an update on dubbing in Russia

HTB update, background and summary

censorship and dubbing comic strip.jpg

Here are links to previous blogs about this issue:

Bolting the stable door

michael grade on Kyle by TIM.jpg

The media are out in force debating the merits and format of of the Jeremy Kyle show.

Statement from ITV regarding The Jeremy Kyle Show
Carolyn McCall, ITV’s CEO, announced today: “Given the gravity of recent events we have decided to end production of The Jeremy Kyle Show.
“The Jeremy Kyle Show has had a loyal audience and has been made by a dedicated production team for 14 years, but now is the right time for the show to end.
“Everyone at ITV’s thoughts and sympathies are with the family and friends of Steve Dymond.”
The previously announced review of the episode of the show is underway and will continue.
ITV will continue to work with Jeremy Kyle on other projects.

The show has been on the air for 16 years- it seems a bit rich to be questioning its ethics after so much time. Even when there was an Ofcom rebuke in 2014, the series continued.

The show was predicated on arrogance. This is what Kyle said,

“Look! These people are dirt! You, we, are better than them! Now let’s applaud their adorable efforts to make something of their paltry lives.” But the arrogance goes well beyond Kyle himself and his band of itv cronies whipping up aggression backstage.


Mary Poppins in the USSR

There is an appalling Mary Poppins’ film produced by Mosfilm called “Goodbye Mary Poppins”Meri Poppins, do svidaniya, which was made, I assume, without permission from PL Travers. However, said Pamela actually visited the USSR in 1932 before she published Mary Poppins. Maybe Mary Poppins was already partly on paper by then? It is tantalizing to speculate.

Travers, P. L. 3.jpg

I thought when I read her account that I would find evidence that she was a secret communist and would altogether have approved of the Russians stealing her copyright. Perhaps she never knew. Perhaps she stayed silent because she thought the soviet film might spite Disney. Whatever she knew of the film, though, there can be no doubt that she dislikes the Soviet system itself.

The book, her first, is a transition piece. She even dedicates it to herself (HLG), or rather to the old self that she was in the process of shedding. She went to Russia having just recovered from TB as Helen Lyndon Goff but she returns as PL Travers. Two months after publishing “Excursion” she published Mary Poppins under her new name.


She was going on a trip well-trodden by the arts groupies in the UK organised through INTOURIST and VOKS. A few months before publishing Mary Poppins in 1934, (so in the same year as Katherine Susannah Prichard’s THE REAL RUSSIA but a few years before E. M. Delafield would publish Straw Without Bricks, or The Provincial Lady in Russia, which incidentally quite explains why so many Russian girls are encouraged even today to read the appalling Diary of a Provincial lady!) she published an account of her trip to Moscow called “Moscow Excursion”. She writes, ‘going to Russia, it appears, is almost as hazardous and complicated a business as going to Australia must have been in the days of Captain Cook.” She called it “a chance of a lifetime or a piece of utter recklessness.” She says that she went for “pure enjoyment: it is difficult for me to think or feel politically.” Unlike George Bernard Shaw, she did not meet Stalin but she saw him, as ‘a dark Asiatic face huddled in one corner’ of a car. But it meant nothing much to her. “Nobody, it appears, can conceive that a person who is admittedly neither for nor against the Soviet regime should want to go there.”


Her trip, accompanied by a delegation of british trade unionists whom she calls the “woikers” together with a handful of earnest academics (“serious and solemn”), began in Leningrad and went to Moscow by way of Novgorod (a part of the trip that was later cancelled when all available transport broke down). She was on a journey that proved to be a standard of Soviet propaganda, what Malcolm Muggeridge in 1972 called “one of the wonders of our age”, and what I assume at least two of the mothers of my prep-school friends must have been on.

Travers is not terribly respectful. She disliked the traditional version of Swan lake. She is irritated that the Kremlin is shut. there was a Congress going on. Meanwhile she was taken round nurseries, prisons, hospitals:

“here we are”, she writes, “solemnly trooping about looking at boots, babies and criminals as though they were bits of the True Cross”.

She brings with her 6 lemons which she distributes to a poor Muscovite, “his face suddenly softened and mobile and joyous.”

She thought the hospital was “the happiest place I have yet been,” though she also liked the prison where no-one did anything. She refused to visit the Prophylactorium for Reformed Prostitutes, though, which she calls “the house of prostitutes”. The guide was apparently confused and could not believe that she was not interested.

But Travers had some naughtiness going on, or at least says she had. She had a number of “friends” around Leningrad- T (with a stash of extra roubles), Z (a Russian Anti-communist whom she had met in Cambridge) Maybe one of the people she met was Hubert Butler who wrote Peter’s window and translated Chechov. She also mentions M, A, V and an anonymous film-maker from Birmingham “who had gone so Bolshie even the Bolshevicks think he is rather too much on the Red side.” Reading between the lines, though, these characters seem not only to have fictitious names but to be entirely imaginary- surely, one might reason, she could never have left her minder or her group to meet these individuals! It beggars belief. She says “the characters in the book are all synthesized personanges. So that should anyone imagine he has come face to face with himself- he is mistaken. It is always with someone else.” Still, the Butler link is intriguing and Olga Maeots even suggests a location where these people met PLT, an apartment on the 5th floor at 14 Lomonosova street.

At another point, PLT manages to sneak into a production of Hamlet probably at the Vakhtangov theatre. I suspect she was chaperoned there too and she seems to have worked out rather more of what was going on than she could have done without a translator. Her account is nevertheless wonderful. And I too had my own Hamlet experience in Moscow, where, like PLT, I was mesmerised by the way the text was cut up. In my case, the To be or not to be monologue was put into Act 5, but PLT records the following,

How often have we groaned when some star actor rhetorically hurls at the empty air the question whether it is nobler in the mind—etc, etc, and not even echo makes reply. Not so here. The speech was divided between Hamlet and Horatio. The two students are in the library of the palace, Hamlet turning a globe, Horatio on steps reaching up to a high shelf for a book.

To be or not to be—begins Hamlet.

That is the question, returns Horatio, as one who observes, Boy, you’ve said it. And so the speech goes on and for once appears real and the natural comments of very young undergraduates.

And she complains about the restraints of the guided tour and is critical of Russian society in general. “It seems to me horribly imperfect, horribly old-fashioned, horribly bourgeois … and at the moment more like Tom Brown’s Schooldays or a Church Lads’ Brigade than an ideal State.” She bemoans the “mechanization” of humanity where the old class system is subverted and the new workers “privileged to the exclusion of all others”.

“The machine is getting us, we are falling into place, cogs in the great wheel….The great human clock goes ticking evenly, but nobody seems to know if it is telling the right time.

she has a great piece about Divorce and a gramophone player:

But in marriages where there are no children there is no end to the number of times you may be married and divorced. A young American I met a few days ago told me that a friend of his, also an American, had given an old gramophone to a Russian girl before he returned home. She was conspicuously plain in person, but she was immediately married by a young man with a taste for music. As soon as he had gained possession of the gramophone he divorced her and married a prettier girl. Succumbing, he made his new wife a present of the gramophone, and upon that she divorced him and married a handsomer husband. And so on. The gramophone led a giddy life, passing from marriage-bed to marriage-bed. Its end is not recorded. Probably it died eventually of old age and overwork

She resents being a tourist and having to submit to such controlled access: “a part is not enough for me. I want it all.”

“Oh, it’s clever, it’s diabolically clever. Lenin discovered that bears dance naturally and Stalin knew well how to put rings in their noses and lead them through the streets. But somewhere, behind all the cunning exploitation, is there not the bear’s own desire to be so led? Haven’t the people themselves chosen the tyranny that flatters their deepest instincts and relieves them of the necessity of thinking for themselves?”

Travers, P. L. - Moscow Excursion cover.jpg


The book, written on the eve of Stalin’s purge is now, I understand, translated over 6 years by Olga Maeots into Russian.

Chain Reaction

I was doing some work on the development of mediaeval armour mostly because I was shown two pictures which I have copied and both were dated earlier than I think could actually be possible given the quality of armour that they show. Check my notes below (bottom 2 pics).

chain mail by tim 1.jpg

This picture is supposed to come from a manuscript dating from the battle of hastings , or is an image of the battle. Almost impossible, I would think from the way the sleeves of chain-mail (the term is itself an anachronism anyway invented by Water Scott) and the helm of the knight in the centre.

from moleskin armenia by tim.jpg

here is a scene from an Armenian manuscript. Deeply charming but cannot be earlier than mid 12th century. The shorted haubergeons stitched onto the surcoats quite apart from the very rounded helms that suggest something between the norman nasal helm and the later sugar loaf.

Anyway, whatever their historical origins, I loved the characters in the two pictures and the way the figures are grouped. There is some sort of animation in both pictures.  And I love the tent in the first picture…

chain mail notes 1 by tim.jpg

chain mail notes by tim2.jpg

Analysing Mr Banks

The role of Mr Banks is central to Mary Poppins. This is the message of “Saving Mr Banks” but it is not necessarily the original message of the 1964 film and a good deal of re-packaging has gone on which, of course, has continued into the making of “Mary Poppins Returns”. It is not Banks who is central to the film but the bricolage of liberal Christianity and new technology. Banks is incidental.

The original Mary Poppins was set in the depression, at the time when the film sequel takes place. But Travers’ was not writing a piece of nostalgia. Her book has a contemporary feel about it because it was written in 1934, slap-bang in the period in which it is set even if she was to revise some of the characters later in 1967. Disney’s choice of pushing the setting back into Edwardian England has elements of whimsey to it, but it serves to make an interesting comment on the period from 1961-1964 when the film was in production. Mr Banks sets himself up as a model of the new economy, in a man’s world; he will also go on later to extol the virtues of Imperial commerce. But there is irony in his virtues as his world is will collapse in the war. His stiff-upper lip and patriarchal values are also directly challenged by Mary Poppins’ mixture of practical self-reliance and her virtues of helping the poor, responding to odd emergencies (even if that puts the day’s fish-mongering on hold) as well as honest escapism.

In America, the certainties of Eisenhower have given way to the Kennedy’s assassination and the rise of a flower-power revolt against Vietnam. Disney found a way to make a family film that implicitly questioned power and bizarrely reflected the age in which it was made. If Banks was blinded by jingoism, America was blinded by a Cold War ideology and a belief that it was still engaged in a conventional conflict that could be won.

More than that, Mary Poppins promoted change. At a time when the big studios were failing, Disney offered itself as the studio of innovation, developing a new travelling matte process to better any on offer in Hollywood, as well as providing a fresh take on genre when studio fare was stagnating. Disney mixed musical and comedy (done before) with animation; it embraced tv, creating a film star out of the tv sensation that was Dick van Dyke; it also mixed a film for children with a high-budget ritzy road-show premiere, generating a merchandise bonanza in brochures, dolls, rugs, jigsaws, comic adaptations and LP records. As a result of Mary Poppins, the bigscreen musicals had one last decade of success and the fantasy genre emerged out of both the new technology together with the Disney chutzpah of pumping millions into what would earlier have been dismissed as children’s entertainment. There would be no Star Wars were it not for Mary Poppins.

Mary Poppins also drew on a new form of Christianity ushered in by the pontificates of John XXIII and Paul VI and the Second Vatican Council. the new Christianity of personal freedom and social transformation are clear in Mary Poppins the Disney film. This is a film where the religious message transforms or irradiates the world.

The film opens with Mary Poppins seated on a cloud. The iconography is slightly undermined by rehashing an old Disney joke – the umbrella sinking into the cloud which is a visual borrowed from 1941’s Dumbo. She will call herself “practically perfect”, the Immaculate conception. Other women have succumbed to sin, she has not. Like Mary, she ushers in a new age, blowing away the nannies of the past.

Mary’s freedom is not without rules. She promotes personal responsibility (as in Mary Poppins Returns: “cleaning is not a spectator sport”) and whether work or play, everything is didactic. As with St Therese of Lisieux, one of the saints particularly promoted by the new Popes, the little acts of kindness, the incidental process of tidying up, what she calls “mundane acts of love.., the nothingness of here and now may be transformed into fire.” But there is more to Mary’s freedom. It is something that she presides over, but essentially again and again, it is the children, Bert, the domestics and so on, who are actually transformed by doing something. This is the laity in action, the message promoted by people like Francis of Assisi. It was also the ideology of Vatican II.

FRANCIS giotto copy by TIM.JPG

The film shows gives us a vision of a society that is accessible, that is on the edge of the sublime, that is in transformation, where reality is constantly tinged with fantasy. Finding God is about finding one another. there is a dissolve between the cathedral and Mary Poppins herself during the Feed the Birds song that sums up the message I think Disney was going for. The Christian message is transcendent and immanent at the same time. It is both architectural and personal. Mary emerges in this transition as a quasi-icon and if we wonder why only saints and apostles are mentioned in the song- and not angels too. Well, in this instance, Mary is the angel or at least the voice of an angel.

Francis is also there in the joy and music that surround Mary Poppins. He is there in the conversations with animals and particularly in the imagery conjured up in the song “Feed the Birds” which links the two themes- the stewardship of nature and at the same time, helping the poor.

Money is significant in the plot. Tuppence is used 4 times, first to feed the birds, then to invest in the bank, the foundation of capitalism and the Imperial vision George Banks has already given us at the start of the film, then it is redemptive when the children give their father the tuppence (the widow’s mite) and finally the tuppence is given to Mr Dawes as an apparent rejection of capitalism (Mark 12:17- render unto Caesar). The tuppence emerges again, of course, in “Mary Poppins Returns” as an improbable bit of economic magic, and a gentle dig at the parable of the talents.

When Winnifred joins the family again, and ties her banner to the kite, she is not really rejecting one life and taking up another. She is combining the two, and might even be anticipating liberation theology. This vacillation also proves to be the case with her husband too. His attempted rejection of mammon in the bank is thwarted by the death of old man Dawes and an opening for a new partner in the bank.

Mary leaves by talking umbrella, but she does not simply ascend. Instead, she travels across a london landscape like the spirit of manifest destiny spreading a little progress as she goes. The angel in the famous painting by John Gast was trailing an electricity cable- and no doubt Mary Poppins is leaving us a brighter form of technicolour.

“Don’t stay away too long” calls Bert. During production, Hitchcock was already using her technology to film key scenes in The Birds.



Ding Dong- where has the Ding gone?

Here I am in Dilijan, looking out over the mountains of Armenia! It reminds me alot of Albania and, indeed, I came across a map today which seems to confuse the two places precisely: here it is-


The Dong with the Luminous Nose

In Lear’s poem, “the Dong with the Luminous nose”, I realise there is an interesting omission. Lear must have intended, in some way, a play on the doorbell-sound “ding dong” so the natural consort of the Dong must then by rights be the “Ding”.

Sadly, the Dong has other interests and pursues a Jumbly girl.

Lear by TIM 3

There is more to this though, because Kant would go on with expressions like “Ding an sich” the thing in itself, so Dong has a much deeper meaning in the Germanic/english world. Kant would talk about the thing in itself as opposed to its actual appearance, “Erscheinungen,” what we see with our senses, something Plato would no doubt regard with suspicion. Lear’s Dong has clearly lost its “Ding an sich” and the light on his augmented nose simply illuminates the physical world and fails to get to the nitty-gritty, the thing in itself, whether this be the Jumbly girl he seeks or the missing Ding he does not know he has lost. The Dong therefore, confused by his senses is doomed to wander forever, weeping into the night.

Lear by tim 4


For luminous nose, read “numinous lose” or numinous loss- where the numinous is the spiritual- so, the Dong has lost his soul. He cannot see beyond the end of his own nose. that is a theme that reappears in the original 1964 “Mary Poppins” and leads up to Disney’s beloved song, “Feed the Birds”.


Jane: An outing with father?

Mary Poppins: Yes.

Michael: I don’t believe it!

Jane: He’s never taken us on an outing before.

Michael: He’s never taken us anywhere!

Jane, Mary Poppins: However did you manage it?

Mary Poppins: Manage what?

Jane: You must have put the idea in his head somehow.

Mary Poppins: What an impertinent thing to say! Me, putting ideas into people’s heads? Really!

Jane: Where’s he taking us?

Mary Poppins: To the bank.

Jane: Oh Michael, the city! We’ll see all the sights and father can point them out to us!

Mary Poppins: Well, most things he can. Sometimes a person we love, through no fault of their own, can’t see past the end of his nose.