From the Archive | Lesley Blanch and Ludwig Bemelmans

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Ludwig Bemelmans was an Austrian-born writer and illustrator of children’s books and adult novels (notably the Madeline series: six were published, the first in 1939).

Lesley Blanch often commissioned his work for British  Vogue when she was there working as features editor. Here is one of his humorous, self deprecating letters to her: a wonderfully evocative, idiosyncratic missive.

Note his description of the offices of Victor Gollancz, the publisher and humanitarian who published Ford Madox Ford, George Orwell, Elizabeth Bowen, Daphne du Maurier and Franz Kafka. Gollancz’s wife, Ruth, was an artist who had studied at the Slade School of Art with Lesley Blanch under Henry Tonks.

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From the Archive | Lesley Blanch and Cecil Beaton

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Writing letters is becoming a lost art outstripped by emailing, tweeting and the artsy instagraming of personal photos posted for public consumption. Image, image, image: but there’s nothing quite as rich and rewarding as private letter-writing for truly getting to know each other, well out of the spotlight, wherever you may be.

Beaton and Blanch first met in London at British Vogue in the 1940s where she was features editor; again in Hollywood in the 1950s; and they remained lifelong friends.

Lesley Blanch & Fearless Women of the World

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A pioneering writer and thinker, Lesley Blanch was ahead of her time and prescient in the way she attempted to bridge the gap between Western and Eastern culture.

She wrote about bold women who turned their backs on the constraints and conventions of society, broke the rules, and managed to do their own thing. They are inspiring reminders that throughout history, women have fought to assert themselves as individuals, whereas most men have had the luxury of taking their independence and authority for granted. We still live in a society controlled by men, but you don’t have to play masculine to be a strong woman.

Red Tape and Blue Pencil: The Autocracy of Film Censorship, Lesley Blanch | The Leader, April 1945

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Although the British Board of Film Censors is a non-Governmental organisation, appointed by the film industry itself, it appears to bask in a glow of complacency which renders it at once unassailable, unapproachable, and uncooperative. It seems to enjoy an atmosphere of sacrosanctity and prerogative almost as strong as that which the Lord Chamberlain’s office in its function as Censor of Plays. Both are, it seems, outside the law; there is no court of appeal; what they say goes.

News | The Lesley Blanch Estate & Peters Fraser and Dunlop (PFD) Literary Agents

Christmas card sent to friends by Lesley Blanch. Hollywood & Paris, 1961

Greetings to our readers!
It is exciting to announce that the Lesley Blanch estate is now represented by Peters, Fraser & Dunlop.
PFD represents a large number of literary estates of authors of must-read classics . . . including those of Sacheverell Sitwell, Rebecca West, Eric Ambler and Simenon who were friends of Lesley Blanch’s in life.
If you still have not read her memoirs On The Wilder Shores of Love: A Bohemian Life, published posthumously by Virago and La Table Ronde, then you’re missing out!

INDEPENDENT: “Sumptuous and captivating”
DAILY TELEGRAPH: “On The Wilder Shores of Love is a truly remarkable book”
STACEY, blogger at IT TAKES A WOMAN: “I rarely read non-fiction books, but when I do, I tend to enjoy reading about women who kick arse, and in Far to Go & Many to Love, Lesley Blanch confirms her membership of this club with her superb, descriptive writing . . . Whether writing about people or places, Lesley Blanch’s writing is arresting and has real life to it – her piece about Vivien Leigh is a particular favourite of mine and, as I said, the whole collection is put together with such love and respect, that it is a fantastic introduction to the work of a remarkable woman”

blanch by beaton and horst
Lesley Blanch by Beaton and Horst

Feature | Panto, December 1943

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Panto has been a unique feature of the British Christmas season for centuries – even when Britain was at War – until the Covid 19 pandemic forced theatres to close their doors. A few months ago hundreds of protesters – including about half-a-dozen pantomime dames – gathered in Westminster to protest against the government’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Although you can’t see a performance in person, Peter Duncan has responded to the lack of pantomimes around this Christmas in British theatres by filming a production of Jack And The Beanstalk.

To get in the mood, this feature by Lesley Blanch, originally published in British Vogue in December 1943, brings alive the joyful fun and fantasy of this very British tradition.

It’s always On the Road to the Middle of Next Week: unless it’s Nowhere in Particular, with Past Events casting their Shadows before. It’s the Enchanted Cavern, the Flying Palace, the Wicked Wood, the Widow Twankey’s Kitchen, or the Fairies’ Home in the Heart of the Rose . . . It’s the Pork-Butcher’s Shop, It’s the Magic Transformation Scene, It’s the Harlequinade — in short, it’s the Christmas Pantomime.

Continue reading “Feature | Panto, December 1943”

Feature | Film Orientations, Lesley Blanch | The Leader, August 1945

After leaving British Vogue in 1945, Lesley Blanch freelanced for a year, and was a regular contributor to Edward Hulton’s The Leader (sister publication to Picture Post). She covered film and photography – still relatively new media – and profiled rising stars; Vivien Leigh, Peter Ustinov and Billy Wilder among them. A fellow contributor and friend, Robbie Lantz, later became her agent when they were both living and working in the US. He also took on her husband Romain Gary as a client.

Film Orientations is the first in a series of feature articles by Lesley Blanch being republished that originally appeared in Edward Hulton’s The Leader (sister publication to Picture Post) in August 1945.

Since I wrote some weeks back, on the manner in which one nation presents another on the screen, so many people have written asking my views on Western versions of the East, that I shall go into the question more fully, here and now.

Continue reading “Feature | Film Orientations, Lesley Blanch | The Leader, August 1945”

Shusha Guppy interviews Lesley Blanch (1991) | part 6

Shusha Guppy interviewed Lesley Blanch at her home in Garavan, before and after a delicious home-cooked lunch consumed in the shade of a fig tree in the garden. September 1988.

Shusha Guppy : Do you have a routine for work? When do you work?

Lesley Blanch :  I used to write early in the morning – I was rather matinale. When I was writing The Sabres in Hollywood and I was running a house and doing lots of entertaining, I used to write when I came back from a party, then have two or three hours sleep, get up at five and write till eight. Alternatively I would get up at three and work till seven, then get into the car and go up into the hills around Los Angeles to have breakfast in some cowboy café. But it was irregular work – Romain and the house came first.

Continue reading “Shusha Guppy interviews Lesley Blanch (1991) | part 6”

Shusha Guppy interviews Lesley Blanch (1991) | part 5

Christmas card sent to friends by Lesley Blanch. Hollywood & Paris, 1961

Shusha Guppy interviewed Lesley Blanch at her home in Garavan, before and after a delicious home-cooked lunch consumed in the shade of a fig tree in the garden. September 1988.

Shusha Guppy : It is interesting that your husband was the opposite: he only wrote fiction, and won the Goncourt twice, the second time under a pseudonym. What do you think of his work now?

Lesley Blanch : I don’t read novels. Few last. Romain was not a disciplined writer, but he had wonderful ideas, and sometimes wrote wonderful stories. The one about the strolling players, for example. I thought The Roots of Heaven was fine. It had a momentous theme, like his autobiography, Promise at Dawn, which he wrote in Hollywood and gave me to read in instalments as he went along. Of course he invented a certain amount of that, but basically it was true.

Continue reading “Shusha Guppy interviews Lesley Blanch (1991) | part 5”

Shusha Guppy interviews Lesley Blanch (1991) | part 4

Shusha Guppy interviewed Lesley Blanch at her home in Garavan, before and after a delicious home-cooked lunch consumed in the shade of a fig tree in the garden. September 1988.

Shusha Guppy : People like you who are passionate about Russia and Russian literature are usually disappointed by the Soviet Union. But in your book you seem to approve of it. In the passage relating to your trip to Siberia you write most poignantly and vividly about the plight of the convicts in the nineteenth century with their chains and fetters dragging through the frozen steppes, yet hardly mention the millions and millions who perished in Stalin’s concentration camps, in worse conditions. How come?

Lesley Blanch : I think the Russian Revolution was an inevitable move in the context of the twentieth century, just as Khomeini’s Islamic revivalism is today. It is something, a phase, to be gone through. I don’t think it will kill Persia, and it hasn’t killed Russia. You might remember what the Tzarina Alexandra said: “Russia can only be ruled by the knout” – the whip. Yes, that very English, rather silly stubborn lady who was killed in Ekaterinburg in 1918, said that. I don’t know what conclusions to draw from that.

Continue reading “Shusha Guppy interviews Lesley Blanch (1991) | part 4”