Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Revisiting the unforgettable “An Englishman Abroad” . See also bellow the next “post”

The Following Video is precisely concentrated on the  passage ( from 50min 45sec on ) in which the actress visits in London, the establishments where Guy Burgess used to be a Gentleman – customer 

( …) “Burgess was a Marxist, but he liked good English tailoring too much to be a rabid revolutionary. In the film he is shocked that anybody would consider him dangerous.
( …) “Burgess says: "So little, England. Little music, little art. Timid, tasteful, nice. But one loves it, one loves it." He died far from little England. On September 1, 1963, an official of a Moscow hospital announced that Jim Andreyevich Elliott -- the name by which Burgess was known in Russia -- had died from heart disease. The "Internationale" was played at his funeral three days later. Apart from MacLean, no one of note attended.”
Thomas Brown

An Englishman Abroad is a 1983 BBC television drama film, based on the true story of a chance meeting of an actress, Coral Browne, with Guy Burgess (Alan Bates), a member of the Cambridge spy ring who spied for the Soviet Union while an officer at MI6. The production was written by Alan Bennett and directed by John Schlesinger; Browne stars as herself.

The film is set is Moscow in 1958, after Burgess had fled to the city following MI6's detection of his treason. Burgess barges into Browne's dressing room in the interval of a touring Shakespeare Memorial Theatre (which became one of the bases of the Royal Shakespeare Company) production of Hamlet, in which she portrayed Gertrude, and charms her. Later on she is invited to his Moscow flat, finding it with some difficulty, to measure him for a suit that he would like ordered from his London tailor.

Rather than film in the Soviet Union, Schlesinger used several locations in Scotland. The Caird Hall and Whitehall Theatre in Dundee stood in for the Moscow theatre, and the grand marble staircase of Glasgow City Chambers played the part of the British Embassy.Additional filming was done at Glasgow's St. Andrew's Suspension Bridge ("luckily, in a snowstorm" Bennett later wrote) and the Moss Heights flats in Cardonald, which represented Burgess' Moscow apartment.

Both Browne and Bates were winners of the BAFTA awards for acting for their roles in this production.

Bennett gives the date of Browne's meeting with Burgess as 1958 in the introduction to his Single Spies, which contains the text of An Englishman Abroad in the stage play version and the text of A Question of Attribution about Anthony Blunt.

The play was also adapted for radio on the BBC World Service in 1994 starring Michael Gambon as Burgess and Penelope Wilton as Coral Browne. It was subsequently re-broadcast on BBC Radio 7 and BBC Radio 4 Extra, most recently in 2013 as part of BBC Radio 4 Extra's Cambridge Spies season

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Two great productions of the BBC around the Cambridge Spies ... Second ..."An Englishman abroad"

This is one of my favorite films ... a great story about loneliness,"gentilless", true humanity in distress, keeping on the gentleman's code as weapon against dispair ... and a great sense of humor ... besides a remarkable visit in London to Saville Row, John Lobb, ... etc...etc
Yours ... Jeeves

An Englishman Abroad
Directed by John Schlesinger
Written by Alan Bennett
Starring Alan Bates
Coral Browne
Charles Gray
Distributed by BBC
Release date 29 November 1983
Running time 60 min
Country UK
Language English

"How can he be a spy?" says Guy Burgess in Moscow, as he quotes the attitude of his former fellow British upper-class diplomats, "He goes to my tailor."

He's talking to Coral Browne, an Australian actress who was appearing as Gertrude in a Royal Shakespeare Company production of Hamlet in Moscow. It's 1958. She has visited Burgess in his drab apartment which he shares with his government-sanctioned male lover, an aging youth who speaks no English. Burgess has barely learned a few words of Russian. "I know what I've done to deserve him," he says, "but I don't know what he's done to deserve me."

Burgess, along with Kim Philby, Donald Maclean and Anthony Blunt comprised the Cambridge Four. They were a group of Cambridge undergraduates who, in the Thirties, were recruited to become Soviet spies. Although they were products of proper English upper-class breeding, they disliked intensely the very aspects of English life that provided their own privileges. The Soviet system seemed so much better. Burgess was a most unlikely spy. He was flamboyantly gay, often flamboyantly drunk and talked too much about what he was doing. After all, he says, "There's no point in having a secret if you make a secret of it." Throughout WWII he and Maclean, working in Britain's Foreign Office, regularly delivered copies of secret Allied plans to their Soviet controller. Even though much evidence pointed their way, no action was taken. They eventually had to flee Britain in 1951 and finally showed up in Moscow in 1956. Kim Philby did far more damage before he was eased out in a gentlemanly way. And Blunt, an art historian, was publicly identified by the British government only in old age after years of cover-ups. After all, he was advisor to the Queen on art matters and had received a knighthood. The old-boy network wanted no embarrassments.

Coral Browne wound up in Burgess' Moscow apartment because he went to one of the Hamlet performances. As usual, he was drunk. He found his way to her dressing room by accident and proceeded to vomit in her basin. She was not amused and hadn't the slightest idea who he was. When she had to leave for the second act, Burgess managed to steal her soap, cigarettes and face powder before leaving. "One should have asked," he tells her later. "One is such a coward." But later he slipped a note under the door asking her to lunch and to bring a tape measure. Burgess wanted gossip from London, but Browne didn't know anyone in his upper-class circles. He wants to be taken seriously, but seems merely charmingly superficial. Burgess is a self-destructive, self-aware drunk, yet also a proud Englishman. More than anything else, he wants Browne to take his measurements and order some suits for him from his Savile Row tailor when she returns to London. She agrees, but only because she sees no reason why anyone, even a traitor, shouldn't have a suit if he wants. At the end of this marvelous one hour program, most of which is spent with Burgess and Browne talking to each other, we see Guy Burgess jauntily walking over a Moscow bridge wearing a perfectly tailored suit, hand-crafted leather shoes on his feet, a well-cut topcoat over his shoulders and holding up a black umbrella to ward of the beginning snow. Passing him are the comrades in their drab clothing and fur hats, some curious about this unusual creature in their midst. Guy Burgess has become a very well-dressed Englishman...well, English traitor...abroad.

This is a fine example of what an excellent, subtle writer Alan Bennett is. The tone is amusing and wry, but Bennett slips a sharp knife in as he shows the complacency of so many of the British upper-class, as well as the self-delusional foolishness of Burgess. And Bennett makes us appreciate the spine of Coral Browne, unwilling to paint people with the colors the British establishment would have her use. "I'm just an actress," she says, "I've never been interested in politics. But if this is communism I don't like it because it's dull...their clothes are terrible and they can't make false teeth. What else is there?" "The system," Burgess replies, and he's serious.

As excellent as Bennett is, Alan Bates as Burgess and Coral Browne playing herself match him. Browne may have no great passion one way or the other toward English traitors, but she's not about to let others tell her who she can and can't see, even in Moscow. More to the point, she has Guy Burgess' number. People in England can call him anything they like; he'll make amusing conversation out of their anger or contempt. But the idea that they might think he now regrets having to live in Moscow makes him vulnerable. Bates is so good an actor he lets us be amused by Burgess, even like him, but also be somewhat disgusted by him...all at the same time.

This came out on a VHS tape years ago, and can still be tracked down. Hopefully, it will see a DVD issue. Even more hopefully, it will be paired with Alan Bennett's A Question of Attribution, an almost equally amusing and trenchant teleplay about Anthony Blunt. Cambridge Spies, the British TV miniseries which tells the story of Philby, Burgess, Maclean and Blunt, also is well worth watching.

Guy Burgess erupts by accident in the dressing room of Coral Brown,which is in Moskow playing Hamlet, in a state of intoxication and feeling desperately sick...

After a desperate run to the washing basin ... he develops a eccentrinc conversation with Coral ... that finds him charming "malgré" his manners ... but after some questions that d'ont reveal the identity of this strange intruder ... she leaves ... leaving the gentleman in distress behind ... which enables him to take with him the soap, together with the booze etc ...

In the corridor he comes to a "close encounter" with another actor, that is actually a old "chap" from Cambridge ... which recognises him as Guy Burgess ... Burgess disappears along the corridor ... without giving any sign of recognition ...

The actor tells Coral about the strange encounter in the corridor with Guy Burgess ... like this Coral becomes aware about the idendity of the strange but charming intruder ...

Later at her strange and depressing hotel she receives a message from Guy with his adress and inviting her to have lunch with her ...

She starts a kind of endless enquiry to this adress that give us the opportunity to feel the Kafka ambiance of paranoia of the Soviet Regime ... She starts being followed by the secret police ...

She goes to the British Embassy, only to be received by two snobish and priggish young "eton" boys ... that refuse to help her ... and irritate her tremendously ...

One secretary that has enough of being "bullyed" by the arrogant boys tries to help her , but is watched and stopped by one of the boys that is watching her from the stairs ...

She has no other choice than going back to the streets followed by the secret state police and keep on asking the way ... until that she founds someone that will take her ... if she pays him with her silk scarf ...

Finally she comes to the adress .... a terrible ensemble of distressing and shabby social flats ....

Inside the shabby and messy apartement Guy is wayting for her in a chaotic manner ... burns the squalid lunch ... and is able to offer her proudly a tomato ...

He hides his lonelyness by "chatting"about known people from the past ... and about England ... finally he reveals what he wants to ask her ... that will become the only "key" possible to civilisation and his "secret garden" in the inospite desert of Moscow ... Does she wants to take some measures to order a suit from his taylors ... some shoes from his shoemaker ... some pyjamas ?? ...

They listen to the only record he has .... and that he keeps on listening ... an english song ... they say goodbye and she leaves .... to London

In London we can follow her visits to Saville Row .... to John Lobb in st James Street ... etc ... and we can feel by the reactions .... the degree of more or less gentleness and real humanity of people ... concerning her mission ...

Finally we can see Guy in the glorious moment where he can walk again in his "shining armour" ... full of dignity and panache ... at the sound of "For He Is an Englishman"