Articoli marcati con tag ‘London’

The Wren, 1921

The Spoken Word
conducted by Windsor P. Daggett

(The Billboard, October 29, 1921)

“The Wren”
“Smile if you will, but some heart-strings
Are closest linked with simple things.”
Three hundred years ago one of my New England ancestors was living on the south side of Arrow street In Cambridge, Mass. HI. birthplace was near St. Peter’s, Cornhlll. London. He next settled In Hampton, N. II., where the family “followed the sea” for three generations. In 1764, the fourth generation, with a colony of children and neighbors, settled in the “woods” of Maine. It was an extreme Puritan family, always seeking Isolation from the world. Each summer I visit the paternal acres In the “woods” of Maine. The distant cousin who entertains me is the fifth in line to spend his life on the original homestead. On his “orchard” stands a coopered dipper marked “1775,” the year the house was built, and the year the owner went to war. My cousin is a farmer. He speaks a more Idiomatic English than I do, and his pronunciation is never rustic. It would follow Webster with regularity.
My maternal grandmother came from this stock. She was the seventh generation of these hardy people who read the King James Version of the English Bible dally, and she lived to be 98. For twenty years I admired her speech. She came from the country to live with us. When our city pastor called I took childish pride in feeling that It was grandmother who gave distinction to the visitation. I have come to realise, since, that her speech represented the New England Village In the days of village dominance, and that It also represented the aristocracy of the village church.
Three hundred years seems like a long time, but a few milestones shorten the span. My grandmother was born In 1809. She Inherited the family traditions that went back another hundred years. From there we soon get back to Cambridge (Mass.) and to London.
With all these palpitations for New England I went to see “The Wren.” A few days before I went a Portland boy In port from the South came to see me. We had talked bnt a moment when he said: “It seems good to get back where people say ‘bahsket’ (basket).”
Would the characters In “The Wren” use broad A? If they didn’t I would have to come out, for New England dialect wouldn’t be New England dialect without broad A. I remembered my trip “up country” last summer, and the five children who still say “hahmmer” and “lahdder.” using the pronunciation their grandfather handed down.
I went to “The Wren.” and I stayed. The moment Sam Reed came onto the stage I was wedded to the play for life. Critics have called the play lightweight. Possibly It is, but it does not leave one lightheaded. It is subtle In suggestiveness. It has sound psychology running thru its lightness, and what is more uncommon, it has caught local American color from the soil and put it onto the stage without theatrlcallsm. If “The Wren” is light Wallace Nutting’s watercolors are light and so are lace shawls and bits of carving and many things not marketed on the Rialto.
Mr. Tarklngton has done so well in putting his observations onto the stage and the company is so harmonious in carrying out his idea that my New England sentiments are all foaming at the mouth, and I shall not write about “The Wren” without becoming romantic. As we know, the scene is the coast of Maine. As Mr. Tarklngton has been summering at Kennebunkport we can guess what he has in mind. In the company is Sam Reed, born at Boothbay, Me. He is playing the hired man. There is Helen Hayes, of Virginia, playing the landlord’s daughter, and there is Leslie Howard, of London, playing the summer boarder who falls in love with the little school teacher (Helen Hayes). Mr. Reed is a Maine Yankee, born on the Maine coast, reared in the Boston schools, and today he is a resident on a Maine farm, where he has lived for 20 years. He has always liked New England dialect. He has studied it. He knows it. He speaks it In “The Wren.” He is the most authoritative New Englander In the company, and he was doubtless helpful at rehearsals, piecing out Mr. Tarkington’s observations, which have been limited to three or four trimmers. Mr. Reed had rather be right than get a laugh. He uses none of those one-nightstand tricks, which stick out like sore thumbs, is “Thank You.”
Mr. Reed uses broad A pronunciations thru out. His Yankee twang, his snappy syllabication, his intonations, his mispronunciations are all true to the soil. Mr. Tarkington has given him many lines rich in local flavor. The father “lingered on us children.” Something else was a matter of “thirty-one year and eight month.”
Broad A, a modern fashion In New England (as in Old England), belongs essentially to the region between the Connecticut River and the Atlantic Coast. Is to happen, however, that there is a broad A spot in Virginia. Helen Hayes was brought up in that spot. At any rate, her mother taught her that nice broad A (half long), which we find in Webster with one dot, the careful Eastern pronunciation of words like “ask”, “pass” and “last”. Miss Hayes spend only four days in Maine to catch local color, so that her knowledge of New England is newly acquired, but she does remarkably well. With her Webster A and girlish Eastern speech (she usually gives the impression that she comes from Boston) she fits pretty naturally into her surroundings.
Miss Hayes deliberately avoids “dropping the g,” because she is playing the part of a school teacher and wishes not to be rustle. Her least characteristic pronunciation is in words like “talking,” “mortified,” “thought.” On these words Miss Hayes has a British length to the vowel O (thought). These pronunciations with Miss Hayes are fashionable American, not rural, and they are not heard in New England dialect. This vowel in New England has no lip-rounding, and it is short in duration. Its extreme form is “dot-ter” (o in hot) for the more British “daughter” (aw in law). If Miss Hayes said “hurry” with the u in up she should correct it, for that is cultured speech, not typical of the soil. Miss Hayes said “laugh” with flat A, which may have been just a slip of the tongue.
Miss Hayes is charming in her part. She has the rare ability of going from one part to another without carrying mannerism around forever. Her personality is charming. It lends itself to characterization. Miss Hayes has understanding and technique. She is living in an artistic atmosphere of the theatre, and she is growing. Her voice is a pleasant combination of soft American accents and tones that are brilliantly full and firm in texture. Her voice has natural expressiveness, and it is well placed for clear, articulate speech. Everything about her suggest that delightful thing, “breeding” and inherent sensibility.
My romance begins with the entrance of Leslie Howard in the part of the lover. I would have been equally happy to have been an American boy in the part of the “summer visitor,” but I would have missed my romance. Mr. Howard was born in London. He was graduated from Dulwich, one of England’s largest public schools. Last spring an English actor called my attention to Howard, who was then playing in “Just Suppose”. We were discussing pronunciation and manners in the two countries. The actor was speaking of Charles Hawtrey and of the “breeding” which an English boy gets at the public schools. He spoke of Leslie Howard as England’s ideal of British schoolboy, “a delightful English gentleman.”
Mr. Howard came to this country only three years ago, and, barring the war, he was just out of college. He has always lived in London. He represents in speech and manner the culture of England. He stands approved by this English actor, a gentleman and university man, who knows English culture in its purity. I go into this detail because I hear ignorant allusions to British speech. I like to have people know what they are talking about. I like to have British speech judged by British standards. Mr. Howard represents British standards.
Mr. Howard plays opposite Helen Hayes in “The Wren.” Altho his speech is British in intonation it blends very gracefully with the New England setting. Miss Hayes, a representative American girl, with the pronunciation of the Eastern States, and Mr. Howard, a representative English boy, with the speech of Southern England, are not ridiculously far apart in the ordinary mechanics of pronunciation. There are all kinds of British actors just as there are all kinds of American actors, and we must be honest in saying what is British just as we must be honest in saying what is American.
When I talked with Mr. Howard after the play – it was the first time I had met him – I had one question which I put first. It was this: “How did Sam Reed’s speech and the New England dialect in the play impress you?”
Mr. Howard flashed his reply in an instant: “The speech of Mr. Reed and of all these New England people reminds me of the Cornish Coast of England. Their pronunciation is surprisingly British. You can hear it everywhere along the coast. If this play and this company were to go to London I believe the London audience would accept this as a coast play of Old England.”
It was interesting to hear a spontaneous British boy make this statement out of a clear sky. It was significant. The New England village for 300 years has been a conservator of traditions. Even some of its daily expressions and habits of speech come from across the water. My grandmother was always putting a “pox” on things that went wrong and one of her relations used the emphatical “by King.”
New England broad A, of course, did not come over with the primer. It is a later-day fashion, but it survives in the New England village just as the older fashions survive there.
The builder of the house in the “woods” fought the British, and he referred to them as long as he lived as a swarm of “stinging bees,” but from the Revolution to 1914 his family bookcase was jammed with his thumb-marked copies of Pope, Goldsmith, Blair, Cowper and Watts, and with the prose of John Bunyon, Whitefield and John Wesley.
The suburban dialect my grandmother spoke and the rural dialect that Mr Reed speaks in the play have always gone side by side. One has always laughed at the other, and the urban dialect has always laughed at both. And so it will be.
As a study of comparative English “The Wren” is the prettiest play in town. It suggests to me that New England has kept the nearest to Old England of any of the colonies and that the Atlantic has not entirely washed away the conservative shores of either country. At the end of the play Helen Hayes and Leslie Howard walk out on the beach hand in hand. It is a pretty ending. They are kith and kin, and they speak a common language.


Ho scelto questo articolo apparso su Billboard nel 1921, solo un anno dopo l’arrivo di Leslie Howard in America – non tre, come afferma erroneamente l’autore – perché è un chiaro esempio della rapidità con la quale questo giovane attore proveniente dall’Inghilterra si era imposto al pubblico americano come prototipo di “gentleman” britannico. L’eleganza con la quale, l’anno precedente, aveva interpretato il ruolo dell’amico e compagno di studi del Principe in Just Suppose aveva colpito tutti, al punto che uno dei recensori aveva notato che sarebbe stato lui l’interprete giusto per il ruolo del Principe.
L’errore che ho appena rilevato circa l’arrivo di Leslie Howard in America, non è l’unica inesattezza nell’articolo, del resto. Leslie non frequentò il college, la sua istruzione si fermò alla Alleyn’s School (a Dulwich, è vero, ma che non aveva nulla a che fare col college); va notato, comunque, che per l’epoca un’istruzione superiore non era esattamente alla portata di tutti. Leslie Howard era intellettualmente vivace e curioso, qualità che compensarono in larghissima parte il suo lacunoso curriculum scolastico. Che Daggett parli di lui come del classico prodotto delle public schools inglesi e lo citi come esempio di university man è sorprendente. Daggett non era uno sprovveduto, era uno studioso attento della lingua inglese. Pubblicò anche un corso di inglese, con registrazioni sonore annesse (fra le quali anche la voce di Leslie Howard nel volume The Spoken Word Course Part II : Samples of Speech. Edited by Windsor P. Daggett (New York City : The Daggett Studio, 1928. 60 pp. 11 records); il volume fu recensito nel Quarterly Journal of Speech, Volume 15, Issue 2, 1929. Evidentemente, nell’ottobre del 1921 Leslie Howard era già riuscito a crearsi un personaggio di gentleman inglese inattaccabile anche dagli esaminatori più puntigliosi.

A juvenile portrait of Leslie Howard

A juvenile portrait of Leslie Howard

The Secrets of Berkeley Square, 1933

(“Picturegoer”, September 2, 1933)

THE SECRETS OF “BERKELEY SQUARE”
How London has been created again in Hollywood for Leslie Howard’s new film by the man who made “Cavalcade”.

Berkeley Square

The Berkeley Square of a bygone age has been re-created in the sunshine of California

Frank Lloyd passed for a moment as Heather Angel petite and charming and looking as if she had just stepped out of the frame of an eighteenth century painting, tripped by in the direction of her dressing room.”Yes, we have taken a lot of trouble to ensure that we get the costuming right,” he went on, as my eyes followed the disappearing vision approvingly.
Mr. Lloyd is the director who made Cavalcade, in which the English atmosphere and detail were so perfect that even the most captious critics failed to pick up any holes in the settings, the dress or customs of the period covered by the story.
Now Frank has done it again in Berkeley Square, the charming John Balderston fantasy, which stars Leslie Howard, whose favourite play it is. Between scenes he was telling me the secrets of how he rebuilt a corner of eighteenth-century England on a Hollywood lot.
Again he has gone to extreme trouble to avoid incongruities and to be perfectly sure of authenticity of detail.

Leslie Howard and Heather Angel in Berkeley Square

Leslie Howard and Heather Angel in a charming setting for romance

First there was the problem of settings, and Lloyd, as he did for the reconstruction of Victoria Station and Trafalgar Square in Cavalcade, asked for hundreds of photographs to be sent from England.
From these he built a complete section of Berkeley Square, absolutely authentic down to the smallest point.
Then there was this matter of furnishing his sets and dressing the players.
Now, less than twenty miles from the outskirts of Hollywood is situated the famous Huntingdon Collection, where world-famous portraits and books are guarded day and night from international thieves by armed patrols.
Here hang “Blue Boy”, “Pinkie”, “The Duchess of Devonshire”, “Lady Hamilton” and “The Tragic Muse.”
The majority of the daily visitors, incidentally, are travellers from other states and other countries. Many of the film stars have never heard of old masters such as Romney, Lawrence, Gainsbourough and Reynolds. Few would trouble to go twenty miles to look at their work.
Fortunately, Lloyd and his costume designer, William Lambert, knew they could gain access to this valuable collection. Armed with sketch books and note pads and permission cards which allowed them in the gallery late at night when visitors had departed, they spent three weeks browsing in a Georgian atmosphere.
Lloyd is certainly a stickler. “Reference books are handy but they cannot impart information that truly smites into the brain like pictures can,” he explained.
All the knowledge accumulated at Huntingdon has been put to an excellent use in the designing of the sets and costumes.
Many of Heather Angel’s eighteenth century gowns are modifications of “Pinkie” in her high waist and coloured sash.
Juliette Compton, who plays the “Duchess of Devonshire,” wears a replica of the costume shown in the famous portrait.
Valerie Taylor has an evening gown copied from that worn in the portrait of Perdita Robinson.
Irene Browne’ swishing taffetas and muslins were inspired by those worn by Mrs. Siddons in the Sir Joshua Reynold’s famous portrait.
Sir Joshua and “The Tragic Muse” figure largely in the story of Berkeley Square.

Leslie Howard in Berkeley Square

A dramatic moment in the film

Then came the matter of furniture. Furniture and ornaments pertaining to the Georgian period are so scarce in California, Lloyd told me, that prior to the production of Berkeley Square, William Darlin the art director of the picture had to spend three months of persuasion and patience gathering together sufficient authentic “atmosphere” for his stages.
With the aid of thirty art and antique dealers, Daring scoured the coast up and down for the Georgian treasures he needed. Some were rented, some were borrowed from valuable collections.
“Fake period furniture is permissible in some pictures, where only long shots of settings are made, but in the case of a film like Berkeley Square, where so many close-up had to be photographed, fakes would have been impossible, ” the director went on.
“Even the silver vases, ink stands and candlesticks had to be real Georgian. It is quite out of the question to endeavour to reproduce the intricate designs and workmanship of the eighteenth century by cheap fakes without the camera detecting the fraud immediately.
“Practically every art treasure used on our sets was unique and could not have been replaced in case of loss or damage. Consequently, each night an extra patrol was engaged to guard the Berkeley Square stages.
“It was with a sense of great relief that I saw each valuable piece packed carefully on completion of shooting and sent back to its owners. There is something very satisfactory in knowing that authentic properties only are used in period pictures, but such treasures are a great responsibility.”
Winfield Sheehan, the Fox vice-president, lent Lloyd an eighteenth century grandfather clock from his own private collection.
Mr. Sheehan, who knows his antiques, picked up this old clock when on a recent visit in England, and thinks so highly of it that he had a special case made to take it across the Atlantic so that the sea air would not damage the fragile works.
The clock is 150 years old, still keeps perfect time and is one of those fascinating old timepieces which, in addition to telling the hour, shows the state of the tide, the date of the month and phases of the moon.
One day there arrived at Movietone City something much more engrossing than a mere jig-saw puzzle.
The “toy” in question was an eighteenth-century Georgian four-poster bed which had been lent to Jesse L. Lasky, the producer, by a friend in Santa Barbara.
It arrived in fourteen packing cases and is fitted together in eighteen different pieces. The only guidance the head carpenter had to help him in building up this piece of furniture was a copy of an old print showing the bed ready to be slept in.
It took the four carpenters the best part of twenty-four hours to get the antique assembled complete with its posts, each manufactured in for separate pieces, its chintz canopy, valance frills and dozens of intricate laths which form the mattress.

Berkeley Square

A still that reveals the authenticity of the old world atmosphere conjured up by Frank Lloyd and his assistants

Then came the matter of wigs. Altogether thirty-two wigs were worn by the principle players during the making of the film. And each one of these took ten days to complete.
Their method of manufacture is interesting, for with the microscopic qualities of the camera bringing out the crude faults of old-fashioned wig-making, each wig had to be tailored and fitted to the individual player’s head.
To pay a visit to the Berkeley Square set is like stepping into the pages of an Oliver Goldsmith book. We find ourselves transported into an England of flounces and petticoats. There is a mellow smell of antiquity, of good old English wood and old lace. At any moment we expect the ghost of Beau Brummel himself to glide noiselessly into the room. Instead, in comes a bespectacled studio hand, hands in pockets, gum lodged in his left cheek.
“Now boys,” he says, “snap out of it.”
We pass out into the open where the hot Californian sun beats down on the sweating concrete. Everywhere is the ordered confusion that marks a film studio. . .

Wilson D’Arne

STREAMS OF COLORS: IMAGE #5 FROM “THE SPRING WINGS” LACER/ACTIONS SERIES

 

Till next sunday April 1, I’m glad to share a special preview of a seven images series that I titled “The Spring Wings”. The whole series will be followed and concluded by a videoclip in which I’ll show a “live view” of that incredibile billboard from which I’ve made my artworks.

I think it’s one of the most astonishing torn posters I ever seen so far during my long research about ripped ads and urban signs. It was located in Lecco, a beautiful town on Como Lake (Italy). The incredible actions and re-actions made by time, weather and environmental conditions (rain, light, smog, humidity…) produced a capturing and harmonious mash-up of colors and shapes. I really had the luck to be in the right time in the right place… (in the following days the billboard was covered with new publicity posters).

The huge and whole torn paper advertising showed me pre-existing images that were crushed and de-structured in thousands of particles which presented fascinating colored streams and waves dancing on a completely white background. The various sections of the torn poster reminded me suggestions about springtime colors…as we may see also in the 4th image of the series.

ABOUT MY “LACER/ACTIONS ART PROJECT”

LaceR/Actions”is a multidisciplinary project and research about urban signs and landscapes, especially concerning the apparent chaos of ripped papers from billboards and advertisings diplays. I have so far collected more than 35.000 images. Impressed by photocamera and transferred on canvas, reproduced on lithographs or textiles (as pure silk), or scanned in a video clip, the details of torn posters give new life to paper lacerations. I think in the lacerated advertisings is recognizable the “unwrapped” city, self-destroying in the messages, self-regenerating and self-reproducing in new visual elements, often contradictory, dissonant, discordant, but still surprisingly vital. 

Some “Lacer/Actions” artworks were published in a booklet-portfolio: Pics of torn (publi)city”.  In July 2010, thirty thousand people visited my show “The Four Elements of LaceR/Actions” during the three days exhibition at Oriocenter (Milano Bergamo Orio Airport, Italy).Myartworks are also taking part of experiences about sensorial and emotional perceptions (sinestesys) concerning kinesiologic tests. In October 2010 I participated to “Parallax AF” in London (La Galleria, Royal Opera Arcade). One of my artwork will be kept at the new Contemporary Art Museum will open next September in Marche region (Italy). The next big Lacer/actions Show will take place in the enchanting XIII Century Rocca Aldobrandesca, an incredibile fortress in Tuscany (Monte Amiata, Piancastagnaio, Siena, Italy) from September 27 to November 4, 2012. An “The End of The World” event…  

R.A.

© Roberto Alborghetti

FROM BLUE TO GREEN: IMAGE #4 FROM “THE SPRING WINGS” LACER/ACTIONS SERIES

 

Till next sunday April 1, I’m glad to share a special preview of a seven images series that I titled “The Spring Wings”. The whole series will be followed and concluded by a videoclip in which I’ll show a “live view” of that incredibile billboard from which I’ve made my artworks.

I think it’s one of the most astonishing torn posters I ever seen so far during my long research about ripped ads and urban signs. It was located in Lecco, a beautiful town on Como Lake (Italy). The incredible actions and re-actions made by time, weather and environmental conditions (rain, light, smog, humidity…) produced a capturing and harmonious mash-up of colors and shapes. I really had the luck to be in the right time in the right place… (in the following days the billboard was covered with new publicity posters).

The huge and whole torn paper advertising showed me pre-existing images that were crushed and de-structured in thousands of particles which presented fascinating colored streams and waves dancing on a completely white background. The various sections of the torn poster reminded me suggestions about springtime colors…as we may see also in the 4th image of the series.

ABOUT MY “LACER/ACTIONS ART PROJECT”

LaceR/Actions”is a multidisciplinary project and research about urban signs and landscapes, especially concerning the apparent chaos of ripped papers from billboards and advertisings diplays. I have so far collected more than 35.000 images. Impressed by photocamera and transferred on canvas, reproduced on lithographs or textiles (as pure silk), or scanned in a video clip, the details of torn posters give new life to paper lacerations. I think in the lacerated advertisings is recognizable the “unwrapped” city, self-destroying in the messages, self-regenerating and self-reproducing in new visual elements, often contradictory, dissonant, discordant, but still surprisingly vital. 

Some “Lacer/Actions” artworks were published in a booklet-portfolio: Pics of torn (publi)city”.  In July 2010, thirty thousand people visited my show “The Four Elements of LaceR/Actions” during the three days exhibition at Oriocenter (Milano Bergamo Orio Airport, Italy).Myartworks are also taking part of experiences about sensorial and emotional perceptions (sinestesys) concerning kinesiologic tests. In October 2010 I participated to “Parallax AF” in London (La Galleria, Royal Opera Arcade). One of my artwork will be kept at the new Contemporary Art Museum will open next September in Marche region (Italy). The next big Lacer/actions Show will take place in the enchanting XIII Century Rocca Aldobrandesca, an incredibile fortress in Tuscany (Monte Amiata, Piancastagnaio, Siena, Italy) from September 27 to November 4, 2012. An “The End of The World” event…  

R.A.

© Roberto Alborghetti