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J. M. Harman
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Those Were The Days [DVD]
Those Were The Days [DVD]
Dvd ~ Will Hay
Price: £4.95

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful record, 4 July 2014
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This review is from: Those Were The Days [DVD] (DVD)
It is very pleasing to see this film has been released, as it is inclined to be overlooked by film historians. However, the picture is important as it marks the debut of Will Hay, setting him on his successful film career

But more than this, the film shows the acting talents of George Graves, Angela Baddeley, and John Mills among others.

Also, the picture, (set in the 1880`s) gives an authentic portrayal of the British Music-Hall in its hay-day, including some of the less pleasant aspects! We owe much to the invention of the cinematograph, as it has immortalised that great artist, G.H. Elliot - uncredited for some reason - together with: Lily Morris, Harry Bedford etc., enabling us to enjoy their skill and artistry, plus Jane Carr`s legs! (and who is that fantastic tap-dancer?)

It is certainly a film which leaves you feeling good; even the introduction is a wonderful montage!

It` a bargain!

John Harman
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 20, 2014 4:01 PM BST


Handel: Arias and Opera Arias
Handel: Arias and Opera Arias
Offered by EliteDigital UK
Price: £16.95

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful selection, 30 Jun. 2014
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The great tenor Webster Booth has managed to give a magnificent interpretation of operatic arias by Handle and Mozart.

I particularly enjoyed `Comfort ye/Ev`ry valley` also `Love in her eyes is playing`. To sum up; I would thoroughly recommend this as an addition to a music collection.

John Harman.


Elstree Calling [DVD]
Elstree Calling [DVD]
Dvd ~ Will Fyffe
Price: £5.00

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Like the curate`s egg!, 29 May 2014
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This review is from: Elstree Calling [DVD] (DVD)
This film, made in 1930, was one of the first British musicals. This explains why the sound and colour are a little primitive by today`s standards. One is left wondering why narrator Tommy Handley did not protest at the material he was asked to deliver, for the `jokes` are not remotely funny; and what is Donald Calthrop`s purpose in the film? The sketch starring Jack Hulbert, Bobby Coomber etc., is without humour and Cicely Courtneidge shows a `non-talent` being unable to dance or sing, and her costume is ridiculous.
However, the dance sequence of The Three Eddies is breathtaking; likewise the dance duet between Jack Hulbert and Helen Burnell. Still on the subject of dancing, the routines by the Charlot and Adelphi girls are delightful, ,also they are good to look at! The Russian sequence is fantastic in the dance and choral sections, and Teddy Brown shows his musical talent to advantage.
Will Fyffe and Lily Morris provide a valuable film record of the music-hall, and let us not forget the wonderful Alfred Hitchcock sketch starring Jameson Thomas, and John Longden which I have entitled `The Triangle` with its surprise ending.
Well worth purchasing.

John Harman.


John George Haigh (Notable British Trials)
John George Haigh (Notable British Trials)
by Lord Dunboyne
Edition: Hardcover

5.0 out of 5 stars A very simple case, 11 April 2014
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`A very simple case` thus did the Attorney General, Sir Hartley Shawcross describe the case of John George Haigh, known as the Acid Bath Murderer. The reader who peruses the volume in the Notable British Trials series, edited by Lord Dunboyne, may well form the same opinion.

Haigh was a petty criminal who later turned to murder, his motive being financial gain. He believed he had found the perfect means to avoid detection by disposing of his victims in acid, so no trace of their bodies could be found. Haigh`s belief proved false, as there was plenty of evidence left to prove a crime had been committed.

Lord Dunboyne, in his introduction, has written an extensive account of Haigh`s early life, his subsequent criminal career and the events leading to the trial itself.

At the proceedings, the defence relied on insanity; Sir David Maxwell Fyfe, defending, laid great stress on this, the only witness for the defence being an eminent psychiatrist, Dr. Henry Yellowlees. His qualifications looked most impressive. However, he was subjected to a severe cross-examination by Sir Hartley Shawcross, the basis of which was to show that Haigh had been inventing a defence of insanity and was deceiving the doctor. In his closing speech, the Attorney General said that the question was this: did the accused know what he was doing and did he know it was wrong? Sir Hartley said, `You will remember how at the end of the time he (Dr. Yellowlees) was in the witness-box, I asked him-and I had to repeat the question a number of times- ...to the question whether he knew that under our law what he was doing was wrong: and at first he said that he was not prepared to give an opinion either way. But eventually Dr. Yellowlees conceded...that in his view...the prisoner must have known that what he was doing under our law was wrong` Mr. Justice Humphreys in his summing-up took the same view when he related how Dr. Yellowlees was asked the same question and the judge said, `The answer was "I would rather not answer that question. I do not think that any psychiatrist could answer that question unless he had lived with the man for years." `If you understand that answer, all I would say is you understand something I do not.` Which sums up the whole case. The reader can see the futility of Haig`s defence only by reading the transcript in full. There is also an interesting account of the libel case brought against the `Daily Mirror` An absorbing read.

John Harman.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 26, 2014 10:18 PM BST


Band Waggon [DVD]
Band Waggon [DVD]
Dvd ~ Arthur Askey
Offered by wantitcheaper
Price: £2.66

5.0 out of 5 stars Full of memories, 10 April 2014
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This review is from: Band Waggon [DVD] (DVD)
An interesting DVD as it gives a glance into a bygone era. The early part of the film is of particular interest to me, as a BBC man, for it shows Broadcasting House from the outside, and then the reception area; was this sequence filmed in the studio, or in Broadcasting House itself? As in `Death at Broadcasting House` we get a glimpse of some radio personalities of the day: Michael Standing, Mr. Middleton etc.,

In the second half of the picture, Jack Hylton and his band and Pat Kirkwood make an appearance, and rich comedy is provided by Askey and Murdoch, aided by Moore Marriot. Also, Hitler is shown in a newsreel appearance; could this be a case of `Flee from the wrath to come`? At all events, it is a thoroughly entertaining film.

John Harman.


Trials of Evans and Christie (notable British Trials Series)
Trials of Evans and Christie (notable British Trials Series)
by F Tennyson Jesse
Edition: Hardcover

5.0 out of 5 stars A case of continual controversy, 10 April 2014
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The life and times of Timothy John Evans and John Reginald Halliday Christie and the criminal cases in which they were involved, still cause dispute and will probably continue to do so for years to come.

The editor, Ms. F. Tennyson Jesse, in her introduction in the Notable British Trials series, published 1957, is careful to hold the balance equally between Evans and Christie and considers all aspects of the case as far as they were known at that time. The text is accurate for the most part, although the reader should note that the date of Christie`s motor accident should read 1924, not 1934; this explains why Dr. Odess had no knowledge of it. Ms.Jesse admits that no analysis of the case provides a complete solution, and she is quick to point out that an armchair detective should be careful not to assume the complete innocence of Evans. As she writes, `...there is much to said for the guilt of Evans. No entirely innocent man ever told quite so many lies` There has been a tendency to place Evans on a pedestal, and regard him as a man without blemish; indeed, one author has compared him to a Pavlov dog! This volume however, seeks to present events in a judicial light.

Both trials are dealt with comprehensively, and in addition there is a record of debates on the case, held in the House of Commons. Some of the illustrations are perhaps not for the squeamish, but taking everything into consideration, this is a fine edition to a book collection.

John Harman


Death at Broadcasting House [DVD]
Death at Broadcasting House [DVD]
Dvd ~ Ian Hunter
Price: £5.00

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A good representation, 10 April 2014
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As a BBC radio actor, I find there is a great deal in this DVD to which I can relate! It is obvious that the external scenes were filmed outside Broadcasting House itself, but it would be interesting to know how the film-makers managed to re-construct the interior shots so accurately; there are even views of BBC equipment that was still in use during the 1980`s.

The `guest` appearances of such stars - of the day - Hannen Swaffer, Gillie Potter, Elizabeth Welch etc., give this film added interest, although one wonders how the inclusion of the dancing-girls - who, incidentally are delightful - fits in with a radio broadcast: presumably the listener has to use his imagination!

The acting is of a high standard, which is only to be expected when such people as Sir Donald Wolfit, Ian Hunter and Jack Hawkins are involved.

A recommended purchase.

John Harman


British Musicals of the 1930s - Volume 1 [DVD]
British Musicals of the 1930s - Volume 1 [DVD]
Dvd ~ Polly Ward
Price: £7.00

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A good example of the 1930`s musical, 9 April 2014
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A very good DVD; as a BBC man I found the musical, "Music Hath Charms" interesting from the point of broadcasting history. Also, the views of Broadcasting House London and the Langham Hotel, - at one time a BBC building - were of great interest to me, as I worked for a time in both these buildings.

The plot of the film was rather trite, but no matter, it still remains an important milestone in cinema history. Space does not permit analysis of the other films featured, but I would recommend this DVD to anyone.

John Harman


I KNOW THESE DICTATORS.
I KNOW THESE DICTATORS.
by G. Ward Price
Edition: Paperback

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Grim prophecy, irony and poignancy; they are all here!, 30 April 2013
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George Ward Price, a journalist who was violently pro - Fascist/Nazi wrote this book, published in 1937, at a time when World War II was stark possibility, when the Battle of Britain, Dunkirk, El Alamein and Normandy were yet to be written in the pages of history. Anyone reading it today, cannot help smiling grimly at its contents,for Price seems determined to show Hitler and Mussolini in a favourable light; even when writing of the concentration-camps and the attitude of Nazi Germany towards the Jews. He must have had some explaining to do in the light of later events.

Prophecy comes when Price describes the results of the Reichstag elections of September 14th 1930. He relates how he and Lord Rothermere were in Venice when the news came through. Lord Rothermere stated, `Remember this day. Hitler is going to rule Germany. As sure as we sit here, this is the beginning of a new epoch in the history of Europe`, How true! Another example was when the possibility of war was discussed; Mr. Price was assured by the Germans that, `We should have some disagreeable surprises for the world in the event of a war` Again, true enough!

The theme of prophecy continues throughout the book when Price writes: `There is a disturbing likeness between the critical times in which we live and the years of tension that led up to the Great War. As then, there are two camps in Europe. They used to be the Triple Entente and Triple Alliance. Now they are `democratic states` and `authoritarian governments` `Rome-Berlin axis and `Paris-Moscow axis`. Mr. Price adds that the armaments are far more deadly than in 1914, and goes on to write that: `There is little human probability of war being permanently avoided`.

The grim tone continues: `Danzig and Memel are two German cities still outside the Reich...Germany will not rest until she has recovered them...the present rulers of Germany will not rest until the 6,000,000 Germans of Austria and the 3 1/2 million Germans of Czechoslovakia are brought into this closer association.`

Finally, the most chilling prophecy of all: `That Germany hopes one day to recover the Polish Corridor, and join up East Prussia with the rest of the Reich is certain.`

The author gives pen-portraits of Hitler, Goering and Mussolini, which seem ironic with hindsight. For example, at the beginning of the chapter entitled: `Men around the Chancellor` the author writes,`Hitler has often told friends that he will retire from public life at sixty, an age that he will reach in 1949`. Additionally,anyone reading this work in 1937, would have found it incredible that Goering, with all the power he possessed, would commit suicide at Nuremberg nine years later.

Regarding Mussolini, the writer relates of the assassination attempt by Violet Gibson - recounted in the 1941 Flanagan and Allen recording of, `Underneath the arches`! - ironically, she only succeeded in shooting him in the nose. Subsequently`El Duce` stated to an official in the British Embassy, `It is useless for anyone to attempt my life`, adding, `it has been foretold that I shall not die a violent death. That is a prophecy in which I believe`. There seems no answer to that!

Poignancy comes in many incidents throughout this volume; none more so when you read of Unity Mitford and Galeazzo Ciano. How could these two people, in the Springtime of their lives in 1937, have known of the sad fate which awaited them a few years hence.

Space does not allow for a detailed review. I can only urge you to read this work in full, for only then will you appreciate its value.

An important historical document.

John Harman.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 13, 2016 11:51 AM BST


Trial Of Neville George Clevely Heath.
Trial Of Neville George Clevely Heath.
by Macdonald. Critchley
Edition: Hardcover

5.0 out of 5 stars Bad or mad?, 29 Mar. 2013
The trial of Neville George Clevely Heath in 1946 for the murder of Margery Gardner, ranks as one of the most notable cases of the 20th century, proving once again the difficulty of sifting through the complex medical evidence, when insanity is introduced into the proceedings.
Heath had been a Borstal boy, and from thence had `graduated` to robbery, housebraking, forgery and wearing military decorations without authority. Naturally, the Prosecution made much of the fact that Heath showed no sign of mental instability: on the contary; here was a man who had his wits very much about him. This made the task of proving insanity all the more difficult for the Defence, especially when the psychotherapist, Dr. William Hubart, did not, as the editor Macdonald Critchley wrote: `Stand up to the weak points of his evidence` Any student of mental diseases should study this volume for reference alone.
The case hung on this question: was Heath bad or mad? The jury decided he was the former.

A valuable volume in the Notable British Trials series

John Harman.


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