The girl on the swing

I have been drawing the opening sequence for my documentary about Edward Lear, “Following Lear”. Here is the latest version with some detail:

It is a complex scene featuring a swing in a music hall.

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One of my early memories of watching black and white tv was of a girl on a swing in “the Good Old Days”. I think that swing was brought out on a number of occasions actually, and at least once, in the 25th Anniversay season, Les Dawson was strapped to it in drag. It was generally there for the song “Swing me just a little bit higher, Obadiah do”. It made a lyric loaded with innuendo seem homely and very jolly.

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The music hall was full of daring routines and “the Good Old days” captured some of that spirit throwing acrobats and trapeze artistes directly into the auditorium. In the mid 19th Century, there was a craze for tightrope walking over the heads of the audience. Brilliant! I wonder how often there were accidents?

One of the early films made by Dame Joan Collins in 1955 was about Evelyn Nesbit Thaw, tied up in a messy muder trial and called “the Girl in the red velvet swing”. Of course, at a time when she was dazzling in BA and Cinzano adverts, she went on to make a slightly more scandalous film featuring an aquatic swing that arguably re-ignited her career, was based on a book by her sister Jackie, and somewhat incongruously, propelled her as staple fodder for family viewing in nearly a decade of “Dynasty”. What seemed very daring in the “Stud” and the “Bitch”, however, would today seem tame, and the thought of an A- grade star like Joan Collins getting involved in such stuff would no longer raise an eyebrow, particularly after Gielgud, Helen Mirren and O’Toole romped through “Caligula” at the end of the 80s.

I like the “Girl in the Red Velvet swing” though; it treats the subjects rather better than the subsequent film “Ragtime” which is both pedestrian and laboured. The publicity photos for La Collins, moreoever, are a treat. They are even better than the movie! Doesn’t she look radiant!

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twiggyThere is also a swing scene, though fairly modest in “the Boyfriend”, designed by Tony Walton and a great scene in an early Angela Lansbury film,”Till the Clouds roll by” .

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I think I have now looked at almost all the swings in the movies!

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The problem with swings is that every single frame represents a change in perspective- a nighmare for 2d drawing and I have had a few attempts so far. I am quietly pleased with the lastest effortwhich I will work on over the next month.

The music is by David Watson and the song is sung by Thomasin Tresize. If the spirit of the animation is a bit racy, I suppose that is to do with Joan Collins as much as with the hint of naughtiness that Tom suggests as she sings it!

I think it is meditative of course…. I tried to time the swing to the bars of music and it looks too premeditated- a bit like an early Mickey Mouse film. The idea of timing animation to hit the beat gave the whole screen animation/ music industry a very bad name, and it is bizarre that this was taking place at exactly the same time that Astaire was developing his technique of dancing OFF the beat. It’s when the dancer hits the beat at a specific moment that the magic happens. So the swinging motion is now independent of the beat (just).

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Here’s the sequence partly storyboarded:

and here is an early sketch:

 

Even more Edward Lear!

Lear wrote some many limericks that there is really no end to the number of crazy drawings possible. Here are a couple of pictures for the new film that are loose versions of what we are also trying to animate for the “Following Lear” project – when it gets properly or fully financed! In the meantime..

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Oh and here is one I did yesterday with a picture of Stirling castle in the background. Sometimes, I rather miss the days when I was at St Andrews… Scotland is such a glorious country in all respects!

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Roscoe Arbuckle and Burlington Bertie

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There is no real link between these two in reality but I love Arbuckle’s work – one of the great masters of silent cinema and treated appallingly by the early studios and by history. I think the shape of our Bertie and “Fatty” Arbuckle is similar. I need to make Bertie as agile frankly. Here is a drawing of a dance done by Arbuckle

 

and below is the progress reel for Bertie…

 

 

Regarding Arbuckle- there were plenty of other scandals that frankly were worse than anything he was involved in, and he was made the scapegoat for the industry at a time when moral crusaders, hot with the success of prohibition, had the “flickers” in its sights and probably planned to close hollywood. Arbuckle spent three weeks in gaol awaiting trial on a case that had been concocted by a woman known for racketeering, fraud, and extortion. Though acquitted of Murder after three trials, Arbuckle had admitted to possessing drink in a city that had a reputation for being fairly lax in applying the principles of Prohibition anyway. Under the Volstead Act, Arbuckle paid a small fine for the alcohol but I think that was sufficient in the end to damn him, and he was brought almost to bankruptcy by the legal expenses. Nominally innocent of the charge of murder, his films were, nevertheless, banned when he was credited by the Hollywood moguls as a man with “bad morals”, and less than a week after he was completely acquitted of murder in 1922,  he was forbidden by Will H Hayes from working in cinema again. While he got round this and made a comeback of sorts in the 1930s, he died before he was able to fully realise his potential. This was a truly great performer and his treatment by the cinema industry was despicable.

Nasruddin or Nasrudin

 

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Nasruddin was the figure in the Richard Williams film  that I discovered in the early 70s. The film changed completely when it became the “Thief and the Cobbler” and the Nasruddin character disappeared. There are various stories about why this happened. Last Sunday Williams simply said that the original story and the original character did not work. Nasruddin, however, is still visible in a crowd scene riding on his donkey (which he rides backwards)… here are some drawings of statues in Turkey- one faintly comic and the other more respectful. He was a real character but he used humour and his stories are laced with unexpected incident and comment. however, Nasruddin turns up in Turkish legend as Nasreddin Hoja and then again in Albanian as Nastrudin Hoxha. I don’t know whether it is more appropriate to see Nasrudin as Turkish or Iranian: the oldest manuscript from 1571 suggests he was Turkish or active in Turkey. When we made the first version of “A torture Cartoon”, it made sense to add a version of Nasruddin because Necati is Turkish

 

and then later when we did “how to be Boss” we did a new design and told one of the many Nasruddin stories. You can find the sequence at about 2.39: “Have you told your wife who is boss in your own house? Don’t worry. She knows!”

 

There is a Pappas illustrated edition of stories which I would love to see. Otherwise, the best editions are those illustrated by Williams himself and the spectacular Errol le Cain

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  • The Subtleties of the Inimitable Mulla Nasreddin, by Idries Shah, illustrated by Richard Williams.

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  • The Pleasantries of the Incredible Mulla Nasreddin, by Idries Shah, illustrated by Richard Williams and Errol Le Cain

Here is a link to the “what is bread?” section in what is left of the Williams film with Kenneth Williams’ voice:

 

It is simply delightful to listen to Kenneth Williams, and Richard Williams version of Nasruddin is so elegant. The Williams character should be spelt “Nasrudin” of course. Apologies.