Category Archives: Authors

Blithe Spirit

Ghosts or Double Exposures ?

Nothing similar in the family albums but  in this family theatre program are some ghosts of a different kind on the stage of the Comedy  Theatre in Melbourne in 1945.  The  Blithe Spiritghost  in question is the spirit of a man’s first wife who turns up after a seance.  She can be seen  (and heard)  by the husband but not by the second wife or anyone else.

And of course the play is Blithe Spirit by the witty and cheeky Noel Coward.  Wikipedia reminds  us that ” the play concerns the socialite and novelist Charles Condomine, who invites the eccentric medium and clairvoyant, Madame Arcati, to his house to conduct a séance, hoping to gather material for his next book.

The scheme backfires when he is haunted by the ghost of his annoying and temperamental first wife, Elvira, after the séance.    Elvira makes continual attempts to disrupt Charles’s marriage to his second wife, Ruth, who cannot see or hear the ghost.”

But there are many more twist and turns before the end.

Perhaps they should have staged the show a block away in The Princess Theatre which has its own resident ghost, that of a baritone playing in Faust who died just off stage in 1888.

In May 1945 Australia was still at war with Japan and the Military Hospital in the suburb of Heidelberg was very busy. The hospital had a theatre and with a replica Blithe Spirit set constructed the whole cast was able to pile Blithe Spirit - backinto a bus and go to Heidelberg to put on the show one afternoon.

With patients, bed cases  and staff there was no standing room left, with some patients needing to sit in the orchestra pit.  A most appreciative audience.

Meanwhile just across the road from the Comedy Theatre was His Majesty’s Theatre which that same year staged  The Desert Song with Max Oldaker  and his interpretation of The Red Shadow which I wrote about in a previous post

Also in 1945 a film was made of Blithe Spirit with Rex Harrison as the male lead and the wonderful Margaret Rutherford as Madame Arcati who conducts the seance.

Australian TV viewers might see a slight overlapping of the theme with the recent ABC production of “Glitch”  where the fortunate/unfortunate husband has both his living and his dead wife in his life at the same time.

Whereas Noel Coward was strictly for the laughs, Glitch is a serious look at the “what if” situation.  It has been described as an Australian Gothic and much of the shooting was done on summer evenings in my old home towm, the old gold town of Castlemaine in Central Victoria.

Further connections to ghosts and double exposures can be found in this week’ Sepia Saturday post.

 

 

 

 

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Reading for Women in 1939

This week Sepia Saturday has invited us to start with an old advertisement.  And so I chose this one from a coverless copy of the  Australian magazine Woman  of  5th June, 1939 .  Who could have imagined instant hot water in the kitchen sink.  No more carrying kettles of boiling water over to the sink from the stove.  Marvellous.

sink HWS 1939The magazine has an advertisement on nearly every page with a strong emphasis on cures for colds, tinned food, bile beans, pick-me-up Worcestershire sauce, sewing machines – all things to tempt the housewife.

But I was in for a surprise.  Do you remember this famous opening line ?

Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again

This was from Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier  and here it is being serialized in a 1939 magazine.  In this issue they are up to Chapter 6, soon after Mrs van Hopper has been told of the engagement.

Rebecca serial 1939So, the book was published  in 1938, serialized in 1939 and made into a movie by Alfred Hitchcock in 1940 starring Laurence Olivier and Joan Fontaine.  Big Sigh.  Then remade in 1997 starring Charles Dance and  Emilia Fox.  Little Sigh.   I was interested to see it referred to as a gothic romance in the early days but then became a psychological drama once filmed.

And the reason for my mother having saved this particular magazine was that pages 2 and 3 were given over to And Listen to the Band, photos and text about women’s brass bands in Australia, including her sister Hilda Tansey and the Sydney Ladies Brass Band.

pp 2 3 Woman Listen to the Band 1939And the tempting little offer of Free Best Quality Aluminium  ware was available if you saved the labels of Inglis products such as their tea, coffee, porridge, etc, a forerunner of our present day Reward points.

Sepia Saturday gave us this advertisement for nice soft cushions to place on the horse’s hooves.  Other Sepians will have all other kind of interesting ads.

2014.12W.38

A Soldier’s Farewell to his Girl

Sepia Saturday’s them for the week  – trains, trams, transport.  But  if  I say trains and transport then the next word is troops.

I prefer to use images from the family albums but this time I am going with my favorite photo from the State Library of Victoria.   It is listed as being from the Melbourne newspaper of the time, the Argus on August 14th, 1940.  However it does not appear in the paper. but  is one of a collection which came from the paper.  Why ever wasn’t it used.  Every photo tells a story and this photo tells a very powerful story.

The unanswered question is – Who are these two central people ?

14th August 1940

14th August 1940

Is she his wife,  fiancee, girl friend ?  Was this an embarkation leave farewell?  Troops were still being sent to the Middle East .  Did he come back safely or was he killed at Tobruk like the driver of the bread van in my home town ?

In this second photo  you can again see her on the shoulder of some strong person.

Aug 14th 1940

Aug 14th 1940

Another time we see the soldiers marching down platform 10A at Spencer St Station  in 1944,  the engine for their train waiting t in the background.

Platform 10A, Spencer St. 1944

 

Then in 2012  Toni Jordan published her novel Nine Days which was inspired by the kiss photo.  She put her imagination to work to give a story going both back to the past and forward  to the future.  It is so believable and particularly enjoyable to anyone who enjoys their inner Melbourne suburbs and the idea of life as it was,  in this case  inner-city Richmond.

Nine Days by Toni JordanThe photo, with the help of a bit of colour, was used for the cover of the book.

How the novel came about, The Age, Aug 19th, 2012

Review of Nine Days by Toni Jordan in the Age, August 26th, 2012

And a bit of trivia for the young-uns as to those beautiful marcel waves in the first photo.  These days with all the electric wands for straightening and curling you might not know that in the 1930s when these marcel waves were popular, to make them at home you used these torturous butterfly metal grips with sharp teeth which pinched the damp hair together into ridges.  When dry the hair would comb out into waves.

Marcel Waves

Making Marcel Waves

 Go to Sepia Saturday to read more stories of earth-bound transport of every imaginable kind.

Sepia Saturday

 

 

Beds, Bairns and Books

This was reblogged as it moves on to  children’s books from the 1930s.Jacqueline and book Roslyn RdThis week’s Sepia Saturday’s beginning point has a sick child in bed with his toys, attended by a doctor.  Fortunately in life that doesn’t happen too often . To me children and bed means bedtime reading.  But reading is also a daytine activity..  The lass above, now grown up and at University, obviously got pleasure from the sounds whch are telling the story., whereas her mother,  thirty years earlier preferred to concentrate on the pictures.

Barbara reading to Sally c June 1963That was, until she was old enough to choose her own book

Sally at bookshelfOr get an early education on how to avoid the traps laid in your path by the advertising industry by studying The Hidden Persuaders by Vance Packard

Sally book 9 months SunshineIt wasn’t long until she was reading to her dolls

Sally reading to dolls 2

But I would like to know why on her ninth birthdy she appears to be reading a book about Edmund Kean.  Where did that come from ?Sally reading 3-931970Seeing her sitting there with her legs curled up I wonder if that was the day that she stopped reading to find herself surrounded by water.  Her toddler brother had  brought the nozzle end of the garden hose in the back door and up the hall then gone back outside and turned on the tap.A silent flow crept through part of the house.

I’m pleased to say that she is still a reader.

But going back another generation …..

For  the previous generation  there are no suitable photos. But these books were gifts from the age of 5 to 10 in the 1930s  beginning from Santa, then from a very formal Mother and Father, followed by Grandma.

booksThe bottom book is The Children’s Treasure House all 768 pages published by in 1935 by Odhams Press of London.  It contains nearly 150 stories and poems by famous authors.

Pages 1The other big book, The Mammoth Wonder Book was published  the same year but was gifted in 1937..  These were gifts to an Australian girl who was to grow up reading little else but English stories. Is it  any wonder that the word paddock wasn’t in her vocabulary and who, when down on the farm, would talk about the cows in the meadows, apparently to the amusement of the adults ! “The Younger Sister” was given some Australian themed books.

It must have been some time before she could read those tomes for herself, but read them she did , again and again. By the time she was ten she was borrowing from the library in the Mechanics Institute.of  the small  Victorian country town of Castlemaine,   Only one trouble – the old spinster lady who presided over the books wouldn’t let her borrow the book Man-shy.  Never judge a book by its title.  Little did the librarian know, this one is about a red heifer who likes being free and escapes to the hills.

Here are some samples from The Children’s Treasure House.

Pages 2Pages 3Pages 4Pages 5Pages 6bPages 7Pages 8Pages 9Pages 10pages 11pages 12pages 13 pages 14pages 15pages 17

For more interpretations of this week’s theme  click on the links in Sepia Saturday .

196 Minibanner

A Parting Gift

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What is precious, tattered, torn and handed down?

When my grandfather, Tom Tansey, landed in Geelong in 1888 as a sixteen year old he brought with him this copy of  WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE AS HE LIVED   by Captain Curling.

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Shakespeare’s grandfather  had a farm at Tom’s home town of Snitterfield, just to the north of  Stratford on  Avon in Warwickshire.  So why had Grandpa brought this particular book with him?

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It was a farewell gift from Ben  Currier and his wife Ellen.  Ben was a farmer and much older than Tom but   Ben  and Tom were both members of the Snitterfield Town Band and this had been a parting gift and was one that Grandpa kept all his life.

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In the band photo Tom is the short chap fifth from the left in the back row while Ben is standing at the right hand end of the row, This photo was taken the previous year (1887) in front of the Red Lion in Stratford on Avon when the band led  the procession celebrating Queen Victoria’s Jubilee. Tom was 15 and Ben 32.

I was amazed to find that the book has been re-printed as a paperback but is also downloadable fron the Gutenberg Project, Monash Uni library, etc, etc.  This book was first published in 1853 but Curling was a prolific writer and the book had been published before under different titles.  It is described as a Romance and is based on fact with a lot of imagination thrown in !

It starts  –   “It was one morning, during the reign of Elizabeth, that a youth, clad in a grey cloth doublet and hose (the usual costume of the respectable country tradesman or apprentice in England), took his early morning stroll in the vicinity of a small town in Warwickshire…..”