Friday 31 January 2020

How They Decorated: Inspiration from Great Women of the Twentieth Century by P. Gaye Tapp (Author), Charlotte Moss (Author)

How They Decorated: Inspiration from Great Women of the Twentieth Century
by P. Gaye Tapp (Author), Charlotte Moss (Author)

How They Decorated illustrates some of the great rooms of the twentieth century, whose stylish residents influence our tastes today.
Gloria Vanderbilt cleverly noted—Decorating is autobiography—Reflecting that truism, the interiors in this book capture the individual approaches of these icons of style: Bunny Mellon's spare all-American elegance; Helene Rochas' refined sophistication;  Mona von Bismarck's breezy opulence; and Georgia O'Keeffe's earthy chic. Author P. Gaye Tapp analyses each of her subjects' refined way of living, how she embellished her residences (or left them elegantly stark), and the long-lasting effects on today's generation of designers and connoisseurs of beauty.
The book is presented in four sections that describe the aesthetic approaches that the ladies took in decorating their abodes: The Fashionably Chic, The Unconventional Eye, In the Grand Manner, and Legacy Style. Each interior illustrates the crucial aspect of the lady's definitive taste. Some worked closely with decorating legends such as John Fowler, Albert Hadley, Billy Baldwin, Syrie Maugham, and Jean-Michel Frank. Others took to the task of decorating single-handedly—like Pauline Trigere, Sybil Connolly,  and Fleur Cowles. The interiors of these trendsetting ladies defied their time and inspire and delight to this day.
In How They Decorated, one can learn from the most notable style muses of the last century.

Gloria Vanderbilt cleverly noted, Decorating is autobiography. Reflecting that truism, the interiors in this book capture the individual approaches of these icons of style: Bunny Mellon s spare all-American elegance; Helene Rochas s refined sophistication; Vanessa Bell s colourful bohemianism; Mona von Bismarck s breezy opulence; and Georgia O Keeffe s earthy chic. Author P. Gaye Tapp analyses each of her subjects refined way of living, how she embellished her residences (or left them elegantly stark), and the long-lasting effects on today s generation of designers and connoisseurs of beauty. The book is presented in four sections that describe the aesthetic approaches that the ladies took in decorating their abodes: The Fashionably Chic, The Unconventional Eye, In the Grand Manner, and Legacy Style. Each interior illustrates the crucial aspect of the lady s definitive taste. Some worked closely with decorating legends such as John Fowler, Albert Hadley, Billy Baldwin, Syrie Maugham, and Jean-Michel Frank. Others took to the task of decorating single-handedly like Pauline Trigere, Sybil Connolly, Vita Sackville-West, and Fleur Cowles. The interiors of these trendsetting ladies defied their time and inspire and delight to this day

Wednesday 29 January 2020

The never ending story of 'Lord Lucan's Disappearance'

Neil Berriman says Lucan, who vanished after the murder of Sandra Rivett in 1974, lives as a Buddhist in a shared house.


Son of Lord Lucan's murdered nanny claims to have found missing Earl alive

 Andy Lines 13 hrs ago

Richard John Bingham, Lord Lucan who mysteriously disappeared after the murder of his children's nanny Sandra Rivett, at the family's Belgravia home in 1974. He has never been seen since
The son of the nanny killed by Lord Lucan claims he has found the peer in Australia.

Neil Berriman says Lucan, who vanished after the murder of Sandra Rivett in 1974, lives as a Buddhist in a shared house.

After telling police of his findings, he said: “I know he’s still alive.”

The man he believes to be Lucan is in his mid-80s and seriously ill, awaiting major surgery and virtually housebound in a large shared detached house in the suburbs.

Mr Berriman, 52, has been to Scotland Yard’s Cold Case Unit with his findings, telling them: “I believe I have tracked down the man, Lord Lucan, who murdered my mother.”

a man holding a sign posing for the camera: Neil Berriman has spent thousands on his own investigation© Ian Vogler/Daily Mirror Neil Berriman has spent thousands on his own investigation
He said the officer he spoke to agreed that police must look into his claims. He added: “They will now have to investigate this properly.”

The building contractor and father-of-two claims Lucan based himself in Perth on arrival in Australia, but moved to another part of the country after a series of disagreements with pals.

He now has a new group of friends. Two are young Englishmen, and another is an Australian he first met on a Buddhist retreat 11 years ago. They all take part in daily meditation sessions.

The mystery man needs a part-time carer, and often sits on the verandah listening to trains in the distance. The friends confirmed to the Daily Mirror that an elderly Englishman who looks like Lucan lives at the house.

Lord “Lucky” Lucan, who would have turned 85 last month, disappeared after the murder of Miss Rivett at the family’s exclusive mews home in Belgravia, Central London, on November 7, 1974.

He had run up huge gambling debts, his volatile marriage to Lady Veronica Lucan had collapsed and the couple were going through a bitter custody battle over their three children.

Police believe he attacked Miss Rivett with a taped-up piece of lead piping after mistaking her for his wife.

After the attack he fled and was last spotted at the manor house home of Peter and Susan Maxwell-Scott in East Sussex.

At the time there were rumours he had committed suicide by throwing himself off a cross-Channel ferry from Newhaven days after the murder. But no body was ever washed up, and the mystery of his disappearance has endured for 46 years. It has always been thought possible that powerful friends may have helped him escape to avoid a lengthy prison sentence.

Lord Lucan was a member of the Clermont Set, a group of powerful, wealthy people including millionaire businessmen Sir James Goldsmith and John Aspinall. There have been sightings in South Africa, the Maldives, India and even India. But, despite extensive police inquiries, he has never been found.

Mr Berriman’s quest began when he discovered 12 years ago that he was Sandra Rivett’s secret son, who had been adopted shortly after birth.

When Lucan was formally declared dead by the High Court on February 3, 2016, he received a detailed tip by letter that Lucan was in fact alive.

He then decided to spend £30,000 of his own cash on a private investigation. As he dug deeper, he claimed evidence showed that Lucan had indeed escaped British justice.

Mr Berriman, who lives with partner Kim in Milland, West Sussex, said: “He has been alive all this time. Lying about who he is. Lying about it to his new friends.

“They are fully aware he is a mystery elderly Englishman and not who he is claiming to be.

John Bingham, 7th Earl of Lucan wearing a suit and tie posing for a photo: Lord Lucan with his wife Veronica, Lady Lucan© Universal Pictorial Press Lord Lucan with his wife Veronica, Lady Lucan
“The people he lives with know he has a mystery past and what he tells them does not add up. They have had their suspicions for many years.

“Lucan is a deceitful conman and he is the man who murdered my mother.

“There is absolutely no doubt in my mind he escaped that night, with the help of friends who helped him get across the Channel and get a new passport, and incredibly he is still alive.

“From my own inquiries he’s had at least six different identities."

The police have asked Mr Berriman to return to them to fully present the evidence painstakingly collected from his personal four-year investigation. Now he is demanding they put a team of detectives together to look into his fresh information fully. Attempts are still being made to try to confirm independently if his claims are true.

Scotland Yard said it would not comment on the case, adding: “Generally however we don’t comment on who we may or may not speak to when/if a case is reviewed.” The mystery man is aware of the claims, but the Mirror has chosen not to reveal his identity.

Mr Berriman admitted the search has taken over his life. He said: “I’ve spent around £30,000 of my own money in this search for the truth.

“I’ve paid for flights, hotels and even expert facial recognition technology for analysis. That showed a similarity of over 85% – and that is taking into account all the plastic surgery he has clearly had. It certainly has all added up.

a person in a newspaper: The frontpage of the Daily Mirror in 1974 as the scandal broke© Provided by Mirror The frontpage of the Daily Mirror in 1974 as the scandal broke
“It’s taken me all over Australia and it’s taken me to meet all sorts of people who have helped me along the way – my journey to discover the truth.

“But I consider every penny was well spent – it has enabled me to get where we are today. It took over my life but it had to be done. I know some people would say that it’s become an obsession.

“That may be so. But I would simply say to them: put yourself in my shoes.

“What would you do if your mum had been killed, and no one had been brought to justice and the man who killed her was never found? You’d do exactly what I’ve done to discover the truth, I think. This has brought me and my family so much stress and heartache.”

John Bingham, 7th Earl of Lucan standing in front of a mirror posing for the camera: Lord © PA Lord
But Mr Berriman added, with a tear in his eye: “There is absolutely no doubt in my mind it was the right thing to do.”

If Lord Lucan is still alive it would have serious repercussions for the current Lord Lucan, George Bingham, who is the son of the fugitive.

George Charles Bingham, the 8th Earl of Lucan, would lose his title and inheritance if his father is still alive.

The earldom of Lucan was created back in 1795 during the reign of King George III.

The Binghams are an Anglo-Irish aristocratic family. Among them were George Bingham, the 3rd Earl of Lucan, who is best remembered for his controversial role in the Crimean War, when he lead the cavalry division involved in the infamous Charge of the Light Brigade.

Tuesday 28 January 2020

Bill Nighy talks about clothes and de new version of Emma by Autumn de Wilde

‘I get called lots of L words – louche, languid, laconic’: Bill Nighy wears cover wears shirt by Aspesi and jacket by Drakes. Photograph: Sophia Spring/The Observer

Bill Nighy: ‘It takes me a long time to recover if I see myself on screen'

Miranda Sawyer
The Observer
Famous for his languid charm, Bill Nighy is anything but relaxed. He talks acting, anxiety – and the dreadful challenge of casual dressing

Miranda Sawyer @msmirandasawyer
Sun 26 Jan 2020 08.00 GMT

The first time I interviewed Bill Nighy was in 2004. Sixteen years ago! He has barely changed. He is a remarkably consistent person, in taste and personality, and because of this, he seems ageless. Perhaps a little slimmer and greyer than he used to be, but that’s it. His hair is styled in the same way it has been for several decades – longer on the top, slicked back from his forehead – and no matter what year, what month, what day you catch him, he will be dressed in what he calls “a decent lounge suit”, in navy, with appropriate shirt and shoes. Heavy-rimmed specs nestle in his pocket or on his nose.

As familiar as his outfit is his charm. Nighy is always charming, whether to fans, an interviewer, a waiter. We meet in a hotel bar around the corner from his apartment in Piccadilly and the first thing he does is inquire about me and my life. And he listens to the answer: a nice trait not evident in every successful actor. He bothers to entertain – his stories are delivered well, whether they’re about famous people or someone he met out and about. He still works very hard – often making four or five films a year – and he takes pleasure in his job and is happy to talk about it. In fact, the only major change in Nighy in the years I’ve known him is that he is no longer with his long-term partner, Diana Quick (they separated in 2008, after 28 years together). They remain on good terms and, he tells me, they had a jolly Christmas with lots of people around the table. His daughter, Mary, is married to a Frenchman. “There were charades,” he says. “We sang the Marseillaise. It was great.”

So there you have it: same as he ever was. But Nighy is far from dull. On the contrary, he’s unusual: a very particular person with very particular tastes and habits. What he likes are clothes, music, books, football, city life. He is a modernist – “I do subscribe to that ethos” – with the accompanying purist attitude. He can be wildly funny about his own horror when what he considers to be the correct etiquette is not upheld. Though he’s played ageing rockers on a couple of occasions, this is very much not his aesthetic. Anyway, because of all this – Nighy’s style and politesse, his charisma and wit – he’s often misinterpreted.

 “I get called lots of L words,” he says. “Louche, languid, laconic. A lounge lizard, like I’m a nuisance around women.” He isn’t. He avoids romance. In fact, none of those descriptions would be right.

For a start, Nighy is far from the manor born. He grew up in Caterham, Surrey, to Irish parents, in a house attached to his dad’s garage, with petrol pumps outside the front door. (His dad, like him, was courteous and a snappy dresser: he styled himself like Bing Crosby and used a cigarette as an accessory.) In the 1970s, Nighy was friends with other working-class actors, like Julie Walters and Pete Postlethwaite, when they all worked at the Liverpool Everyman, and he can get quite angry about establishment attitudes.

But the main thing people get wrong about Nighy is that they assume he’s relaxed. How could such a cool cat be anything but chill? Actually, he is naturally fraught. You can see it in his posture: he sits forward in his seat; he moves swiftly through crowds, like a knife. He has a tendency to fret, to beat himself up about stuff. His standards, high in everything, are almost insurmountable when it comes to himself. He can’t read his own interviews, for instance, because they send him into a fugue of misery. He can’t watch his own films for the same reason. He doesn’t see what his fans see, which is an intelligent, gifted actor being brilliant at his job.

This is what he sees: “You look terrible,” he says. “Well, you look terrible according to you, unless you’re a weirdo and you look at yourself and you think, ‘Wow, I look pretty good.’ But I’m not one of those. So there’s that to get over, and then you’ve got to watch yourself act and see yourself not pulling off all those things you thought you might, this time, have pulled off. Instead, you did that default thing that you always do. You think, ‘I did that again? Are you serious?’”

‘I did that again? Are you serious?’: Bill Nighy wears shirt by Drakes; trousers by Scott Fraser and shoes by Joseph Cheaney & Sons

These might seem trivialities, but they knock him sideways. “The trouble is that confidence is a movable feast and I’m not famous for it,” he says. “And, therefore, it takes me quite a long time to recover if I see myself on screen. Because all my fears about my inadequacies are confirmed when I watch myself. I know there’s an answer, and the answer is, get over yourself. But that’s hard. I suppose it’s a form of dysmorphia. I mean, I hope it’s a form of dysmorphia.”

All of this means that he’s rarely seen one of his films or TV shows the whole way through (sometimes he sees bits, because he has to record extra dialogue after filming). Which is a shame, obviously, because he’s been in some absolute crackers: State of Play; Still Crazy; Notes on a Scandal; Gideon’s Daughter; The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel; Sometimes Always Never.

And to this long CV of fabulously watchable stuff, we can add the movie we are here to talk about: Emma. Yes, yes, it’s ye olde Jane Austen, but this is a new version, directed by LA rock photographer Autumn de Wilde, and it’s great, even for those of us who are naturally allergic to Austen films. Nighy himself tends to avoid period drama: partly because of the costumes and partly because they tend to provoke a particular type of acting. “Everybody starts standing in a certain way and talking in a certain way,” he says. “It’s the same with Shakespeare, or Chekhov. Or Harold Pinter: everyone’s got a weird voice. It’s odd how that style is handed down. I don’t think it’s even spoken about. And it’s very hard to resist. I mean, I’m not immune.”

But this new Emma, while it uses old-fashioned language, avoids such clichés. The emotions are understandable. Booker prize winner Eleanor Catton wrote the script, and the cast is not as you might predict, meaning it’s not an English luvvie-fest. Nighy is great. It’s hard to think of him being bad in anything, despite his self-criticism. His character, Emma’s father, Mr Woodhouse, is constantly worried about draughts and the cold. There’s an amazing moment at the start of a dinner party where someone mentions that there might be snow, and he immediately starts panicking and insists everyone leaves.

“He’s a valetudinarian,” says Nighy. “Not to be confused with a hypochondriac. Hypochondria is being selfishly concerned with your own health. Valetudinarians are obsessively concerned with other people’s. And therefore he lives in terror of draughts and any kind of change in the weather. He’s always thinking that everyone’s going to die. Which is ridiculous until you start reading anything about 1815, and you realise he’s got a point.”

Nighy chose to do Emma because he liked De Wilde. “I’d never met anyone like her, she is very unusual. This California person with a punk ethic.” He went for a meeting with her and instead of opening a laptop and showing him her vision on a screen, De Wilde presented him with a wooden box, tied with a bow. Inside were around 60 paper frames, like Regency portraits, with pictures inside. One was of him: Nighy was her first choice for Woodhouse.

De Wilde is one of several female directors whom Nighy has worked with. He is baffled as to why anyone might see it as a male occupation. “I mean, what? Why on earth would one set of genitalia recommend you, rather than another?” Anyway, he loved her. He enjoys other people’s idiosyncrasies. He tells me about Emma’s director of photography, Christopher Blauvelt, who comes from a skateboarding background, which Nighy thought “deeply impressive”.

“He has a punk band with his wife called Rat Shit!” he says, delightedly. During filming, Nighy once caught Blauvelt lying on the ground, checking a shot. “Maintain the bonnet,” said Blauvelt, in his LA skater drawl. Nighy found this so delicious that he had a Fred Perry shirt especially altered for Blauvelt: he got Maintain The Bonnet embroidered over the pocket. Maroon, on blue.

‘A modernist? I do subscribe to that ethos’: Bill Nighy in a Golfer jacket ‘with a zip that goes both ways’ by Grenfell and a turtle neck by Sunspel. Photograph: Sophia Spring/The Observer

Nighy is obsessed with clothes. When this magazine asked him to wear something for photos other than his usual suit, he took it as a challenge, asking a stylist friend to help him out. We discuss what he wore, and Nighy goes into mad detail. He chose a couple of jumpers (“fine wool, nothing vulgar or chunky”), and actually took off his suit jacket. “I wore a jacket called the Golfer, made by Grenfell, which is essentially a short Harrington, but in olive green, not blue. It has the plaid on the inside. And the groovy thing, the thing that makes it all OK, is that the zip goes both ways, up and down.” Of course, pre-shoot, he had been nervous, but he bumped into two fans, ladies from America, while walking there, and they were complimentary. He “held on to this” for confidence, while in front of the camera.

Nighy is not designed for leisurewear, nor for leisure-life. When he was shooting Pirates of the Caribbean (he played a giant squid with a Scottish accent) he stayed indoors in his room, with the curtains shut, while the film’s other actors spent their days off cavorting in the warm sea. By the end of the shoot, he still didn’t know which way the beach was. He’s just done another film, Minamata, with his old Pirates chum Johnny Depp, who he describes as “Completely charming, gracious as ever, everyone gets treated impeccably.” Nighy finds most actors easy to get on with. “Ninety-five per cent of everybody in my world are decent, smart, funny people,” he says. “Everybody rubs along together because they’ve got very used to getting to know people at some depth quite quickly and over a short period of time, and then going on to do it with another 100 people. And if anybody is sort of an obstacle of any kind, often they don’t prosper.”

He works a lot, because he gets asked a lot. “It’s a job,” he says. “I still get more than four weeks off a year, which is more than most people.” When he’s not working, Nighy likes to mooch around. He goes to bookshops, has a lunch, reads the newspaper at a café table. He’s just made a playlist for Maison Assouline, a café he frequents in Piccadilly. Because he’s in there so often, he asked the waitress if she was sick of hearing Lovely Day by Bill Withers (“It’s a great song, but it was on a lot”). The waitress confessed that she was a bit bored, so Nighy spent weeks making a playlist. It has more than 100 songs on it. He shows me it on his phone, reading out the tracks with intense delight. Angie Stone, Dr John, Prince, Mary J Blige… He has a separate playlist of Mary J, which he also shows me; and another that just features several versions of one song, Be Thankful For What You’ve Got (original by William DeVaughn, he informs). The man is a proper music spotter.

He made the playlist partly because he enjoys it, but also because he loves cafés. “I’ve spent quite a lot of time in New York, because of doing plays,” he says. “And for a while I couldn’t work out what was slightly unsatisfactory about it. And it’s because they don’t really have cafés. They have bars and they have diners, all of which are great. But they’re not cafés. There were a few, but they don’t have many where you sit out on the pavement.”

It’s what he loves. He walks everywhere, because he hates feeling encumbered and he associates having a car with that feeling, an extra thing to think about, some more keys to carry. “I can always get a cab if needed, and I’ve got my Oyster card, you know.” The countryside doesn’t appeal: “I pop in now and again and have a look.” The sea is OK, for a short while. “For an outing. Outings are the way forward. An outing to the seaside and then back home for tea.” It’s the city life for him. He doesn’t mind being recognised, or having his photo taken with fans. “People are perfectly gracious. And it all happens very quickly and it’s nice.”

Before he goes, I feel we should discuss Nighy’s other love: football. Characteristically, he has an individual approach to fandom. He’s a Crystal Palace supporter – they’re the team whose results he checks first – but he flatly refuses to get involved in the macho, tribal aspect of football. “Only because I’m greedy,” he says. “Last year, mostly I was watching Italian football. Because I love all of the names and I love the strips and I love the glamour and I love that they’ve got great hair, they’re all better looking than us. I’ve been watching Inter Milan since Antonio Conte went with them. He’s got a very interesting team, with Sensi and Barella and all these wonderful players. I love that Ancelotti is in England… Ancelotti at Everton, for me, it’s just a wonderful thing. He’s such an incredible man, unparalleled in his career as both a player and as a manager. I love Liverpool, too. They’re great to watch, they use the young players. Jürgen is some kind of maestro.”

I don’t know quite how he does it, really. Who else could manage to express support for both Everton and Liverpool and make it utterly logical and charming? But Bill Nighy is a very particular man. And he’s not going to change. Thank goodness for that.
Emma is in cinemas from 14 February

Platters that matter: a selection from Bill Nighy’s café playlist
Wish I Didn’t Miss You Angie Stone
Mama Roux Dr John
Leave it Smoking’ Tamia
Stay This Way The Brand New Heavies
Crazy Ab‘Bout You Baby Ike and Tina Turner
Boo’d Up Ella Mai
Every Day I Write the Book Elvis Costello and the Attractions
Crystal Clear Pharrell Williams
Only a Fool Would Say Steely Dan
Breakfast Can Wait Prince
By Your Side Sade
Warm on a Cold Night Honne
U + Me (Love Lesson) Mary J Blige
Higher Than the World Van Morrison with George Benson
Tramp Otis Redding and Carla Thomas

Styling by Tanja Martin; stylist assistant Elena Garcia; grooming by Celine Nonon using Dermalogica Skincare; shot at the home of Kate Watson-Smyth,

Monday 27 January 2020

Breuer & Dawson / MARGATE / KENT / VIDEO: Breuer & Dawson Proudly Presents 'Rags To Riches' A True Life Adventure

 Breuer & Dawson / MARGATE / KENT

Paul Breuer began selling vintage clothing twenty years ago, first at Portobello, and then also with Paul’s Place in the Arches of Camden Market. Matt Dawson started working in the market after art college and through there soon came to know and work with Paul.

Living in Camden during her degree Catherine Dawson was a regular customer at the Arches, indulging a passion for 50’s knitwear (and always regretting missing out on an amazing Fleetwood Mac t-shirt at Paul’s Place!) Music being also a great love, she went on to work in the music industry.

With Matt and Paul both being guitarists they’ve been in many bands along the way. However through the years both continued to work in vintage. With Paul and his children already living in Kent, Matt, Catherine and their children decided to make the move too. Seeing such huge potential in the Old Town area of Margate we three couldn’t resist the idea of opening a shop together; a natural progression of our friendship and mutual passion for all things vintage.

It’s fair to say that the founders of Breuer & Dawson are passionate about vintage – a fact exemplified by the quality of the men and women’s clothing they stock. Expect shelves of knitwear and denim, plus rails of plaid shirts and workmen’s jackets. It all goes perfectly with the shop’s forest green façade and trad painted signage.
7 King Street
CT91 Margate, Kent
Get Directions
Highlights info row image
01843 225299

Wednesday 22 January 2020

Terry Jones, Monty Python founder, dies aged 77 / VIDEO:Terry Jones: five memorable moments from career of the Monty Python legend

Terry Jones, Life of Brian director and Monty Python founder, dies aged 77

Jones, who was diagnosed with dementia in 2015, was the main directing force in Python’s films, as well a prolific creator of TV documentaries and children’s books

Terry Jones: the Monty Python director – and a very naughty boy
Andrew Pulver
Wed 22 Jan 2020 13.45 GMTFirst published on Wed 22 Jan 2020 12.48 GMT

Terry Jones, founder member of Monty Python and director of three of Python’s celebrated feature films, has died aged 77, his family have announced. In a statement they said: “Terry passed away on the evening of 21 January 2020 at the age of 77 with his wife Anna Soderstrom by his side after a long, extremely brave but always good humoured battle with a rare form of dementia, FTD.”

“Over the past few days his wife, children, extended family and many close friends have been constantly with Terry as he gently slipped away at his home in North London. We have all lost a kind, funny, warm, creative and truly loving man whose uncompromising individuality, relentless intellect and extraordinary humour has given pleasure to countless millions across six decades.”

In 2016, Jones and his family revealed he had been diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia a year earlier, and he became a public face of the illness – appearing at a Bafta Cymru awards ceremony to highlight its effects and being interviewed in conjunction with longtime friend and collaborator Michael Palin in 2017. Jeremy Hughes, chief executive of Alzheimer’s Society paid tribute, saying: “We were lucky enough to work with Terry and his family when he joined us for our London Memory Walk in 2017 and his support really helped inspire others to unite against dementia. We are truly grateful for his aid in raising awareness and much-needed funds.”

After huge success with Python in the 1970s and early 80s, including the feature films Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Life of Brian and The Meaning of Life, Jones went on to work on a huge variety of projects. With Palin, he created the successful TV series Ripping Yarns and forged a post-Python directorial career with Personal Services, Erik the Viking and The Wind in the Willows. He made a series of TV documentaries (specialising in medieval history), wrote nearly 20 children’s books, and contributed a string of comment pieces for the Guardian and Observer denouncing the “war on terror”.

Palin said: “He was far more than one of the funniest writer-performers of his generation, he was the complete Renaissance comedian – writer, director, presenter, historian, brilliant children’s author, and the warmest, most wonderful company you could wish to have.”

Fellow Python John Cleese said: “It feels strange that a man of so many talents and such endless enthusiasm, should have faded so gently away,” adding: “Of his many achievements, for me the greatest gift he gave us all was his direction of Life of Brian. Perfection.”

Born in Colwyn Bay, Wales, in 1942, Jones moved to England as a child, growing up in Surrey. While at Oxford studying English literature, he met fellow student Palin while performing in the Oxford Revue. After university, along with Palin, Jones wrote and performed in a string of TV shows alongside other future stars of British comedy – including Cleese, Graeme Garden, Bill Oddie, Eric Idle, Peter Cook and David Jason – on The Frost Report, Do Not Adjust Your Set and The Complete and Utter History of Britain.

In 1969, Palin and Jones joined Cambridge graduates Cleese and Graham Chapman – along with Idle and animator Terry Gilliam – on a BBC comedy sketch show. Eventually broadcast under the title Monty Python’s Flying Circus, it ran until 1974, with Jones largely writing with Palin (complementing Cleese’s partnership with Chapman). Seemingly chaotic, frequently surreal and formally daring, Monty Python’s Flying Circus would became one of the most influential shows in BBC history, revolutionising comedy formats, spawning scores of catchphrases, and inspiring an entire generation of comedians. Jones’s fondness for female impersonation was a key feature of the show, as was his erudite writing.

However, Jones was becoming more interested in directing. He later told the Guardian: “You not only act in the things – you’ve got to actually start directing the things as well. When we were doing Python the TV show, I was a real pain in the neck.” After the sketch-compilation feature And Now for Something Completely Different (released in 1971 with the ultimate intention of breaking the show in the US), the troupe embarked on an original film, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, and Jones got his chance to direct, in conjunction with Gilliam. He was very much signed up to Python’s democratic instinct: “If all six of us laughed at something, then we all felt, ‘That’s OK, we can go ahead with that.’ And, for me, it was just a question of getting that on the screen, getting that moment of us sitting around the read-through, that moment where we all laughed.”

Jones took over the Pythons’ next film, The Life of Brian, as a solo director, with Gilliam opting to concentrate on the film’s design. Backed by George Harrison’s HandMade films and released in 1979, the religious satire proved a major commercial hit as well as sparking global controversy. Jones made a memorable screen contribution as Brian’s mother, squawking to the assembled worshippers: “He’s not the messiah, he’s a very naughty boy!”

Jones then directed the Python’s 1983 release, The Meaning of Life, on an even more elaborate scale, stitching together sketches, musical numbers and complex effects scenes. The film also contains arguably Jones’s most famous on-screen character: the giant Mr Creosote, who explodes after a final “wafer-thin mint”.

With the Python team agreeing to make no more feature films, Jones was free to branch out. Personal Services, a comedy based on the real-life story of suburban brothel-keeper Cynthia Payne was released in 1987. He followed this up in 1989 with Erik the Viking, which starred Tim Robbins as a reluctant pillager, and was based on his own children’s book published in 1983.

As well as Erik the Viking, Jones was able to indulge his own fervent interest in ancient and medieval history in TV series, including Crusades (1995), Medieval Lives (2004) and Barbarians (2006), which he presented with infectious enthusiasm. He also published two books on Chaucer and created the kids’ TV cartoon Blazing Dragons, which ran for two seasons from 1996-98 and told the history of chivalry from the dragons’ point of view. Jones was also a prolific writer of children’s books, including self-originated fairytales such as Nicobobinus.

Jones became a vociferous opponent of the Iraq war, and published a collection of his newspaper columns and other writings in the 2004 book Terry Jones’s War on the War on Terror.

His final directorial credit was the 2015 comedy Absolutely Anything, in which all four surviving Python members participated, but it received an unenthusiastic reception.

Jones was married twice: between 1970 and 2012 to biochemist Alison Telfer, with whom he had two children, and in 2012 to Anna Söderström, with whom he had one child.

Terry Jones obituary
Monty Python star whose talents were highlighted in the show that revolutionised British TV comedy
Stuart Jeffries
Wed 22 Jan 2020 16.31 GMTLast modified on Wed 22 Jan 2020 19.38 GMT

One morning Brian Cohen, completely naked, flung open the shutters at his bedroom window to find a mob below hailing him as the Messiah. Mrs Cohen, played by Terry Jones, who has died aged 77, had something to say about that. “He’s not the Messiah. He’s a very naughty boy,” she told the disappointed crowd. It became a classic cinema moment.

The 1979 film Monty Python’s Life of Brian, a satire about an ordinary Jewish boy mistaken for the Messiah, which Jones directed and co-wrote with his fellow Pythons Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle and Michael Palin, was banned by 39 British local authorities, and by Ireland and Norway. Jones and his chums were unrepentant: they even launched a Swedish poster campaign with the slogan: “So funny it was banned in Norway.”

As for Jones’s performance as Mandy Cohen, it united two leading facets of the funnyman’s repertoire: his fondness for female impersonation, and his passion for historical revisionism. The latter was evident not just in his work for Monty Python – in which his historian’s sensibility proved essential to the satire of Arthurian England in Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975), which he co-directed and co-wrote – but also in several documentaries and books in which he stood up for what he took to be the misrepresented Middle Ages.

“We think of medieval England as being a place of unbelievable cruelty and darkness and superstition,” he said. “We think of it as all being about fair maidens in castles, and witch-burning, and a belief that the world was flat. Yet all these things are wrong.”

Arguably, without Jones, Monty Python’s Flying Circus (1969-74) would not have revolutionised British TV comedy. He was key in developing the show’s distinctively trippy, stream-of-consciousness format, where each surreal set-up (the Lumberjack Song, the upper-class twit of the year show, the dead parrot, or the fish-slapping dance) flowed into the next, unpunctuated by punchlines.

For all his directorial flair, though, Jones may well be best remembered for creating such characters as Arthur “Two Sheds” Jackson, Cardinal Biggles of the Spanish Inquisition, the Scottish poet Ewan McTeagle and the monstrous musician rodent beater in the mouse organ sketch who hits specially tuned mice with mallets.

Thanks to the show’s success, Jones was able to diversify into working as a writer, poet, librettist, film director, comedian, actor and historian. “I’ve been very lucky to have been able to act, write and direct and not have to choose just the one thing,” he said.

Jones was a second world war baby, born in Colwyn Bay, north Wales, and brought up by his mother, Dilys (nee Newnes), and grandmother, while his father, Alick Jones, was stationed with the RAF in India. He recalled meeting his father for the first time when he returned from war service: “Through plumes of steam at the end of the platform, he appeared – this lone figure in a forage cap and holding a kit bag. He ran over and kissed my mum, then my brother, then bent down and picked me up and planted one right on me. I’d only ever been kissed by the smooth lips of a lady up until that point, so his bristly moustache was quite disturbing.”

When he was four, the family moved to Surrey so his father could take up an appointment as a bank clerk. Terry attended primary school in Esher and the Royal Grammar school in Guildford. He studied English at St Edmund Hall, Oxford, and developed a lifelong interest in medieval history as a result of reading Chaucer.

At Oxford, he started the Experimental Theatre Company with his friend and contemporary Michael Rudman, performing everything from Brecht to cabaret. He also met Palin and the historian Robert Hewson, and collaborated with them on a satire on the death penalty called Hang Down Your Head and Die. It was set in a circus ring, with Jones playing the condemned man. He and Palin then worked together on the Oxford Revue, a satirical sketch show they performed at the 1964 Edinburgh festival, where he met David Frost as well as Chapman, Idle and Cleese.

After graduation, he was hired as a copywriter for Anglia Television and then taken on as a script editor at the BBC, where he worked as joke writer for BBC2’s Late Night Line-Up (1964-72). Jones and Palin became fixtures on the booming TV satire scene, writing for, among other BBC shows, The Frost Report (1966-67) and The Kathy Kirby Show (1964), as well as the ITV comedy sketch series Do Not Adjust Your Set (1967-69).

In 1967, he and Palin were invited to write and perform for Twice a Fortnight, a BBC sketch show that provided a training ground not only for a third of the Pythons (Jones and Palin), but two-thirds of the Goodies (Graeme Garden and Bill Oddie) and the co-creator of the 1980s political sitcom Yes Minister, Jonathan Lynn.

Jones and Palin wrote and starred in The Complete and Utter History of Britain (1969) for LWT. Its conceit was to relate historical incidents as if TV had existed at the time. In one sketch, Samuel Pepys was a chat show host; in another, a young couple of ancient Britons looking for their first home were shown around the brand-new Stonehenge. “It’s got character, charm – and a slab in the middle,” said the estate agent.

In the same year, he became one of the six founders of Monty Python’s Flying Circus. They expected the show to be quickly decommissioned by BBC bosses. “Every episode we’d be there biting our nails hoping someone might find it funny. Right up until the middle of the second series John Cleese’s mum was still sending him job adverts for supermarket managers cut out from her local newspaper,” Jones recalled. “It was only when they started receiving sackfuls of correspondence from school kids saying they loved it that we knew we were saved.”

After Python finished its run on TV, Jones went on to direct several films with the troupe. The first, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, was, he recalled, “a disaster when we first showed it. The audiences would laugh for the first five minutes and then silence, nothing. So we re-cut it. Then we’d show it in different cities, saying, ‘We’re worried about our film, would you come and look at it?’ And as a result people would come and they’d all be terribly worried about it too, so it was a nightmare.”

He had more fun co-writing and directing two series for the BBC called Ripping Yarns (1976-79) in which Palin starred as a series of heroic characters in mock-adventure stories, among them Across the Andes by Frog, and Roger of the Raj, sending up interwar literature aimed at schoolboys.

Jones directed and starred in Monty Python’s Life of Brian, which some religious groups denounced for supposedly mocking Christianity. Jones defended the film: “It wasn’t about what Christ was saying, but about the people who followed him – the ones who for the next 2,000 years would torture and kill each other because they couldn’t agree on what he was saying about peace and love.”

In 1983 he directed Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life, in which he made, perhaps, his most disgusting appearance, as Mr Creosote, a ludicrously obese diner, who is served dishes while vomiting repeatedly.

During this decade Jones diversified, proving there was life after Python. In 1980, he published Chaucer’s Knight: The Portrait of a Medieval Mercenary, arguing that the supposed paragon of Christian virtue could be demonstrated to be, if one studied the battles Chaucer claimed he was involved in, a typical, perhaps even vicious, mercenary. He also set out to overturn the idea of Richard II presented in the work of Shakespeare “who paints him more like sort of a weak … unmanly character”. Jones portrayed the king as a victim of spin: “There’s a possibility that Richard was actually a popular king,” he said.

He wrote children’s books, starting with The Saga of Erik the Viking (1983), which he composed originally for his son, Bill. A book of rhymes, The Curse of the Vampire’s Socks (1989), featured such characters as the Sewer Kangaroo and Moby Duck.

In 1987, he directed Personal Services, a film about the madam of a suburban brothel catering for older men, starring Julie Walters. The story was inspired by the experiences of the Streatham brothel-keeper Cynthia Payne. Jones proudly related that three of four films banned in Ireland were directed by him – The Life of Brian, The Meaning of Life and Personal Services.

Two years later, he directed Erik the Viking, a film adaptation of his book, with Tim Robbins in the title role of a young Norseman who declines to go into the family line of raping and pillaging. In 1996, he adapted Kenneth Grahame’s Wind in the Willows for the big screen, giving himself the role of Mr Toad, with Ratty and Mole played by Idle and Steve Coogan. But it was rarely screened in cinemas. “It was ruined by studio politicking between Disney and Columbia Tristar,” he said. “We made a really nice film but no one saw it. It didn’t make any money, even though it was well reviewed.”

Jones was also unfortunate with his next film project. Absolutely Anything, based on a script he wrote with the screenwriter Gavin Scott, concerned aliens coming to Earth and giving one person absolute power. Plans were scuppered when a movie with a similar premise, Bruce Almighty, starring Jim Carrey, was released in 2003. Only in 2015 did Jones manage to film Absolutely Anything, in which Simon Pegg, playing a mild-mannered schoolteacher, is given miraculous powers by a council of CGI aliens voiced by Jones and his former Monty Python colleagues. Robin Williams, in one of his last roles, voiced Pegg’s dog.

Jones made well-received history documentaries, including in 2002 The Hidden History of Egypt, The Hidden History of Rome and The Hidden History of Sex & Love, in which he examined the diets, hygiene, careers, sex lives and domestic arrangements of the ancient world, often appearing in the films as an ancient character, sometimes dressed as a woman.

In his book Who Murdered Chaucer? (2003), he wondered if the poet had been killed on behalf of King Henry IV for being politically troublesome.

He wrote for the Guardian, about the poll tax, nuclear power and the ozone layer. He became a vocal opponent of the Iraq war, and his articles on the subject were collected under the title Terry Jones’s War on the War on Terror (2004).

In his 2006 BBC series Barbarians, Jones sought to show that supposedly primitive Celts and savage Goths were nothing of the kind and that the ancient Greeks and Persians were neither as ineffectual nor as effete as the ancient Romans supposed. Best of all, he sought to demonstrate that it was not the Vandals and other north European tribes who destroyed Rome but Rome itself, thanks to the loss of its African tax base.

When Jones was asked what he would like on his tombstone, he did not want to be remembered as a Python, perhaps surprisingly, but for his writing and historical work. “Maybe a description of me as a writer of children’s books or maybe as the man who restored Richard II’s reputation. I think those are my best bits.”

In 2016, it was announced that Jones had been diagnosed with primary progressive aphasia, a form of dementia that impairs the ability to communicate. He and his family and friends spoke about his experiences to help others living with the condition.

Jones is survived by his second wife, Anna (nee Söderström), whom he married in 2012, and their daughter, Siri; and by Bill and Sally, the children of his first marriage, to Alison Telfer, which ended in divorce.

• Terence Graham Parry Jones, writer, actor and director, born 1 February 1942; died 21 January 2020
Terry Jones should be remembered for so much more than Monty Python

As the comedy community bids farewell to Terry Jones, we should remember him for his many talents – from history documentaries and directing feature films to treatises on Chaucer

By Mark Braxton
Wednesday, 22nd January 2020 at 4:41 pm

We knew that Terry Jones had been ill with dementia, but his death on Monday at the age of 77 still came as a shock to the entertainment world.

Floods of tributes swamped social media, reflecting the affection he inspired through his many and varied projects from the 1960s through to the noughties.

A driving force behind the Monty Python ensemble – in their ground-breaking Flying Circus TV series (1969–74), their envelope-pushing films and their adored stage shows – Jones nevertheless developed other successful careers, in the fields of history and children’s literature.

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Born in Colwyn Bay in 1942, Terry Jones studied at Oxford, where he met Michael Palin, and pre-Python he wrote for The Frost Report, Twice a Fortnight (a sketch show with Palin, Graeme Garden and Bill Oddie) and ITV children’s show Do Not Adjust Your Set.

But it was Monty Python’s Flying Circus that first endeared Jones to me and to many – with his fearless capacity to inhabit any role that he was given, often by himself. Jones was a leading light in a story John Cleese told me last year about the Pythons first getting together – Oxford University’s Jones and Palin with Cambridge alumni Cleese, Chapman and Idle (Carol Cleveland and animator Terry Gilliam were soon added to the mix)…

“It was nerve-racking at the start because after we’d had this extraordinary meeting with [BBC comedy head] Michael Mills in which he gave us 13 programmes, we were anxious for a bit because we had one or two meetings that got absolutely nowhere – until dear old Terry Jones said, ‘Well let’s just go home and write.’ And then after a few days we had a read-through at Terry’s flat in Camberwell, and we started laughing at what the others had written, what we each had written. And that was a marvellous moment.”

An early sketch that was a favourite of mine, and one that would get played to death on my vinyl record of Monty Python, was Arthur “Two Sheds” Jackson, in which Jones’s eponymous classical composer kept being sidetracked by Eric Idle’s interviewer into revealing the reason for his unusual nickname.

Jones stood out for taking on many of Python’s more extreme creations (see Mr Creosote in the 1983 film The Meaning of Life), and by general consensus was the funniest Python at playing women.

As Sir Michael Palin told Radio Times last year, “There were certain sort of caricature women that we had to play ourselves. Then there were women-women that Carol played very well. But a lot of people would say, “Well why didn’t you have women playing Terry’s mother?” Well, because Terry could play his mother better than anybody! And that’s what a lot of Terry’s characters were based upon.”

Terry’s “Pepperpot” female character was a comedy staple of the 1970s, and his shrill voice would ring out in playgrounds up and down the land, where Pythons were like comedy gods and their characters were mimicked by young fans – many of whom were probably too young to watch the post-watershed TV series.

The later episodes of Flying Circus became more experimental, with longer-form sketches that Palin says were a basis for Ripping Yarns, a comedy anthology series that he wrote with Jones – a pilot programme called Tomkinson’s Schooldays aired in early 1976 and two series followed in 1977 and ’79. Jones and Palin paired up to write many Python sketches, so it was no surprise when they teamed up again.

The mini-comedy films of Ripping Yarns were an absolute joy, spoofing the Boy’s Own style of adventure stories in episodes that were set in a First World War prison, India in 1914, 1930s Huddersfield and even 1920s Maidenhead (my home town!).

Ripping Yarns co-writers Michael Palin and Terry Jones as two of the masters at Graybridge public school in the pilot episode, Tomkinson’s Schooldays

Jones showed his gift for direction in the Monty Python films The Holy Grail (with Gilliam), Life of Brian (in which the courageous Jones also appeared as a naked hermit with only a long beard protecting his modesty) and The Meaning of Life.

He went on to direct non-Python projects, too, from the Cynthia Payne-inspired comedy Personal Services to The Wind in the Willows, in which he starred in full green-face makeup as Toad.

Another string to his bow was to prove hugely successful for Jones. He wrote many stories on ancient and medieval history (Chaucer’s Knight, Medieval Lives, Barbarians) and many for children (Fairy Tales, Nicobobinus, The Beast with a Thousand Teeth and Fantastic Stories).

The last book was adapted for Jackanory in 1993, when he told Radio Times, “They’re all set very much in the world of the traditional fairy story, with ogres and castles and talking beasts,” says Jones. “Whenever I write a new story I try it out on my neighbours’ son, Tom, to see if it works. My own kids are both grown up now, but I find Tom a very reliable critic.”

Jones publicising Jackanory in RT in 1993. Surprisingly it was his first acquaintance with the show
At the time Jones revealed: “I loved reading as a kid. I was a great fan of Rupert the Bear, to the exclusion of almost everything else. Then, at 14, I went straight on to Ray Bradbury, which probably explains a lot.”

Another domain that Jones dominated was history, and I loved the documentaries that he fronted in the late 90s and early noughties. But where Michael Wood, for example, would play it with a straight bat, Jones was always looking for a comedy treatment, endearingly.

Previewing his 2000 BBC Two documentary of ancient Rome, however, Jones told RT that truth was stranger than fiction. “The history of gladiators has been blatantly lifted from the scripts of Monty Python. For example, in Life of Brian we staged a gladiatorial contest in which a feeble retiarius (or “net-man”) is faced by a formidable gladiator. We thought it would be fun if the net-man simply took to his heels and ran round and round the amphitheatre until the gladiator, weighed down by his armour, ended up having a heart attack. Bit of theatre of the absurd, or so we thought.

“However, while filming Gladiators: the Brutal Truth, we discovered that almost nothing we could dream up was too far from the truth. Occasionally Christians were thrown to the lions only to find that the poor animals were in such a pathetic state of health they didn’t have the strength to finish anyone off. They might give the humans a terrible mauling, but they wouldn’t kill them. Christians intent on martyrdom would grab the lions by their manes and stick their heads in their mouths in order to force the creatures to do their duty.

“And that would be just the day’s warm-up. No, really! Throwing convicts to unpleasant deaths was strictly down-market entertainment – restricted to the warm-up sessions. In Life of Brian we called it ‘the Children’s Matinee’. We thought we were joking…”

But there were so many facets to Jones. Before he was diagnosed with dementia in 2015, he was still stretching himself, with a musical fantasy, more children’s books, poetry, and literary essays. As he told Radio Times, “I’m proud and relieved the Pythons have lasted so long. It enabled me to do a lot of academic stuff because I didn’t need to earn money.”

The breadth of Jones’s work is astonishing, and there was always something genial, friendly and lovable about his TV persona, but comedy fans love the fact that he made them laugh. “There are no taboo areas with humour, nothing you can’t make fun of,” he once told RT. “The only criterion is: is it funny? If people laugh, it is.”

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