|The Religion Of The English
||[Mar. 8th, 2005|09:56 am]
Judy and I were talking about the Marx Brothers and how a friend of hers had probably never heard of them. I was incredulous. Yeah, she continued, the Marxes are largely forgotten in America.|
Hey, people, tell me it ain't so!
In Britain you're never more than five minutes away from the nearest Marx Brothers movie. We run them all the time. In 1940 we were kept going by Churchill's speechifying and Churchill was kept going by watching Marx Brothers movies in his bunker. Why, the Marxes more or less won the war for us.
And the Marxes begat Spike Milligan and Spike Milligan begat John Cleese and John Cleese begat Eddie Izzard.
Some Frenchman toured England in the 1920s and took stock of all the war memorials and concluded that the religion of the English was the worship of dead soldiers. He was wrong. The religion of the English is the worship of dead comedians.
Living ones too.
We don't know the ten commandments or the words to the national anthem, but every English person with an ounce of pride can recite The Dead Parrot Sketch.
When Norman Wisdom (slightly funny film comedian of the 1950s) announced his retirement at the age of 92 the news media reacted like the Queen Mother had died again.
We take our sense of humour terribly seriously. Secretly (in fact, not so secretly) we believe it's what makes us top nation. We are constantly having polls to discover our favourite comedian/sitcom/funny movie. And once a year we have this huge televised charity thing called Comic Relief where everybody puts on red plastic noses and does embarrassing things to raise money for starving Africans.
Another thing Judy said is that she'd never seen Sergeant Bilko. You what! Over here every sink comes fitted with three taps. One for hot and one for cold and one for the Phil Silvers Show.
One reason Americans have forgotten the great movie comedians is that local independent television stations have all but disappeared. Every big town used to have its CBS, ABC, and NBC station; the rest were independents, and a programming staple of independents were cheap old movies. So, when I was growing up, whether it was Mississippi, Kansas, Virginia, or Washington, I could always tune in on Saturday and Sunday afternoons to see Marx Brothers, W.C. Fields, Abbott and Costello, Dagwood and Blondie, and other comedies from the 30s and 40s. Or the other alternative, Westerns. And Saturday nights, it was science fiction movies and vampire movies.
Turn on an average American television set and try to find any of that today. Vanished.
Ah, this goes a long way towards explaining it.
Brit TV still shows a lot of old movies.
And long may it continue to do so!
It's so true--you either rent those things from Netflix or your local video store, or you pay for them on cable. No longer do they just appear before you on your local broadcast tv station. Very sad.
But Netflix and its equivalents are great.
We belong to "club" which, for £15 per month, gives us access to a library containing every DVD that's been released in the UK- and which sends them out to us just as fast as we can watch them.
Indeed, I didn't mean to sound as if I was dissing Netflix--it's a great thing. It's just that we *are* paying now for a lot of entertainment that was free when I was a kid. (And I don't understand how they dare show commercials on cable when you are already paying for it!)
British TV seems less adventurous in its scheduling of movies than it used to be. When I was in my teens there were lots of "art" movies being shown and it was possible to get a reasonable education in World cinema just by keeping a sharp eye on the listings. These days if you want to see Bergman, Fellini or Kurosawa you really have to go out and get them on DVD.