Matilda and saucy postcards

5-tim-copy-of-mcgillA sequence I am working on at the moment (Matilda by Harry Champion*) to complete the two music halls films draws inspiration form the work of Donald McGill.

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Just after the war, about 1300 subversive picture postcards, redolent in double-entendres, were seized by the police and a court case was held to judge whether these cards were undermining public morality. Oddly, it is exactly the same sort of humour that turns up on screen a few years’ later in the “carry on films”. They got away with it. The postcard industry was not so fortunate. The line taken by the postcard artists in court, however, was that the pictures were only offensive to those people corrupt enough to appreciate the risqué jokes. Quite a brilliant bit of legal subterfuge in itself.

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The king of the seaside postcard was Donald McGill. I have spent many months copying his images and my moleskin is stuffed with them! It is only when you look at what an artist does very carefully that you appreciate the cleverness of composition and the recurring features. Donald McGill is really a very good draughtsman! What I love perhaps more than the expressions which are excellent and well-observed are the ways he breaks the frame- constantly!

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His images are just the flip-side of the Dandy and the Beano. The adult-version. His men are whimpy, his women rubenesque. Here are my copies of some pictures by other postcard illustrators – the first one is clearly Edwardian so there is some history to this…

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*Really interesting lyric which I have avoided:

“Matilda she went to a fancy dress ball and she played an original part.
She rubbed herself over with raspberry jam and she went as a raspberry tart.
I went up to hug her and give her a kiss. Well, the jam was all over my kite.
I know she’s a sticker, but lor’ what a licker! I shouted, “You’ve done it tonight.”

The kite in this case would be his belly as in the expression “stuff my kite”. The expression is also in the other song “Boiled beef and carrots”- ‘From morn till night, Blow out your kite on Boiled Beef and Carrots’

“Played an original part”, which I have retained, is a great line with the suggestion that Matilda was not only dressed as something unusual but that she was being a bit rude too.

In rhyming slang “a raspberry tart” is flatulence.

“discovered that I was a jay” – in 1880, this generally meant a fool and is retained in the US in the word “jaywalker”

“the dicky”- slang for shirt.

2 thoughts on “Matilda and saucy postcards

  1. This is the sort of subject that would make an excellent BBC programme. I wonder if anyone has done it or suggested yet that you do it? More than that, just imagine what this wouyld look like if some of the postcartds were moving/ animated! What capers! Lor What larks there would be then!

  2. Pingback: Matilda and saucy postcards – Site Title

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