In 1969, David Hockney was asked by Vogue to do a drawing of Cecil Beaton, David went to stay with Cecil for three days at Reddish...
"To begin with I was utterly appalled, having remained in some romantic but extremely uncomfortable pose for a great deal too long, when I saw an outline in Indian ink of a bloated, squat, beefy businessman. He laughed. No it wasn't very good, and he embarked upon another which turned out to be just as bad"
"About eight horrors were perpetrated while the days advanced until, finally, something rather good emerged".
"It is always fascinating to see someone as remote as oneself working in the same field. I was intrigued to see him admiring things that I like from a completely different point of view. We could not be farther apart as human beings and yet I find myself completely at ease with him and stimulated by his enthusiasm. For he has this golden quality of being able to enjoy life".
"He is never blasé, never takes anything for granted. Life is a delightful wonderland for him; much of the time he is wreathed in smiles. He laughs aloud at television and radio. He is the best possible audience, though by no means simple. He is sophisticated in that he has complete purity. There is nothing pretentious about him; he never says anything he does not mean. In the world of art intrigue he is a complete natural".
"After dinner at Dickie Buckle's, David talked of the coming of the Golden Age. He had read many philosophers and has thought a great deal. In the next forty years all will change. The computer will do away with work; everyone will be an artist".
A recent photograph of David Hockney
Excerts from Cecil Beatons Diary, 1963-74 The Parting Years.
"She wowed Noel Coward, fascinated Fellini and seemed destined to become a
huge star. But after a vampish turn in 1966's 'Carry on Screaming',
Fenella Fielding's film career never recovered".
Recently I watched an excellent documentary from BBC4's time shift series, 'Hotel Deluxe', all about the history of the deluxe hotel. What made it extra special was the narration, beautifully delivered in the unmistakable, seductive tones of Fenella Fielding. It was so good to hear that voice again, and what a voice, a perfect English cut-glass accent with a seductive huskiness that makes men melt and women envy, I am not aware that I have heard it in advertising but I would be very surprised if La Fielding has not had offers, it's the kind of voice that could persuade you to buy or do anything.
I first became aware of Fenella Fielding when as a child I watched her in 'Carry on Screaming', the film had a lasting effect on me, and is my favourite carry on, mainly due to Fenella, I have never forgotten her. I don't know how well known the carry on series was outside of Britain, they were a series of low budget comedy films, which relied on slapstick, farce and double entendres, usually featuring the same group of actors, who were poorly paid. The films were made between 1958 and 1978 and are as British as fish and chips, kiss me quick hats and Blackpool Rock and people either love them or loathe them. In carry on screaming, Fenella stole the show, even though career wise it was not her finest hour, her screen presence is undeniable.
After watching hotel deluxe, I got curious, I wanted to know what happened to Fenella, after a bit of rooting around I unearthed this interview by Robert Chalmers, from The Independant on Sunday, 24th February 2008, the interview is quite long so I have just included the most interesting bits...
Fenella Fielding, by Duffy for Vogue 1961
It's one of the mysteries of British life that Fenella Fielding, whose wit and
distinctive stage presence captivated figures such as Kenneth Tynan, Noël
Coward and Federico Fellini, should have drifted into obscurity rather than
being celebrated – to use a phrase deservingly derided by Alan Bennett, but
in this case the only one that will do – as a national treasure. Fielding
pioneered the notion that a young British woman could write and perform
stand-up comedy, with her solo shows and musical revues at places such as
Peter Cook's Establishment club. Her Hedda Gabler was described by The Times
as "one of the experiences of a lifetime". Yet she has somehow
come to be remembered only as a sort of cartoon vamp. If there's a single
image that defines her in the public's memory, it's the one in which
Valeria, her character in Carry on Screaming, who is a member of the living
dead, reclines on a chaise-longue and asks "Do you mind if I smoke?"
Seconds later, clouds of dry ice appear, apparently rising from her
generously exposed torso.
Shivering on the forecourt of the Dorchester are a group of photographers
waiting for a Keira Knightley or a Johnny Depp. Seeing Fenella Fielding, who
emerges from a taxi dressed modestly but elegantly in a charcoal leather
raincoat and her trademark white-collared blouse, the entire group turns to
look at her, as if instinctively sensing the presence of a true star.
Fielding, who is one of the industry's more retiring figures, had explained
that she couldn't meet me at her west London flat because she was having
building work done. We sit down for tea in the hotel bar. Her appearance has
scarcely changed over the past 30 years: somehow – and by what strategies I
don't ask her – she has retained her looks without developing the alarming
skeletal appearance acquired by actresses whose faces have had "work".
Her age has been the subject of some debate. She says she was 73 in November.
Enemies, some of whom appear to have tampered with her Wikipedia entry,
ungallantly ' assert that she has been with us slightly longer than that.
There is, she tells me, a significant gap in years between herself and her
brother Basil, otherwise known as Baron Feldman of Frognal. The baron, a
former plastic-toy magnate whose business interests, according to one
report, have included "Sindy dolls, aircraft kits and yo-yos", is
an influential figure in the Conservative Party.
"It must be quite a gap," I suggest, "because Basil gives his
age in Who's Who as 81."
"It is," she says. "But you'll have to be vague about that. Or
I may never work again."
Quite why her age should be of concern to anyone, I'm not sure, given that she
has lost nothing in terms of swiftness of thought or memory: there was no
point during our several hours of conversation at which she had to pause to
search for a name. She's sharp, engaging, and discusses the work of writers
ranging from Stella Gibbons to Patrick Marber. Like her old friend Kenneth
Williams, she maintains an exaggeratedly robust façade, which serves as a
buffer against a potentially cruel and intrusive world. The tone of ironic
seduction and improbable poshness that she brought to her two Carry on...
films and movies such as Doctor in Clover, never fades. When Patrick
McGoohan asked her to be the voice that hails the villagers in his 1967
television series, The Prisoner, she recalls, "He told me not to be too
sexy. I mean," she adds, "such a thought would never have occurred
Most performers who have spent over 50 years in showbusiness have generated a
thick and colourful stack of newspaper cuttings. But this actress's file is
slim, and contains almost nothing in terms of substantive information about
her. She is not, as it turns out, an aristocrat; Fielding is a stage name
and Basil, her only sibling, is a life peer whose sponsors, when he entered
the Lords, were Margaret Thatcher and Cecil Parkinson.
"Daddy had a cinema," she says. "At Silvertown. In north London."
"Did you go there, as a girl?" "Yes." "What did you
see?" "I can't remember. I can remember what I ate. Coconut
squares dipped in chocolate, wrapped in gold paper." Fielding laughs. "Lovely."
She admits to being the daughter of Philip Feldman, who arrived in Britain
aged about three, from Russia, and his wife Tilly, who was Romanian. She
concedes that she grew up in Lower Clapton, Hackney, and went to North
London Collegiate School, but won't say which London drama school she
"I think you're on record as saying it was Rada."
"I ... it's not important. I didn't complete the course. There were rows
"Because your parents didn't want you to act?" "I had to hide
every morning, until Daddy had gone out to work. And then stay out late to
try to avoid him in the evening. Because of these terrible rows. Mummy would
come and try to get me to go back home in the middle of the day. After about
a year the school said look, this cannot carry on. I had to leave."
She was dispatched to secretarial college. Concerning her ambition to act, she
once said, "I think my parents had visions of me being found in the
Thames with six illicit foetuses in my womb and needle marks up my arm."
Asking her questions, I tell her, I keep being reminded of what the southern
Spanish say about the Catalans, namely that they are so secretive that if
you meet them in a department-store lift, they won't tell you if they're
going up or down. She has never married, something which – combined with the
many friendships she has had with gay men, such as Francis Bacon, Kenneth
Williams and author Daniel Farson – have led some to assume her to be
"I suppose it's only natural, if you don't have prominent liaisons. But
my closest lady friends, if they heard that, they would shriek with laughter."
"Have you lived your life alone?"
"I don't think that would be entirely true. Not really. Years ago, a
woman asked me: 'Do you have a boyfriend?' I told her: 'I have two lovers.'
She got very upset and said: 'What a terrible thing to say.' Why was that
terrible? And later on, I repeated this to a man who was gay. He said:
'Well, that is terrible. It must only ever be one person.' I said: 'Oh.
Right. Fine. I see. I'll remember that. Thank you for the tip.'"
With Tony Curtis in Drop Dead Darling 1966
Cecil Beaton, 1972
Was there one moment, I ask Fielding, where she might have broken away from
the stereotype typified by Carry on Screaming? "I turned down the
chance to work with Frederico Fellini in the late-1960s." The director
of La Strada and La Dolce Vita, she adds, "had a big thing about me. He
saw me on stage in the Sardou comedy, Let's Get a Divorce. He wanted me to
do this film in which I'd play the incarnation of six different men's
desires. Not a bad role." Fielding laughs. "You see, Fellini had
never heard of Carry on... He just saw what he saw and thought: I like that.
It was thrilling. I had to meet him at a hotel. It was a fascinating time;
full of secret telegrams and so on. He was gorgeous. But I'd already said
yes to a play at Chichester. I thought it would be dishonourable to let them
down. I would say that's the thing that I really regret."
"What happened to the Fellini film?" "He never made it. He sold
the script. What I did was really stupid, I know. But everybody does
something really stupid. That was my one."
It's not as if she hasn't done outstanding work in recent years: Dearest
Nancy, Darling Evelyn, her dramatised performance of the letters between
Nancy Mitford and Evelyn Waugh, has toured to excellent reviews, but always
in small venues. And she had a successful tour of Ireland in 2006 with The
In 1996, at the tiny New End Theatre in Hampstead, the theatre director Andrew
Visnevski gave Fielding a starring role in Maria, the life story of Polish
poet Maria Pawlikowska-Jasnorzewska. (She was a truly great writer, often
referred to as the Polish Oscar Wilde – just why has Ms
Pawlikowska-Jasnorzewska never become a household name?) Talking to
Visnevski, I mentioned how many contemporary films I'd seen – mostly, but
not exclusively, comedies – in which Fielding might have shone. The scarcity
of her recent appearances on screen has, I suggested, been little short of
"There are so many parts she could have played," Visnevski said. "Her
mind is crystal-clear, she does yoga every day, and she is still interested
in everything. She judges films for Bafta. I cast her in that straight
biographical play about a woman writer who dies of cancer partly because I
wanted to see her shed that caricaturish Carry on... image that has haunted
her for years. She was just phenomenal. She is an incredible, multi-faceted
"So why isn't she working more?"
"Everybody sees Fenella through the image she's created. She is, let's
face it, one of the last great stars in England. And every great star has an
image. But hidden under there is a vigorous, highly intelligent, uniquely
talented and sensitive artist who still has a great deal to offer."
Uniquely talented she may be, but the urgent question that faces Fenella
Fielding is how long it may be before any contemporary casting directors
notice. When we leave The Dorchester, the photographers turn to stare at her
again. Fielding seems oblivious to them. She has to prepare for an audition
the following day, she says, but she doesn't like to talk about prospective
roles in case she doesn't get them. She picks her way across the forecourt,
which is crowded with limousines and taxis, and boards a bus for Marble
Arch, still dreaming of a less trivial kind of fame.
I for one would love to see Fenella back on our screens, casting directors take note, Dame Maggie, DameEileen and Dame Judy are all fabulous but I am sure there is room for Fenella too, she is utterly wonderful.
We have returned from our jaunt to France's Mediterranean coast and I am already missing it. They say people are; town people, country people, mountain people or coastal people, I am a bit of all of those, however whenever I am on or near the Mediterranean coast, I feel a sense of well being and contentment that I cannot explain, it runs deeper than just a holiday thing, my hairdresser, describes my hair as Mediterranean! Perhaps my early ancestors hailed from some place on the shores of the Mediterranean.
Now back in the foothills of the Pyrenees, the weather is growing colder and there is the distinct smell of Autumn in the air, the first dusting of snow appeared on the mountains the other morning. The Mediterranean won't really experience colder weather till around November.
I know some people who have moved from the Mediterranean coast to other parts of France because they miss the seasons, although there are seasons in that part of the world, they are less defined. There is a point in Southern France and I can tell you exactly where it is, it is just after Carcasonne, the landscape starts to change, green fields and deciduous trees decrease in numbers and are replaced by pines, cypresses and vineyards as you reach Narbonne you get your first glimpse of the sparkling blue Mediterranean and the further east you go, the landscape becomes increasingly Mediterranean, driving through towns you see Bougainvillea, Oleander and olive trees in abundance, the architecture changes, the colours change, tiles on roofs change, the style of the shutters on the buildings change and most significantly, the light changes...
I could not resist snapping this 2CV, they are getting rarer in France, you don't see this icon of France on the roads as often as you used to. Judging by the flowers, attached by a ribbon, I suspect this one has just been used for a wedding, possibly carrying the bride and groom. My friend Veronique over at French Girl in Seattle has just written a superb post about the 2CV, pop over and visit her, she has one of the most informative and interesting blogs regarding France and French life.
Most of these photos were taken in Antibes, we spent an afternoon there with Belle Mere, she had not been for quite a while, she reminisced about a restaurant, near an English bookshop, she used to frequent around 20 years ago, imagine her delight when she discovered the restaurant and bookshop still there. The restaurant was different to how she remembered it, much more modern and swanky now and the bookshop is larger, needless to say we had a delightful lunch and afterwards wandered round the bookshop.
I have a bit of a mental block today, three posts in draft that are not quite right, so I leave you with this rather interesting article from The Sunday Times...
For anyone who has ever mused, "if only walls could talk", help could soon be at hand.
Scientists have created a way of linking objects to a specific web page allowing, for example, the buyer of a second hand car to watch a video left by the previous owner or access the recollections of people earlier inside a room.
The concept works by use of quick response (QR) codes, which resemble large bar codes. They are attached to objects and when scanned with a smartphone they link with a website specific to that item. Users can post their comments or memories of items to create a social network of things rather than people.
It was developed by Andrew Hudson-Smith, director of the Centre for Advanced Spacial Analysis at University College London, and a team of artists and scientists working on a project to build a social networking site of objects called Tales of Things.
"It is a mixture of facebook, the Antiques Roadshow and e Bay", he said. "For the first time the item can give you information about it's own history and background and new owners can continue to add to that story from the cradle to the grave.
I have heirlooms and I just wish I could point my mobile phone at them and see my grandmother talking about why she bought it or how she came to own it."
The technology has already been tested by the charity Oxfam and will be introduced at 20 shops next year.
Customers will be able to scan QR codes attached to second-hand clothes and hear audio tracks or watch videos recorded by previous owners.
The singer Annie Lennox was one of those involved in the trial. In a video attached to a silk dress she donated, Lennox explained how she wore it to Nelson Mandela's 90th birthday party in London's Hyde Park.
Sarah Farquhar, Oxfam's head of retail, said the additional personal messages had boosted sales by 41%.
"In our disposable society it makes people stop and think about the value of their things and the memories attached to them," she said.
The Tales of Things project is funded by a £1.4m research grant from the Digital Economy Research Councils UK.
As well as being used by Oxfam, the technology has been installed at 4,000 bus stops in Norway, where passengers can retrieve information from other commuters about delays.
"If you look at how the technology works, you could use it in a range of different ways," Hudson-Smith said.
"We could get to a stage where you can prove the geographic location of every object that has a tag on. That means an insurance firm would be able to prove what you owned and whether it was still in your home, which would cut down on fake claims. You could also trace stolen items.
"When it comes to food, you are more likely to buy something if you know where it comes from, for example, by having a tag on a box of eggs. If you see a video of the farmer talking and you see the hens running around free range, then you are more likely to buy the eggs and pay a higher price for them."
On the Tales of Things website, people have posted memories about treasured possessions, ranging from a Star Wars Yoda mug to the pier at Aberystwyth, north Wales.
Hudson-Smith said: "It's Like leaving a living museum. We're aiming to trace every object from the cradle to the grave to add life to objects so that our stories can live on in our things for future generations to find."
Samantha Jones in Nina Ricci, by Gianni Penati, Vogue 1968
It's been one of those drizzly, damp weekends here in the Pyrenees, after a hectic couple of weeks, its very welcome, been extremely lazy, all cozied up, with plenty of red wine and nibbles at hand, messing about on the computer, reading and watching films. As I type this MG is busy in the kitchen, preparing his legendary roast chicken and roast potatoes. I spotted the above picture on my internet wanderings and almost had to reach for the smelling salts, I love it, this tunic is beautifully simple, classic, timeless and elegant. I am sorely tempted to send an e mail to my BF, who at this moment is somewhere in the garment district of Hong Kong, 'Ivory silk, please and you know my measurements'! I think it would look sublime teamed with black, silk, wide legged palazzo pants.
What else, more of the same really with chocolates, ready for tonight, when I will be firmly rooted to the sofa, watching the first hour and a half special of the much awaited, second series of the phenomenon known as....