News Archives: view stories from Year One of the Club (October 2006 to October 2007), Year Two (October 2007 to October 2008), Year Three (October 2008 to October 2009), Year Four (October 2009 to October 2010), Year Five (October 2010 to October 2011) and Year Six (October 2011 to October 2012)
Artist paints picture of enduring pastoral tradition
6th March Our guest speaker this month was artist Mr Sean Jefferson, who filled us in on the British pastoral tradition, of which he is a proud torch-bearer. “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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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…