Tuesday, 15 December 2015

11th Heaven… We have a Liebster Award!

I’ve been awarded a Liebster Award which will sit nicely alongside my work-self’s two UK Professional Publishers Association commendations this year – in pride of place!

The Liebster Award is a way for bloggers to recognize other bloggers and welcome each other into the community. So thank you very much Silents, Please! (who shares a birthday with Theda Bara, Clara Bow, and William Powell and writes one of the best film blogs on the planet!) for extending the digital hand of friendship and giving me a task that is actually harder than it looks namely:

i. Answer 11 questions from the person who nominated you;

ii. Tell your readers 11 random facts about yourself; and

iii. Nominate up to 11 other bloggers to receive the Liebster, and give them 11 questions to answer in turn.

OK, those 11 questions*scratches head*…

John Clarke (left) and Sam Neill in Death in Brunswick (1991)
1. Who would play you in the movie of your life?

Probably Sam Neill as I’m told we look alike although once we were in Paul Smith’s Covent Garden shop and no one got confused at all about which one was which… “here’s your suit Mr Neill, there’s your tie Mr Joyce…” that.

2. What is the last book you read that really impressed you?

The best fiction book of the last few years has been Wuthering Heights – such passionate, intense writing and of course, Charlotte Bronte was the genuine one.  Of those writers still with the living habit Christopher Priest, Jake Arnott and Paul Auster are every-book must-reads!

One of the best recent novels featuring silent film
3. You’re making a screwball comedy, and you can cast anyone from cinema history, with the caveat that the two leads must not have appeared opposite each other before. Who are your leads?

Now this is tricky but the easiest way to cheat is to pick Louise Brooks and James McAvoy: two people from completely different eras who have energy, wit and unpredictability. James is not as young as he looks and after seeing him in the stage version of The Ruling Classes, he might just about be able to keep pace with Brooksie… That or Paul McGann and Evelyn Brent both playing outside of their usual but two actors with unique energies: she vexed, he perplexed.

Evelyn and Paul
4. Five years from now, do you see yourself living in the same place as you do currently?

Probably not as one should never stop moving as my mother-in-law has proved after relocating 5 times in 20 years… I might be beside the sea-side or down the road but certainly within striking distance of live silent cinema.

5. Is there any film that you regret watching, and why?

I walked out on Death Becomes Her at a screening in Milton Keynes: the first time a film defeated me with the sheer fatuousness of its existence. Every line was a nuisance and a total waste of the actors’ talents. That’s 37 minutes I won’t get back and I still regret it.

Dearth... becomes them
6. Which hypothetical Tim Burton-directed biopic film would you rather watch: a film called Helena Bonham-Carter, in which Helena Bonham-Carter is played by Johnny Depp, or a film called Johnny Depp, in which Johnny Depp is played by Helena Bonham-Carter?

That’s easy: Johnny Depp starring HB-C – she is the mistress of all she plays and is far more capable of being Depp than Johnny being she: after all, he just works with Mr Burton but, reader, she married him!

Johnny or Helena?!
7. Pick a Kate Bush single: Wuthering Heights, Running Up That Hill, Sat in Your Lap.

Again another straightforward choice; it has to be Running Up That Hill from Kate’s masterwork, The Hounds of Love. She was still finding her feet with Wuthering Heights and the experimental The Dreaming but she progressed so well as an artist and reached a peak with Hounds - an incredibly-cohesive album with real depth of feeling.

8. Let’s say that you were given a six-month paid sabbatical from your day job. What would you do with that time?

I would, climb more mountains in Wales and Scotland whilst writing my memoirs of a silent film addict and researching the lives of Victor Sjostrom and Jenny Hasselqvist which would entail trips to Sweden where I could do some proper mountains and then maybe nip over to Finland to re-connect with the spirit of Tove Janson and Comet in Moominland.

Jenny Hasselqvist
9. Desert island scenario. If you could only listen one musician/band/singer for the rest of your life, who would it be?

The hardest question… It would be so tempting to pick a long-term favourite but I already know all about The Beatles, Miles Davis and Gustav Mahler so best to pick someone I’m less familiar with so I stay a little fresher in my time on the island. So, someone eclectic and productive and who talks to himself as he plays: let’s have Keith Jarrett! Or maybe just Mozart – so much to understand and he’s already time-locked so he won’t date any further.

Otherwise, I can hum Rain, See Emily Play and Venus as a Boy anytime I like from memory.

10. Do you collect any kind of item?

Apart from the obvious, I used to collect American comics and have Green Lantern and X-Men numbers from 1960 to 1980-ish… this still causes my wife some distress. I also have a small shelf full of Gerry Anderson vehicles from UFO and Thunderbirds… a reminder of the future that used to be!

11. Name a film that you love that you wish was better known.

What? And spoil the secret?! But yes I do wish more people had heard of Anthony Asquith’s The First Born from 1928 an excellent British silent feature that shows just how could the much-maligned domestic industry was. It’s got wonderful malevolence from Miles Mander and a silky smooth performance from radiant Madelaine Carroll.

They should release it on DVD along with Stephen Horne’s fantastic score used at the London Film Festival Archive Gala a few years back. But The Man with Copyright won’t play ball because… who knows?!

Miles and Maddie

11 fascinating facts about me? Spoiler: I’m focusing on random here:

1. I made my ten-year old daughter watch the restored version of Greed. Social services have been informed…

2. I share my birthday with Ringo Starr and Gustav Mahler (not the same year in any case). Silently it’s the same date as Bérénice Bejo and Virginia Rappe…

3. I once wrote part of a textbook about the marketing of leisure services… it was well-reviewed in the trade press and went to multiple editions.

4. In 1978 schoolboy me stood next to legendary punk poet John Cooper Clarke in the gents at Liverpool’s famous punk club Eric’s.

Johnny Clarke
 5. I do most of my best work on trains.

6. I have two Volvos and not a single Aston Martin.

7. I once got Douglas Fairbank’s age wrong – sloppy version control – and still feel bad about it. There are plenty of bloggers but no sub-editors willing to work on their words for the rates we don’t pay…

8. My Dad’s cousin played for and was assistant manager of Liverpool Football Club. His aunty Lillian and my great aunty, is coming up for 103 having been born in the year of Quo Vadis?, The Musketeers of Pig Alley and The Water Nymph (the first Keystone comedy)…

Doug Livermore in his playing days
9. I keep my books in alpha order by author and then by year of publication. Long Players and CDs are by artist and year although there is a thematic element with CDs of shame (progressive rock) largely out of view.

10. I said hello to Thurston Moore in Soho the other week – I have seen Sonic Youth at least twelve times. He is very tall and gracious.

11. My first job was working as a bar and cellar man in Butlin’s Grand Hotel in Llandudno, North Wales… as seen briefly in Maurice Elvey’s superb Hindle Wakes.

The Grand a few years before Maurice Elvey brought his camera
My nominations go to: the tireless Films Muets Blog and to Motion Picture Gems both dedicated to the ceaseless search for the new in the old!

Here are my 11 questions:

1. What talkie should be re-made as a silent film?

2. What was your favourite live silent film viewing experience and why?

3. Which is your cinematic guilty pleasure – a pop film you just enjoy for the heck of it?

4. Your favourite film with a dream sequence… without revealing major plot spoilers!

5. Name a book you have read at least twice and why?

6. If you’re not watching films (or writing about them) … what do you do? What is your second favourite hobby?

7. Vinyl, CD or digital?

8. What the World needs now is…?

9. Name a major drama film which the casting alone could have turned into a comedy or vice versa? For example, Woody Allen in Ben Hur or Charlton Heston in Annie Hall.

10. An actor or actress you simply have to watch in every role?

11. What was your favourite album aged 15 and your favourite now? Can art endure through our maturation or was Albert Camus right about those first things that really move us…?

Thanks again Silents, Please.



  1. Hi Paul, congrats and thank you for the challenge, I'll do my best to answer the tricky questions !!! rrhhoo, it was fun reading you ;-) Keep up the good job ! Lou/Caroline

    1. You too! Thanks for reading and I look forward to seeing your answers! Best wishes Paul

    2. Hi Paul, It's done, gee, that was tough! ;-)
      Merry Christmas and happy New Year!
      Best wishes, Caroline

    3. Hi Caroline - it is quite a challenge! I look forward to reading your post. Best wishes for a great Christmas and New Year!

  2. Thanks for this, Paul, it was really fun to read! I totally agree with you on Paul Auster's The Book of Illusions, it's excellent. As for Kate Bush, I have always loved her demented energy on The Dreaming, but I do think that Hounds of Love is her most fully-realized work. Good pick on "See Emily Play" and Björk too. Well, all great answers here!

    I absolutely loved the Moomins when I was a kid. Tove Jansson was actually Finnish, not Swedish - she did write in Swedish, though, I believe.

    Thanks again! :)

    1. You are very welcome!

      On Tove - I had convinced myself that her island was off Sweden not Finland... she did train in Sweden and was one of Finalan's Swedish-speaking minority.. but I got it wrong - I'd have to get the ferry across the Baltic Sea! It would be well worth it though!

      Maybe I need more than 6 months off! :-)

      Have a good Christmas and I'm really enjoying your Divas!!

      Best wishes


    2. Haha, I'm sorry for the nitpick. But on the bright side, now you have two Nordic countries to visit on holiday! Take that extra time! :)

      Thanks Paul and same to you, have a lovely holiday.