The Watcher Cat

The Watcher Cat

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Returning to Blandings….

Peter O'Toole and Richard Briers in a 1995 adaptation of Heavy Weather are peculiarly cast, in one sense--O'Toole's combustible personality imparts a formidableness to the dotty Clarence, ninth Earl of Emsworth that the character as written lacks, and Briers doesn't at all match the physical description of his scapegrace younger brother, the Hon. Galahad Threepwood (short, trim, and jaunty), but he conveys the essence of the character quite well:
Galahad Threepwood was the only genuinely distinguished member of the family of which Lord Emsworth was the head. Lord Emsworth himself had once won a first prize for pumpkins at the Shropshire Agricultural Show, and his Berkshire sow, Empress of Blandings, had three times been awarded the silver medal for fatness, but you could not say that he had really risen to eminence in the public life of England. But Gally had made a name for himself. There were men in London – bookmakers, skittle sharps, jellied eel sellers on race courses, and men like that – who would not have known whom you were referring to if you had mentioned Einstein, but they all knew Gally. He had been, till that institution passed beyond the veil, a man at whom the old Pelican Club pointed with pride, and had known more policemen by their first names than any man in the metropolis.
Gally is, quite simply, Bertie Wooster with the I.Q. of Jeeves. Briers gets that.

Just as Sarah Badel gets that Lady Julia Fish is, while on the surface, charming and jolly, a far more menacing figure than her more overtly sinister sister, Lady Constance Keeble, the ordinary chatelaine of Blandings Castle. The fact that this production was produced by Verity Lambert, of Doctor Who and Rumpole of the Bailey fame, no doubt helped.

I first stumbled on the Blandings saga in high school, and they, not the Jeeves stories, were what sold me on Wodehouse. Galahad, in particular, became my favorite--debonair, good-hearted, sentimental, but cunning and rakish, too. So when the first season of a new BBC adaptation of the Blandings Castle saga aired, I was intrigued--and then, a little,disappointed, because they were adapting the early, pre-Galahad stories, which are in my opinion, a little flat. Now, I find that Galahad has been introduced, well--time for a watch.

But, I have to admit, Briers told the story of the hedgehog and the lazy French chef to perfection--and O'Toole's fraternal enjoyment of the well-worn story--well, they sold me. I hope the new series will, too.


Vinnie Bartilucci said...

I shall have to peruse this. I'd have exactly reversed this casting - I'm so used to see Briers play the archetypal dotty Brit, and O'Toole the suave aristocrat.

Anglocat said...

Exactly my own initial response, Vin!