Thursday, July 15, 2004

Before it fades away....

...the last post on the blog (showing) was about Music Hall, and there was a link which may have escaped your attention - to an article about Vaudeville, which I thought was excellent.

In the UK, in the 1940s and 50s, The Crazy Gang were Britain's favourite comics. Of course, a lot of it is corny now, and dated humour BUT they were a group of double acts who had joined together, and there was only one solo performer in the group, but perhaps not of the group...

Monsewer Eddie Gray.

I am going to lift a quote:

COPYRIGHT 2002 The New York Observer
COPYRIGHT 2002 Gale Group

Vaudeville was the "Theatre of the Absurd" before its time. When Sir John Betjeman was poet laureate of England, he was invited by a London newspaper to have lunch with the person he would most like to meet. He wisely chose "Monsewer" Eddie Gray, who was known as "the black swan of music hall." "Monsewer" Eddie spoke Cockney and mangled French and wore a ridiculous, glued-on curled mustache. "Madame and masseurs," he would confidently announce. "How are you, all right? Enjoyin' yourself? I'll soon put a stop to that."

I guess you had to be there. He was a juggler, though they didn't mention it in that rather more general article (though there are several gems if you go visit), and it does sound as though M. Gray could have been funny doing anything - like Tommy Cooper. (OK, OK - local UK references - I have no idea whether people in other countries have even heard of these guys).

You have your own comedy heroes. Or, if you're in Bulgaria, you get Norman Wisdom.
(Nothing against Norman, let it be said, one of the classic music hall pratfall artists of his day). If only he didn't sing (but that's just me) oh and the sentiment (oh just me again?) which turns up in Chaplin and may just be a working class element that eludes me (ooh eludes!)

I don't like sentiment, it's like emotions for people who don't really feel them. The nazis made sentimental movies. yer know. Anyway...

I like Buster Keaton because in his feature films he often starts out rich and stupid and naive, and through the film develops his daring, and ingenuity, and self-confidence - and ends up with a (perhaps poor) sensible and happy and empowered life.

Initiation myths, not tooth fairies (sentiment). Growing up, not winning the lottery.

And I like W.C.Fields, not because he is good to look at (Gaaaah! with finger twiddle) but because of his unremitting passive aggressive approach to the world. There is no sentiment in the other people's characters at all - they all seem to want something from him (except daughters, some times). Fields doesn't appear sentimental either, but he may be the kind of drunk who drinks because of the shattered dreams of a romantic spirit. Curious that people think of drunks as insensitive, when it is often hypersensitivity that drives them to numb the input.

(mumble) But I digress....

Amazin, isn't it? Laurel and Hardy are Dic and Doc, or Fat and Thin, or anyone you like...These films went around the world. What we on earth call universal.

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