George Arliss is a long forgotten figure. But in the 1930s he meant a lot to British movie audiences, so much in fact one poll made him the most popular film star of 1934, knocking Clark Gable into second place. Arliss was, however, an unlikely star – in his sixties, he had a stoop and bad teeth – but his screen persona clearly resonated with cinema audiences.
Thanks to the 1929 Hollywood movie Disraeli, Arliss was a transatlantic star. It won him an Oscar
Beneath the calm surface of British politics, lurking in the imaginations of some of our leading writers, terrible things have happened. In this Radio 4 Archive Hour documentary produced by Jane Ashley I examine these dystopian visions which have gripped creative and public imaginations in novels and dramas since the end of the second world war.
British democracy has come under threat time and again in fictions from 1984 to V for Vendetta, by way of Dr Who, The Prisoner, A Very British Coup, Edge of Darkness and others.
Britons have been oppressed by authoritarian governments, suffered alien subjugation, been
How we imagine politics is sometimes as important as how it really is – if the latter can ever be determined, that is. Indeed according to Benedict Anderson in his Imagined Communities, one of the most basic political concepts, the nation state, had to be first imagined before it could exist in reality. It is also generally accepted that while fiction can rarely over-turn strongly held points of view, it canreinforce existing opinions and subtly reframe how people think about a subject. At the very least fictions give us an insight into how people feel about political issues.
We now live in an era in which many talk of the death of the nation state and its supersession by globalisation and supranational bodies, probably the most important of which is the European Union.
While working as a film critic during the 1930s Graham Greene defined "a humorist in the modern English sense", as someone "who shares the popular taste and who satirises only those with whom the majority are already displeased". This led to what he disparaged as "safe and acceptable" comedies.
What with Malcolm Tucker's Top Trumps swearing, and its mockery of Britain's political class, you might think The Thick of It, which has returned to our screens for its final run, was anything but "safe and acceptable". Since its first episode in 2005 I have been among those who have delighted in its
I have entered the last stage of writing State of Play, my book on British political fiction since the late nineteenth century. Many of the posts on this blog are offshoots of the research that has gone into it.
Producing this book has been like running a very slow a marathon but I can hear the buzz of the crowd in the stadium, even if I can't quite see the stadium.
There’s been a bit of a kerfuffle over Armando Iannucci’s acceptance of an OBE. Alastair Campbell has accused Iannucci of hypocrisy because, despite his situation comedy The Thick of It mocking the Establishment, he has happily received an honour from the same source.
As I have spent some time analysing The Thick of It, for my forthcoming study of politics and fiction, I thought I'd make a contribution to this debate for Ballots and Bullets.
As The Iron Lady reminds us, one of the ironies of Margaret Thatcher’s period as Prime Minister is that, while the first woman to reach Number 10, even admirers on the right, notably Ronald Reagan, claimed Thatcher to be the ‘best man in England’.
To 1980s critics, however, the dissonance between Thatcher’s politics of conflict and traditional ideas about women’s nurturing role suggested something was amiss. Thatcher’s Spitting Image puppet notoriously wore trousers, smoked a cigar and stood at urinals when she relieved herself – and her voice was supplied by Steve Nallon who was amongst her most regularly employed impersonators.
To the chagrin of many on the left The Iron Lady presented audiences with a sympathetic picture of Margaret Thatcher. Rather than dwelling on contentious topics like the Falklands war or the miners’ strike the film instead focused on the person of Thatcher, as an ageing figure, one who was trying to come to terms with her husband’s death. It also highlighted Thatcher’s position as a woman in Conservative party politics, stressing her isolation and even explained some of her harshness to colleagues through that vulnerable position.
In this post for the History Workshop Journal blog, I look at other cultural representations of different kinds of Tory women, ones written just after Thatcher left office.