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This blog makes liberal use of AB's journals, letters, travel notes, and other sources.

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Saturday, 2 November 2013

Making movies

Friday, November 2nd., Cadogan Square, London.

Worried by my film "Punch and Judy", I walked out for an hour and got ideas and came back and wrote another scene. 

There is a convincing case to be made for regarding Arnold Bennett as the most important professionally engaged early twentieth-century writer dealing with the world of cinema and film. From the publication of The Regent in 1913, with one of the earliest references to film in the English novel, in a short passage on the cinematograph’s invasion of the music-hall, to the release of the 1929 E A Dupont’s film "Piccadilly" based on Bennett's original script, Bennett remained critically aware of the importance of film as an artistic and commercial medium. His involvement with the medium spans the most important period of the development, and rapid demise, of silent film as a narrative art form. 

"Punch and Judy" is – literally- an excursion by Bennett into the genre of Grand Guignol (Guignol being roughly the counterpart of Mr Punch in French puppet shows). Bennett’s film treatment begins with a street Punch and Judy show. The puppets are first limp and lifeless, but then burst into wild action, to enact the usual story of mayhem and murder. As the show reaches its conclusion, cinema trickery turns the Punch puppet into a human – Flitfoot, Bennett’s utterly ruthless hero-villain.The subsequent story shows Flitfoot’s unstoppable rise to wealth and power. He lies, swindles and cheats, ruining anyone who gets in his way. Like Punch he has an energy that makes him fascinating even at his most appalling. 

Gilda Gray in Piccadilly
Then at 2.15 I drove in  studio car to Elstree to see some shooting of the "Piccadilly" film. Full crowd. 300 guests in the famous club. The colouring of the dresses was not at all distinguished; but this doesn't matter on the screen. Each item was filmed five or six times. Endless trouble taken. Considerable heat from terrific blaze of electric lamps. I talked with Gilda Gray.

See also, June 15th., 'Back to Riceyman Steps' -

The Denison Rosses, the Colefaxes, Muriel Foster, Humbert Wolfe, and H. G. Wells came to dinner and the uproariousness of the whole evening was terrific.

Additionally for November 2nd., see 'Musical evening' - 

It was rather like a City of the Dead. certainly as much a relic of barbarism as anything one is likely to see in Paris, with its tons of flowers and ugly wreaths ornamenting the most deplorable monuments and houses of corpses. vast crowds of people, many in black, but not all; many, if not most, out for an airing: moonstruck crowds before certain monstrous momentos of surpassing vulgarity.

1 comment:

  1. Saw last night's packed screening of Picadilly at Wilton's Music Hall (near Tower Bridge) by The Lucky Dog Picture House. Vintage Bennett: three intersecting love triangles, vignettes of privileged and impoverished London, especially the trials of the 1920s immigrant community, with a deal of sexual tension and humour thrown in. Lucky Dog's musicians also deserve full credit for their interpretation, which added hugely to a great night, enjoyed by a lively and totally engaged audience.