Lunedi Lunacy

Several years ago we were having lunch with our dear friend David from I’ll Think of Something Later at a very posh restaurant in London’s West End.  Being the heart of Theatreland and a popular place with the theatricals photos of many of the greats were enshrined on the flocked walls.   I looked at several in our vicinity and casually remarked on how I had seen this one or that one during those halcyon days when I would go to London three or four times a year to see what was going on theatrically and musically.  I recall one trip where the highlight was Sir Laurence Olivier as Shylock directed by Jonathan Miller on evening followed by Maggie Smith in Ingmar Bergman’s production of Hedda Gabler.  But I digress; as I recall David made some small sounds of envy as I sighed that “those were the days” like some old theatre queen.  But indeed those were the days.

I was also fortunate back home in Canada to see so much wonderful theatre with both home grown and visiting stars.  One such opportunity was in the early days of the Shaw Festival – the summer of 1970 to be exact.  They were still in the old Court House Theatre and the Candida starred Frances Hyland, Tony Van Bridge, a young Chris Sarandon and the inimitable Stanley Holloway.

Les Carlson (Lexy), Frances Hyland (Candida), Tony Van Bridge (Morell), Jennifer Phipps (Prossy), Stanley Holloway (Mr Bridges), and Chris Sarandon (Marchbanks) in the Shaw Festival production of Candida in 1970 (Photo by Robert C. Ragsdale)

I saw it early in the summer and enjoyed it so much that I convinced a friend to join me in the trip down to Niagara-on-the-lake to see one of the later performances which ended up not being quite what we expected.

In an interview with the Toronto Star Jennie Phipps recalls what happened:

Franny Hyland, who was playing Candida, came down with laryngitis and we had no understudies in those days, but did we close the show? Oh, no. We had two other stars in the cast as well. Stanley Holloway (the original Doolittle from My Fair Lady) came on and did some of his famous vaudeville act and then Tony Van Bridge offered a preview of what was to become his famous one-man show on G.K. Chesterton. Who would ask for their money back when they could see an evening like that? Back then the whole administration was Paxton Whitehead and one lovely secretary, working from a tiny office above the liquor store. But we made some marvellous theatre there.

We certainly didn’t ask for our money back and got to see one of the great British comedy stars do his monologues that until then we had only known from records.  I know he gave us “Sam Pick Up Thy Musket” and “Brown Boots” and of course he would have shared the story of little Albert Ramsbottom and Wallace.

But I don’t believe he told us about Sam Oglethwaite, a builder who certainly knew the worth of his wood.

(By the way “Long bacon” is a rude gesture made by putting thumb to nose and extending the hand so the palm is in line with the nose, then putting the thumb of the other hand to the little finger of the nosed hand, hands keeping in line, then wiggling the fingers.)

Yes indeed those where the days!

On this day in 1641: Irish Catholic gentry from Ulster tried to seize control of Dublin Castle, the seat of English rule in Ireland, to force concessions to Catholics


Lunedi Lunacy

To make fun of music be it orchestral, operatic, leider, art songs, jazz, or pop you have to have a sound grounding in the genre.  You only have to think of Anna Russell, Spike Jones, Victor Borge, Dame Patricia Routledge as Hyacinth Bucket, Chuck Jones at Looney Tunes, the Hoffnung’s  Interplanetary Musical Festivals, P.D.Q. Bach, or the Nitwits to realize that all these “comedians” knew exactly what they were doing in their madcap spoofing.

In 1936 Sid Millward was considered one of the top saxophonists in the United Kingdom and he and his band, the Nitwits, were more traditional in their style; though there was still a slightly witty turn to their presentation as shown in this 1940 Pathé newsreel.

As well as serving in the Entertainments National Service Association (ENSA) during the war he was also the bandleader at London’s fashionable Cafe Anglais.  In the late ’40s he teamed up with Cyril Lagey and Charlie Rossi to include comic versions of pop and classical numbers as well as sight gags into the act.

It was to become popular in clubs, on TV, and in the movies, in the UK, Europe and America.  An appearance at the famous Parisian night club the Lido de Paris led to a long time stint at the Stardust in Las Vegas when the tits-and-tassels spectacle moved there lock, stock, and danseuses nues. Many of the members including Millward moved to the city in the desert full time and travelled to international appearances.

This appearance on the Rudi Carrell show dates from 1970 and excludes the appearance of Lagey, a black performer who’s “Uncle Tom” character would be totally unacceptable today.  Lagey was an fine musician and an incredibly funny comedian; he was known for the bowler hat he wore onstage. It was actually only the brim as the rest of the hat was his hair.  He also was a master of incredible patter songs but belongs to a school of comedy that has seen it’s day.

Back in 2004 journalist David Millward wrote a fascinating piece on his elusive and colourful uncle Sid – a brilliant musician and comedian who knew exactly what he and his troop of nitwits were doing.

On this day in 1733: the right of settlers in New France to enslave natives was upheld at Quebec City.


Lunedi Lunacy

I love the British Music Hall tradition and I love Kenneth Williams – so what could be more suiting to a Monday morning that Kenneth Williams doing an old Music Hall number?

Both were known for their double – sometime single – entendre and here they meet in this little ditty (oh grow up I said ditty) about a prize winning marrow.

Well I don’t know what you’re tittering at  but I find it’s a lovely tribute to horticulture (oh do give over I said horticulture!).

And this was what he was hymning so mellifluously:

Weightlifter Jonathan Walker lifts the prize winning 54.3176863075 kilo (119 lb 12 oz) Giant Marrow from the 2012 Harrowgate Autumn Flower Show over his head.  O what a beauty indeed!

On this day in 1915: Typhoid Mary, the first healthy carrier of disease ever identified in the United States, is put in quarantine, where she would remain for the rest of her life.

Lunedi Lunacy

The story behind this sketch is almost as funny as the sketch itself. Apparently it is a cult favorite in German and Scandinavia. I only recall reading about it being performed by Hermoine Gingold and Billy DeWolfe in a Broadway show back in the 1950s.

Though they had respectable careers neither Freddie Frinton nor May Warden were well know in Britain but they are cult figures in Northern Europe. It’s odd that something so quintessentially English should cut through the boundaries and hit those Nordic funny bones!

Many thanks to my friend Yannis for rebringing this to my attention.

18 gennaio – Santa Margherita d’Ungheria