Archive for Kenneth Williams

Remembering Joe Orton

Posted in History, LGBT with tags , , , on August 9, 2017 by telescoper

Joe Orton, photographed on 1st March 1967.

The playwright and author Joe Orton died on August 9th 1967, which is exactly 50 years ago today. I couldn’t resist a short post in his memory.

Joe Orton’s career was very brief – he was only 34 when he died – but reached brilliant heights with a series of anarchic black comedies that both scandalised and entertained Sixties audiences. Such was his success that he is one of the few playwrights to have  his name remembered  in the English language,  in the form of the adjective `Ortonesque’:

Relating to or characteristic of the English playwright Joe Orton or his works, especially in being unconventional and darkly comic.

My first experience of Orton’s plays was seeing an amateur dramatic society production of Loot when I was a student. I have to say it was a dreadful experience, but that was because of the performance not because of the script. Loot is basically a farce, and I think that must be the most difficult form of comedy to do successfully. The timing has to be perfect, the pace has to be relentless and everyone has to act as if all the absurd things going on make perfect sense. Those are tough requirements for amateurs, and even for professionals. The first, provincial, run of Loot was a flop even with an experienced cast. It was only when it was revived a couple of years later that it became a hit.

The circumstances of Joe Orton’s death were terrible: he was battered to death by his partner Kenneth Halliwell  (with whom he lived in a small bedsit) who then committed suicide by taking an overdose of sleeping tablets. Orton and Halliwell had been in a relationship since 1951.  Joe had never made any secret about his enjoyment of casual sexual encounters – his diaries are full of descriptions of his adventures – but  I think it was the thought of living alone rather than sexual jealousy that Halliwell couldn’t handle.

I never met Joe Orton (I was only 4 when was murdered) but I have over the years met a number of older gay men who knew him (and Halliwell) in various ways (if you get my drift). They all described him in the same way: cute, funny and extremely flirtatious. Watch this clip of him on TV and I think you’ll see why so many people were attracted to his cheekily boyish manner:

Those who knew Halliwell also say that the usual cliché about him as a failure embittered by Joe’s success is not fair. They were an odd couple (for the time) but what they had seemed to work for them, both romantically and creatively. It makes the horrible end of their lives even more difficult to contemplate. Here’s an interview with Kenneth Williams (who was very repressed about his sexuality) talking about Orton (who was quite the opposite), that gives some insight into the relationship between the two:

Rest in peace, Joe Orton (1933-1967), author and gay icon.

Semper Cavete Quod Idibus Martiis

Posted in Film, History with tags , , on March 15, 2017 by telescoper

Today is the Ides of March so I thought I’d keep up the little tradition I’ve established of posting this  priceless bit of British cultural history relevant to such a fateful day.

This is from the First Folio Edition of Carry On Cleo, and stars the sublime Kenneth Williams as Julius Caesar delivering one of the funniest lines in the whole Carry On series. The joke may be nearly as old as me, but it’s still a cracker…

P.S. On a less frivolous note, today the good folks of the Netherlands are going to the polls. I hope that they use their votes wisely, but am more than a little nervous about the outcome.

 

Cavete, Quod Idibus Martiis

Posted in Film, History with tags , , on March 15, 2016 by telescoper

Today is the Ides of March and we’re entering the final straight before crossing the finishing line of term and collapsing in a sweaty mess into the arms of the Easter holiday. I’ve been ridiculously busy today so, being too knackered to think of anything else to post, I thought I’d tap into a priceless bit of British cultural history relevant to this auspicious day.

This is from the First Folio Edition of Carry On Cleo, and stars the sublime Kenneth Williams as Julius Caesar delivering one of the funniest lines in the whole Carry On series. The joke may be nearly as old as me, but it’s still a cracker…

 

 

Ma Crepe Suzette

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on December 17, 2010 by telescoper

While I’m in a festive mood, here’s a party piece to end all party pieces. It’s a tribute to French language and culture, performed by the sublime Kenneth Williams.


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Astronomy Look-alikes, No. 19

Posted in Astronomy Lookalikes with tags , on April 6, 2010 by telescoper

While watching Carry on Screaming on the telly tonight, I was reminded of the similarity in visual appearance possessed by the villainous Orlando (played by Kenneth Williams) and the distinguished Astronomer Royal, President of the Royal Society and Master of Trinity College, Cambridge, and the Universe, Lord Rees of Ludlow (who, I hasten to add, is not at all villainous..).

Lord Martin of Rees

Sir Kenneth of Williams

Idus Martiae

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on March 15, 2010 by telescoper

Today is the Ides of March and we’re entering the final straight before crossing the finishing line of term and collapsing in a sweaty mess into the arms of the Easter holiday. I’ve been ridiculously busy today so, being too knackered to think of anything else to post, I thought I’d tap into a priceless bit of British cultural history relevant to this auspicious day.

This is from the First Folio Edition of Carry On Cleo, and stars the sublime Kenneth Williams as Julius Caesar delivering one of the funniest lines in the whole Carry On series. The joke may be nearly as old as me, but it’s still a cracker…