(Klaus Mann) Haughty toad sucks up to artsy-nazis to progress in the theatre; his Faustian bargain gets him more than expected. It’s not hard to see why the estate of Gustaf Gründgens, the actor whose role as Mephistopheles bewitched that drama-lover Goering, sought to have the book banned by a German constitutional Court (in the old days they would simply have lobbed it on the bonfire).

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Major Barbara


(George Bernard Shaw) A scream: armaments manufacturer Andrew Undershaft wants a successor; his bible-walloping daughter concludes it is better to take money from the devil for good use than leave it with him. Very rude about the Salvation Army and worth re-consideration in these times of ‘clean charity’ (not to mention boycott, divestment and sanctions).  

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The Life of Johnson


(James Boswell) Incomparable biography (or stalker’s notes) of the great Tory grump Dr Samuel Johnson, packed with wit and wisdom. My favourite vignette: Johnson speaks of one of Boswell’s Scottish acquaintances who affects a savage, Rousseau-like disdain for civilised order: “if he does really think that there is no distinction between virtue and vice, why, Sir, when he leaves our houses let us count our spoons.”  

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The Spy Who Came in from the Cold

November 17, 2014 | Posted by Peter Jakobsen | Classic Film, Drama Film, FILM, THUMBNAIL REVIEWS |

(dir. Martin Ritt) (1965) Agent Alec Leamas returns from Berlin, defeated and discouraged, and Control gives him a project: go back and set up his adversary for a big fall.  So far, so good, but nothing is what it seems in grand espionage… Great, grey, grim, cold war nasty. Dick Burton, et al, play for keeps with nary a hint of glamour.

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The Embarrassment of Riches


(Simon Schama) There’s the Amsterdam dutch And the Zaandam dutch And the Rotterdam dutch And the God-damn dutch… However, despite their slightly dodgy record in slave driving, tulip speculating, trade finance and robust colonization, this admiring and admirably crammed history of culture in the Dutch Golden Age is a delight. The ‘Burgemeester van Delft’ in Jan Steen’s painting on the cover is a dead ringer for Jeffrey Jones (Mr. Rooney in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off).

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