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.
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.
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.
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.