Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

The Singer Not The Song

It's been fun reading the recent "Shepperton Babylon" by Matthew Sweet, an expose of film-making in Britain during its heyday with memories of those still alive. THE SINGER NOT THE SONG saga is particularly choice, as the author got to interview its director Roy Ward Baker (he died last year in his 90s).

This was Dirk Bogarde's last film under his Rank Organisation contract and by this time he was highly dissatisfied to say the least. It seems nobody wanted to do this western set in Mexico - but filmed in Spain,so it has that Spanish western look and of course all those English accents. This may have been meant as a serious film at the time, but is now regarded as a camp classic and so screamingly awful that it is practically a comedy, and the height of trash. Bogarde is Anacleto the outlaw who terrorises a small Mexican town, aided by his gang - Anacleto hates the church and all it stands for. Enter dynamic new Irish priest- Father Keogh (John Mills) and a triangle forms between the two men and local girl Locha (French Bardot-type Mylene Demongeot) though it soon seems that Anacleto is really interested in the priest [who only wants to save his soul]. Tensions arise as locals are killed off one by one alphabetically until Anacleto is tricked into entering the church where he expects to hear praise for him but instead Father Keogh denouces him and a shootout ensues with both men dying in the dust clutching each other as Anacleto murmers "the singer not the song".

This tosh was from a novel by well-known Audrey Erskine-Lindop (who also wrote BLANCHE FURY and I THANK A FOOL, both filmed), and scripted by Nigel Balchin. Torremolinos and surrounding area stands in for Mexico and reliable Laurence Naismith is among the supporting cast, . Baker recalls how impossible Bogarde was during the shoot, and was more concerned about his tight leather trousers. He makes Anacleto terribly camp which adds to the fun.

It seems Bogarde was furious (and determined to be 'difficult') as John Mills became the object of his affections - someone like Peter Finch (one of the many who wisely turned it down) would have been more ideal, which would have created some dynamism between the men - Mills is just too 'homely' here. The whole thing though is a ludicrously overheated farrago and remains one of the great trash classics. I was 14 when it played at my local cinema and my mother somehow thought it was a musical so she went to see it with me, I don't think she was very pleased to find it was a western - but I was well into my Bogarde and Loren infatuation then!

Dirk would go on to VICTIM next and shattering of his Idol of the Odeons image, the book though is a great read on the making of this troubled masterpiece! - it's not very complimentary about Dirk though!

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