Sunday, 3 October 2010

Law and Order

1 October 2010. On the day that the inventor of the 'taser' gun commits suicide, Barrow In Furness constabulary offer a fitting tribute.

Thursday, 30 September 2010

Tony Curtis: Forgotten Lancastrian

Born into an impoverished family of Hunagrian refugees who settled in the Haslingden area around the late 19th century there is little in the formative years of the man who would become known to the world as 'Tony Curtis' that even begins to hint at the glittering career of stage, screen and quality conservatories that ended today when, at last, he finally died.

Curtis began his love affair with fame as a member of the family music hall act that played early on the bill in cotton town theatres across the North West. Seldom attracting attention beyond the small groups of displaced Hungarian weavers who never wavered in their support of the 'Magyar Morris Mincers', the tight-knit team of family acrobats attempted to fuse traditional eastern European folk dance with central Lancashire clog fighting. The act never entirely won over the hearts of hardened northern audiences and their brief membership of the Lancashire music hall came to an abrupt end when they were dragged from the stage and savagely beaten during an early evening show at Oldham Coliseum in 1942.

Bitten, nevertheless, by the itching desire to perform, Curtis soon found himself on the fringes of the fledgling Lancashire film industry and became a regular performer in a series of short reels produced by the Crumpsall Film Company in their small studios in North Manchester that achieved brief fame in the pre-war years as the 'Northern Hollywood'. The itch was being scratched. But as with all the screen greats, the more you scratch it, the worse it gets.

Moving performances in 'Hernia' (1949) and 'I Was a Shoplifter' (1950) quickly brought the handsome young actor to the attention of the large American studios. In 1951 Curtis turned his back on his deracinated Lancashire upbringing when he was taken to California where he was washed, and had extensive coaching that saw him achieve complete mastery of the English language after only six months of personal tuition from Christopher Isherwood who was, at the time, employed as speech coach by MGM. His rickets, a product of the poor diet and lack of sunlight typical of an early 20th century Haslingden childhood, were another matter altogether. Directors were forced to apply a range of devices to divert the attention of audiences from his badly bowed legs. In his autobiography 'Films What I Have Made' the maverick auteur Billy Wilder referred caustically to the inability of Curtis to 'stop a fucking pig in a ginnel.'

Fame and fortune quickly followed, however. A wide-range of film roles illuminate his early career in Hollywood culminating in the high-point of 'Some Like It Hot' where he appeared opposite Marilyn Monroe who had been called upon to fill the role at short notice when Gracie Fields backed out of the project for financial reasons. For many film critics the failure of Curtis to ever star in a major vehicle alongside his fellow Lancastrian hearthrob remains the great 'what if' of his extensive film output. Even though Fields made several attempts during the 1970s to get Curtis to apppear with her on 'Songs of Praise'  the longed-for pairing between the two greats was never realised and many close friends of Curtis suggest that the swiftly declining quality of his performances was partly a consequence of this failed coupling with Fields.

'Some Like It Hot'
previously unreleased pre-shoot publicity still of Curtis and Miss Fields

At his best, his range was impressive. His homesexual flirtation with Larry Olivier in 'Spartacus' lives long in the mind.  Curtis revealed in his autobiography 'From Hassy to Holly' that he was able to draw on childhood meals of pigs trotters and tripe to channel his response to Olivier's homoerotic connections between snails, oysters and getting, as Gielgud famously deconstructed in his diaries, 'a bloody good ring job.'

Not surprisingly, his career, like many other actors of his generation, flirted briefly with the smaller screen. He completed several series of 'The Persuaders' for fellow Hungarian director Vance Packard that earned him an Emmy in 1972 for his unflinching dramatisation of the US advertising and pet-food industry. His film output, however, never again achieved the heights of his 1950s moments of triumph. 'The Bad News Bears Go To Japan' (1978) and 'Othello, The Black Commando' (1982) stand alongside 'Lobster Men From Mars' (1989) and 'Naked in Chorley' (1993) as projects hardly worthy of a screen actor of such depth and talent. Stage success also eluded him at the higher levels of his craft: we never saw his 'Hamlet' and his 'King Lear' was never realised. By this stage, the Oscar that had eluded him throughout his years of triumph faded into a diminshing shambles of poorly directed and badly scripted straight to video shockers.

Curtis returned to Lancashire in 2000 and, in a move that surprised his Hollwood peers, established a quality small building and extension business based in Clitheroe that quickly developed a reputation for bespoke multi-material craftmanship and design across a range of domestic construction solutions. In 2002 he was awarded the 'Good Housekeeping' award for innovative under-stair storage creations. Receiving the award from Alan Titchmarsh at the Earls Court 'Pefect Homes' exhibition Curtis commented ruefully on the nature of fame and awards, a clear reference to his failure to gain recognition for his craft by the studio system.

Nevertheless, few who truly knew Curtis were surprised by his late entry to the world of medium sized property realisation and recognised in his loft conversions and spiral stair installments the same craft and attention to detail that characterised the very best of his screen portrayals.

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Schoolgirl saves cat in bag weighed down with bricks

Thugs who dumped a cat in a ditch in a sandbag weighed down with bricks are being hunted by animal welfare inspectors.

It was found by a schoolgirl on some playing fields in Haslingden, Rossendale, after she opened up the bag to see what was inside.

Readers of the Rossendale Free Press were outraged, yet cautious:

I can't believe something like this would happen in Haslingden!! This was right near my house.....

Poor cat: but: It was found by a schoolgirl on some playing fields in Haslingden, Rossendale, after she opened up the bag to see what was inside. This would have been a different story if there was a bomb inside the bag! I would urge people not to go looking in bags. especially if they have been left in public places.

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Les Dawson's widow investigated for benefit fraud

His real wife. Not Roy Barraclough.

Hedgehog shot in the head

A POULTON animal lover has hit out at "mindless morons" who shot a baby hedgehog in the head just days after it was released back into the wild.

Black Pudding contest organiser 'left for dead' in attack

The organiser of the World Black Pudding Throwing Championships was ‘left for dead’ in a sickening attack after Sunday’s contest.

Tony Sinacola of Chadwick’s Original Bury Black Puddings was attacked outside a chip shop on Bridge Street in Ramsbottom at 10pm on Sunday (September 12).

Lancashire Cheese

It's won prizes.

Ben Gunn surely dreamed about it:

 'You mightn't happen to have a piece of cheese about you, now? No? Well, many's the long night I've dreamed of cheese, toasted, mostly, and woke up again, and here I were.'

'Everyday is Like Sunday'

Buy yourself a cheap tray . . .


'Free trade . . . it wor a champion idea . . .'

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

'Lucifer Over Lancashire'

Words and music by 'The Fall' from the album 'Mr Pharmacist' released in 1986.

Saw six men
Under a tall tower
Break it to him
Like I'm breakin it to you, gently
The nice people
Will remind you, oh yeah
Kicking, white, cheerleader
When the tired cheerleader

Lucifer over Lancashire

The black birds
Shake the hedges
On this the hottest day for ages
Was that monsoon
Doctor doctor [hid/hit] the needle
Can be discounted
No longer

Lucifer over Lancashire

I tell you no lies
Completely blind
Are the sentinel's eyes
At the back of his mind
This demon is hip
The demon's grip
He took over everywhere
And his blitz
Now over here
And the sky moves on
His cock-eyed moon
A useless priest
{Under your] power
Now I'm just flyin
I'm flyin
I'm typin
I'm shinin
I'm winnin
I got this on
I'm a runnin shark
I'm winnin
I'm shinin...