Friday, 30 April 2010


This old tombstone is to be found in the churchyard of what was, formerly, St Mary's-at-Lambeth (next to the London home of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Lambeth Palace) and what is now The Garden Museum.

The tablet commemorates Mrs Frances De Cleve and her husband, Mr Vincent De Cleve, who died, at the age of 67, in 1827 and who is remembered with this epitaph...

Or, turning all those 'f's back into 's's...

Here lies an honest Man:
To say more would be unnecessary

It's probably an unneceffary question, but how many contemporary obituary-writers could be as succinct?

Image: Brian Sibley © 2010, uploaded via my flickr Photostream.

Monday, 26 April 2010


I am currently putting the finishing touches to my upcoming talk on the illustrations of Ronald Searle which I will be giving at The Cartoon Museum this Wednesday at 6.30 pm, and I have once again been struck not just by Searle's extraordinary versatility but by his infallible knack for capturing people we have all seen walking down the street, sitting in a train or eating at nearby restaurant table.

Sometimes his portrayals are highly naturalistic as in a series of illustrations he made to accompany articles by his first wife, Kaye Webb, for the News Chronicle and published in book-form in 1953 as Looking at London...

Ronald Searle - Looking at London (2)

Ronald Searle - Looking at London (1)

Searle subsequently adapted this reportage style to illustrate Punch pieces by the writer Alex Atkinson for a series of studies of Londoners published in 1958 as The Big City...

Ronald Searle - The Big City (1)

Ronald Searle - The Big City (2)

Other examples of his work can be seen moving closer towards caricature, while still retaining enough authenticity for us to recognise their innate truthfulness.

Here are a couple of examples from a series of articles by Geoffrey Corer (once again for Punch) that Searle illustrated and which were subsequently published in 1955 as Modern Types...

Ronald Searle - Modern Types (2)

Ronald Searle - Modern Types (1)

Finally, there are Searle's cartoon characters, such as the teachers of St Custard's in the books about Nigel Molesworth ("the goriller of 3b") which Searle created in collaboration with Geoffrey Willans: they are drawn to make us laugh, but experience tells us that they are also drawn from life...

Teachers (1)

Teachers (1)

Now, I must get back to that talk...

Images © Ronald Searle, uploaded from my flickr Photostream.

Friday, 23 April 2010


Mention was made in the comments to my recent post on the (mercifully) rarely-heard lyrics to the Star Trek theme tune that there were also words to the theme tune for another TV favourite of my youth, Bonanza - a favourite because, at the time, I had a bit of a teenage-boy-crush on Michael Landon's not-so-little Little Joe...

Anyway, enough of my pubescent fantasies, my informants told me that Lorne Greene, who played Pa Cartwright had recorded the Bonanza song and indeed he did and here it is...

And since all this started with my posting about the unsung lyrics to the Bewitched theme tune, I thought you might enjoy seeing the Bonanza boys and the Bewitched babes (along with the Man from U.N.C.L.E.) promoting the latest line-up of automobiles available from their series' sponsors, Chevrolet, back in 1965...

Wednesday, 21 April 2010


Do you remember, last year, my reporting the Miracle of the Marmite Messiah?

Well, Roger and Sheila on a recent peregrination came across another potentially miraculous manifestation...

R & S speculated that this might be a symbolic representation of Graham Sutherland's tapestry of Christ in Glory in Coventry Cathedral. I've turned Mr Sutherland's knitting on its side so - if you squint - you might just get the general idea, although I can't help wondering if R & S were gathering magic mushrooms at the time...

Or is it, they go on to ask, just Mary Poppins without her umbrella? I couldn't turn this one sideways, so you'll just have to work it out for yourself!

I'll leave you to judge. My money's on the contents of an unwanted Marmite sandwich!

Image of Graham Sutherland's Coventry tapestry by Cloudsoup's Photostream

Sunday, 18 April 2010


It was in the comments section of a post I wrote about the unsung lyrics to the Bewitched TV theme song, that the story of the unheard lyrics to the Star Trek theme song came up.

The scandalous facts are as follows...

The music for the pilot show in the series was written by Alexander Courage (left). At the time, the job probably seemed an unlikely long-term earner, but Courage was a pro: he arranged and orchestrated on some of the greatest movie musicals, including Show Boat, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers and Gigi and, until his death in 2008, worked on dozens of films and TV shows, orchestrating for John Williams on Superman and Jurassic Park and Jerry Goldsmith on Mulan, The Mummy and - er - Star Trek: The Motion Picture!

When, back in 1966, NBC picked up the Star Trek pilot and the show started its initial three-year run it was soon clear that it was heading off towards the much-sought-after and highly lucrative galaxy known as syndication. Alexander Courage could now expect to earn some decent royalties for his memorable theme tune.

But that was when the series' creator, Gene Roddenberry, stepped onto the flight deck of the Enterprise brandishing a piece of paper containing the 'lyrics' to the theme tune and laid claim to a half-share of Courage's royalties as 'co-composer'.

According to Courage, he had been pressurised into a 'hand-shake deal' that gave Roddenberry the option of writing lyrics although the contract he signed to that effect, he maintained, was done so unknowingly. Whatever the preliminaries, Roddenberry clearly saw the writing on the balance-sheet and cashed-in his option by writing lyrics that, whilst never used, generously contributed to the Roddenberry bank balance. Courage subsequently quit the series.

So, what are those mysterious lyrics?

Well, here they are - together with the original TV credit sequence - so you can sing along with Mr Roddenberry's money-spinning little ditty...

The rim of the starlight,
My love
Is wand'ring in star-flight.
I know
He'll find in star-clustered reaches
Strange love a star woman teaches.
I know his journey ends never.
His star trek
Will go on forever.
But tell him
While he wanders his starry sea,
Remember, remember me.

OK, off you go... And good luck! Personally, I can't get beyond the sixth line, although, frankly, that's more than enough!

Saturday, 17 April 2010


With the General Election looming and in the wake of the first political leaders' debate, it's good to look back to former national leaders and to contemplate their strengths and weaknesses, which is why I'll be tuning in to Doctor Who today as the Doctor sets off in answer to a call for help from Britain's WWII premier, Winston Churchill...

Oooooo! Daleks, too!

I wonder whether in, say another forty odd years, whether there'll be an episode of Doctor Who with whoever is then inhabiting the Time Lord's consciousness visiting Margaret Thatcher, Tony Blair or Gordon Brown? Let's wait and see, shall we?

When I last posted on the topic of the Doctor's new series, I reproduced a great piece of artwork showing the first ten Doctors, as seen by artist Jon Pinto.

Well, as Matt Smith settles pretty comfortably into the role of the eleventh Doctor (with two cracking episodes, so far, and what looks like more to come), Jon Pinto has added his likeness to his Who Portrait Gallery with a picture that, I think, perfectly captures Smith's look and mannerisms...

The Eleventh Doctor
And here is with his ten predecessors...

The Eleven Doctors

To find printable Doctor Who posters along with wallpapers for your computer and iphone and individual portraits of the eleven Doctors visit Jon Pinto's blog.

Images © Jon Pinto, 2010, uploaded from my flickr Photostream.

Friday, 16 April 2010


Just a quick note to tell those who find themselves near a radio tonight at 11.30 that I will be on the BBC Radio 2 Art's Show this evening talking about the 40th anniversary of the 1970 feature film version of E Nesbit's The Railway Children, starring Dinah Sheridan, Bernard Cribbins and William Mervyn with Jenny Agutter, Sally Tomsett and Garry Warren, written and directed for the screen by the late Lionel Jeffries.

If you miss the broadcast you can catch it again for seven days via BBC Radio 2's i-Player.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010


A few days back, I posted a brilliant mini-movie-masterpiece only to have remove the post because the film disappeared from Vimeo.

Now, happily, it's back on YouTube in dozens of uploads, so - if you haven't already seen it so many times that you're sick of it - here's what might happen if those early computer game favourites - Space Invaders, Tetris, Pacman, Donkey Kong and others escaped from an old TV set and invaded the real world...

Tuesday, 13 April 2010


As a writer, in these days of ebay buying and selling, it's a curious experience when you come across one of your own books up for sale. You think: "How nice! Someone bought my book?" followed immediately by: "So, why the hell are they getting rid of it?" and then, looking at the asking price: "Is that all anyone's willing to pay?"

Of course, it's much worse if the book happens to be advertised as 'signed by the author' and the person who is now disposing of it is not someone who simply queued up for a signature at a book launch on a wet Tuesday while waiting for the pubs to open, but someone to whom you once proudly and lovingly gave one of your scarce author copies!

Then again there are the mingled emotions evoked by the words 'from the estate of the late -----'

I really can't afford to bid on it, but just such a copy of one of my books - The Disney Studio Story, written with my friend and fellow Disney historian, Richard Holliss - has just come up in an auction at Howard, with an impressive pedigree.

This particular copy was not just 'signed by the authors', but was presented by them to the veteran Disney animator, the late Oliver M ("Ollie") Johnston, as seen, left, by the brilliant Peter Emslie of The Cartoon Cave)

Ollie Johnston, who was the last survivor of the group artists known at the Disney studio as 'The Nine Old Men', worked on over two dozen Disney animated features including, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Fantasia, Song of the South, Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland and Lady and the Tramp among others.

He was responsible for animating (with his long-standing friend and colleague, Frank Thomas) such unforgettable cartoon partnerships such as that between Baloo and Mowgli in The Jungle Book as well as Sir Hiss and Prince John in Robin Hood and many other memorable characterisations, among then Ollie's personal favourites: Thumper the rabbit in Bambi, Captain Hook's sidekick, Mr. Smee, in Peter Pan and Flora, Fauna and Merryweather, the three fairies in Sleeping Beauty.

Ollie once said: "They were all good friends, whom I remember fondly." And those of us lucky enough to have known Ollie will always remember him fondly.

I spent time with Ollie (usually along with Frank Thomas) on several occasions: while Richard Holliss and I were researching the books we wrote on Disney and, later, when I was making various Disney radio series with my producer, Malcolm Prince.

Anyway, various items from Ollie's estate have come up for sale and the on-site write-up certainly does a pretty good job on selling the book and its value as, what the book trade calls, 'an association copy'...

Click to enlarge

The Disney Studio Story

So, anyone got (current bid) $360 to spare?

Mind you, of course, if Richard and I hadn't signed it, it would probably have been worth more!

Disney fans might enjoy taking a look at this half-hour documentary about Ollie and his creations...

Sunday, 11 April 2010


Going back to Bewitched, again (sorry!), I want to say a few words in praise of Miss Agnes Moorehead who played that witch of a mother-in-law, Endora. She was one of the chief reasons I watched Bewitched and, since she was always on the opening credits, I was inevitably disappointed if she didn't put in an appearance.

Whilst I probably didn't acknowledge the fact at the time, Endora became a kind of covert camp icon - although maybe 'covert' isn't quite the word when one remembers the outrageous hairstyles and make-up and those sensational lime and lavender gowns!

Frankly, it's a wonder any lads who watched the series ever grew up straight!

But there was much more to Agnes Moorehead's career and talent as an actress than Bewitched. Having fallen under her spell in the sit-com, I began noticing her in her many powerful movie performances beginning with her debut as Charles Foster Kane's mother in Orson Welles' Citizen Kane...

Citizen Kane
Left to right: Harry Shannon (Father), George Coulouris (Thatcher),
Buddy Swan as the eight year old CFK and Moorehead

Whatever the movie - good, bad or mediocre - Agnes added a touch of magic to roles as diverse as Parthy Ann, Cap'n Andy's nagging wife in Showboat and Ruth Benton, the firm but humane prison governess responsible for Eleanor Parker and a gaggle of ne'er-do-wells in Caged...

She played the grumpy hypochondriac, Mrs Snow, who is subjected to Hayley Mills' 'glad game' in Pollyanna and (in one of several Oscar-nominated roles) she was Bette Davis' slatternly maid in Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte...

Hush... Hush, Sweet Charlotte
Never a 'beauty', but always 'striking' Agnes played an extraordinary range of characters and was as convincing playing shrivelled-up spinsters and sharp-tongued shrews as enigmatic women of mystery.

Here she is giving a telling cameo as a theatrical costumier with Spencer Tracey in Fred Zinneman's 1944 anti-fascist film, The Seventh Cross...

Next, I'd like to share the dramatic dénouement from the 1947 Humphrey Bogart-Lauren Bacall thriller, Dark Passage.

The details of the story-so-far don't matter much other than the important fact that Vincent Parry (Bogart's character) has escaped from San Quentin where he was incarcerated for a murder he didn't comit and has been given a new face by a plastic surgeon - which is why Madge Rapf (Moorehead) doesn't recognise him. Of course, one would have thought the voice would have been a dead giveaway! Still...

The spoof twist at the end is, of course, not in the original movie but a YouTuber's tribute to Agnes' Endora in Bewitched...

Anyway, that aside, it's a great gloves-off acting contest with Bogart...

Agnes was also a veteran radio performer and had a particular triumph with her performance of Lucille Fletcher's 1943 melodrama, Sorry, Wrong Number as part of the legendary Suspense series.

One of the most famous radio plays ever - it's very nearly a solo performance - Agnes Moorehead played Mrs Stevenson, the neurotic, bed-ridden invalid who gets a crossed line and overhears a murder being planned. She reprised the performance for seven more radio productions and included it in her one-woman stage show.

When the radio play was made into a film, Agnes was passed over in favour of Barbara Stanwyck who received an Oscar nomination (but not the Award itself) and a number of reviews that compared her performance less than favourably with Agnes' original portrayal which is a tour de force of mounting neurosis and hysteria.

The version of the play I am about to invite you listen to was broadcast live on November 18, 1948 --- just eleven weeks after Ms Stanwyck's movie opened in movie theatres!

If you've never heard this classic, then you are in for a treat. Fix yourselves a strong drink, settle back and dim the lights and let this wonderful actress take you on a journey into sheer terror...

Thanks Agnes!

And thanks, Endora, for introducing us!

And you can read more about Moorehead on Agnes' page at Harpies Bizarre.
Images uploaded via my flickr Photostream.

Thursday, 8 April 2010


My last blog post, about Clash of the Titans, was rather pleasingly received: my friend Richard Kaufman (editor of the magic magazine, Genii) quoted it on his Facebook page as "a partial haiku":

"The kraken wakes.
The audience sleeps."
The blog reader smiles. :)

And Maxine - she of the highly literary Petrona website - was kind enough to leave a comment describing my mini-critique as * blush * "The best film review I've ever read. Brilliant!"

Very kind, I'm sure; but not a patch, I think, on my all-time favourite film review, written by C A Lejeune, The Observer's long-serving movie critic, who succinctly dismissed the 1947 June Haver picture,

I Wonder Who's Kissing
Her Now

in just four devastating words...

"I couldn't care less."

Now, that is brilliant!

Wednesday, 7 April 2010


90th Birthday Greetings to


Without doubt, Ravi Shankar is the most celebrated performer of Indian music and his collaborations with George Harrison, Yehudi Menuhin, Philip Glass and others brought him and his music to a world-wide audience.

To celebrate his birthday, here are two magic moments from Shankar's career as a film composer: firstly a scene from the third film in Satyajit Ray's brilliant epic portrayal of Indian life, The Apu Trilogy - Pather Panchali (Song of the Little Road), Aparajito (The Unvanquished) and Apur Sansar (The World of Apu) - made between 1955 and 1959...

And, following Shankar's discovery by the Beatles (or, perhaps, vice versa!) and the first rush of international acclaim, here are the opening minutes of Jonathan Miller's 1966 TV play Alice in Wonderland (yes, I do know I keep going on and on about that film!) with a score performed by the composer and oboist, Leon Goosens...

Monday, 5 April 2010


Just back from the cinema and here's my review of Clash of the Titans:

The kraken wakes.
The audience sleeps.

"There is still a demi-god in Argos." *

* (Batteries not included)


Today's Bank Holiday outing is...


The awesome million-dollar might of Warner Bros' 21st century digital effects in 3D...


My memories of the stop-motion genius of Ray Harryhausen & Co back in 1981
(younger readers start here)...

Who will emerge victorious?

Will there be any contest?

Sunday, 4 April 2010



EASTER DAY and in celebration of this ancient, holy, festival, here is the glorious 'Hallelujah Chorus' from George Frederick Handel's Messiah, as performed on Andre Rieu's Live From Radio City Music Hall in New York City in 2004, with the Johann Strauss Orchestra and the Harlem Gospel Choir.

Hallelujah Choruses don't get much more triumphalist than this...

wishing you a happy


Tuscan Sunrise

Images: Brian Sibley © 2010, uploaded via my flickr Photostream.

Saturday, 3 April 2010



Why, DOCTOR Who, of course...

A new series of the legendary TV series begins tonight (BBC One 6:20 pm) with the time-travelling Doctor sporting his latest - and eleventh - physical embodiment in the person of Matt Smith...

How appropriate, bearing in mind the Doctor's celebrated anonymity, that he should, at long last, be played by a man named Smith!

And in case you've forgotten any of Mr Smith's predecessors, I found this tribute on YouTube as a reminder of Who Was Who --- well, at least, all of the legitimate ones because, as all Who-fanatics know, there were also one or two locum doctors such as those who stood in for deceased actors, took on the part for spoof versions or, in the case of Peter Cushing, portrayed the Doctor on the film.

So, with that caveat, here (courtesy of YouTuber, Brian Rimmer) is the Doctor Who first eleven...

I won't pretend that I've been a constant fan and devoted follower of Doctor Who throughout his 47 year-long regeneration process, but I've always checked out each new incarnation of the Doctor if, for no other reason, because of a sentimental attachment to my youthful memories of where it all began...

To be honest, I've never quite got over the fact that I missed the very first appearance of Doctor Who on our black and white telly or the fact that, whenever I mention this, David reminds me that he was watching!

It was teatime - 5:15 in the afternoon of 23 November 1963 (the day after the assassination in Dallas of President John F Kennedy) - when the BBC transmitted episode one of 'An Unearthly Child' with William Hartnell as the enigmatic Doctor.

Come Monday morning, everyone at school was talking about this amazing new TV show about a Time Lord zapping through time and space in a machine called a TARDIS that was disguised as a then commonplace piece of British street furniture - a police telephone box.

The following Saturday, I was on the sofa (I was already too old to be hiding behind it!) ready to watch the next episode and - wonder of wonders! - in response to a phenomenal public reaction to the series' debut and the fact that other hapless youngsters had missed the beginning, the BBC preceded the second episode with a repeat of the first! Brilliant! I was hooked...

It's a truism (but true for all that!) that everyone's favourite Doctor is the one they watched when they were growing up. For me it was first and foremost, the irascible, grandfatherly William Hartnell followed by the quirkily eccentric Patrick Troughton and how utterly, fantastically exciting it was, back then, when one became the other!

Here's the fan picture I wrote for at the time...

Ther Second Doctor
I remained a fairly consistent devotee through the Jon Pertwee and Tom Baker years (two more highly idiosyncratic characterizations) and I quite enjoyed Peter Davison's sojourn as the first really young Doctor although, following on from his appearances in All Creatures Great and Small, I could never quite stop thinking that this doctor was actually only a vet!

Sad to say, I pretty much gave up and lost hope when Colin Baker took over; although I gave Sylvester McCoy a go and still think her deserves credit for trying (against overwhelming odds) to give Who back something of what he had once been.

I was, frankly, optimistic (wrongly so, as it turned out) when Paul McGann made his brief, but quite impressive, foray in the role and - after almost a decade of being lost in space - was engaged by Christopher Eccleston's energised portrayal, despite having quite a few issues with Producer/Writer Russell T Davies' re-birthing of the series.

Davies undeniably rejuvenated Who's popularity with all those spin-offs and, in casting David Tennant as the Tenth Doctor at least ensured the continuation of the character's mercurial personality. Here are those Top Ten Whos as seen by the talented Jon Pinto...

The Ten Doctors by Jon Pinto

Now, as the the Brigadier once famously said, "Here we go again..."

The creative reigns have passed to Steven Moffat, a dedicated Who-fan (and, arguably the man responsible for some of the best of the recent Who scripts), with the mantle of William Hartnell now falling on the slight shoulders of Matt Smith as the eleventh Doctor...

Of course, you all spotted the moment of homage...

Yes, well that's more than enough to get an old Whoster like me, tuning in, I can tell you!

And, look, here's further proof of my loyalty...

The First Doctor

And you can find out What's What on the Doctor Who - The Official Site

Images uploaded via my flickr Photostream.


By the way, just before 12:30 am this morning, the hit counter on my blog reached a pleasingly configured number...

Thanks for reading all those pages, folks!

Friday, 2 April 2010



We recently went to the Courtauld Gallery to see Michaelangelo's Dream an exhibition centered on Michelangelo Buonarroti’s masterpiece, The Dream, regarded as one of the greatest of all Renaissance drawings.

This complex work shows a nude youth being roused by a winged spirit from the vices that surround him...

The Dream
The Dream is thought to have been part of the celebrated group of drawings which Michelangelo made as gifts for Tommaso de' Cavalieri, a young Roman nobleman with whom he had fallen passionately in love.

With loans from international collections, the exhibition unites The Dream for the first time with these extraordinary drawings which include a range of subject material from the pagan to the sacred, including The Fall of Phaeton, the son of Helios the sun god (who was destroyed by a thunderbolt from Zeus for taking the chariot of the sun dangerously near the Earth) and The Rape of Ganymede, in which a similarly muscular youth to the one in The Dream is ravished by Jupiter in the form of an eagle...

The Rape of Ganymede
Also on show are a number of sketches for a portrayal of The Risen Christ...

The Risen Christ
Talk of Michaelangelo brings me, on this Good Friday, to another of his masterpieces, his Pietà...

Sculpted in 1499 and now housed in St Peter's Basilica, Vatican City, the work depicts the dead Christ, following his crucifixion, lying in the lap of his mother.

I find it amazing that an artist whose hands created such delicate artistry as the drawings shown above was, at the same time, capable of the the physical labour of liberating with chisel and mallet such a vivid image of poignancy hidden within the bulk of a vast chunk of marble.

There are many fascinating aspects to this sculpture which is so iconic that we almost fail to see it as it must have appeared to the first people to view it, not least the fact that the practical difficulty of presenting a female figure cradling the body of a full grown man means that the figure of Christ is sculpted to a different scale to that of the figure of his mother.

Also much discussed has been the Madonna's youthful appearance, for which a number of explanations - some theological, some literary - have been offered. One of the more fanciful - though unquestionably poetic - is that the sculpture creates an impression in the viewer's mind of a very different image: that of a nativity scene with Mary holding Jesus as a baby. So, it is suggested, Mary's youthfulness and her serene (and apparently unagonised) facial expression, coupled with the position of the arms suggest that she is seeing the once newborn child in the body of the now dead man...

Among Michelangelo's sculptures, the Pietà is unique because it is only one he ever signed - not when he carved it, but later on hearing that some of those who saw it thought it had been sculpted by one of his competitors.

Michaelangelo's Dream continues until 18 May at The Courtauld Gallery, Somerset House, Strand, London, WC2R 0RN

Hours: Daily 10:00–18:00 (last admission 17:30)
Late Opening: Thursday 14 May: until 21:00
Admission: £5 (Adults) £4 (Concessions)

Photo of Michaelangelo's Pietà by Ralph46 of Other images uploaded via my flickr Photostream.

Thursday, 1 April 2010


Trust you didn't get taken in by the extraordinary story in today's Guardian - by that well known correspondent, Olaf Priol - about the new poster strategy to be adopted by labour in the forthcoming General Election...

NEW Labour Party Campaign

You can read the full account of this revisionist style of campaigning here in Labour's election strategy: bring on no-nonsense hard man Gordon Brown and these are a few of the other proposed poster designs...

Hard Man

Pension Thief



Mr Brown

If only the next few weeks leading up to May 6th were likely to be as much fun!!

Images uploaded via my flickr Photostream.