Saturday, April 30, 2016

Lord Snooty and his Pals (The Beano)

The fictional characters first appeared in the first edition of The Beano, on 30th July 1938. The strip (1938 – 1991) became the longest running in the comic’s history until Dennis the Menace and Gnasher overtook it.

The central character, Lord Marmaduke of Bunkerton, is known to his friends as Snooty and is a very ordinary boy who just happens to be an Earl, assisted, as always, by his butler, Parkinson. The strip was drawn by Dudley D. Watkins until his death in 1969, but Leo Baxendale and Albert Holroyd occasionally filled in for Watkins.

Lord Marmaduke (Snooty to his friends) of Bunkerton was fed up with living in a castle under the watchful eye of his Aunt Matilda (Aunt Mat), and took every opportunity to change into different clothes and have fun with his friends from Ash Can Alley. The original gang were Scrapper Smith, Hairpin Huggins, Skinny Lizzie, Rosie, Happy Hutton, Gertie the goat and later Snitch and Snatch. The sworn enemies of the Ash Can Alley were the Gasworks Gang, a group of ill-favoured yobs. Snooty was a popular hero andtriumphed because he shared the sufferings of his comrades while adding the gentlemanly virtues which they lacked.

During the Second World War, the story lines changed and sometimes Snooty and his pals tried to foil the plans of the Nazis' (and sometimes even, Hitler). After the war, the story lines reverted back and more and more featured the castle, despite the fact that the trash can alley gang were always present.

In 1949, the strip had an 18-month hiatus from the comic. On its return Snooty's original pals (from Ash Can Alley) were replaced with new pals who lived in the castle. The new gang were made up of previous characters from the Beano i.e. Big Fat Joe, Doubting Thomas, Swanky Lanky Liz, Contrary Mary the mule, Polly and her dog Pongo. This series of Lord Snooty continued until 1958, but a large amount of strips were not by Watkins; some of them were by Leo Baxendale, who also drew several Biffo the Bear strips from around this time.

Between 1958 to 1959, the strip was again rested before the comic began reprinting older Lord Snooty strips. Watkins returned to drawing the strip in 1964 and continued until 1968, a year before he died. Robert Nixon took over and continued to draw it for the next few years, before being succeeded by Jimmy Glen in 1973. Ken H. Harrison took over in 1988, and continued to draw it until the strip disappeared from The Beano in 1991. In the later years Snooty's personality took a turn for the worse. The character was axed because it became difficult to write strips, readers could no longer relate to.

Lord Snooty did reappear several times including a special appearance in the Bash Street Kids Book 2001, along with Snitch and Snatch. He also popped up in a one-off strip called 'Lord Snooty's Day out', Beano issue 3093 (2001), and was drawn by Robert Nixon. In 2003, in issue 3185, as part of the 65th anniversary issue he made another guest appearance alongside The Bash Street Kids. Then again in the 70th anniversary issue of the Beano there was a specially-drawn Fred's Bed strip which included Lord Snooty.

In the Beano serial, Are We There Yet? (2005) by writer-artist Kev F Sutherland, once again Snooty was briefly revived and up dated as Snoot Doggy-Dogg. The character was often acknowledged but did not come to prominence again until he was used as a villain for a feature length Bash Street Kids story again illustrated and written by Kev F Sutherland. The plot saw him, and a few other retro Beano characters such as Keyhole Kate and Pansy Potter, trying to take over The Beano and return it to its post-war roots. He failed, and was defeated by The Bash Street Kids.

In January 2013, Lord Snooty was brought back alongside a number of old Beano characters as a three panel strip in a new section of the Beano called Funsize Funnies. Lord Snooty ended in the penultimate issue before the 75th Anniversary Special. But he is set to return in a strip by Lew Stringer

Lord Snooty III (Marmaduke's grandson) started to appear as a regular strip in the Beano (2008), drawn by Nigel Parkinson. He is a repulsive boy who wallows in wealth. Snooty III also has a long-suffering and sarcastic butler named Parkinson. He has also formed his own gang, consisting of an adolescent named Naz, a young Black girl named Frankie, Emo, and One and Three the triplets (who claim that two does not 'hang out' with them much). The strip did not prove popular among readers and the comic series officially ended in 2011 after making less frequent appearances.

Read more
Watkins D. (1998)The Legend of Lord Snooty and his Pals DC Thompson This contains a history and reprints from the first 30 years of the strip's life.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Will Fyffe (1885 –1947)

Will Fyffe was born in 1885, in a tenement at 36 Broughty Ferry Road, Dundee. He was the eldest child of John Fyffe (1864–1928), a ship's carpenter, and a music teacher, Janet Rhynd Cunningham (1858–1949). His father was interested in theatrical entertainment and operated a Penny Geggie (travelling theatre) and Will made his stage debut aged six.

In the 19th century, Penny Geggies toured small towns entertaining the populous. The cast was made up with out of work actors who performed in temporary tents often heated with charcoal blazers. The bigger tents might accommodate up to 400 seats. The structures were not especially stable and at least on one occasion Will’s father’s geggie was blown into the river at Perth. Young Will was on the roof at the time and fortunately managed to survive the incident. From these humble beginnings he travelled extensively throughout Scotland and the rest of the UK. Will not only sang and danced but also acted and when he was in his 20s he joined Will Haggar Junior's Castle Theatre company, touring the South Wales Valleys. Fyffe's screen debut was in 1914 when William Haggar, Will Junior's father and a pioneer silent film producer, made an epic 50-minute version of the classic Welsh Tale, The Maid of Cefn Ydfa.

Will Fyffe honed his craft and became a sought after character actor both in Britain and Hollywood and appeared in twenty-three major films. By the 30s he was a major star and on stage, screen, radio and vinyl. In 1939 Fyffe was the ninth most popular British star at the box office.

He toured as a straight actor in productions of Shakespeare, but by far, he became famous for his characterisations as a working class man on the Music Hall circuit. There he performed his sketches and sang his songs in an inimitable style.

Will carefully studied local worthies and took their demeanour and characteristics as inspiration for his many on stage creations. He narrated the stories of a succession of comic characters in his unique style. After beginning a song, he would sing a verse or two, then pause in the middle and utter a monologue providing additional detail to embellish the storyline. In 1921, Will wrote “I belong to Glasgow” the song after he met a drunk in Glasgow Central Station. Fyffe asked the man if belonged to Glasgow, the man responded that Glasgow belonged to him. The song proved such a favourite it was covered by Eartha Kitt, Danny Kaye and Kirk Douglas.

He was so popular that the Empire Theatre in Glasgow ran a 'Will Fyffe' competition, with dozens of entrants singing I belong to Glasgow. Heavily disguised as himself, Fyffe entered the competition for a bet, but he could only win second prize! By the '30s, Will was one of the highest paid musical hall artistes in Britain.

His last film was The Brothers, which was released shortly after his death.

Fyffe passed away in 1947 after a tragic accident following an operation to his right ear.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Jack Buchanan (1891 - 1957 )

Walter John Buchanan was born in 1891 in Helensburgh, the son of Walter John Buchanan Sr (auctioneer) and Patricia, née McWatt. Jack attended Larchfield School, Helensburgh, and was a classmate of John Logie Baird for a short time before his father died when he was 12. The family moved to Glasgow where Jack was sent to Glasgow Academy and spent some time at Glasgow University before leaving to become an auctioneer. His first love was amateur dramatic and music hall but after failing to make it as an auctioneer he moved to London in 1912 and worked as an understudy and chorus boy before becoming a music hall comedian, appearing as Chump Buchanan. At first it was a struggle but eventually he was cast in the comic opera The Grass Widow at the Apollo Theatre. After he was declared unfit for military service in World War I. he threw himself into his West End theatre work, attracting favourable notices as a character and dancer. Between 1915–17 he toured in successful play Tonight's the Night.

Jack Buchanan made his film debut in the silent cinema, in the British silent crime film Auld Lang Syne (Sidney Morgan, 1917), starring Violet Graham. Soon he played the lead role in such silent British films as the comedy The Audacious Mr. Squire (Edwin Greenwood, 1923), Bulldog Drummond’s Third Round (1925) with Buchanan as Bulldog Drummond, and the drama Confetti (Graham Cutts, 1927) with Annette Benson. Most of the movies were second-rate, with Jack hopelessly miscast in them. On stage Jack took over from Jack Hulbert in André Charlot’s revue Bubbly, followed by another Charlot show, A To Z, in 1921. It was here Buchanan’s talent was finally recognised and he sang one of his all-time hits, ‘And Her Mother Came Too’, with Ivor Novello’s music and a lyric by Dion Titheradge. In the cast were Beatrice Lillie and a young Gertrude Lawrence. The show transferred successfully to Broadway in 1924.

In 1926 in another Charlot revue, he duetted with Gertrude Lawrence on ‘A Cup Of Coffee, A Sandwich, And You’ and the song became a massive hit in America.

Back in London, Jack teamed up with Elsie Randolph and together they appeared in dancing musicals such as Sunny, That’s A Good Girl, Mr. Whittington, This’ll Make You Whistle. For the next decade Jack flirted and joked his way through musical shows with his tall figure, elegant gestures, and the friendly drawling voice, generally having mass appeal with theatre audiences eager to forget the trials and tribulations of their daily lives. He made his debut in "talkies" in America in leading roles opposite Irene Bordoni in Paris (Clarence G. Badger, 1929), and Jeanette MacDonald in Monte Carlo (1930). His casting was not especially successful and Jack returned to England to continue his film career there.

During the 1930s, he appeared in many British films including: A man of Mayfair (Louis Mercanton, 1931) with Joan Barry and Warwick Ward; Goodnight Vienna/Magic Night (Herbert Wilcox, 1932) opposite Anna Neagle; That’s a good girl (1933); Yes, Mr. Brown (Herbert Wilcox, 1933); Brewster's Millions (Thornton Freeland, 1935) with Lily Damita ; Come Out of the Pantry (Jack Raymond, 1935) and When Knights Were Bold (1936) with Fay Wray; and Smash and Grab (Tim Whelan, 1937). In partnership with J. Arthur Rank and Charles Woolf, in 1937 he formed Jack Buchanan Productions which owned Riverside Studios in Hammersmith. He produced and directed The Sky's the Limit (1938). British film exhibitors voted him among the top ten British stars at the box office (1936, 1937 and 1938), via an annual poll in the Motion Picture Herald.

In 1938 whilst starring in the London stage musical This'll Make You Whistle, he was concurrently filming a film version and it was released while the stage version was still running. More British films of that period were Break the News (René Clair, 1938) with Maurice Chevalier, The Gang's All Here (Thornton Freeland, 1939) with Googie Withers, and The Middle Watch (Thomas Bentley, 1940) with Greta Gynt.

During the Second World War, he frequently produced his own shows, many of which were premiered in the Alhambra Theatre, Glasgow. He starred in his own musical production "It's Time to Dance", with Fred Emney, at the Lyric Theatre; and later revived Battling Butler at the New Oxford Theatre. Jack had an eye for business and was responsible, with partners, for the building and ownership of the Leicester Square Theatre, London, and the Imperial in Brighton. The Leicester Square Theatre was bombed during the war and Buchanan lost a sizeable amount of money as a result. However, he went on to manage the Garrick Theatre in 1946, and the King's Theatre in Hammersmith. In the war years The Jack Buchanan Show became popular on the radio (BBC) further increased his appeal. Jack Buchanan Productions (in which his partners were J. Arthur Rank and Charles Woolf) owned Riverside Studios in Hammersmith. Buchanan was legendary among his colleagues for his financial generosity to less prosperous actors and chorus performers.

After the war Jack Buchanan returned to New York and appeared in Harvey (1948). He continued to work on Broadway and the West End and took roles in several Hollywood musicals. In 1951 he had the unenviable task of taking over the lead in King’s Rhapsody after Ivor Novello died. By far his best known film was The Band Wagon (Vincente Minnelli, 1953),), opposite Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse. He also popped up on television shows in the USA including: Max Liebman's Spotlight in 1954 and The Ed Sullivan Show. In 1955, he performed in the hugely popular eight-part radio series Man About Town.

Jack continued his British film career with As Long as They're Happy (J. Lee Thompson, 1955), and Josephine and Men (Roy Boulting, 1955) featuring Glynis Johns. He made one French film Les carnets du Major Thompson/The Diary of Major Thompson (Preston Sturges, 1955) with Martine Carol .

Jack Buchanan died in London in 1957 from spinal cancer, when he was 66 years old. His whole style was especially notable for a relaxed, affable grace and charm which gave him tremendous sex appeal, but he was also admired by men who envied and hoped to emulate his insouciant savoir faire.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Parliamo Scottish?

Scots is the collective name for Scottish dialects known as ‘Doric’, ‘Lallans’ and ‘Scotch’ or by more local names such as ‘Buchan’, ‘Dundonian’, ‘Glesca’ or ‘Shetland’. Taken altogether, Scottish dialects are called the Scots language. It is estimated more than 1.5 million people in Scotland still speak Scots, often without being aware of it. Scottish Standard English (SSE) is described as a linguistic continuum, which balances broad Scots and Scottish English. Some speakers code switch clearly from one to the other while others style shift in a less predictable and more fluctuating manner. Generally, there is a shift to Scottish English in formal situations or with individuals of a higher social status.

English was forced upon Scots during the 16th-century Reformation. Printing was introduced to Scotland in 1506 and to encourage the Protestant doctrine texts such as the Geneva Bible (1560) were printed in English.

By the time of the English translation of the King James Bible (1611), the Scottish faithful had to read and understand English.

When King James VI of Scotland became King James I of England in 1603, he moved his court to London. The literary men of the Scottish Court moved south and adopted the English language and style of prose and verse to suit the tastes of England. In quick order the Scots literary language was overtaken by English. The influence of Gaelic speakers meant Highland English was slightly different from Lowland English phonologically, grammatically, and lexically. Similarly, the English spoken in the North-East of Scotland followed the phonology and grammar of Doric.

Scotticisms i.e. idioms or expressions are peculiar to Scots and generally can divided into two types:

Covert Scotticisms are generally unnoticed as being particularly Scottish by those using them. For example, ‘That picture still looks squint, meaning "The frame of the picture remains offset.", and

Overt Scotticisms, usually are used for stylistic effect, with those using them aware of their Scottish nature. ‘It's a sair fecht,’ meaning "It's a real struggle/It's hard going."

Over the centuries Scots words have been adopted into everyday English. Words like ‘wee,’ meaning small, and ‘bonnie,’ for pretty or attractive are two examples. The Scots linguistic habit of adding "ie" to nouns meaning smallness such as laddie and lassie for a young boy and young girl. The use of "How?" meaning "Why?" is distinctive of Scottish, Northern English and Northern Irish English. "Why not?" is often rendered as "How no?".

The four main dialects of Scots language were defined and mapped in the 1870's. These were: (1) Insular, (2) Northern, (3) Central, and (4) Southern. Each of the mon dialects contains sub dialects (i.e. words, phrases, or pronunciations, which are only found in a smaller area within a main dialect). Within sub dialects there is also forms of speech used in very local areas, such as particular cities. Central Scots is one of the main dialects of the Scots language as a whole, but also has a sub dialect called West Central Scots, and within that there is the city of Glasgow which has its own distinct city dialect.