. Dodsworth begins as someone accepting that it is time to slow down and learn to enjoy leisure; but when he is obliged to travel on his own for a while, and meets a woman who understands and encourages him, he suddenly develops a youthful energy for new ideas (new business ideas, that is—it seems the subtext is that all this leisure nonsense is unhealthy and he should get back to work at once).
Walter Huston gives a quiet, nuanced performance of a man trying to deny his wife’s roving eye, and the cast also includes David Niven as a charming cad (above, with Ruth Chatteron as Fran) and Mary Astor as the kind of worldly, self-assured woman Dodsworth has never met before.
The flick clearly captured our viewers attentions—at a critical point where Dodsworth has to decide whether to stand by his erring wife or pursue a life more likely to give him happiness, there was an audible hiss of encouragement in the room.
Mysteries of the Orient revealed
6th February 2013 The speaker at our February monthly meeting was Dr Timothy Eyre, who filled us in on the strange city-state of Macau, a pensinsula across the river from Hong Kong and, until 1999, the last European colony in China. Today it is a semi-autonomous state with a mixed Chinese-Portuguese heritage, its own currency, passports and legal system, and derives the bulk of its income from gambling and hospitality. Dr Eyre eloquently took us through the undeniable tawdriness of the reclaimed Cotai "strip", as well as the fetching and fascinating cultural remains that make Macau at the same time a Unesco World Heritage Site. There was a lively debate about the origins of the egg tart.
Dr Eyre was kind enough to bring along copies of a book he wrote about another trip, a two-week visit to North Korea in 2002, which he gave away to those who wanted one. If any Member of the Club reading this would like a copy too, just get in touch and we can send you one.
Club dazzled by ageless sinner
21st January 2013 This time our Monday evening Film Night screening was the 1945 version of The Picture of Dorian Gray. Based on Oscar Wilde’s 1891 novel, the film concerns a young, handsome, affable but slightly naive young man, Dorian Gray. While posing for a portrait he is visited by his friend Lord Henry Wotton, who opines that the only life worth living is one dedicated entirely to pleasure, without commitment to others. Moreover, armed with his youth and beauty, Dorian can have anything he desires. Dorian is persuaded, and declares that he wished his new portrait would grow old instead of him. He happens to voice this wish in the presence of a statue of an Egyptian deity… Dorian embarks on a career of hedonism, breaking off an engagement to a young singer at Lord Henry’s suggestion, on the grounds that marriage would cramp his style. Even when the spurned woman commits suicide, he adopts an air of indifference, heading straight off to the opera. But when he returns he notices that his portrait does indeed seem to have grown older, uglier and sterner. So he locks it away and forbids anyone to look at it. As the year pass, Dorian himself does not age.
Dorian is played by Hurd Hatfield and Sibyl the singer by Angela Lansbury. But the star has to be George Sanders as Lord Henry, a masterful study of caddish charm and silver-tongued wickedness.
The film is shot mostly in black and white (for which it won an Oscar) aprt from two colour shots of the portrait itself! As a bonus, Mrs H. gave us a brief talk on the two paintings commissioned as props for the film, one of the young handsome Dorian, by Henrique Medina (1901–1988), a successful society portrait artist from Portugal who also worked in Paris, London and Rome, and the other, far more bizarre painting of the old, corrupted Dorian, by Ivan Le Lorraine Albright (1897–1983). Albright was one of twins who were both artists, but Ivan's work was especially meticulous and strange, obsessed with physical corruption. The studio paid a vast $75,000 for the rights to show the painting in the film.
Plague blights meeting but Blitz spirit wins through
2nd January 2013 Sadly the scheduled talk for our January meeting had to be cancelled at the last minute, when Luke Wenban fell ill and was unable to deliver his address on Agent Zigzag. However, a good crowd nevertheless assembled and showed the Club's mettle, when two Members offered to step up and give spontaneous talks. Thanks go to the much-travelled Tim Eyre for his enlightening insight into American Samoa, and also to Eugenie Rhodes for her fascinating look into the passionate but doomed romance between society beauty Mrs Fitzherbert and King George IV. For the benefit of those who were unable to attend, written versions of these talks will appear in the February newsletter.
What the Dickens? It's the NSC Christmas Party!
8th December 2012 We chose Dickens as our theme this time (it's his 200th birthday this year) and people came as Miss Havershams, chimneysweeps, costermongers, Magwitches and general Victorians. Our traditional Grand Raffle this time featured such curios as a pair of wooden crutches, a turkey, DVDs of Dickens adaptations, some antiquarian books, Victorian finger puppets, the Ladybird Book of Charles Dickens, an Oliver Twist toy theatre, a Royal Doulton Dickens plate, a bottle of sherry, a tin of Quality Street and a voucher for a whitebait supper at the Trafalgar Tavern in Greenwich (a meal that Dickens himself used to enjoy). As well as the annual Christmas lucky dip, we also had an electric pocket-picking game (which sadly started to go on the blink fair early on), where contestants had to lift a pocket watch from a jacket pocket without touching the sides—if they did a light flashed. And no party would be complete without a shooting game involving the, now rather battered, ancestral foam dart gun. This time the object was to Shoot the Crutch from the Cripple, with Action Man standing in for Tiny Tim. Live entertainment came in the form of Mr B the Gentleman Rhymer who, although not espectially Dickensian, was jolly good as ever. Prizes for best costumes went to Pandora Harrison's Miss Haversham, complete with mouse and mousetrap in her hair, and Ed Marlowe's Marley, complete with handkerchief around his jaw, chains and a ledger.
Strong Club Showing at Chap Ball
1st December 2012 Tonight saw The Chap magazine's Christmas ball, now an annual event run in conjunction with Bourne and Hollingsworth who also handle the Chap Olympics. It had an "eccentric" theme this time, and entertainment included a flea circus, an acrobat balancing on a slack-rope, music from Albert Ball's Flying Aces and a surprise appearance by the Club's own Mr B. the Gentleman Rhymer. "Atters" Attree was MC, wearing a highly peculiar psychedelic onesie. The NSC massive were out in force including Lord Rupert in his guise as Mr Bell the Butler, delivering telegrams to guests, and, of course our own Bethan Garland as chief organiser.
Club exposed to gritty 1970s street life
19th November 2012 Our November Film Night was a presentation by Ed Marlowe of Walter Hill’s 1979 classic The Warriors, which blends gritty social (sur)realism with Greek literature to produce a distillation of America’s 1970s angst about social decay. Adapted from a novel originally intended to spoof the idea of the "high concept"—in this case a story about street gangs that was actually based on the classical of Greek literature Anabasis—it is set in an alternative version of 1970s New York where the whole city is carved up into the turf of one gang or another (some of them with hilariously pantomimic costumes). Our heroes are The Warriors, from Coney Island, who answer a call by gang boss Cyrus for representatives from gangs all over town to meet and hear his plan for unification to overwhelm the cops and control the city. But when Cyrus is shot from the crowd, the Warriors get the blame and suddenly they must fight their way back home across enemy territory. In Anabasis the heroes are Greek mercenaries who make an anabasis (a venture inland from the coast), only for the man who had hired them, Cyrus, to be killed leaving them, likewise, to get back home through hostile territory, and the film is remarkably close to the book, with our heroes squabbling over leadership and walking into traps. All the while a radio DJ (of whom we only ever see the mouth) comments on their progress like some Greek chorus… Many thanks to Ed for bringing this period classic to the attention of a new audience.
Club confronted with unscripted humour
7th November 2012 In a startling break with tradition, instead of a lecture this time our entertainment came in the form of improvised comedy from Upstairs Downton, a troupe whose mission is to improvise a "lost episode" of Downton Abbey/Upstairs Downstairs. At the beginning the writer "Julian Chaps" asks the audience to suggest some details that the cast must incorporate into the episode—in this case they were obliged to include newts, taxidermy and aspidistras. With hilarious consequences… Many thanks to the crew, whose performance went down very well indeed.
Vintage Frights prove CGI is not the answer
29th October 2012 Our October Film Night chimed with Halloween with a screening of the 1963 version of The Haunting. Eschewing the CGI gurning of the 1999 remake with Catherine Zeta Jones and Liam Neeson, the original uses edgy black and white photography, strange camera angles and jarring edits to create a sense of unease and dread, using suggestion to conjure horrors from the viewer's imagination rather than flat attempts at explicit imagery. It is the tale of a group who come together for paranormal experiments at an allegedly haunted house: Dr Markway, the scientist who is desperate to prove that the subject to which he has devoted his life is real; Luke, the young Ivy Leaguer who will inherit the pile and doesn't believe in ghosts, only in real estate value; Cleo, a hip lesbian with clairvoyant talents; and Eleanor, a fragile woman who has lost her youth caring for a demanding mother and who, as a child, had an experience with a poltergeist. The four of them forge more complex relationships, Eleanor developing a crush on Markway and Cleo becoming keen on Eleanor, all of which comes to a head with the sudden arrival of Markway's cynical wife. Meanwhile the house itself emerges as the fifth main character, calling to Eleanor to join its menagerie of trouble souls… The event was unusual in a high number of non-NSC visitors, all of whom were suitably spooked by this masterful classic.
Mr B. video out
21st October 2012 If you would like to see the end result of our shoot for the video for Mr B.'s tune Just Like a Chap (see below), have a butcher's at this link.
Club gets the low-down on strait-lacing
3rd October 2012 A big crowd rolled up for our speaker, Mrs Pandora Harrison, whose topic was corsetry. The subject was close to her heart (a number of her slides turned out to be glamorous studio shots of herself tight laced) and she gave us a thorough canter through the history of figure-controlling foundation garments, the fetishisation of them, various icons of corset-wearing, the long tradition of men's corsets, right up to the modern resurgence of interest. The talk was illustrated with a record 435 slides, and for the occasion the Club invested in a wireless controller so that Pandora would not have to bark out, "Next slide, please," 435 times…