The Book of Wag

By Paul Sidey

A remarkable posthumous South London novel from a legendary editor

Saturday, 20 June 2015

From Marianne to the Friends of Paul:Failed Film Producer Seeks Work (2)

My father was not always a bank official. Before the war, he had a fledgling career as a singer in the Al Bowlly mode – tenor with light vibrato. He often did a bit of soft shoe and basic tap at parties. On the wall of my study, I keep a couple of moody, dramatically-lit sepia publicity photos of Tony French (the name my father chose), one with a megaphone and another with a cigarette. I still have a couple of scratchy 78rpm vinyl records of Tony (he was christenened Alfred) singing ballads with the Billy May Orchestra. They are pretty good. He even performed with the famous vaudeville act THE CRAZY GANG back in the day. But, after returning from a last stint in Burma in 1945, with a young son at home in England, he decided on a less risky career.

Whenever I called him at his Shoreditch office, he never seemed to be there, though. ‘Your father’s hors de combat,’ his No 2 used to say. That was code for playing golf. Which was how he cemented his friendship with Goldman, and how I became friends, of a sort, with the son, who bitterly resented the fact that, in his own words, ‘Everything my father touches turns to gold, everything I touch turns to dust.’

Rashly, Max Goldman decided to invest in a fledgling company called Horoscope Films and became our fourth partner. There were stipulations. He wanted to make our first film in the Monte Carlo area. Jack and I duly obliged with a script that included all the locations he liked, from the exotic gardens of Eze to the port at Villefranche. The story was suffused with mysterious ironies and ended in a non sequitur.It was called SUSPENDED FORTH, after the musical term, and starred the late Al Mancini (from THAT WAS THE WEEK THAT WAS and THE DIRTY DOZEN) and Juliet Harmer (from a tv series called ADAM ADAMANT, where a Victorian hero is defrosted from a block of ice to find himself fighting his old adversary The Face in 60s Swinging London).

We needed a crew and a base and a location manager, so made an appointment at Nice’s famous Studios la Victorine. I was the only French speaker, so there was no choice about who would be chief negotiator. We were shown round the standing set where Truffaut made his unforgettable tribute to cinema, DAY FOR NIGHT. We found everyone and everything we needed almost immediately.

The film was made in colour and 35mm. It had its moments. But it was not good enough. Horoscope Films ceased trading.


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