Saturday, 30 April 2011

Remembering George Raft: 1901 - 1980

George Raft was an American film actor identified with portrayals of gangsters in crime melodramas of the 1930s and 1940s. Today George Raft is mostly known for his role in Billy Wilder''s 1959 comedy Some Like it Hot and also Scarface (1932), Bolero (1934), and They Drive by Night (1940).

Raft was born George Ranft on September 26, 1901 in Hell's Kitchen, New York City to German immigrant Conrad Ranft and his wife Eva Glockner. His parents were married on November 17, 1895 in Manhattan, and his sister, Eva, known as "Katie" was born on April 18, 1896. Although Raft's birth year has been reported to be 1895, the 1900 Census for New York City lists only his sister, Katie, as his parents' only child with two children born and only one living. On the 1910 Census, he is listed as being 8 years old, and his birth record can be found in the New York City birth index as being 1901. A boyhood friend of gangster Owney Madden, he admittedly narrowly
avoided a life of crime.

As a young man he showed aptitude in dancing which, with his elegant fashion sense, enabled him to gain employment as a dancer in New York City nightclubs. He became part of the stage act of Texas Guinan and his success led him to Broadway where he again worked as a dancer. He worked in London as a chorus boy in the early 1920s.

Vi Kearney, later a dancer in shows for Charles Cochran and Andre Charlot, was quoted as saying:

Oh yes, I knew him (George Raft). We were in a big show together. Sometimes, to eke out our miserable pay, we'd do a dance act after the show at a club and we'd have to walk back home because all the buses had stopped for the night by that time. He'd tell me how he was going to be a big star one day and once he said that when he'd made it how he'd make sure to arrange a Hollywood contract for me. I just laughed and said: 'Come on, Georgie, stop dreaming. We're both in the chorus and you know it.' [Did he arrange the contract?] Yes. But by that time I'd decided to marry... [Was he (Raft) ever your boyfriend?] How many times do I have to tell you ...chorus girls don't go out with chorus boys.

In 1929, Raft relocated to Hollywood and took small roles. His success came in Scarface (1932), and Raft's convincing portrayal led to speculation that Raft was a gangster. Due to his life-long friendship with Owney Madden, Raft was a friend or acquaintance of several other crime figures, including Bugsey Siegel and Siegel's old friend Meyer Lansky. When Gary Cooper's romantic escapades put him on one gangster's hit list, Raft reportedly interceded and persuaded the mobster to spare Cooper.

He was one of the three most popular gangster actors of the 1930s, with James Cagney and Edward G. Robinson. Raft and Cagney worked in Each Dawn I Die (1939) as convicts in prison. Raft advocated for the casting of his friend, Mae West, in a supporting role in his first film as leading man, Night after Night (1932), which launched her movie career. Raft appeared the following year in Raoul Walsh's period piece The Bowery as Steve Brodie the first man to jump off Brooklyn Bridge and survive, with Wallace Beery, Jackie Cooper, Fay Wray and Pert Kelton.

Some of his other films include If I Had a Million (1932; in which he played a forger hiding from police, suddenly given a million dollars with no place to cash the check), Bolero (1934; in a rare role as a dancer rather than a gangster), an adaptation of Dashiell Hammett's The Glass Key (1935) (remade in 1942 with Alan Ladd in Raft's role), Souls at Sea (1937) with Garry Cooper, two with Humphrey Bogart: Invisible Stripes (1939) and They Dive by Night (1940), each with Bogart in supporting roles, and Manpower (1941) with Edward G Robinson and Marlene Dietrich. Although Raft received third billing in Manpower, he played the lead.

The years 1940 and 1941 proved to be Raft's career peak. He went into a gradual professional decline over the next decade, in part due to turning down some of the famous roles in movie history, notably High Sierra and The Maltese Falcon; both roles transformed Humphrey Bogart from supporting player to a major force in Hollywood in 1941. Raft was also reported to have turned down Bogart's role in Casablanca (1942), although according to Warner Bros. memos, this story is apocryphal.

Following the release of the espionage thriller Background to Danger (1943), a film intended to capitalize on the success of Casablanca, Raft demanded termination of his Warner Brothers contract. Jack Warner was prepared to pay Raft a $10,000 settlement, but the actor either misunderstood or was so eager to be free of the studio that it was he who gave Warner a check in that amount.

During the 1950s he worked as a greeter at the Capri Casino in Havana, Cuba, where he was part owner along with Meyer Lansky and Santo Trafficante. In 1953, Raft also starred as Lt. George Kirby in a syndicated television Police Drama titled I'mn the Law, which ran for one season.

He satirized his gangster image with a well-received performance in Some Like it Hot (1959), but this did not lead to a comeback, and he spent the remainder of the decade making films in Europe. He played a small role as a casino owner in Ocean's Eleven (1960) opposite the Rat Pack. His final film appearances were in Sexette (1978), reunited with Mae West in a cameo, and The Man with Bogart's Face (1980).

Fred Astaire, in his autobiography Steps in Time (1959), says Raft was a lightning-fast dancer and did "the fastest Charleston I ever saw." Ray Danton played Raft in The George Raft Story (1961), which co-starred Jayne Mansfield.

In the 1991 biographical movie Bugsy, the character of George Raft was played by Joe Mantegna.

Raft has two stars on the Hollywod Walk of Fame, for contributions to Motion Pictures at 6150 Hollywood Boulevard, and for Television at 1500 Vine St.

George Raft married Grayce Mulrooney, several years his senior, in 1923, long before his stardom. The pair separated soon thereafter, but Grayce, a devout Catholic, refused to grant Raft a divorce, and he remained married to and supported her until her death in 1970. A romantic figure in Hollywood, Raft had love affairs with Betty Grable, Marlene Dietrich, and Mae West. He stated publicly that he wanted to marry Norma Shearer, with whom he had a long romance, but his wife's refusal to allow a divorce eventually caused Shearer to end the affair.

In 1965, Raft was indicted for, and pled guilty to, income tax evasion and could have ended his life behind bars, but the court proved merciful when he wept before the judge, begging that he not be sent to prison, and he was sentenced to probation.

In 1967 he was denied entry into the United Kingdom (where he had been installed as Casino Director at a casino known as "The Colony Club") due to his underworld associations.

Raft died from Luekaemia at age 79 in Los Angeles, California, on November 24, 1980. He was interred in Forest Lawn - Hollywood Hills Cemetary in Los Angeles.

The Too good to hurry Mints!

Murray mints, Murray mints - The too good to hurry mints! Why make haste? When you can taste the hint of mint in Murray Mints (1955). Jingle was recorded by The Stargazers. Cliff Adams and the Stargazers appeared on Sunday Night at the London Palladium, about three months after the start of commercial television.
MURRAY MINTS,gelatine-free gelatin free wrapped Boiled   Crunchy  Mint  Boiled & Crunchy  sweets,retro sweets,retro sweetshops,liquorice sweets,toffees,toffee sweets,boiled sweets
They took a chance and ended their act on what they called their 'latest recording'. They came on in bearskins and re-enacted the commercial on the stage. Then they pulled off the bearskins and inside them they had packets of Murray Mints which they threw to the audience. It caused a sensation, and showed the power that commercials had, even within three months.

Classic Bond - From Russia With Love: 1963

The massive success of Dr No (d. Terence Young, 1962) led to a significantly increased budget for the second James Bond film. The result,From Russia With Love (1963) saw the first unveiling of the full Bond formula was unveiled: the largely irrelevant pre-credits sequence, elaborate titles featuring semi-clad women, the spin-off title song (though not yet performed over the credits), the first appearance of a recognisable Ernst Stavro Blofeld (called 'Number One' for now) with trademark white cat, the first appearance of 'Q' (Desmond Llewelyn) with his endless supply of gadgets, Bond's callously witty one-liners, exotic locations, a full-blown John Barry score... the list goes on.

It also had advantages not enjoyed by many later Bond films, notably an intelligent script that retained the substance of Ian Fleming's novel while toning down the overt Cold War politics (the Cuban Missile Crisis had only occurred the previous year). The villains are still Russians, but are dissidents working for the stateless crime organisation SPECTRE, as opposed to the explicitly Soviet SMERSH in the novel.
Compared with Joseph Wiseman's anaemic Dr No, this film boasts the first major Bond villains in the form of Blofeld, the spike-shoed Rosa Klebb (Lotte Lenya) and man-mountain Red Grant (Robert Shaw). Grant in particular is one of the most effective heavies in the whole canon, with Shaw's obvious intelligence letting him convey as much menace through dialogue as he does in the scenes when he's trying to beat Bond to a pulp.
If Daniela Bianchi has less impact as the main love interest, she has the historical drawback of being chronologically sandwiched between Ursula Andress (Dr No) and Honor Blackman (Goldfinger), two far more memorable Bond girls. But she has genuine chemistry with Sean Connery, who recommended her for that reason. Connery himself now fitted the role like a well-tailored glove - Fleming had already shown his approval by retrospectively giving the character Scottish ancestry in the final novels.
The plot revolves around Bond's attempt at acquiring a Lektor decoding machine, effectively a McGuffin-style excuse for trips to exotic locations (Turkey, Yugoslavia, Venice) and expertly-staged suspense and action sequences involving speedboats, helicopters and the Orient Express. Later Bond set-pieces would be far more elaborate, but the quality of the script and acting set From Russia With Love apart from its predecessor and many successors: even today, it's regarded as one of the series' high points.

Eon Productions / United Artists

116 minutes

Directed by Terence Young

Title theme sung by Matt Monro



Published by


Volume 30, No.358, November 1963, page 155


SPECTRE, the all-powerful international crime organisation, devises a plan to lay its hands simultaneously on James Bond, the British intelligence agent, and on the Lektor, a top-secret Russian coding machine. Bond is to be killed, painfully, by Red Grant, one of SPECTRE's trained assassins, and the Lektor to be held to ransom. Rosa Klebb, former head of SMERSH, the Soviet spy network, and now a recruit to SPECTRE, orders Tatiana Romanova, a code clerk at the U.S.S.R. embassy in Istanbul, to contact British intelligence and offer to defect to the West with the Lektor provided that Bond will come in person to collect her and it. Suspecting a trap, British intelligence still cannot turn down the offer. Helped by Kerim Bey, British agent in Istanbul, Bond goes to work, surviving such diversions as a pitched battle in a gypsy encampment, and gets Tatiana and the Lektor out of the embassy under cover of a tear-gas explosion. Grant, who has kept constant track of Bond, boards the Orient Express with them, murders the British agent who was to have helped Bond cross the Yugoslav-Italian border, and takes his place. Having killed Grant after a savage fight on the train, Bond and Tatiana still have to undergo chases by helicopter and fast motor launch, and a final encounter with Rosa Klebb in person, before the adventure ends where it began, in Venice.

The success of Dr. No has no doubt given the James Bond team added confidence, if that was necessary, and From Russia with Love is made by people who clearly know that they now have a gilt-edged formula to play with. Money has been spent, sensibly, where it shows on the screen; and in contrast to many British thrillers, this one has a fine range of sets and locations, from a chess tournament in a Venetian palazzo, through the streets and underground lakes of Istanbul, to the Orient Express and the Gulf of Venice, to move around in. A pre-credits sequence, of a night stalking-match around the box hedges and fountains of a formal garden, ending with the light coming up on a row of dark figures lining the terrace of a Marienbad chateau, is brilliantly conceived and shot with enough precision to promise something really out of the way in thrillers. The credit titles, following the curves of a belly dancer, add to the air of high-powered insolence.

In fact, nothing that comes later is quite as effective, chiefly because the director, Terence Young, achieves speed without style, and blunts the sharper edges of personality except in cases where the script gives him a clear lead. Ian Fleming's vintage blend of brand-name expertise and sadistic adventure still eludes the film-makers, and the screen's James Bond, although leaving behind him the appropriate trail of girls and corpses, remains a trifle undernourished in terms of the Fleming myth.

All the same, From Russia with Love is a rattling adventure, getting quite enough drive into its scenes with helicopters, speedboats, cars, trains, bombs, guns, venom-coated knives, hidden cameras, and exploding suitcases, to ensure a proper state of breathlessness in the audience. Clever casting, particularly on the side of the villains, gives us Robert Shaw as a stony-faced blond killer, and Lotte Lenya, splendid in her final Venetian escapade. The head of SPECTRE, photographed at boot-level, fondling a white cat and brooding over his fighting fish, survives to fight another day. With a super-confidence which one can only regard as justified, the film ends with an announcement of the next Bond adventure: Goldfinger.

The Monthly Film Bulletin was published by the British Film Institute between 1934 and 1991. Initially aimed at distributors and exhibitors as well as filmgoers, it carried reviews and details of all UK film releases. In 1991, the Bulletin was absorbed by Sight and Sound magazine

Riding high on the success of playing in the hit TV show Starsky and Hutch, David Soul returned to one of his early career choices as a singer. His debut, the Tony Macaulay written and produced "Don't Give Up on Us" was a worldwide smash, spending four weeks at No1 on the UK Singles chart in January and February 1977 and a single week at No1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in April 1977. In addition, the song spent one week at No1 on the U.S. adult contemporary chart

"Don't Give Up on Us" was rated No93 in VH1's 100 Greatest One-hit Wonders (though Soul had several more hits, including a second no.1, in the UK). Soul recorded a new version of the song in 2004, allegedly after being embarrassed when hearing it by chance in an elevator as sung by Owen Wilson in the film version of Starsky and Hutch.

Zsa Zsa Padilla revived this in 1998, making it the first Filipino revival. Piolo Pascual also covered this song for the soundtrack of the same movie title in the Philippines.

Preceded by
"When a Child Is Born (Soleado)" byJohnny Mathis
UK Singles Chart number one single
January 15, 1977 (4 weeks)
Succeeded by
"Don't Cry for Me Argentina" by Julie Covington
Preceded by
"Southern Nights" by Glen Campbell
Billboard Easy Listening Singles number-one single
April 9, 1977
Succeeded by
"Right Time of the Night" by Jennifer Warnes
Preceded by
"Dancing Queen" by ABBA
Billboard Hot 100 number one single
April 16, 1977
Succeeded by
"Don't Leave Me This Way" by Thelma Houston

The Kenny Everett Video Show: It was all done in the best possible taste!

At a time when the British televisual comedy scene was happily basking in an entertainingly rich suburban rut of crowd-pleasingly play-it-safe comedy, one man arose. A man whose innate, highly individualistic sense of humour coupled with his total lack of anything remotely resembling recognised good taste took the comedic sensibilities of the nation by the scruff of their collective necks and proceeded to shake them until they either laughed out loud or penned "Disgusted of...fill in your location here" letters to Points of View, and all post-boxes pointing towards Fleet Street.

That man’s name was Kenny Everett, and he arrived brandishing a big spangly new TV toy to dazzle and amaze us with. A toy called...his Video Show.

Kenny Everett, or 'Cuddly Ken' as we affectionately came to know him, was born Maurice Cole on 25th December 1944 in Liverpool, and was first heard on the airwaves of British radio when he joined pirate broadcaster Radio London in 1964, where he remained (apart from a brief stint on Radio Luxembourg) until 1967, when he joined the BBC's new pop station, Radio One, where, through his creative use of sound effects and Goonish of-the-wall humour, he continued to almost single-handedly revolutionise pop radio presentation in the 1960s and 1970s.

The Kenny Everett Video Show was by no means his first attempt to transfer his particular brand of quick-fire zany humour from radio to television, but it was beyond a doubt his most successful. Arguably Everett's sense of humour was so far advanced that for it to have the biggest impact on TV he actually had to wait for video technology to catch up with him! By 1978 it mercifully had, and Everett, in only the way that Everett could, grasped it with both hands, turned it inside out, upside down and on its head and used it in a way that no one had before to produce truly groundbreaking comedy of the highest order. Mainly the show centred round him, filmed in front of a bank of TV monitors with a minimal audience comprised of his own production crew who were encouraged to break their silence and laugh. Cuddly Ken with his irrepressible personality introduced an assortment of quick-fire sketches that predicted the attention deficit disorder mode of television by a good two decades, while still effortlessly managing to maintain a comedy quotient of the scatalogically bizarre highest order.

Together with co-writers Barry Cryer and Ray Cameron, Everett reinvented himself as the leather-clad greaser Sid Snot, the outrageously conceited womanising Frenchman Marcel Wave, the punk Gizzard Puke, the huge-handed gospel minister Brother Lee Love, Angry of Mayfair (seemingly a respectably dressed city gent who faced the camera to complain about all of societies ills until he turned to walk away -only to reveal that he was wearing knickers, stockings and suspenders), and the wonderfully named Cupid Stunt, a Dolly Parton caricature of similarly mountainous décolletage. Each show also featured Everett's buxom assistant Cleo Rocas (as Miss Whiplash) and the scantily dressed dance band Hot Gossip, who would girate their 'naughty bits' to a newly released pop song. Guest musical acts were also encouraged to join in the odd sketch or two. And sometimes groups unwittingly took part in his sketches, as in one of Everett's most celebrated video gags, in which he dressed up in a white suit, donned long-haired wigs, false teeth and an impossibly false suntan to play all three Bee Gees brothers. Interviewed by Everett, these 'Bee Gees' answered all his questions musically, with lines from their songs: Everett: "How do you sell so many records?" Bee Gees: "Cos were living in a world of fools..."

One character from his Capitol Radio show was transferred to television courtesy of the animators of Cosgrove Hall Productions. Captain Kremmen followed the same five-minute radio format in which the eponymous space captain, his busty cadet Carla, and the brilliant scientist Gitfinger (all voiced by Everett) fight to protect the Universe from the Krells (a type of evil alien blancmange). This was one cartoon that was definitely not for the kids. Carla: "Captain, can I use your dictaphone?" Kremmen: "No Carla, use your finger like everyone else!" The Kremmen episodes proved popular enough for Cosgrove Hall to produce Kremmen - The Movie, a half hour b-movie for cinema distribution in 1980.

Viewers at the time could opt to either love it or loathe it, but never remain indifferent to it. It raised the moralistic hackles of the clean-up TV brigade but won a BAFTA for Best Light Entertainment Series in 1979. Gaudy, anarchic, irreverent, or just plain hilarious, the Kenny Everett Video Show reflected the very core personality of the man himself. It was all at once ahead of its time and yet very much a part of its time. It was paradoxical and it was constantly was also very, very...VERY funny, which at the end of the day, was exactly what Kenny himself wanted it to be, and it was all done "in the best possible taste!"

Friday, 29 April 2011

The Third Man: 1949

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Many people consider The Third Man (1949) the Greatest British Film Ever Made, though its Britishness is complicated. It's one of the few British films that deserves to stand alongside the great classics of international cinema. It's a reminder that British cinema flourished in the years immediately after World War II. Never before or since has there been such a glut of high-quality, commercially successful movies produced in this country. Between 1944 and 1949, British-made films included Henry V (1944), Brief Encounter (1945), A Matter of Life and Death, Great Expectations (both 1946), Brighton Rock (1947), The Red Shoes, Hamlet,Oliver Twist, The Fallen Idol (all 1948) and Kind Hearts and Coronets(1949). This was the UK's one and only cinematic 'golden age'.

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What's striking is how many of these famous and accomplished films were associated with literary prestige. Alongside the adaptations ofShakespeare and Dickens were films written, or based on stories by, rising literary stars - Noël Coward in the case of Brief Encounter, Graham Greene in the case of Brighton Rock, The Fallen Idol and The Third Man. But, unlike many literary adaptations today, so often dewy-eyed and technically unadventurous ventures in 'heritage', these films are cinematically accomplished too. They're also edgy and complex in tone, reflecting all the flux and uncertainty of a country recovering from war and adjusting to a new era.
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The Third Man is a case in point. Set in post-war Vienna, it's a thriller about black marketeering and murder, whose lightness and wit combines with a sense of existential crisis brought on by the horrors of the conflict. Its richness comes from this combination - it's both a popular entertainment and a profound exploration of moral choice.
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It's great cinema too, built on the rock-solid foundation of Graham Greene's world-weary script. Directed by Carol Reed, at the time regarded as one of the two or three greatest film-makers in the world,The Third Man is one of those films that's fixed in the collective imagination. It would be difficult to find someone who didn't recognise the film's atmospheric, sinister vision of Vienna and its zither music. And it has one of the most famous scenes in cinema - when the anti-hero Harry Lime, played by Orson Welles, who is believed to be dead, appears without warning in a doorway, late at night.

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Published by


Volume 16, No.189, September 1949, page 159


The basis of The Third Man is melodrama, but its mood is less precise. Its story is not particularly exciting - sinister and chilling, rather: emphasis is on character and atmosphere, not action, the intrigues and concealed horrors of post-war Vienna. Graham Greene's script tells the story of Martins, an engaging but rather seedy American writer of western stories, who arrives in Vienna to work for his friend, Harry Lime. He is told by a cold, disillusioned British police officer that Lime, a notorious racketeer, has been killed in a street accident. Unbelieving, Martins begins to track down all those who knew his friend: the lonely, frightened actress with forged papers who was in love with him; two acquaintances, the effete Kurtz and the shifty Popescu, who witnessed the accident; his porter and his doctor. These investigations lead him to the heart of seaminess and corruption in Vienna, to the discovery that Lime (a disarmingly shameless scoundrel) is still alive, to a struggle with his conscience which ends with the eerie pursuit of his friend, who most aptly retreats to the sewers of the city.

Although much of the film was shot on location in Vienna, it does not give an intimate picture of the city. The dead-looking streets with their piles of bombed masonry, the interiors with relics of splendour, the half-empty cafes and the enormous, glistening sewers (all most atmospherically photo-graphed by Robert Krasker), seem to exist in a sad, decaying no-man's-land. The melancholy scene is heightened from the first by the brilliant use of zither music with its relentless, jangling tunes.

By the side of this lost, dislocated city, the human beings with their shabby intrigues and miseries are almost insignificant. At the end, they fade back into the shadows and are gone completely. But the impression left by the film is lasting and powerful, because the characters are sharply created and well-acted: Trevor Howard particularly good as the British officer, Welles magnetic in the small role of Lime, Joseph Cotten catching exactly the moodiness and uncertainty of Martins, Ernst Deutsch and Paul Hoerbiger excellent as Kurtz and the porter. Only Valli, as the actress, is rather negative, and one feels her relationships with both Lime and Martins are too thinly conveyed.

By the very nature of its settings and story, there are occasional reminiscences of Lang and Hitchcock, but there is nothing borrowed or imitated. Stylistically, The Third Man is Reed's most impressive film. If you dislike unremitting objectivity, if you insist that films should make a more personal statement, you will be dissatisfied with it and admire only its controlled perfection of technique. But as an analyst of mood and situation, Reed is practically unequalled today, and it is unjust, I think, to label him simply a technician without emotion since his style is so clearly adapted to serve this acute, deliberately impassive attitude.

The Monthly Film Bulletin was published by the British Film Institute between 1934 and 1991. Initially aimed at distributors and exhibitors as well as filmgoers, it carried reviews and details of all UK film releases. In 1991, the Bulletin was absorbed by Sight and Sound magazine.

Carnaby Street W1

Carnaby Street is a pedestreanised shopping street in London, located in the Soho district, near Oxford Street and Regent Street. It is home to numerous fashion and lifestyle retailers, including a large number of independent fashion boutiques. Streets intersecting, or meeting with, Carnaby Street are, from south to north, Beak Street, Broadwick Street, Kingly Court, Ganton Street, Marlborough Court, Lowndes Court, Fouberts Place, Little Marlborough Street and Great Malborough Street. The nearest London Underground station is Oxford Circus (on the Bakerloo, Central and Victoria lines).

Historically, Carnaby Street derives its name from Karnaby House, located to its east and originally erected in 1683. It is not now known why the house was so called. The street was probably laid out in 1685 or 1686. First appearing in the ratebooks in 1687, the street was almost completely built up by 1690 with small houses. A market was developed in the 1820s; in his novel, Sybil (1845), Disraeli refers to "a carcase-butcher famous in Carnaby-market".

In 1934, Amy Ashwood Garvey and Sam Manning opened the Florence Mills Social Club, a jazz club which became a gathering spot for supporters of Pan-Africanism. 1958 saw the first boutique, His Clothes, opened in Carnaby Street by John Stephen (after his shop in Beak Street burned down) and was soon followed by I was Lord Kitchener's Valet, Kleptomania, Mates, Ravel, and others.

By the 1960s, Carnaby Street proved popular for followers of both the Mod and Hippie styles. Many independent fashion boutiques, and designers such as Mary Quant, Marion Foale and Sally Tuffin Lord John, Merc, Take Six, and Irivine Sellars were located in Carnaby Street as well as various underground music bars such as the Roaring Twenties in the surrounding streets. With bands such as Small Faces, The Who, and Rolling Stones appearing in the area to work (with the legendary Marquee Club located round the corner in Wardour Street), shop, and socialize, it became one of Swinging London's coolest destination associated with the Swinging Sixties.

Carnaby Street c.1966

The Carnaby Street contingent of Swinging London stormed into North American and international awareness with the April 15, 1966 publication of Time Magazine's cover and article that extolled this street's role:

"Perhaps nothing illustrates the new swinging London better than narrow, three-block-long Carnaby Street, which is crammed with a cluster of the 'gear' boutiques where the girls and boys buy each other clothing...

In October 1973, the Greater London Council pedestrianised Carnaby Street. Note that the pedestrianisation was only partial i.e. taking place between 11 am and 8 pm daily. A comparison of before and after number of pedestrians entering the pedestrianised area indicated a 30% increase in pedestrian flows into Carnaby Street as a result of the pedestrianisation. A campaign commenced early in 2010 to call for a similar exercise to be undertaken in the adjacent area of Soho.

There are two W estminster City Council green plaques on Carnaby Street: the first can be found at 1 Carnaby Street and is dedicated to fashion entrepreneur John Stephen, who was responsible for beginning the Mod fashion revolution here. The second plaque, located at 52/55 Carnaby Street, is dedicated to the Mod pop group The Small Faces and their manager Don Arden.

Carnaby Street was an already well-enough established phenomenon to be satirised by the 1967 film Smashing Time. One of the songs, entitled 'Carnaby Street', features the lyric: You'll pay for the gear on display to appear on the scene/ It's no good being mean/ They'll have your every bean.

In 1966 Harry Fox and Henry Moss together opened the doors of Lady Jane, the first ladies' fashion boutique in the street, to the world. They soon parted company and Harry Fox went on to add Lady Jane Again, Lady Jane's Birdcage, a souvenir shop and a men's wear shop, Sir Harry, to his empire. Stars from around the world made Lady Jane a must see on their trips to London, including Jane Mansfield who arrived in a blaze of publicity. Harry Fox, the president of the Carnaby Street Trading Association, lobbied local government to have the first sign, 'Carnaby Street Welcomes The World' hung high above the street, and later ensured the street was pedestrianised to make it easier to find and enjoy.

In 1969, Peggy March recorded an album called In der Carnaby Street, with a hit song of the same name.

There is a song by The Jam called "Carnaby Street", written by bassist Bruce Foxton. It was the B-side of single "All Around the World", released in the UK on 8 July 1977, reaching a chart position of number 13. It never appeared on any studio album, but can be found on the collected works of The Jam boxset Direction, Reaction, Creation.

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Hell Drivers - 1957

A vigorous, violent and thoroughly enjoyable ride, Hell Drivers (d. Cy Endfield, 1957) is saved from the B-movie graveyard by taut plotting, tense direction and potent performances. Stanley Baker is impressive as troubled ex-con Joe, haunted by a driving accident that crippled his brother, who drifts into a new job and ends up confronting corruption and murder.
Set among the swaggering drivers of a road haulage yard, Hell Drivers is an unusually tough film for its time, which, with its mix of regional, working-class characters, its natural, uncompromising performances and its bleak, black and white aesthetics, has something in common with the emerging British New Wave. The setting is an unidentified dead-end semi-rural wasteland, punctuated only by a greasy spoon café, a run-down guesthouse and the tawdry local hop, where the drivers vent their bottled-up aggression on the boyfriends of the local women.
An unusually strong supporting cast is led by Patrick McGoohan as Joe's arch-rival Red, and also includes William Hartnell, Herbert Lom, Sid James, Wilfred Lawson and a pre-Bond Sean Connery. In the film's only significant female role, Peggy Cummins is particularly good as Lucy, the sexy, tough but finally tender femme-fatale caught in the centre of a whirlwind of testosterone. Endfield delivers the thrills with some jaw-tightening driving sequences, as the fleet of decrepit trucks compete at breakneck speed along narrow and potholed country roads to carry off the trophy for most deliveries in a day.
It is a supremely macho film - a study of male aggression and rivalry, skill and professional pride which evokes memories of the great American director Howard Hawks and covers similar territory (although not quite so impressively) to the French classic The Wages of Fear (Le Salaire de la peur, France/Italy, d. Henri-Georges Clouzot, 1953), which was itself a model for the later Speed (US, d. Jan de Bont, 1994).



Published by


Volume 24, No.283, August 1957, page 102


Released from prison, Tom secures a job as a driver of a ballast lorry for a company which demands a minimum twelve hauls per day. There is a bonus system and good wages, but a driver who falls below the minimum number of hauls is promptly sacked. Fast driving on death-trap roads is demanded of all drivers. The foreman, Red, is the pacemaker and champion driver; and tension between him and Tom reaches its climax when Red attempts to send Tom's lorry hurtling over the edge of a quarry, after Tom has uncovered a racket operated by Red. Red meets his death in the manner intended for Tom.

This extraordinary film may interest future historians for its description of road haulage and masculine social behaviour in the mid-twentieth century; perhaps fortunately, however, it is so unconvincing in every respect that even the most gullible could not accept it as a representative picture of either. There are some good individual acting performances, but the film, though produced with efficiency and assurance, is disagreeable and occasionally vicious.

The Monthly Film Bulletin was published by the British Film Institute between 1934 and 1991. Initially aimed at distributors and exhibitors as well as filmgoers, it carried reviews and details of all UK film releases. In 1991, the Bulletin was absorbed by Sight and Sound magazine.