Knowing something about period style (fashion) can be a right pain when watching a drama set in the past. LJ was picking apart ‘The Hour’ (BBC) almost from the start (Bel Rowley’s make-up wasn’t quite right, apparently). What irked me more was Freddie Lyon’s insistence on wearing his tie loose without the top button of his shirt done up. I’m convinced that even the most anti-establishment of men, especially those in the media, would have maintained a proper tie at all times. His permanently floppy fringe was annoying too. Not once did he appear to have taken a comb to it, as any man of the era would have done. Despite the make-up, costume and research departments failing in their duty, I generally enjoyed the series.
In ‘The Hour’ the news team covered an anti-war (Suez) demo. Enter Jean Rice, daughter of Archie, ‘The Entertainer’ of Tony Richardson’s 1960 film. Jean’s the type who would have gone on the demo in her duffle coat.
No concerns about period detail here, of course, and what a performance by Lawrence Olivier as the devious, desperate music hall performer, a man in denial of so much, and bent on finding his big break at the expense of everyone around him.Osborne’s play and this adaptation show old-fashioned entertainment in decline. Well, everything is decaying, including the foundations of family life. It’s all a sham, a facade (like Archie’s act), which crumbles at the first sign of trouble. Old England is dying, and soon the theatres would be filled with young girls screaming at Rock’n’Roll bands. Music hall, and a belief in Britain as the bastion of moral correctness, would collapse under the new wave of filmmakers, musicians, designers and political scandal to come. Hello Swinging England! Not that social change ever happened quite so thoroughly, as any true historian will tell you. There was much of old England in evidence throughout all the changes since no generation can entirely eradicate all that’s been created by the previous one, as much as it may wish to.
In the youth club that she runs, Jean, is ending the painting class whilst kids are jiving in the room next door. She has a lot of trouble with The Youth, naturally. Her posh boyfriend wants her to forget all that because they’re a lost cause, but Jean loves her work. That youth club is a fine model for what’s needed today, I reckon. The rioters could do with a place where they can paint for an hour before going next door to jive. OK, not jive, but do whatever The Youth do to their choice of music. Unfortunately, much of their music seems to be a howl of protest about social conditions, which undermines my whole idea. If their idols sang (or rapped) more about girls who are sweet sixteen, or the joys of hip-hopping around the clock, they might be less focussed on finding reasons to hate society. So, there is the answer: clean up the lyrical content of Youth Music, and give ‘em some paints and a blank canvas. It didn’t stop Teddy Boys being a nuisance, but at least one of them might have turned out to be a decent artist.