Saturday, 16 December 2017

The Crown's Wardrobe /Jane Petrie ( Season Two ) Michele Clapton and Timothy Everest.( Season One ) Timothy Everest, bowing down to "The Crown" / VIDEO below: British Style Genius - A Cut Above, Timothy Everest edit


Jane Petrie also starts Queen Elizabeth II's wardrobe evolution into her current day signature style.

Despite the setting of 1956 to 1964, the second season of the Queen Elizabeth II biopic series "The Crown" hits pretty close to home right now, with a televised royal wedding (to a commoner!), U.S.-Anglo relations in need of "repair" — although then it was due to the U.K.'s involvement in the Suez Canal Crisis as opposed to the sitting U.S. President's objectionable Twitter activity — and institutionalized sexism all around. But fans of the Netflix show also have the privilege to binge scintillating 20th century political intrigue, royal family drama — possibly giving insight into why Princes William and Harry became such seemingly chill guys, to be featured season five or so — and gorgeous, gorgeous costumes thanks to Jane Petrie, who takes over from the first season's Michele Clapton and Timothy Everest.

For the sophomore season, the London-based costume designer enjoyed the opportunity to explore and reflect a transitional time in Queen Elizabeth's (Claire Foy) life and marriage to Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh (Matt Smith); the out-of-touch monarchy, which needed to become accessible to British subjects of all socio-demographics (and more accepting of Princess Margaret's marriage choices); the decline of Britain as a global power; and the progressive, increasingly egalitarian and ultimately sexy attitudes of the swinging '60s. For Queen Elizabeth, that meant a move into softer cardigan and skirt sets for negotiations with her husband (and more than one Prime Minister) and an approachable pink and white polka-dot skirt suit for lunch with the middle class when the Palace opens up to the public. Of course, there are plenty of sumptuous gowns, too.

"We made hundreds of bloody dresses," laughed Petrie, over the phone from London.

Season two not only includes iconic historical milestones and scandals, but also iconic fashion moments and people: the return of Duchess of Windsor, Wallis Simpson (Lia Williams) and a few appearances by 35th FLOTUS Jacqueline Kennedy (Jodie Balfour). Plus, glamorous younger sister Princess Margaret (Vanessa Kirby) meets dreamboat photographer and future First Earl of Snowden, Antony "Tony" Armstrong-Jones Matthew Goode), leading to another delicious fashion evolution — and royal wedding to recreate.

Petrie, who also designed the Carey Mulligan-starring film, "Suffragette," was more than happy to discuss season two costume moments in detail, including how she gave Princess Margaret a boho sensibility, took a little license in dressing Jackie Kennedy and brought one royal family member through the quintessential on-screen shopping montage. Here are the highlights.

How did Queen Elizabeth II's costumes reflect this transitional time in both her life and for Britain?

I knew that I wanted her to arrive at something toward the end of the season. When you look at the way the Queen dresses now, there's a residue of the way she looked around about the mid '60s. She started to almost find what would become her solid look. I knew we had to move away from those pinched in waists of the '50s, not only for fashion, but for her story and the choices that she made — and we had her pregnancies [of Princes Andrew and Edward] in this season, as well.

But I wanted it to feel that she was slightly trapped inside the world of the palace, and the monarchy and outside world was moving in such a rapid forward propulsion that she was becoming almost isolated from her people and the outside world. And yet Margaret was becoming much more in touch with all of that. There were sort of fairly easy kind of story arcs to mark, in a sense, because you saw that young fresh Queen with the nipped-in waists in season one and then someone who needed to reconnect with the public. I was hoping I could tell some of that through clothing.

Vanessa Kirby as Margaret is excellent this season, as is her wardrobe. How does costume help tell where she's going?

When I picked up on Margaret after season one, she was quite fashionable in dress, anyway, so I felt I'd put her in touch with something that was more bohemian. When she starts off, she doesn't start off stuffy, but she's still quite cool — and she's got all these fantastic cocktail dresses — but she's getting more and more bored around the palace and is needing the excitement that Tony is going to bring. So it was about finding fabrics and costumes that could show her connecting with the art world instead of just the aristocratic world, which was all about wealth and hardly anything that she wanted. Suddenly there was something that she might not be able to have, even if she wanted it enough. So I was looking at different, more ‘60s cloths and colors and trying to move into something more edgy and urban and bohemian.

You could definitely see the transition, especially in the beautiful and paint-spatter-like coat she wears to Tony's gallery opening.

I had already made different costumes for that scene and then I found that cloth during the week we were shooting it. She had a black coat she wears in a different scene now. I found that silk velvet and painted, kind of, mid-century canvas and I thought it was too good not to use. So we pushed that into the workroom schedule so she could have it for the gallery opening. It feels fantastic in your hand. I loved it. Sometimes you have a lucky day, and you need to change direction because you find something that you want you weren't looking for and it's just perfect for saying everything that you need it to say.

The dress Margaret wears to what turns out to be her official 29th birthday photo shoot ended up being kind of a plot device. How did you design that dress to culminate in her "naked" birthday photo?

She arrived in a lovely lace blouse, for the dark room sequence, which looked fantastic in the red light, but she changed into [that] dress. The whole thing was built around [Tony] being able to take it [off her shoulders] because we thought, 'she's squeamish; she can't be naked in the photo, she's still Princess Margaret.' He has to find a camera angle to be suggestive. So we had to design something that he could pull off her shoulder. That, we had to cheat in. It was more about addressing it very quickly to become invisible.

Because 'The Crown' is always in sort of in flux — it's always being written and it grows and you'd get new scenes — I'm not certain, but in the early sequences that I read, [viewers] didn't see the actual photo shoot. [The camera] just cuts to the photograph [in the newspaper]. I worked really hard on what she was going to wear in the dark room and then they said, 'we are going to see that dress.'

For the Royal Wedding, Margaret and her entire wedding party were recreated down to the last detail. What went into the design process for that segment?

That's what's so wild about 'The Crown.' You read [the script] and the [goal is] the family photograph at the end of that episode. And then you have to say, 'oh hang on a minute. We've got to make [the entire family's costumes and] that really well-known blue gown for the Queen, for a still, really?' I don't know if [the directive] came from costume or from the directors, but eventually [the script included a dressing montage of the whole family] in front of the mirror getting ready. So that was helpful because I felt we were getting a little bit more screen time for all that work. Because sometimes in 'The Crown,' you get a line on a page that seems like nothing and you start and think, 'hang on a minute, that's a really famous photograph. There's no cheating here. We're going to have to make all that.'

What were the challenges in recreating Margaret's wedding gown?

When you look at images of that dress, the way that the layers of the organza sit, they hold their shape in quite a soft, rounded, almost cloud-like way on the top of the dress — [it was hard] to find the right weights of cloth to get the layers, so it would hold its shape and it wouldn't collapse, but you would be able see through some of the layers, like her sleeves. You can see her arms through the sleeves, but they're not sheer, they're a bit milky. The challenge was just getting the right fabric.

For the Kennedys' visit in episode eight, you recreated Queen Elizabeth's sky blue dress, but gave Jackie Kennedy a strapless version of her Chez Ninon shantung gown. Why was that?

We can't resist [recreating the Queen's look because] we had that whole storyline of her choosing that dress. I couldn't have done anything better to see what we needed to see — of her having to stand side-by-side with Jackie Kennedy. It's all there in the actual gown. Then you kind of go with the actress in the fitting, sometimes you think, 'that suits you better, let's do that.' I think we didn't make too many changes to Jackie Kennedy's outfit, but there are a few tweaks that we did just because we were having a lot of fun.

One of my favorite gowns for the whole season: [Jackie Kennedy] wears a yellow and black evening gown [by Chez Ninon in a quick scene showing a 1961 White House state dinner]. It's got a bright yellow silk skirt and a black bodice. In reality she wore white gloves, but we gave her black ones because it was a lot more dramatic. It would have felt a bit more conservative to a modern eye if she had white gloves on and it felt like we were really breaking a rule from looking at photographs. We [went with what looked better] for the story we were trying to tell.

What was your process behind creating original looks for the more intimate moments that the public wouldn't have seen or have records of?

By the time we got going with it, we were getting to the point of making it up, really, rather than just going with existing information. We felt that we knew the characters, so you go about the way you go about other films that are fictional. I knew what my storylines were, I knew what I was trying to say, the things that would feel right or wrong for the character and I would get some options and start building it in traditional way. When you've done a lot of good prep and good solid research and worked hard on the script before you make any costumes, you get to the point where you start to rely on your instincts. I think you can overthink it and you can take the spirit out of the costume by trying to be too academic about it.

Queen Mother (Victoria Hamilton), Queen Elizabeth, Princess Margaret and the kids enjoy movie night at home in the palace in episode three. Photo: Alex Bailey/Netflix
Queen Mother (Victoria Hamilton), Queen Elizabeth, Princess Margaret and the kids enjoy movie night at home in the palace in episode three. Photo: Alex Bailey/Netflix

Prince Charles is the only royal family member to enjoy a shopping montage in anticipation of starting Eton. What research and attention to detail went into that series of costumes?

That's another example of a very, very small line on a page becoming a whole day of filming and me saying to Stephen [Daldry], 'what do you want in this montage?' And it becomes, 'we want the boating outfit, the rugby, all the different outfits.' The next thing, we're on the phone to the company that provides the costumes to Eton, and they're in their archives and we're trying to work out exactly what everybody would have worn at that time. It starts off as Charles is at the outfitters and then you move on [and] it's like seven more costumes.

But it's dead good fun because, often, a lot of films that I’ve done in the past have been incredibly low budget, so a lot of my experiences [have been designing as] much as possible with as little as possible. But on 'The Crown,' you can just do it right.

'The Crown' season two is available for streaming on Friday, December 8 on Netflix.

Top photo: Robert Viglasky / Netflix

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Costume designer Michele Clapton (third left) poses with a selection of her designs which will appear in upcoming Netflix series The Crown, based on the life of Queen Elizabeth II

Sumptuous silks, fur stoles and some VERY blingy tiaras: Designer unveils her lavish costumes for £100m Netflix biopic on the Queen's life
Netflix series on the Queen's life in the 1940s and 1950s airs next month
Cost an estimated £100m to make and has been hailed as the most expensive television series ever with lavish costumes and set design
Designer Michele Clapton has unveiled the collection featuring replicas of iconic outfits from throughout the Queen's life and reign
By Unity Blott For Mailonline

PUBLISHED: 12:26 GMT, 18 October 2016 | UPDATED: 13:11 GMT, 18 October 2016

It's been hailed as one of the most lavish series of all time, so it's only fitting that The Crown has a costume cupboard to match.

The new biopic following the Queen's life in the 1940s and 1950s, which airs next month, has cost an estimated £100million to make.

And on Monday, producers unveiled the sumptuous costumes that lead actress Claire Foy and her co-stars will wear - many of which are exact replicas of iconic outfits from throughout the Queen's life and reign.

Painstakingly recreated from the originals, the attention to detail in some of the outfits, created by BAFTA-winning designer Michele Clapton, means they could easily pass for the real thing.

One sweeping turquoise ballgown, complete with a fur stole and replica diamond tiara, is almost identical to a piece that our then-30-year-old Queen wore to an evening engagement at the 1956 Edinburgh Festival.

Another standout ensemble is a strapless gold number featuring intricate floral embroidery and paired with a delicate tulle shawl.

The collection also features a pink fishtail gown with ruching detail worn by Princess Margaret, played by Vanessa Kirby in the new series which airs next month.

The stunning collection also features a replica of Her Majesty's wedding to Prince Philip in 1947, complete with a flowing veil and diamond tiara.

Sir Norman Hartnell, who designed the original gown, has since said that he set out to produce ‘the most beautiful dress I had made so far’. It was made in ivory silk, decorated with crystals and 10,000 seed pearls.

The silkworms used to manufacture the fabric were brought from China, rather than Japan or Italy, which had so recently been enemy countries, and the gown incorporated a 15ft star-patterned train inspired by the famous Renaissance painting of Primavera by Botticelli, symbolising rebirth and growth after World War II.

But it isn't all glitz and glamour; another outfit is based on her favourite off-duty look of a simple rain coat, wellies and headscarf which she often wears during trips to Balmoral.

The gowns were presented on Monday by designer Michele Clapton and British actress Vanessa Kirby, who plays Princess Margaret in the series.

The Netflix original series follows Queen Elizabeth II as a 25-year-old newlywed faced with the daunting prospect of leading the world’s most famous monarchy while forging a relationship with then-Prime Minister, Sir Winston Churchill.

It came at a time when the British Empire was in decline, the political world was in disarray; acclaimed writer Peter Morgan's meticulously-researched script sets out to reveal the Queen's 'private journey' behind the public facade.

Producers teased: 'Prepare to be welcomed into the coveted world of power and privilege and behind locked doors in Westminster and Buckingham Palace... the leaders of an empire await.'

Hosted by British Fashion Commentator Caryn Franklin MBE, Monday's presentation saw Michele take the audience through the planning and development process behind the stunning costumes - as well as leading a discussion on fashion in the 1950s and the royal costumes that shaped the style of a generation.

The Crown will see Peter Morgan team up with director Stephen Daldry (the man behind Billy Elliot and The Hours) and producer Andy Harries.

Based on the award-winning play The Audience, it tells the inside story of Queen Elizabeth II's early reign, revealing the personal intrigues, romances, and political rivalries behind the great events that shaped the second half of the 20th Century.

The series stars Claire Foy as Queen Elizabeth II, Matt Smith as Prince Philip, John Lithgow as Sir Winston Churchill, and Victoria Hamilton as the Queen Mother.

It also features Jared Harris as King George VI, Vanessa Kirby as Princess Margaret and Dame Eileen Atkins as Queen Mary, among others.

The first ten episodes will be broadcast next month.

Behind the scenes: Matt (Prince Philip) and Clare Foy (Queen Elizabeth II) with a young Prince Charles
Matt is wearing our Bespoke Charcoal Double Breasted Suit

Off-duty style includes Matt wearing our Bespoke Grey Pleated Trousers

Matt Smith wearing our Bespoke Dinner Suit

Matt in our Bespoke Black 3 Piece Suit

Alex Jennings as the Duke of Windsor wearing our Bespoke Navy Windowpane Check Suit

Bow Down To The Crown
29th September 2016

The official trailer for ‘The Crown’, Netflix’s hotly anticipated new series, has been released and is swiftly cultivating a mass following before it’s even been launched (4th November, put it in your diary).

The reason we’re so excited? Our talented Bespoke team worked with The Crown’s costume department to create a number of garments for the first series, and we have already got to work on series two. With a star studded cast, we were fortunate enough to make suits and other tailored pieces for Matt Smith, Jared Harris, Alex Jennings, Jeremy Northam, Stephen Dillane, Vanessa Kirby and Ben Miles.

Matt Smith stars as Prince Philip, opposite Claire Foy as Queen Elizabeth II. The series, based on Peter Morgan’s 2013 play ‘The Audience’, tells the story of the life of Queen Elizabeth II as she prepares to take the throne at the young age of 25, during a challenging time in British history.

In the photo above Matt is wearing one of our Bespoke Double Breasted Suits, very much the iconic style of Prince Philip, in a charcoal wool.

You can watch the trailer below, and head over to follow us on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook where we will be unveiling more images over the coming weeks.

If you find yourself sartorially inspired by the series, and would like to commission piece of Bespoke you can contact the team via or call +44(0)20 3802 7006

Putting On The Crown
4th November 2016

After much anticipation, Netflix have now released their eagerly awaited new series ‘The Crown’. For our regular readers, you will have seen some preview images and read our online feature as we announced our involvement with the show. If you’re reading this and scratching your head as to why we are so excited, let us explain some more.

‘The Crown’ tells the story of the life of Queen Elizabeth II as she prepares to take the throne at the young age of 25, during a challenging time in British history. The series has been heralded as a first of its kind for delving behind the glamorous exterior of the British Monarchy. To ensure this production reflected reality as much as possible they not only needed to seek the perfect actors (which they did), they also needed to build a costume department that could easily be mistaken for the real life wardrobe of our much loved Royals.

We were thrilled when Michele Clapton, head of wardrobe for the series, asked us to get involved. Michele spent a huge amount of time researching clothes worn by the Royals, and we worked tirelessly to recreate these garments and we’re so pleased with the result. We were very lucky to work with Matt Smith, who stars as Prince Philip, creating a variety of suits and trousers for his role. We also created tailoring for the below;

Alex Jennings as the Duke of Windsor

Jared Harris as King George VI

Vanessa Kirby as Princess Margaret

Jeremy Northam as Anthony Eden

Stephen Dillane as Graham Sutherland

Ben Miles as Peter Townsend

Below are some images of various Bespoke creations we made for the show, which we are very excited to share with you. If you head over to our Instagram account and follow us, we will be posting more images over the coming days.

If you are feeling sartorially inspired and would like to book an appointment to meet with our bespoke team, please email or call +44(0)20 3802 7006. For those of you based in New York, you’re in luck. Lee (Head of Bespoke) and Fred (House Cutter) will be jetting over to the big Apple from 15th-18th November, setting up residency at The Standard High Line to hold fittings and meetings. Get in touch with the team via the contacts above to book yourself an appointment.

Determined to become part of the fashion industry, but unable to make a breakthrough, Everest decided to use his knowledge of tailoring. He answered an advertisement placed in the London Evening Standard, in 1982, by Tommy Nutter; 'Boy wanted in Savile Row'. He pestered Nutter for weeks, until he was given the job. Nutter's client base included rock stars, celebrities, politicians and businessmen; he famously dressed The Beatles and The Stones. Everest also mixed with future celebrities of the fashion world. John Galliano, who had been studying at the Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, passed on some design skills to Everest, while on work placement with Nutter. Everest met his future wife Catherine (now an actress and film producer) at this time, while she was also working with Nutter. The couple have two daughters. Everest's time under Nutter, a Savile Row revolutionary in the 1960s, inspired him to experiment with tone and pattern in his own designs. In 1986, after nearly five years as Nutter's apprentice, Everest was persuaded to move on to work for Malcolm Levene. He had become disillusioned with Savile Row, particularly with their lack of appreciation for Nutter's more modern approach. Everest found that working with Levene, a small menswear retailer based away from Savile Row, on Chiltern Street, provided a welcome change. During Everest's first year there, Levene's turnover doubled.

Leaving Levene in the late 1980s to become a freelance stylist in television advertising, MTV and film, Everest began styling bands and pop stars such as George Michael. He recognised a shift in perception of the male fashion industry; men had become more label conscious. This had coincided with the increased awareness of top-end fashion designers, like Hugo Boss and Armani, highlighted by men's lifestyle magazines; such as Arena and The Face. He said, "I thought that if we could demystify bespoke tailoring and make it more accessible, as well as really understanding what was going on in ready-to-wear fashion and being directional with it, there was possibly a market there."Having decided to create the Timothy Everest brand as an alternative to 'designer' ready-to-wear, he searched for a suitable location away from "the stuffiness of Savile Row".
Everest opened his first premises in 1989; in Princelet Street, Spitalfields, just outside the City of London, in the East End. He said, "We started in one room of a house. We had one rail with four garments on and a telephone, no chairs, no furniture." To begin with, business was slow. Moving premises in 1993, he chose a three-storey, early Georgian townhouse (built in 1724), just north of Old Spitalfields Market in nearby Elder Street – the former home of artist Mark Gertler (1891–1939) – converting it to an atelier over seven weeks. He dressed Tom Cruise for the 1996 film Mission: Impossible. Cruise liked the suits so much that he kept them, and commissioned Everest to make him some more.

Everest became one of the "Cool Britannia" tailoring generation of the mid-1990s, identified by James Sherwood (author of Savile Row: The Master Tailors of British Bespoke) as having begun with the publication of Vanity Fair's "Cool Britania" issue in 1997. Sensing a change in consumer attitudes, away from the more traditional styling of Savile Row, he sought to revitalise bespoke suiting, which he believed had been in danger of disappearing. With contemporaries Ozwald Boateng and Richard James, he launched the New Bespoke Movement, which brought a fashion designer approach to Savile Row craftsmanship. He launched the brand's first ready-to-wear collection in 1999. His long-standing association with Marks and Spencer began that year. He dressed Tom Cruise again, for his reprised role in the 2000 film Mission: Impossible II, and at the Oscars that year, when he also dressed Robin Williams and Burt Bacharach. By 2000, he had 3,500 bespoke clients. Everest joined DAKS Simpson as design consultant in May 2000. He was appointed to the board as Group Creative Director in 2002, leaving in 2003. One of the lines he designed for DAKS was an affordable suiting range aimed at teenagers, launched in August 2001; called DAKS E1, after the postal district of his atelier.

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

DECO and MODERNISM in Poirot.

 Florin Court is an Art Deco residential building situated on the eastern side of Charterhouse Square in Smithfield, London, England
Built in 1936 by Guy Morgan and Partners, it features an impressive curved façade, a roof garden and a basement swimming pool. It was probably the earliest of the residential apartment blocks in the Clerkenwell area. The walls have been built in beige bricks, specially made by Williamson Cliff Ltd (Stamford, Lincolnshire) and placed over a steel frame.
Regalian Proprieties refurbished the building in the 1980s, to designs by Hildebrand & Clicker architects, providing the actual interior flats shape and facilities.
The building became the fictional residence of Agatha Christie's Poirot, known as Whitehaven Mansions. In 2003, the building was declared a Grade II Listed Building.

The Midland Hotel 

The Midland Hotel is a Streamline Moderne building in Morecambe, Lancashire, England. It was built by the London, Midland and Scottish Railway (LMS), in 1933, to the designs of architect Oliver Hill, with sculpture by Eric Gill. It is a Grade II listed building. The hotel has been restored by Urban Splash with architects Union North, Northwest Regional Development Agency and Lancaster City Council.
The hotel is designed in the Streamline Moderne style of Art Deco. Oliver Hill designed a three-storey curving building, with a central circular tower containing the entrance and a spiral staircase, and a circular cafe at the north end. The front of the hotel is decorated with two Art Deco seahorses, which can be viewed at close proximity from the hotel's rooftop terrace.
The hotel stands on the seafront with the convex side facing the sea, and the concave side facing the former Morecambe Promenade railway station – in homage to the railway company whose showcase hotel this was. Hill designed the hotel to complement the curve of the promenade, which allowed guests to view spectacular panoramas of the North West coast.

High and Over

 The century makers: 1929
Matthew Sturgis on one of Britain's first modernist buildings

Built on the chalk hillside overlooking Amersham, the curiously named High and Over is among the first handful of modernist buildings in Britain. It was designed - in 1929 - by the 28-year-old, New Zealand-born architect Amyas Connell. He drew on the recent ground-breaking work of the French architect, Le Corbusier, to create a novel variation on the English country house.
The client was Professor Brian Ashmole, then Yates Professor of Archaeology at the University of London, whom Connell had met three years previously in Rome - when Ashmole was director of the British School there and Connell was a Rome scholar.
Some critics have seen an influence of the Roman Baroque in High and Over's bold Y-shaped plan, and central spiral staircase. Almost everything else about the building was determinedly modern, from its cantilever reinforced concrete construction, to its stark whitewashed and crisply delineated horizontal windows. A very functional-looking modern water-tower was sited just above the house, with a fives court attached to it. Even the garden was originally laid out in a geometrical pattern.
Connell, however, for all his desire to experiment, was sensitive to the possibilities of the site. The numerous windows and spacious roof terrace took full account of the house's commanding position, providing the maximum of light and the finest of views, while the long, banded lines of the building were intended to echo the contours of the chalk hills above and around the house.
Spread over three floors, with five bedrooms, a large library, and a dining-room (connecting with the kitchen in one "arm" of the Y) it was a spacious abode, and not a cheap one. The estimated cost was £3,000.
Since its construction, the purity of the house has been slightly compromised by a few alterations. The piers between the windows were widened; during the 1970s some not very lovely houses were built in the once-extensive grounds; the water-tower was demolished, and much of the garden remodelled along less rigid lines. More recently, the house has been divided into two separate, self-contained properties. It is a fate that has befallen other - older and more conventional - country houses. And they make desirable homes. One of them (admittedly the one possessing the freehold - and swimming pool) was recently on the market for £750,000.
"The division certainly made good commercial sense," says local estate agent, John Nash. "If the house were still a single property, it would probably fetch only about £1 million. The two halves would add up to rather more than that.'
Money matters
A bottle of Johnnie Walker Red Label Scotch whisky costs 12s 6d; a Viyella nightie from Affleck & Brown, Manchester, cost 17s 11d; a jar of Silver Shred marmalade is 7.5d; a bricklayer's labourer earns 54s 1d per week; the country's 86 immigration officers earn between £200 and £300 each per annum.
Key events
Wall Street Crash; Margaret Bondfield - as Minister of Labour - becomes Britain's first female Cabinet minister in Ramsay MacDonald's new administration; Al Capone's mobsters kill seven members of Bugsy Malone's rival gang in the St Valentine's Day Massacre; the first 'Best Picture' Oscar is awarded to Wings; the first Monaco Grand Prix is won by Britain's William Grover-Williams in a Bugatti.


Sunday, 10 December 2017

Au Revoir, Poirot ! Remembering Poirot's last case on ITV

Agatha Christie's Poirot – TV review
In the great Belgian detective's last case, everyone is poisoning and shooting each other, and then – oh mon dieu!

Sam Wollaston

A lady's fingers play the piano, mournfully. Somewhere – and sometime – else, a judge puts on his black cap. He sentences another woman, the (innocent) sister of the pianist, it turns out later, to be hanged. She is. Hanged. Her sister plays on, sadly. She has an audience, a little old man, like a crumpled bird, in a wheelchair. OMG, he is Agatha Christie's Poirot (ITV), n'est-ce pas? (Because when you're dealing with Poirot it is necessary to throw in the odd French phrase, mon cher). But how old and frail and pale he looks. Not that he ever wasn't pale, or was especially strong or young.

This is the end. Well, the beginning of the end, David Suchet's final outing as the second most famous Belgian ever (after Tintin, ahead of Marouane Fellaini). He's with his old wingman Captain Hastings, at a country guest house, the scene of their first crime together. Symmetry: Poirot likes his symmetry, as we find out later, when he shoots Stephen Norton plumb in the middle of his forehead. Yes, Poirot kills a man, but that's jumping the gun, almost literally.

For now, he knows there's going to be a murder, but not who's going to do it, or who's going to get done. And it'll be tied in with several old cases too, including the case for which the innocent lady was sadly hanged at the beginning. Hastings is muddled. "I say Poirot," he says, "I know I'm not much of a fellow, but no reason to rub it in." You and me both mate, I have no idea what the hell is going on.

Soon they're dropping like flies, everyone and everything. Even the flies themselves, in the cobwebs in this spooky old house. And the pigeons from the sky, gunned down by hearty English chaps with shotguns. Next, Mrs Luttrell the landlady is mistaken for a rabbit while walking on the lawn and gunned down from a window by her husband. Not fatally, though. She doesn't look much like a rabbit to me – I'm not convinced it was an accident. And Poirot agrees. Perhaps I am a fellow after all!

Hastings plans a murder himself, but falls asleep before he can go through with it, and then thinks better of it in the morning. He really is a frightful chump. Then Barbara Franklin drops dead, poisoned apparently, by her husband, or by herself, or by blundering Hastings? Next it's Norton the timid birdwatcher's turn, with aforementioned central bullet to the forehead.

Everyone is poisoning and shooting each other, or popping sleeping pills into each other's hot chocolate. And having affairs, with him, and her, and who knows who else? And mistaking each other for other people, or rabbits, or spotted woodpeckers. And dressing up, and wearing false moustaches, and running off to bloody Africa. Tables are turned, literally, meaning the wrong people are poisoned. Iago, from Othello, is somehow involved. Out of the window a thunderstorm rages, and shooting stars rain down. It's exactly as Agatha Christie – and Poirot – should be. I'm totally in the dark, in every way, but having fun.

And then another death: OMD (Oh mon dieu), Poirot himself. Gasping, struggling to open his phial of amyl nitrate (mes poppeurs?). It's beautifully done by Suchet. I think we witness the genuine pain of an actor letting go of the body he's occupied for 24 years.

What about the denouement though, who's going to do that? Pas de probleme. It's conducted by letter, from beyond the grave. And at enormous length, even by Poirot's standards; well, it is the last one, he can go out with a bit of a flourish non? And this case does require an awful lot of explaining.

Turns out it was shy Norton whodunnit. Dunnallofit. But dunnit by applying extreme psychological pressure to other people so that they committed his murders for him. Ah, so that's where Iago comes in. And it meant that Norton would never have been caught. That's why Poirot had to shoot him – symmetrically – in the forehead, thereby breaking the Geneva convention for sleuths. Shuffle off your mortal coil … no, that's not Othello is it?

We saw Poirot's funeral in the previous episode, but he was bluffing that time, just another cunning disguise (as a dead person). This time, given that this was Agatha Christie's way of killing off her creation too, and that David Suchet has said in the Radio Times that this is the end, there is no coming back. And so monsieur, it's been un plaisir. Merci and au revoir.

'I will miss him in my life until I die. But everyone has their time. And this is his': David Suchet mourns the end of his fictional alter ego, Hercule Poirot. Photograph: Pål Hansen and James Eckersley
David Suchet: Poirot and me
Few TV detectives have been as well loved as Poirot; and when the final episode airs this week, after 25 years, no one will be sorrier to say goodbye than David Suchet. He talks to Emma John about his defining role. Plus, famous cast and crew explain what the little Belgian means to them

Emma John

David Suchet likes to think of life as a spider's web. The spider, you see, spins his web from behind; he can't see what he's creating. "The only time he can check what led to what is when he turns around," says Suchet pensively. "So in our life. We don't know what we're spinning, what we touch, what we do…"

It's a philosophy that is particularly on his mind today. Twenty-five years ago, Suchet was asked to play Agatha Christie's fussy little Belgian detective, Hercule Poirot, in an ITV drama series set eternally in his late-1930s world. Suchet's brother John, the ITV newsreader, warned him off the role – "I wouldn't touch it with a barge pole," he told him, "It's not you at all" – and Suchet himself hadn't read any of the books. But he agreed. And next week, as Poirot solves his final case on ITV, Suchet will say adieu to the character who has become the defining – and best-loved – figure of his career.

He has solved the ABC Murders. He has unravelled the Mysterious Affair at Styles. He has witnessed Death on the Nile. In the final series of dramas, surrounded by their typically acute period detail, Poirot is ageing, and there is one more death that we know he cannot escape. Today, as Suchet looks out on a grey, mizzly skyline from the 14th floor of ITV's studios on Southbank, the city is in a suitably sombre mood. "I haven't fully mourned him yet," says Suchet gently. "I suppose that will come. And I will miss him from my life until I die. But everybody has their time. And this is his."

Even without the luxurious moustache and the perfectly brushed homburg, Suchet is unmistakable, dressed tidily in a blue shirt, a wine-coloured waistcoat and dark jeans. He is, of course, a little leaner than his famous TV creation – that famous silhouette is 50% padding – and his voice is far deeper; he is capable of an expansive, carrying laugh that would doubtless raise a disapproving eyebrow from his fictional counterpart.

A few actors have become, like Suchet, the living embodiment of a literary detective. John Thaw did it with Inspector Morse; Raymond Burr did it with Perry Mason. Jeremy Brett's Sherlock Holmes has his champions, while my mother maintains that Miss Marple should have been officially retired from the television after Joan Hickson's definitive depiction. But none can claim the longevity of Suchet's Poirot. Morse, which seemed to run forever, actually consisted of only 33 episodes: when Curtain airs, Suchet will have completed the entire Poirot canon, committing 70 novels and short stories to camera. (Christie pedants are welcome to quibble that one very short story, the Lemesurier Inheritance, and the posthumous Capture of Cerberus, went unfilmed.)

Suchet remains in character between takes, in an attempt to inhabit the character as fully as he can, and in his new book, Poirot and Me, he admits that it became hard, at times, to know where the mustachioed detective ended and where he began. And while Poirot is famous for the deductive brilliance of his "little grey cells", he is also unique for his idiosyncrasies: are there traits in particular that they share?

"Well, I do like to be precise," says Suchet. "I don't like seeing crooked pictures. I like seeing things in order; I do like symmetry. I hope, though, that I'm not as obsessive as he is." Poirot has been known to refuse to eat boiled eggs that aren't the same size as each other. "I believe these days that would be classed as OCD."

Talk to anyone who has acted with David Suchet and the one word you repeatedly hear is "meticulous"; his co-stars marvel at the preparation that enables him to memorise the 10-minute-long denouements, in which Poirot painstakingly reveals the killer, and perform them in a single take. There is a suggestion, in his own book, that Suchet's dedication to the part, his perfectionist attention to detail, has not always made him the easiest man to work with. There are stories of him refusing to wear certain suits, and an early, decisive piece of brinkmanship over the correct way to sit on a bench.

"When it comes to fighting for a role in the way that I want to play it, I'm afraid I'm not that easy," he admits. "I have never liked directors telling me how to play a role. Ever."

By the later series of the show Suchet was an executive producer, with considerable creative power. I can imagine him, I say, being a tough man to negotiate with. "I don't wish to cause anybody hurt or harm," he says a little penitently, "but I think there will be directors who have had a very difficult time with me. And I apologise to them now."
Still, you'd have to say that it's been worth it. In my family, where the murder mystery is considered pretty much the acme of television, and where dinners are regularly punctuated by the horrified screams of some old ham discovering a body in the bushes, Poirot has always stood apart for its high production values and the calibre of its actors. What other whodunnit can boast Damian Lewis, Russell Tovey and Christopher Eccleston before they were famous? And you certainly wouldn't see Michael Fassbender turning in a typically nuanced performance – like the one he gave in After the Funeral – in Midsomer Murders.

Christie's plots, in which death visits the village fete and heiresses lose the family jewels, can of course look ludicrously quaint against the modern diet of Scandi-noir or the endless slew of American forensics. But in a world of angst-ridden, morally compromised crime busters, the robust egotism and moral rectitude of Hercule Poirot are almost a comfort. "He has a great humanity, which I would like more of," says Suchet. "A love of people. And a sense of right. He won't do what he believes is wrong, and I think the audience likes that."

The proof is in the fan mail, which Suchet still receives by the bucketload. And he answers every letter, something I know to be true from personal experience. My mum wrote to him in 1991, when he was playing the title role in Timon of Athens at the Young Vic; she told him about her two young daughters who adored him as Poirot and how she was bringing them to see him in the little-known Shakespeare play, even if most of it went over their heads. Suchet wrote back with the offer of tea and a chat before the performance. We sat in the Young Vic café, my sister and I, overwhelmed by our first brush with fame, while he coaxed conversation out of us and left us with the sense that the man who played our TV hero was every bit as kind and charismatic, chivalric and twinkly as the figure on screen.

‘I was aware, especially with my colouring, I’m not the typical Brit’: David Suchet. Photograph: Pal Hansen for the Observer
Perhaps his special empathy comes from the fact that he like Poirot – a foreigner in England – has always felt himself to be an outsider. "Look at me!" he says now, pointing at his features. "I was always aware, especially with my colouring, I'm not the typical Brit." His paternal family was Russian Jews from modern-day Lithuania, chased by pogroms to South Africa; his father, John, trained as a doctor and arrived in Britain to become the unnamed lab technician who assisted Alexander Fleming with the discovery of penicillin. And in his later career, as a highly regarded Harley Street obstetrician, he delivered Anthony Horowitz, who would go on to write the Poirot scripts that cemented David's fame.

With his two older brothers, John and Peter, Suchet enjoyed a boarding-school education in which he excelled on the playing fields; he was a swarthy wing three-quarters, his thighs so large that he couldn't wear jeans, and he even competed in junior Wimbledon ("It was nothing as grand as it is today," he adds. "Don't let me show off!"). Choosing drama school over a medical degree did not meet with his father's approval – "he thought it very, very beneath him to have a son as an actor" – but his mother Joan was his ardent champion. Joan's mother had been a music hall artist and Joan herself was a hoofer desperate for a stage career. "It was rather tragic," explains Suchet. "She went for a small part in Antony and Cleopatra and she got turned down. And it broke her heart so much that she gave up."

Suchet's own theatre career belongs to the very top tier. His RSC roles have included playing Iago to Ben Kingsley's Othello; his performance in David Mamet's Oleanna, directed by Harold Pinter, secured the play's place in modern theatre lore; and anyone who saw him in last year's West End production of Long Day's Journey into Night will know just how intense and powerful a stage presence he is. It's a career he wouldn't have had without Poirot, he says – or without his wife, Sheila, who he fell in love with on sight in 1972, and who sacrificed her own acting career to help him pursue his and to look after their two children.

On the Poirot shoots, Sheila would be up at 4.30am to help him learn his lines; when he filmed the fiendishly difficult denouement scene on Murder on the Orient Express, she was sitting on set, in the adjacent carriage. "I must be the most difficult person that she has to live with," he smiles. "But we're still there! And we're very aware that time is running out, so we try and make the most of what we have together."

That will not include retirement any time soon. After completing a couple of documentaries, Suchet will tour Jonathan Church's production of The Last Confession to Canada, the US and Australia next year, and has a new play being written for him in 2015. Next Easter, meanwhile, will see the release of one of his most personal projects – an audiobook of the Bible, entire and unabridged, that he has been recording for the past two years, dashing into the studio whenever he wasn't shooting for TV or performing in the West End. (Being Suchet, it wasn't enough to merely turn up and read; he studied the context of every Old and New Testament book he read.) Suchet has been a Christian since reading a Gideon bible in a hotel room in 1986 and he hopes it will encourage people to encounter the Bible for the first time; after all, he chuckles, it's the only book that sells more than Agatha Christie, "but people read Agatha Christie!"

He has said he could be persuaded to return to his portrayal of Poirot if ever funding emerged for a big-screen version, but he won't be doing turns at home, he assures me. "Although one thing I've inherited from him is that when something surprising happens I will go: 'Oh la!'" And while he will miss the glorious, glamorous locations – Paris, Egypt, Tunisia – he won't miss the padding that was his constant companion in them. A cruise down the Nile, trapped in Poirot's body? He wags a finger in a distinctly Belgian way. "Impossible! Absolutely impossible!"

Suchet walks me to the door with all the chivalry of his departed friend. "I'm an old- fashioned man," he admits. "I think really I was born in the wrong century." As he says goodbye, he checks himself – "Delighted to have met you… again!" – and smiles, remembering the web. The Spider's Web. It sounds so much like an Agatha Christie mystery, I check it out when I get home. She wrote a stageplay, in 1954, with the title. I wonder if Suchet knows.

Curtain: Poirot's Last Case is on ITV on 13 November at 9pm.

Thursday, 7 December 2017


The Covert coat is very similar to the Chesterfield, but it was designed for hunting and the outdoors. Therefore, it had to be tailored from particularly sturdy material – the so-called Covert cloth, named after the covert bushes. It was designed to protect its wearer from mud, bush encounters, and of course the weather. For that reason, it had to be very heavy (29 or 30 ounces a yard), sturdy, and durable. Today, the fabric is not quite as heavy anymore, but it is still a tweed material made to last. It always comes in a brownish-green color because it does not show the dirt very much.

A Covert coat usually has the following:

    Single-breasted with a fly front
    Notched lapels
    Made of brown-green Covert cloth
    Short topcoat that is just a little longer than the jacket beneath
    Signature four (sometimes five) lines of stitching at the cuffs and hem, and optionally on the flap of the chest pocket
    Center vent
    Two flap pockets with optional ticket pocket
    The collar is constructed either of Covert cloth or velvet
    Poacher’s pocket (huge inside pocket that can accommodate a newspaper or an iPad)