Tuesday, January 05, 2021

Heat Not A Furnace For Your Foe So Hot That It Do Singe Yourself

We begin the latest bloggerisationisms update, dear blog reader, with some awfully sad news. Generous tributes have been paid to one of this blogger's favourite actresses, the divine Barbara Shelley, who has this week died aged eighty eight after contracting Covid-19. Barbara was best known for appearing in a string of British horror movies in the 1950s and 1960s, many of them made by Hammer Productions including, most famously, a startlingly fine performance in Dracula: Prince Of Darkness. Her agent, Thomas Bowington, told the Press Association: 'She really was Hammer's number one leading lady and the Technicolor Queen of Hammer. On-screen she could be quietly evil. She goes from statuesque beauty to just animalistic wildness. She was a regular favourite of Hammer events and autograph shows but also performed on-stage with the RSC.'
Born Barbara Kowin in London in 1932, Barbara was initially shy about appearing on-stage despite her striking good looks and auburn hair; her acting teacher suggested that she take up modelling as a tool to gain self-confidence. Barbara followed the advice and started a modelling career at the age of nineteen, which soon led to the offer of a minor role as a fashion show commentator in the 1953 Hammer movie Mantrap. She was credited for this under her birth name.
The same year, she went to Rome on holiday and subsequently met the Italian actor Walter Chiari. Although she had only planned a month's stay, Barbara ended up living in Rome for most of the next four years and appeared in nine Italian films including Nero's Weekend, Ballata Tragica (credited as Betty Mason) and Lacrime Di Sposa (under the name Barbara Flam). Back in the UK, after appearing in the minor sex farce The Little Hut (1957) - with Stewart Granger, David Niven and Ava Gardner - Barbara achieved some notoriety when appearing in the title role of Cat Girl (1957), a low budget production made by Insignia Films. In which she played a woman possessed by a family curse who develops psychic links with a leopard. Despite being made for almost no money, the film was a reasonable-sized hit, particularly in the US.
The following year, Barbara made her first significant appearance in a film for Hammer, Val Guest's Japanese prisoner-of-war movie The Camp On Blood Island. She took a number of roles in gothic horror features such as Blood Of The Vampire (1958) and, for Hammer, The Gorgon (1964), Rasputin, The Mad Monk (1966), Dracula, Prince Of Darkness (also 1966) and Quatermass & The Pit (1967). She also appeared in MGM's acclaimed John Wyndham adaptation Village Of The Damned (1960). In 2010, the writer and actor Mark Gatiss interviewed Barbara about her career at Hammer for his acclaimed BBC4 documentary series A History Of Horror.
Her other movies included Supreme Confession (1956), The End Of The Line (1958), Shadow Of The Cat (1961), Postman's Knock (1962), Blind Corner, Death Trap (1966), The Spy Killer (1969), Ghost Story (1974), The Comedy Of Errors (1978) and The Dark Angel (1991). 'When I first started doing Hammer, all the so-called classic actors looked down on the horror film,' she recalled. 'There is a great thrill for me in having done Hammer and being known. All the other things I did, nobody remembers those. But the horror films, I'm very grateful to them because they built me a fan base and I'm very touched that people will come and ask for my autograph.'
Her television appearances include the first Danger Man episode, View From A Villa (1960), The Saint (1962), The New Phil Silvers Show (1963), two episodes of Twelve O'Clock High (1965), The Avengers episodes Dragonsfield (1961) and From Venus With L♥ve (1967), Prince Regent (1979), The Borgias (1981), the Blake's 7 episode Stardrive (1981), the 1984 Doctor Who four-part serial Planet Of Fire and a month's stint on EastEnders in 1988. 'I adored science fiction,' she declared. 'When I was a very little girl my father used to have all these science fiction magazines and we used to go through them together. My mind had been opened up to science fiction by my father so when I got these scripts it wasn't "what's this rubbish?" It was "that's interesting."
Her CV also included appearances in The Solitary Child, Deadly Record, Stranglehold, Solo For Canary , Charlesworth, White Hunter, Murder At Site Three, A Story Of David, Suspense, The Edgar Wallace Mysteries, Ghost Squad, Route Sixty Six, The Third Man, No Hiding Place, The Human Jungle, Hazel, The Farmer's Daughter, The Man From U.N.C.L.E, Intrigue, Vendetta, Festival, Man In A Suitcase, Counterstrike, Paul Temple, The Troubleshooters, Z Cars, Hadleigh, Dixon of Dock Green, Justice, The Hanged Man, Oil Strike North, People Like Us, The Two Ronnies, Bergerac, The District Nurse, Maigret and By The Sword Divided.
In 1975 Barbara joined the Royal Shakespeare Company acting with them for two years. By the 1990s, she had moved from acting to a career in interior design but was also a regular on the convention circuit where she greatly enjoyed meeting her fans. She recovered after suffering a stroke in 2007 although, she noted, it had left her 'unabled' rather than disabled.
Speaking to the Daily Scum Express in 2009, she described Hammer as being 'like a very talented family' that gave its stars access to 'a wonderful canteen. To work with Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee, I've been more than lucky, I've been honoured. They were so wonderful to work with, both so generous as actors with a wonderful atmosphere on the set and a wonderful sense of humour. When we were working, especially with Chris, who's got a great sense of humour, we used to have jokes before and after shooting,' she continued. 'Like in Dracula: Prince Of Darkness, where he comes down the stairs hissing. Suzan Farmer and I used to look up and sing 'The Boy I Love Is Up In The Gallery'.' The sentiment was, seemingly, entirely mutual Lee once describing Barbara as 'amongst the finest actresses I've ever worked with.'
She said she was told at a convention by female fans that they loved her for her strong roles. 'Which I thought was a brilliant thing to have said about one. I never thought of it in that way. The fact that I'm still getting mail from my horror fan-base really touches me.' she added. 'No one told me I was beautiful. They said I was photogenic but no one said I was beautiful. If they had I would have had a lot more fun!' According to her agent, Barbara caught the Coronavirus after going into hospital for a check-up and spent two weeks by herself on a ward before Christmas. 'She adored Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing and loved working with them,' Thomas Bowington continued. 'That was very dear to her.'
This blogger never actually got to meet Barbara in person - unlike many of his heroes in the film and TV world - and that's one of his biggest regrets. But, Keith Telly Topping did once e-mail her, via her agent, to check a minor point about Village Of The Damned when he was writing his book on British horror movies, A Vault of Horror. It was in relation to a quote that she'd made about what she felt to be that movie's lack of a female perspective. I wanted to make sure that I was quoting her accurately since it was, I felt, an important point, well worth making. This blogger expected the conversation to be a short one and done entirely via her agent. Instead, he got a three paragraph reply back from Barbara herself a couple of days later. It was warm, friendly and, frankly, it made this blogger's day when he got it. That was Barbara Shelley, dear blog reader. A class act and a great actress.
And now, dear blog reader, it's that time again ...
Le properly magnifique return of the From The North favourite Spiral for its eighth (and, sadly, final) series.  
Doctor Who. This blogger remains blown away at just how good Revolution Of The Daleks was. It gets better with each repeated viewing.
Ice Station Zebra. It's what long wet and miserable Sunday afternoons under heavy lockdown were made for. Particularly good old mad-as-toast McGoohan getting all the best lines. Including the pithiest ever description of the Cold War. 'The Russians put our camera made by our German scientists and your film made by your German scientists into their satellite. Made by their German scientists!'
Columbo. It was long wet and miserable Sunday afternoons under heavy lockdown were made for. Part the second.
The Serpent.
The scriptwriter Philip Martin has died at the age of eighty two. Liverpool-born Martin was an acclaimed television writer who worked in British TV for over forty years. Beginning as an actor (he attended RADA and later appeared in series like No Hiding Place, Dixon Of Dock Green and the movie The Loneliness Of The Long Distance Runner) his writing early work included regular episodes on Z-Cars and New Scotland Yard in the late 1960s and early 1970s. His most famous work was the postmodern drama Gangsters. This was an examination of racial tension seen through an increasingly surreal vision of Birmingham's criminal underworld starring Maurice Colbourne, Ahmed Khalil, Saeed Jaffrey and Paul Barber. Beginning as an acclaimed one-off Play For Today in 1975, it was followed by two series in 1976 and 1978 and gained a cult following. Gangsters featured references to film noir, westerns, Bollywood and kung-fu movies, as well as increasingly surreal end-of-episode cliffhangers and a bizarre final scene where the characters not only broke the fourth wall but, actually, walked off the set. Martin himself appeared in the series in several roles, playing the gangland boss Rawlinson in the original play, the hired assassin The White Devil at the end of series two (though Martin was credited as Larson E Whipsnide, a reference to his WC Fields-inspired performance) and as himself, dictating the script to a typist, in cutaways throughout the final episode. He also wrote for The Bill, Thirty Minute Theatre and the memorable Find The Lady episode of Shoestring. His later work includes Tandoori Nights (1985), the under-rated Star Cops (1987), Virtual Murder (1992), several episodes of Hetty Wainthropp Investigates and Luifel & Luifel (2001). He also wrote the Doctor Who serials Vengeance On Varos (1985) and The Trial Of A Time Lord: Mindwarp (1986). He also wrote a script called Mission To Magnus which featured the character Sil (played by Nabil Shaban) from his previous serials. That was never filmed due to the show being laced on hiatus in 1985. A novelised version of the script, written by Martin, was published by Target Books in 1990. Martin's stage play Thee & Me, a work dealing with the effects of ozone depletion in the atmosphere in the year 2040, was staged at London's Lyttelton Theatre in February 1980, directed by Michael Rudman, but was withdrawn early from the repertoire because of poor reviews and 'appalling' ticket sales.
Gerry Marsden, who died aged seventy eight, was one of the prime movers of the Merseybeat sound of the early 1960s. For a short time, Marsden's band, Gerry & The Pacemakers, were vying with The Be-Atles (a popular beat combo of the 1960s, you might've heard of them) as Britain's toppermost of the poppermost group, both of them part of Brian Epstein's Liverpool-based NEMS management stable. In 1963 The Pacemakers topped the British charts with their first three singles, 'How Do You Do It?', 'I Like It' and a memorably swopping cover of the Rodgers and Hammerstein composition 'You'll Never Walk Alone' (which became an anthem for fans of Liverpool FC). In this respect The Pacemakers actually outstripped The Be-Atles, who did not manage to reach number one until their third single, 'From Me To You'. It was only in 1984 that The Pacemakers' feat was repeated, coincidentally by another Liverpool group, Frankie Goes To Hollywood. Aptly, the b-side of Frankie's first big hit, 'Relax', was a version of Marsden's composition 'Ferry Cross The Mersey', a Pacemakers hit from 1965. After their dazzling early salvo of hits, Gerry & The Pacemakers could not match the extraordinary trajectory of The Be-Atles, but, as Epstein predicted: 'Gerry will be with us for a great many years because you cannot exhaust natural ability.' The group enjoyed further successes with Marsden's song 'I'm The One', which reached number two in 1964, the poignant ballad 'Don't Let The Sun Catch You Crying' (written by Marsden and credited to the whole band and which made number six) and 'Ferry Cross The Mersey', which reached number eight in early 1965. Ferry Cross The Mersey was the theme of the film of the same name, scripted by the Coronation Street creator Tony Warren and starring the group playing thinly fictionalised versions of themselves. The song gave the group a top ten hit in the US in 1965, but it was their last major hit on either side off the Atlantic. Their final chart entry in Britain was 'Walk Hand In Hand' at the end of 1965. Gerry was born in the Dingle district of Liverpool, to Mary and Frederick Marsden. He attended Our Lady of Mount Carmel school, and at the Florence Institute youth club learned both how to box and to play the guitar. At fourteen, he joined a skiffle group, The Red Mountain Boys, with his brother Freddie (who was two years older) on drums, Les Chadwick on guitar and Arthur Mack on piano. They renamed themselves The Mars Bars, hoping to obtain sponsorship from the Mars confectionery company. Instead, Mars demanded that they change their name and, in 1959, the group became The Pacemakers. In June 1960 they played for the first time with The Be-Atles (then The Silver Beatals) and in December that year they were contracted to play a four-month stint in Hamburg, prompting the group to give up their day jobs and become professional musicians. 'We went over with The Beatles and had a good laugh,' Marsden later recalled. 'All they had over there were oompah bands. We took over this music and they loved it.' In 1961 Les Maguire replaced Mack. They played on the same bill as The Be-Atles numerous times over the following year and on 19 October 1961 the two groups merged to play a gig at Litherland Town Hall as The Beatmakers. In June 1962, just after The BeAtles had signed to EMI, The Pacemakers were signed for management by Epstein. In December that year The Be-Atles' producer George Martin saw them play at the Majestic Ballroom, Birkenhead and signed them to the Columbia label (also part of EMI). Martin had recorded Mitch Murray's 'How Do You Do It?' with The Be-Atles in 1962, but they did not like the song and came up with 'Please Please Me' instead. So, Martin took it to Marsden and co and told them that The Beatles' version was merely a demo and they should retain the arrangement as it was a guaranteed hit single. It became their first number one hit, in April 1963, selling half-a-million copies. In May 1967, with their chart appeal waning, the band announced their intention to quit, with Marsden planning to take over the lead role in the West End musical Charlie Girl from Joe Brown. The following month he released his first solo single, 'Please Let Them Be', which failed to chart. In 1968 he made his move to the London stage and released the single 'Liverpool', a duet with his Charlie Girl co-star Derek Nimmo. After the show ended in 1971, Marsden starred in another West End production, Pull Both Ends (1972). In 1970 he was given a regular slot on the children's TV programme The Sooty Show. In 1973 he put together a new Pacemakers for the British Re-Invasion Show at Madison Square Garden, where they appeared with other British pop contemporaries including The Searchers and Herman's Hermits. In 1974 the lure of the concert stage and requests from fans, proved irresistible. Gerry went back on the road with another version of The Pacemakers and released the single 'Remember (The Days Of Rock & Roll)' as Gerry Marsden and The Pacemakers. Marsden would continue to undertake tours with the band as well as cabaret shows in Europe, the US and Australia, while keeping up his TV work. In 1985 he oversaw the recording of 'You'll Never Walk Alone' by The Crowd,  a bizarre and unlikely host of showbusiness names, including Bruce Forsyth, Peter Cook, Rick Wakeman, subsequently convicted sex offender Dave Lee Travis, Motörhead and many more - to raise funds for victims of the fire at Bradford City football stadium. It reached number one in June, making Marsden the first artist to top the British charts with two versions of the same song. In April 1989, Marsden recorded another charity effort, when he joined Paul McCartney, The Christians, Holly Johnson and Stock, Aitken and Waterman in a new version of 'Ferry Cross The Mersey' three days after the Hillsborough disaster, which cost the lives of ninety six Liverpool fans. Marsden delivered an emotional performance of the song at the Liverpool versus Everton FA Cup Final at Wembley Stadium that year. In 1993 he published his autobiography, I'll Never Walk Alone, co-written with the former Melody Maker editor Ray Coleman. The book became the basis of the stage musical Ferry Cross The Mersey, which went on tour in the UK, Canada and Australia. In 2003 Marsden was appointed MBE for services to charity and in 2010 received an honorary fellowship from Liverpool John Moores University. He underwent heart surgery in 2003 and 2016 and in 2018 he announced his retirement. Nevertheless, he made a surprise appearance with Take That at their concert at Anfield in June 2019 and sang 'You'll Never Walk Alone' to celebrate Liverpool's Champions League win over Tottenham a few days earlier. He is survived by his wife, Pauline whom he married in 1965 and their daughters, Yvette and Victoria.
Manchester City legend Colin Bell has died, aged seventy-four, after a short illness, the Premier League club have announced. The former England midfielder - whose magnificent athleticism earned him the nickname Nijinsky, after the famed racehorse - made over five hundred appearances for City between 1966 and 1979, scoring one hundred and fifty three goals. He won forty caps for his country and played in the 1970 World Cup Finals. 'Few players have left such an indelible mark on City,' said a club statement on Tuesday. In 2004, Manchester City fans voted to name one of the stands at Etihad Stadium in Bell's honour. The Bell End. True story. 'Colin Bell will always be remembered as one of Manchester City's greatest players and the very sad news today of his passing will affect everybody connected to our club,' said City chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak. 'I am fortunate to be able to speak regularly to his former manager and team-mates and it's clear to me that Colin was a player held in the highest regard by all those who had the privilege of playing alongside him or seeing him play. The passage of time does little to erase the memories of his genius.' After starting his career at Bury, Bell moved to Manchester City - then in the second tier - midway through the 1965-66 season in a forty seven thousand quid deal. He helped Joe Mercer and Malcolm Allison's team win promotion that season and was instrumental in The Blues winning the First Division title two years later. During his thirteen years as a player at Maine Road, he also won the FA Cup in 1969, the League Cup in 1970 and the European Cup Winners' Cup in the same year. It was a surprise that this lavishly talented and flamboyant City side never went on to even greater successes, but the partnership of Mercer and Allison fractured acrimoniously and further titles escaped them, most notably when the latter bought Rodney Marsh from Queens Park Rangers for two hundred grand in March 1972, only for the signing to disturb the balance of a finely-tuned side in control at the top of the First Division. They faltered and the title went to Brian Clough's Derby County. Bell, however, continued to forge a glowing reputation as one of the world's finest players, combining qualities of power, grace, creation and an ability to score crucial goals. He scored when City lost the 1974 League Cup final to Wolverhampton Wanderers and it was in that competition the following year, while still only twenty nine, that Bell sustained the devastating injury which was to effectively end his career at the highest level. It was in November 1975, as City demolished arch-rivals Manchester United four-nil in a League Cup fourth-round tie at Maine Road, that Bell damaged his knee so severely in a challenge with Martin Buchan that it took the best part of two years out of his career in its prime. After making a brief comeback later that season, he was injured again against Arsenal and was out for another eighteen months. When Bell came on as a second-half substitute to make a return in a game against Newcastle United on Boxing Day 1977, the prolonged ovation he received from City fans is still regarded as one of the most emotional moments witnessed at the famous old ground. However, he did not have the same freedom and mobility as he had done and played only a handful more games over the next two years. Bell finished his career with a brief spell in the United States playing for San Jose Earthquakes. He later returned to Manchester City to work with the club's young players, then as a club ambassador and enjoyed glorious successes as the Premier League and the big domestic trophies returned under their Abu Dhabi-based owners. In 2004, he was awarded an MBE for his services to football and remained a regular presence at City games in recent seasons. Former City team-mate Mike Summerbee described Bell as 'just the greatest footballer' the club has had. 'Colin was a lovely, humble man. He was a huge star for Manchester City but you would never have known it,' said Summerbee. 'He was quiet, unassuming and I always believe he never knew how good he actually was. [Current City midfielder] Kevin de Bruyne reminds me a lot of Colin in the way he plays and the way he is as a person.'
And finally, dear blog reader, a new From The North feature, Great Moments Of Rock and/or Roll History. Number one.