Get Shorty (2017-)

I started late on Get Shorty the tv series. I thought: Chris O’Dowd?? Really??? I only really knew him from The IT Crowd and bits from Judd Apatow movies, on which he was funny, but in a very different register…
But he’s great as an Irish-born Nevada sub-mob enforcer who tries his hand at movie production. Weirdly… Very funny when he goes for a coffee with a production exec and threatens her with an (unseen) Oprah Winfrey black-up photo… etc.
And though the tv series has basically nothing to do with the Elmore Leonard novel or the (underwhelming) Travolta Pulp Fiction cash-in movie, the humour in it is very Leonard-esque.

David Farrar

Not much to report, really. Farrar was excellent in:
The Small Back Room (1949)
Black Narcissus (1947)

A good villain in:
Gone To Earth (1950), as the country squire who lusts after Jennifer Jones

He’s just about memorable in:
Went The Day Well? (1942)
Frieda (1947)
The 300 Spartans (1962), playing Darius, Emperor Of The Persians – testament to Hollywood’s ‘if it’s a period villain, cast a Brit’ mentality

Other films I’ve seen, his name appears in the cast list, but he’s gone from my memory. Without Powell and Pressburger, it seems, he was easily bored. He retired to South Africa, before it was ok to do so.

The only revelation from IMDb is I Vinti (1953), which is – allegedly – by Michelangelo Antonioni! David Farrar as a precursor to Jack Nicholson? It should be investigated – or it’s a practical joke by a very recherché contributor…


When the children were little, we used to go north on holiday. My wife came from Preston and she used to get nostalgia for the rain. A14, A1 – that was the route. We used to stop around Yorkshire, in a historical site. One holiday (I think it was Berwick-upon-Tweed because it was early and we still had far to go) we made the detour to see Pontefract Castle. There was no-one around as we climbed the hill and entered through the 13th-century walls, ‘slighted’ by the Roundheads… only to find we had strayed into the world of Kes. A big, flat area opened up in front of us where the local falconry club was having a get-together. Falcons (or they could’ve been kestrels or hawks) flew off in widening gyres, coming back to gauntleted hands… We marvelled. Our eldest child would have been 8.

Pontefract also has a racecourse. For a long time it was my father’s ambition to visit every course in Britain, but Pontefract was one of 4 he never got to. I went up and down the A1 so many times at the beginnings and ends of holidays, past its plethora of Yorkshire courses: (going north) Doncaster, Pontefract, Wetherby, York (a little way off), Ripon, Thirsk, Catterick… I even wrote notes, in the wake of Sideways, for an odd-couple road-movie idea about a father who reunites with his estranged son to polish off the racecourses he hasn’t been to. It might have been good.

Chalking up racecourses was a factor in my early life: Great Yarmouth, Fakenham, Huntingdon – all from our base in northeast Suffolk. Of Towcester, which I went to about 8 or 9, I remember only the barrier – a bit like a seaside windbreak – which went up around an injured horse. Curtains, more or less. And the hard-boiled egg that Charlotte double-barrelled, the daughter of a ‘friend of the family’ (whom I never saw again), peeled and ate in the back of our Vauxhall Viva, which had brushed-nylon seats… That put me and my sister off hard-boiled eggs for life.

Maiden names

As far as I’m concerned, the practice of the ‘married name’ doesn’t apply anymore. Clara (married 1986), Claire (m1988), Katy (m1996), Katie Webb, Amanda etc ALL didn’t take their husband’s name.
Lizzie went double-barrelled.
Only Sarah Kafala took her husband’s name, because (I think) it’s more exotic than her surname. (I don’t know what…)
Other people – even when they had kids – chose not to get married at all.
End of story…
But in the country, it’s different. Chloe Chancellor, Laura Fawcett, Eva Shepherd – among Tattingstone parents – all, despite London origins, chose the traditional route.
And now, at the Heart Failure clinic on Friday, another generation. I happened to comment that the Heart Failure Specialist Nurse, Geraldine (a modern woman, 30s) had an interesting name, read off her name badge: Springett. She wasn’t enthusiastic. Tho her maiden surname was Polish and began with S (and she came from Scotland, natch) she took her husband’s name to avoid her father-in-law making a fuss (big in Halstead, apparently). She thought it sounded like a type of dog.
I turned to the other Heart Failure Specialist Nurse (30s). Surely Andrews was her maiden name?
No, she confessed, a little shamefacedly. She took her husband’s name as well.
What does this show us? Maybe that a more traditional sort of man lives in the country?

Sleeping Car To Trieste (1948)

Talking Pictures again. A perfect terrific/crap movie, if you like that kind of thing.
A ‘stolen diary’ from a Parisian embassy is the pretext for high jinks in the manner of Graham Greene’s 1932 novel Stamboul Train (or there might be an earlier example).
It’s got EVERYONE in it, in terms of 2nd Division Brit talent.
David Tomlinson, already playing the twerp, as he still did 20 years later in Mary Poppins and Bedknobs And Broomsticks. His character obvs doesn’t speak French; he orders a glass of ‘ecossais’…
Derrick De Marney, the hero of Hitchcock’s Young And Innocent (1937) – looks good but a deeply limited actor…
Bonar Colleano – playing a GI again…
Finlay Currie – the rich industrialist, in hornrims…
Hugh Burden – of One Of Our Aircraft Is Missing (1942)…
Jean Kent – so sexy as the ‘bad girl’ of 40s British cinema in films like Caravan (1946), so hopeless with a Middle European ‘accent’, clothed, with gaudy hats…
Eugene Deckers – from North West Frontier (1959)…
Zena Marshall, from Dr No (1962)
And best of the lot, as a dodgy geezer, Alan Wheatley – Fred Hale in the same year’s Brighton Rock, and later the first actor to be killed by a Dalek in Dr Who.
The writer, Allan MacKinnon, wrote 27 movies, none of the others of which I’ve seen.
The director, John Paddy Carstairs (real name: Nelson Keys, but he changed it in order not to be confused with his actor father) later specialised in Norman Wisdom movies!
In a word: wow!

Strongroom (1962)

Just seen on Talking Pictures, this is the first British B movie I’ve seen that’s actually BETTER than Detour (1945) and other classics of the US genre.
It’s directed by Vernon Sewell, a pioneer of British B movies. He started out as a production assistant on Michael Powell’s The Edge Of The World (1937). The only other film of his I’ve seen – and his only A movie – is The Silver Fleet (1943), produced by P&P. (Not so hot, despite the presence of Kathleen Byron…)
Strongroom’s written by a duo: Richard Harris – who on tv was creator of the timeless Shoestring (1979-80) with Trevor Eve and for the movies wrote Lewis Gilbert’s Stepping Out (1991) and English dialogue on – a new one on me – Lady In The Car With Glasses And A Gun (1970) with Oliver Reed and Samantha Eggar! I definitely want to see that…
And Max Marquis, whose only movie this was, but on tv wrote Z-Cars and (under a pseudonym) Crossroads (and also operated as a pulp fiction writer).
Last but not least, the cast is headed by Derren Nesbitt, who ALMOST got famous in Where Eagles Dare (1968) as the Nazi Von Hapen.
Watch it next time it’s on. It’s only 80 minutes. You won’t regret it!