Monday, 28 September 2015

Cider With Laurie

Some time in 1987 I walked past the Penguin Bookshop in Camden. (Imagine that, a bookshop just for penguins.) I looked in the window and saw a man in his seventies with glasses talking to two or three people round a table. A bottle of golden liquid appeared to take centre stage. So this is how I came to drink cider with Laurie Lee and he signed two copies of the Jubilee Penguin edition of his classic Cider with Rosie for me.The second copy he dedicated to my girlfriend, and if I remember rightly wrote something typically flirtatious next to his fountain pen signature.

So once again I looked through my fingers last night at the last of the BBC English Classic series that have played out over the last four weeks.Gradually I settled down to enjoy it, until during a scene quite early on the camera tracked across a row of schoolchildren reciting the Lord's prayer in the classroom, and they morphed into their older selves. And not just older, but in most cases almost mature adults, still in the same junior school room, still with the same teacher. I almost expected to see the buttons popping off their coarse jackets and smocks as they expanded.This was made even stranger when they gambolled and frolicked like their previous six year olds down to a designer icy pond. But I needn't have worried, they quickly found their short trousers and little frocks again and shrunk back to their small selves.

Was it all bad? Certainly not, mostly because of Samantha Morton as the mother, Archie Cox as a very passable Laurie Lee becoming the pipe smoking violin playing author and Timothy Spall as a superb narrator. When the director bothered to use him that is. Again, I don't want to make unfair comparisons, but I couldn't help thinking all the while about watching Claude Whatham's Cider with Rosie on Christmas Day 1971. With a screenplay by Hugh Whitemore and Laurie Lee himself.

Anyway we don't have to worry now in Unmitigated England about such things and we can get back to grubby 1939 railway tickets and tins of cocoa. And the landmark milestone of this coming Thursday, as you will see.


Anonymous said...

Did we have double glazing in the 1920's?
Lol was recovering from another bout of TB.
As the Camera panned across the house & zoomed in on Lol, could not help but notice the very nice new 4-6-4 float glass double glazed window he was staring out of. It obviously played a large part in his recovery.
I will have to consult my F & B chart regarding Colour. Looked like 'Elephants breath' to me.
But I could be wrong

Still enjoyed it......

Peter Ashley said...

That's a good one Anon; the perils of double glazing on period location shoots. Once the only trouble came from television aerials. But the Lee's cottage was all too suspiciously Country Living magazine. Half expected to see a Range Rover at the side with the tailgate up, displaying a black Labrador and Waitrose bags.

Biff Raven-Hill said...

SO f-ing boring.
I hated the chopping about between young and indeterminate teenage Laurie
What was wrong with Laurie in childhood, his illness wasn't explained. Did the illness go away?
What did Frances die of?
Was it the deserter, James, who came back and was murdered in the square?
When they were older, how come they looked 18 but behaved like 13 year olds?
The teacher, Crabby, didn't age and wasn't nearly nasty enough
Crabby didn't get her come-uppance from Spadge Hopkins who, incidentally, walked out of school for good after putting her up on the cupboard
I didn't like the voice of Timothy Spall as narrator
Laurie came across as being a bit thick
Where did he go when he left home?
His mother mentioned a fourth step-child but there were only three step children in the cottage. So what happened to the 4th?
The whole thing felt thin and rushed
I felt no connection to any of them

Quite nice photography

Peter Ashley said...

Thank you Biff. I've now got a theory (kind of) as to why these films (with the notable exception of An Inspector Calls) have struck such duff notes. I think it's because we're now quite divorced from both the era of the novels and indeed the original attempts made at dramatizing the texts. If you have the real Laurie Lee working with you then you're not going to stray too far from the feelings and atmosphere of Cider with Rosie. L.P.Hartley was involved with both Pinter and Losey on The Go-Between, and Ken Russell had proved himself (once again) as an excellent interpreter of D.H. Lawrence. Considering how much Lawrence and Hartley is out there, and indeed Lee, why don't they try something we haven't seen before?

Stephen Barker said...

I suggest Grahame Green and Aldous Huxley.

Peter Ashley said...

Indeed Stephen. Ministry of Fear perhaps.

Stephen Barker said...

Yes a good choice, I suggest 'A Gun for Sale' and from Huxley 'Crome Yellow' and 'Antic Hay'.
For something different 'The Green Hat' by Michael Arlen, featuring Iris Storm in her yellow Hispano-Suiza.

Going further back in time 'Crotchet Castle', 'Nightmare Abbey' and 'Headlong Hall' by Thomas Love Peacock are good fun.

Peter Ashley said...

I must read Headlong Hall