Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Britain is still a country for and says "Happy Birthday" to an old actor called George Cole

George, a radio, film and tv actor, whose career has spanned 70 years and who I remember when I was a boy in the pre-tv 1950s, playing an amiable, bumbling bachelor with his dog Psyche,
in his radio radio comedy, 'A Life of Bliss', is 87 years old today.

What you possibly didn't know about George, that he :

* was born in London in 1927 and was given up for adoption at the age of ten days and taken by the 'Cole family', a fact he found out about by accident some years later.

* left school to be a butcher's boy, but landed a part in a touring musical and chose acting as a career and appeared on the stage and then in the film, 'Cottage to Let', as a Second World War cockney evacuee, at the age of 14 in 1941.

* was taken in, along with his mother, during the London Blitz, by stage and film actor, Alistair Sim and his wife at the age of 15, who helped him lose his London cockney accent and who became his mentor, going on to make 11 films with him.

* appeared opposite Laurence Olivier in 'The Demi-Paradise' in 1943 and in his film version of 'Henry V' in 1944 then  had his career interrupted by service in the Royal Air Force in the Second World War in 1944 until 1947

* appeared with Alistair Sim in 'Scrooge' as the young Scrooge in 1951 and had his best known film role was as 'Flash Harry' (left)

at the age of 26 in 1953, starred with Petula Clark as awkward, absent-minded bachelor, David Bliss, in a new radio sitcom, 'A Life of Bliss' which ran for 118 episodes before transferring to tv in the early 1960s.

* starred as a 'wide boy' (left) in the St Trinian's films and in the comedy 'Too Many Crooks' in 1958 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d-qraaPq-94 and to a degree reprised him in his most memorable tv role was as crooked used-car dealer, Arthur Daley in the Thames Television series, 'Minder' (right) from 1979 to '94 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=280-jLL1u78

* played Henry Root in the series 'Root Into Europe' in 1992.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=alhSY8hAhlw and from 1995-96 starred as businessman-councillor, Freddie Patterson, in 'An Independent Man', in which his wife Penny Morrell also appeared and as Brian Hook in the BBC Comedy, 'Dad' in the late 1990s.

* starred in the mid-1990s ITV comedy series 'My Good Friend', playing a mischievous pensioner, and in 2003 at the age of 76 appeared alongside (right) Timothy Spall and Annette Crosbie in the drama 'Bodily Harm.'

* in 2007, at the age of 80, appeared in the BBC drama 'A Class Apart', in which he played a grandfather who encourages his impoverished daughter to keep her son on the straight and narrow by means of a public school bursary.

* plays a character called Cyril and starts filming in a low budget horror film this summer, 'Road Rage', due to be released in 2015.

So it's "thanks George", for helping to keep us entertained from 1943 - 2014 and here's to the next seventy years !

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Britain is no longer a country for and says "Goodbye" to the old king of corporate branding, Wally Olins

Wallace, who argued that company branding was much more than messaging and cosmetics but also culture, how the people behind the brand were organised and how they behaved, has died at the age of 83.

* born in London six years before the outbreak of the Second World War, the son of Rachel Muscovitch and Alfred Olins, themselves both born in London in 1896 whose parents had escaped to Britain from Russian pogroms against the Jews in the 1880's.

* was provided for by his father who developed a family road transport business and was looked after by a nanny in a home which was a 'cheerless establishment' and attended a Jewish kindergarten attached to the Synagogue where he remembered learning about the British Empire.

*  remembered family trips to Clacton and pre-War Paris and was briefly evacuated to an emergency school in Brighton in 1939 at the start of the German blitz bombing of London, then packed off to the Perse Boarding School (left) aged nine, possibly because of his mother's mental health problems which were having an impact on him, his parents' marriage and the family in general. 

 * went on to Highgate School, an independent school for boys, at the age of 13 in 1943, where Gerard Hoffnung and Anthony Howard were older boys, excelled in running and was left with an attachment to deference and hierarchy which stayed with him into early adulthood.

* despite feeling 'mismatched' to school, left to study History at St Peter's College, Oxford in 1948 and after graduating in the early 1950s, did National Service in the Army in Germany serving in the Royal Welsh Fusiliers followed by a commission in a tank regiment and had his first 'relationship' with the opposite sex with a German girl.

* was recorded talking about his, not particularly religious, Jewish childhood in an interview by Melanie Roberts in 2001 which remains locked away in the British Library archives and 'accessible for UK Higher Education and Further Education institutions only' : http://sounds.bl.uk/Arts-literature-and-performance/Art-photography-and-architecture/021M-C1015X0008XX-0100V0 and apparently and tantalisingly, because you might want to know more about what made Wally, 'Wally', covers his :

-  early discomfort with class consciousness in Britain.
-  conflict with and early alienation from Christian and Jewish religion and the effect this has had on his children
- 'recognition of insider/outsider issues and their relationship to his drives and ambitions' prompted when his father persuaded him to become a freemason.
-  thoughts about the culture of Jewishness.
- remembered how Jews fleeing to Palestine from Europe in the late 1940s reflected in anti-Semitism in Britain at the time.

. * left the Army and his experience of an attempted homosexual rape by an officer behind him and got his first job with the London advertising agency, S.H.Benson in 1957, soon after his marriage to Renate Steinert, who he'd met at Oxford and got an overseas posting, to Bombay, where after visiting three steel companies it became clear to him "that there must be some way of underlining a difference between an organisation apart from the way that it promotes itself – a way to communicate its personality that’s the experience that drew me towards corporate identity."

* returned to Britain in the early 60s and was dissatisfied with work in the advertising officer corps which he found "very superficial and cosmetic" and "didn't get to the heart of anything", until he met designer, Michael Wolff, who he once described "the most brilliant creative brain I ever met, and the most maddening human being" and with whom he started their brand consultancy, Wolff Olins, at the age of 35 in 1965. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8oPOfTe8ZhM

* worked with Michael for eighteen years, finding at first they “very much at the fringes, a bit like vegetarianism”, resented by traditional admen and misunderstood by the corporate world, before developing their poster organisation and stalking horse of the 'big brand movement' which became the market leader in its field.

* from his first customer, Hadfield Paints, moved from designing identities for corporations in need of help projecting themselves to the outside world, to bigger companies with multiple subsidiaries, each of with its own identity, behaviour and relationship with the mother and became involved with what subsequently became known as ‘brand architecture’.

* had a client list which included British Oxygen, Norton Motorcycles, Bovis Construction, P&O, London Weekend Television, the Metropolitan Police, the Beatles' company, Apple, British Oxygen, Cunard, English Electric, British Telecom, 3i, Renault, Volkswagen and Lloyd’s of London and also countries, regions and cities.

* said "one of the worst company names in the world is Volkswagen. it’s associated with the Third Reich and it’s difficult for anyone to pronounce correctly who cannot speak German – yet somehow 'VW' works. through decades of creative, intelligent communications and good products they have overcome their difficult to say and stigmatized name."

was responsible for persuading British Telecom in 1991, at an estimated cost of £50 million, to rebrand itself as BT and to adopt the logo of the 'prancing piper.'

* in his first book, 'The Corporate Personality: An Inquiry Into the Nature of Corporate Identity' in 1978, set out his arguments for the primacy of brand thinking for an audience beyond the boardroom and conference platform and captured interest with jargon-free language and by ranging from the symbolism of Ancient World armies to culture contrasts in status-markers in Africa and suburban America.

* once said of the man behind the bow tie, thick-rimmed spectacles, bright check shirts who, apparently, did not consciously brand himself : "I am what I am. I am outspoken and abrasive. I can be difficult. It is what I am like. I do not try to cultivate it but I do not hide it either. I tell people what I think and I do not mince anything. It is what people pay for."

* in 2001 at the age of 70, used his skills to persuade the American advertising giant Omnicom to buy his Wolff Olins consultancy for £30 million and three years after that in his 2004 book, 'Wally Olins – On Brand' reflected that : 'Branding has moved so far beyond its commercial origins that its impact is virtually immeasurable in social and cultural terms. It has spread into education, sport, fashion, travel, art, theatre, literature, the region, the nation and virtually anywhere else you can think of.'

Was said by Mark Damazar, Master of St. Peter's College :

'He was the youngest octogenarian I had met. He was relentlessly curious about buildings, objects, but above all people. He loved talking to anyone of any generation and when he reflected on the past, he did so shorn of any "good old days" rhetoric. He was a great performer too. When he came to give a talk at the college, the room was packed with business students of many nationalities who lapped up his observations on design and branding and bathed him in admiration and affection.'

'Bathed in admiration and affection', what better epitaph might an old man have ?

P.S. I have this image of Wally, a Jewish boy whose Grandmother who lived with the family in London and was a Russian refugee from persecution against the Jews in the riots or pogroms against them in the 1880s, attending a prep school in Cambridge and boys' public school in North London the 1930s and 40s and surrounded by a sea of English faces. He later said that he felt 'mismatched' to school, yet I think that from an early age he had a clear idea of who he was and his own 'identity'.

Monday, 14 April 2014

Britain is still a country for and old men say "Happy Birthday" to a screen goddess called Julie Chistie, whose beauty beguiled them when they were boys

Julie is 73 years old today

I first remember seeing her in the 1961 science fiction series on BBC television called 'A for Andromeda'.
I was 14 and she was 20.

Before she reached the black and white tv screen she :

* was born during the Second World War in 1941 on the Singlijan Tea Plantation in Assam in British India which was managed by her father who separated from her mother when she was a child.

* back in England, from the age if six, was brought up by a foster-mother and studied as a boarder at the independent 'Convent of Our Lady School' in St. Leonards-on-Sea, East Sussex, from which she was later expelled for telling a risqué joke which reached a wider audience than originally anticipated.

* at Wycombe Court School, played the role of the 'Dauphin' in George Bernard Shaw's 'Saint Joan' and after leaving, studied at the Central School of Speech and Drama before her part in Andromeda.

Then, when I was 16, she played Liz, the friend and would-be lover of the eponymous 'Billy Liar', played by Tom Courtenay.

When I was 18, she played the amoral model, Diana Scott in 'Darling'.

In the same year she appeared as Lara Antipova in David Lean's adaptation of Boris Pasternak's novel 'Doctor Zhivago'.

When I was 19, she was in Truffaut's 'Fahrenheit 451'.

A year later, with me at 20 and she at 27, she played Thomas Hardy's heroine 'Bathsheba Everdene' in Schlesinger's 'Far from the Madding Crowd'.
And that wonderful scene with Terrence Stamp as Sergeant Troy on Maiden Castle :

In that same year for 'The Kinks' rock band, Ray Davies wrote 'Waterloo Sunset' : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fvDoDaCYrEY

I believed for many years that the lyrics :
Terry meets Julie,
Waterloo Station,
every friday night

alluded to an affair between Julie and Terrence until Ray Davies denied this in his autobiography and claimed in a 2008 interview, "It was a fantasy about my sister going off with her boyfriend to a new world and they were going to emigrate and go to another country."

When boyhood was gone and I reached 21, she played the lead character, Petulia Danner, opposite George C. Scott, in Richard Lester's 'Petulia'.

Warren Beatty described her as "the most beautiful and at the same time the most nervous person I had ever known."

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Britain is no longer country for and says "Goodbye" to an old twentieth century intellectual called Richard Hoggart

Richard, writer of 15 books and editor of more, who held six important jobs in 40 years, has died at the age of 95.

What you possibly didn't know about Richard, that he :

* was born in the Potternewton district of Leeds in 1918, just before the end of the First World War, one of three children living in abject poverty in a damp, cockroach-ridden stone cottage with a father who was a housepainter and had been a regular soldier in the Boer and First Wars and was dead of brucellosis, possibly contracted from consuming infected undercooked meat, before he was a year old.

*  was left with vivid memories of his mother who he found collapsed on the floor in the last stages of death from tuberculosis when he was eight and later said : "When I see, or see film of a driven bird flying to its nest and anxiously, earnestly feeding the open mouths, the image of our mother comes to mind. When you have seen a woman standing frozen, while tears start slowly down her cheeks because a sixpence has been lost ... you do not easily forget."

* was split from his siblings and taken to live with a loving, widowed grandmother in Newport Street, Leeds and spent his formative years life in an overcrowded Hunslet back-to-back with the only bathroom connected with running water in the street, where he 'slept in the attic with Uncle Walter, first in a big double bed, then in a small one of my own with a flock mattress'.

* in 1928 at the age of 10, went with his Granny to stay with an uncle in a mean, cold semi-detached house in Harrogate, from which the two of them escaped for a walk each afternoon and later said : 'What we talked about I do not remember. We certainly did not discuss the inadequacies of our hosts; that would have been unthinkable. But we both knew we knew without having to enter critical analysis. Much more important, we were bound together by unspoken affection and, in my case, by an emotional dependence I felt for no one else. It was a cardinal lesson in human relationships, in the power of love.'

* was a healthy, mainly cheerful, tough little boy who, helped by 'hardship grants' from bodies such as the Board of Guardians and the Royal British Legion and despite failing his 11-plus maths exam paper, got a 'scholarship' to go to Cockburn Grammar School (left) on the strength of his English essay, supported by a plea from his Jack Lane Elementary School Headteacher.

* in the summer of 1932 at the age of fourteen, suffered a brief nervous breakdown brought about by his consciousness of being a poor orphan, tying to hold his own with boys and girls from more fortunate homes than his, having to walk twenty miles a week to and from school, living in a house without books, dominated by a fiery Aunt and in the company of a drunken cousin and spent two weeks recovering in a convalescent home on the Yorkshire coast.

* at the age of sixteen, had his headmaster write on his end of year report : 'should think of a professional life' and after the sixth form, in 1936, won a Leeds University scholarship after his aunt gave him elocution lessons because he couldn't pronounce his 'Rs' or 'Ls' and became, in his own words : 'a very hard-working student and because there were no books in the house, I would spend long periods in the reading room of the library. I discovered Swinburne for myself there, and other poetry, which was wonderful." 

* at a 'freshers' party' in the same year, met his future wife, Mary, the daughter of teachers and took her to see 'Green Pastures' at the cinema on their first date, a film which depicted stories from the Bible as depicted by African-American characters and so began a lifelong match which continued to his death.

* and in 1939,  while studying for his MA thesis, was called up to fight in the Second World War and joined the Royal Artillery as an anti-aircraft gunner, served in North Africa and Italy, where he narrowly escaped being burned alive, worked in education and intelligence and ended Army life a staff captain.

* partly as the result of the influence of his Grandmother who had 'a respect for learning, not so much as a way to wealth, but chiefly for the pure idea of learning as a liberation for the person', decided to go into university adult education which 'would have been instantly comprehensible to her, and sympathetic' and at the age of 28 in 1946, became a staff tutor at the University of Hull and five years later published his first book, a study of W.H.Auden's poetry.

* in 1956 -57, at the age of 38, spent a year teaching in the USA where he later wrote that he learned from Americans 'about directness, openness before the emotions, fidelity towards ambiguous experience, intellectual honesty' and strengthened his 'understanding of the worth of that English "neighbourliness" which is at least in part born by the sense that life is going to offer few opportunities and so you must stand by one another - "all in the same boat", "sink or swim together", "help one another because no one else will do it for you." '

* in 1957, at the age of 39, became a national figure and earned a place in the 'Daily Herald Portait Gallery of Angry Young Men' with his 'The Uses of Literacy', in which he gave a detailed picture, written with knowledge and affection, of the British northern working-class, caught them at the point where their lives, values and culture were being changed by postwar advertising, mass media influences and Americanisation and in which he was, and remained, one of them in his loyalties.

* was an advocate of the building new secondary education comprehensive schools,  in the wake of sociological studies which showed that the supposedly 'class-neutral' 11-plus exam for grammar school entrance  was biased against working-class children and would have welcomed the building of Eltham Green School, which I attended along with 2,500 other South London kids in 1957 and which gave working class lads like me a leg up to university and a profession.

* became Senior Lecturer in English at the University of Leicester, at the age of 41 in 1959 and in 1960 was called as an expert witness in the trial dealing with the publication of D.H.Lawrence's 'Lady Chatterley's Lover', where his argument that it was an essentially moral and "puritan" work, which merely repeated words he had heard on a building site on his way to the court, was considered as having a decisive influence on the outcome of the trial.which reduced censorship and ushered in the permissive 1960's.

* sat on the Pilkington Committee on Boadcasting 1960-62 and wrote the lion's share of its Report which led to the creation of  BBC2 as a quality television channel, then became Professor of English at Birmingham University at the age of 44 in 1962 and founded its Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies two years later and was its Director until 1969.
* was offered three jobs at once in 1969 : an Australian vice-chancellorship, a New York professorship and an assistant Director-Generalship at Unesco in Paris and puzzled friends by choosing Unesco and in his 3 year tenure, travelled three times round the world, was appalled by what he regarded as its misconduct, bureaucracy, infighting and laziness and in 1975, resigned and wrote a 'An Idea and Its Servants' in criticism.

 * on his return to Britain at the age of 57, in the mid-70s, became warden of Goldsmiths College in South-East London and then served and was Vice-Chairman of the Arts Council until dropped because Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, did not regard him as 'one of us' and had Sir Roy Shaw its Executive Head say of him : "he has never become in any way pompous, no matter how important his job was. He always stayed an ordinary bloke, although in fact he was always an extraordinary, ordinary bloke."

* retired from Goldsmiths College in 1984 and said "goodbye" to the main building which still bears his name but kept busy and published 'The Way We Live Now' at the age of 77 in 1995, in which he regretted the decline in moral authority which religion had once provided and attacked contemporary education for its emphasis on the 'vocational' and 'cultural relativism' and tendency to concentrate on the popular and meretricious.

* in 1998, when writing the introduction to the Guardian's 'Yearly Anthology', might well have been speaking of himself with : 'A newspaper such as this has to have above all a hinterland, a background, body, bottom, moral texture, rather than merely a daily succession of rhetorical 'ooh-ahs'. It says implicitly: 'There is more to life ...' '

* has said of himself : "I was driven by my childhood to get on, but not in the sense of becoming a millionaire or anything like that. The ambition was to do something useful and interesting and somehow involving my writing. And I did have an impulse to criticise because there was a lot to criticise. I was brought up in a world where just about everyone assumed they would stay there all their lives and I resented that deeply. There are two types of life; the first is the escalator life, where you move inexorably upwards, the other type is the carousel where you go round and round. One of my arguments is that there are enough people making it their business to ensure that people stay on the carousel."

* was never comfortable with life and wore a metaphorical hair shirt and in 'A Measured Life', referred to 'the psychological, the emotional, the intellectual pressures on a boy who climbed out of the working class through the use of his brains and forever felt between two worlds.'

Richard's son, Simon, who predeceased him in January and born into the professional middle class had no such problem :

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Britain is no longer a country for an old and rare political sketch writer called Simon Hoggart who wielded a truthful, witty pen

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Britain is no longer a country for and said "Goodbye" to an old South London tv script writer called Bob Larbey who drew on his 1950s to reap success in the 1970s

Bob, who was renowned as a television sitcom and screenplay writer with his professional partner, the late John Esmonde for 30 years, has died aged 77. Bob and John are most remembered for 'The Good Life' in the mid 1970s

* was born in the summer of 1934 in Lambeth, South London, where his father was a carpenter and at the age of 11 at the end of the Second World War, attended  the Henry Thornton School in Clapham, where he was captain of tennis.

* in the small school of 450 boys, got to know John Esmonde, three years his junior, who had been born in Battersea in 1937, found they shared a similar south London schoolboy humour and later said : "We'd make each other laugh a lot, sometimes other people too" and could been in the 1948 school photo as a second year pupil standing in the row behind the teachers.

* acquired and kept his London working class speech pattern with its 'would of' for 'would have' and 'could of' for 'could have' for the rest of his life  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6fjDZSvzMVw as indicated in him talking about his last collaboration with John in the 1990s with the tv series, 'Mulberry', in which Karl Howman as the Son of Death, disguised as a manservant, parried the barbs and put-downs of his employer, a cantankerous old spinster played by Geraldine McEwan.

* left school and worked as a printing-block maker, in an insurance office in Soho and then did his National Service with the Army Education Corps in Germany and by the time John had finished his National Service in the RAF and was a journalist writing about food processing and packaging, had a job in a foundry.

* "moan over our egg and chips, saying "God, we've got to get out of this!" We just thought writing might be a way to do so, and it proved to be right" and after two years of  rejection slips, the BBC eventually accepted for a radio programme which included Cyril Fletcher and earned them a joint fee of five guineas.

* started on television in 1963 with sketches for 'The Dick Emery Show' and had a breakthrough with a radio sitcom at the age of 31 in 1965 with 'Spare a Copper' featuring the 'Carry On' film star, Kenneth Connor, as a bungling policeman which provided the money with John to become a full-time writers.

* had a first tv series, 'Room at the Bottom' in 1967, set among the maintenance workers at Saracens Manufacturing Company with the comedy revolving around the confrontations between the workers'  leader, Gus Fogg played by Kenneth Connor and the company's personnel director, Deryck Guyler, which did not prove a success.

* saw the next idea become one of television's most popular sitcoms when in 1968 turned down by the BBC, 'Please Sir!' was snapped up by ITV and became a favourite with 20 million viewers running for four years until 1972 and set in Fenn Street Secondary Modern School, with John Alderton as Bernard Hedges, the fledgling teacher trying to keep order among the unruly pupils of Class 5C.

* was said by Peter Cleal, who played 'Duffy' in the series to have called upon his and John's own experience, presumably in creating the teachers and pupils, which could only take them back to the Henry Thornton School and memories of its teachers (right) in the 1950s.

* with his next success drew on his and John's National Service experience in the 1950s to create 'Get Some In!' which ran from 1975-78.

* as he celebrated his 40th birthday, with John, moved away from his own experience with their most popular and successful series, 'The Good Life', screened in 1975, poking gentle fun at the middle classes, with Tom Good, a draughtsman for a plastics company, played by the late Richard Briers, turned 40 and seizing the occasion to drop out of the rat-race in favour of suburban self-sufficiency with his wife Barbara played by Felicity Kendal.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hHMb4SJLzzQ

* later said : "We already knew Richard Briers, who was the same age as me, and that was really the start of our thinking: a man who reaches 40 and is just fed up. Fed up with what he's doing and with life generally. How does he break out of it? We hit upon self-sufficiency - but could just have easily decided that he bought a boat and sails around the world. Although that'd have been difficult to film!"

That other great sitcom writer, John Sullivan, who died three years ago, who gave us 'Only Fools and Horses', was born twelve years after Bob and was also a working class South London lad. Born in Balham, fifteen minutes away from Lambeth, his father was a plumber.

Bob and John and John, old men of Britain say "Thanks for the laughter you gave us, blessed as you were with a sense of humour given to you by your South London working class boyhood".