Magazine article The Spectator

High Life

Magazine article The Spectator

High Life

Article excerpt

Who first declared that nothing counts a lot and very little counts at all? The cynic and sesquipedalian Alastair Forbes claimed it, but he spoke with a forked tongue. Iris Murdoch hinted that it was hers, but she, too, was known for bending it. It doesn't really matter because the saying is utter crap. A hell of a lot counts, starting with the fine line between mad love and pure madness. No, don't be alarmed, I will not go into yet another reverie about Jessica-Jenny, as my friend John Sutin has finally come to the rescue by pledging he will do something about it.

Incidentally, this last weekend was like the lost weekend of movie fame, with yet another Mick Flick extravaganza that ended late at night, followed by a Sutin oyster and caviar lunch on the terrace of the Palace during which I thought I saw a Nero-like figure strumming a harp. Excessive drinking, they say, can produce delusions and be harmful to one's sex drive, but in my case I think it has the contrary effect. Or it could all be in my head. What is certain is that I sympathise with Terence Rattigan's heroine in The Deep Blue Sea. It's all about the ravages of erotic love in repressed 1950s Britain.

When the 1955 film version came out starring Vivien Leigh and directed by Anatole Litvak, I couldn't understand what all the fuss was about. I was 19 and was in the midst of adulterous relationships with two married women, and thought it normal that older women would go bananas over younger men. Fifty-five years later, I have switched sides and now root for the oldies. Later on in Paris I met Litvak, a sensitive director whose wife Sophie liked staying up late at Jimmy's with young men. I wanted to know about Rattigan and the intense, repressed characters he invented. 'Ses caracteres sont lui, ' said Anatole. This was around the time Rattigan had been shoved aside by the great unwashed playwrights of the early Sixties, something that really infuriated me, especially as I had become a theatre addict just after school owing to my relationship with an actress.

What amazed and continues to amaze to this day is the cuckolded hubby. True that British women back in the Fifties did not leave their husbands, but how does a man stay married to a woman who has gone ape over someone else? I know, I know, it's a double standard, but that's why double standards were invented. For types like me.

Passion, according to the director of the latest film version of the play, Terence Davies, is considered vulgar by the Brits, but what kind of Brits is he talking about? …

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