Some years ago, I had occasion to read The Sabres of Paradise by the late Lesley Blanch, published more than sixty years ago. It is a remarkable story of resistance to empire, heroism and treachery, savagery and generosity, religious fanaticism and imperial ambition. Though the tale it tells occurred over 150 years ago, its implications for our era are evident on nearly every page. If you want to understand something of the futility and hubris of the American effort to pacify Afghanistan and the unruly clans of Pakistan, not to mention the theocratic fanaticism and tribal irredentism tearing apart Mesopotamia, or the forlorn and ruthless Russian war against Chechnya’s murderous insurgents, you would do well to consider the story of Shamyl, Imam of Daghestan.
Media Release | Far To Go and Many To Love: People and Places by the author of The Wilder Shores of Love
Far To Go and Many To Love: People and Places is the sequel to the memoirs of Lesley Blanch, published posthumously by Virago, On the Wilder Shores of Love: A Bohemian Life. Available for the first time as a paperback and an e-book.
The collection opens with an insightful introduction about her two great loves: émigré theatre director, Theodore Komisarjevsky, and twice-Goncourt-winning novelist, Romain Gary. Her impressions of people and places have an enduring intensity and she writes of them as vividly as she does her own experiences.
We see rising stars Vivien Leigh and Peter Ustinov in 1940s London; and war reporter Germaine Kanova, the ‘French Lee Miller’; the last great Ruritanian Queen Marie of Rumania in her Balkan setting; and Pierre Loti in Turkey, or rather Loti-land.
From the Archive | Lesley Blanch and Terence Rattigan
A leading British playwright of the 1940s and 1950s, Terence Rattigan is chiefly remembered today for The Winslow Boy, The Browning Version, The Deep Blue Sea and Separate Tables. He also wrote screenplays based on novels, among them Graham Greene’s Brighton Rock, James Hilton’s Goodbye, Mr. Chips . . . and Lesley Blanch’s The Nine Tiger Man.
But the film of Lesley Blanch’s only novel was never completed. According to a letter held in the George Cukor papers at the Margaret Herrick Library, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, 8949 Wilshire Boulevard, Beverly Hills, California 90211, dated 14 July, 1972, from 20th Century Fox to the film’s director, George Cukor, 20th Century Studios “have 1,500,000 US dollars in charges in the film and would accept a reasonable offer for the property.”
The revised final version of Terence Rattigan’s script-screenplay, dated 14 November, 1966, is also in the Margaret Herrick Library – along with Gene Allen’s script-screenplay based on Rattigan’s, dated 5 April, 1967. Gavin Lambert’s script-screenplay is alleged by Hollywood insiders to be the best version but has disappeared and is, as yet, unfound.
Terence Rattigan said of The Nine Tiger Man: “Romantic, outrageous, savage and comic . . . It is the purest ironic comedy, almost, let’s face it, black.”
It was to be filmed partly at Belvoir Castle Grantham (Rutland).
From the Archive | Lesley Blanch and the Duchess of Windsor
From the Archive | Lesley Blanch and Ludwig Bemelmans
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.
From the Archive | Lesley Blanch and Cecil Beaton
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
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
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
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”
Feature | Panto, December 1943
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”