Sunday, 29 May 2011

Malcolm Lowry on Literary Kicks

Just picked up on an essay on Under The Volcano by Michael Norris on the Literary Kicks site:

Mexico. The land of intrigue south of the border. The place where Dean and Sal headed for ultimate kicks. The destination of choice for taking it on the lam, as in “I’m goin’ way down south, way down to Mexico way” in the Hendrix reading of “Hey Joe”. So many images of Mexico, most of them on the dark side. Think back to the opening scene of The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, where Humphrey Bogart is down and out in Tampico.

I wanted to get away from the endless Chicago winter. I wanted to feel sun on my face and soft breezes blowing through my hair. I wanted to go to Mexico. So I booked a flight to Querétero, a colonial town in the central highlands, and packed my bags. What to read, though? Graham Greene? Not in the mood. I wanted something dark that penetrated to the heart of my image of Mexico, but I wanted a writer other than Greene. Browsing through the stacks at the library, I found it. Under the Volcano, by Malcolm Lowry.

Lowry started writing Under the Volcano in the late 1930s, finally publishing it in 1947. The novel tells the story of the ex-British Consul of Quauhnahuac, the Indian name for Cuernavaca. The Consul, Geoffrey Firmin, has resigned his post because Britain has severed diplomatic relations with the Mexican government over Mexico’s nationalization of its oil reserves. We see him in 1938, on his last day on earth: November 2, the Day of the Dead. Read more

Saturday, 28 May 2011

Malc on The Philiad

Did I choose Malcolm Lowry or did he choose me? Why is it that wherever I go in Mexico, and even beyond Mexico, it is inevitably Malcolm Lowry that I find shadowing and whispering to me?

Lowry’s Under the Volcano was first recommended to me in Michigan in 2007. It wasn’t until 3 years later that I found a copy of the novel in a Oaxaca bookstore. I was a few months into my time in Mexico, and hungry for anything Mexico-related. Since then I’ve read the book twice – something almost unheard of for me.
Read more on the Philiad

There are several features on Malc on the Philiad blog:

Malcolm Lowry vs. David Duchovny

If it can work for Malcolm Lowry…

Morelos Journal 1: Surprise Pilgrimage to the Mysterious Mountain Pyramid of Pulque

Morelos Journal 3: searching for Malcolm Lowry’s Quauhnahuac

Hangover Square 1945 with those novels or plays (The Children's Hour, Hangover Square, etc) which have been utterly transmogrified, but made into effective movies... Letter to Frank Taylor April/May 1950

Malc is arguing a case in his letter for the production of his transcript of Fitzgerald's Tender Is The Night withstanding the issues of incest in the novel and how problems around difficult subjects have been overcome in other movies including Hangover Square.

Hangover Square (1945) is a film noir directed by John Brahm, based on the novel Hangover Square (1941) by Patrick Hamilton. The screenplay was written by Barré Lyndon who made a number of changes to the novel, including the transformation of George Harvey Bone into a classical composer-pianist and filming the story as a turn-of-the-century period piece.

In Victorian London (the date 1899 is shown in the opening scene), the police suspect that a composer who suffers from periods of amnesia may be a murderer.

The period setting creates a dark mood, especially in the key scene when Bone (portrayed by Laird Cregar), having strangled Netta (Linda Darnell) on Guy Fawkes Night, carries her wrapped body through streets filled with revelers and deposits it on top of the biggest bonfire.

The final scene shows Cregar as Bone, playing his piano concerto (composed by Bernard Herrmann), unmindful of the conflagration around him, as flames consume all.

Hangover Square is a 1941 novel by English playwright and novelist Patrick Hamilton (1904–1962). Subtitled A tale of Darkest Earl's Court it is set in that area of London in 1939.

A black comedy, it is often cited as Hamilton's finest novel, exemplifying the author's concerns over social inequalities, the rise of Fascism and the hovering doom of World War II.

Set against the backdrop of the days preceding Britain declaring war on Germany, the main character is George Harvey Bone, a lonely borderline alcoholic who suffers from a split personality. He is obsessed with gaining the affections of Netta, a failed actress and one of George's circle of "friends" with whom he drinks. Netta is repelled by George but being greedy and manipulative, she and a mutual acquaintance, Peter, shamelessly exploit George's advances to extract from him money and drink.

George suffers from 'dead moods' in which he is convinced he must kill Netta for the way she treats him. Upon recovering from these interludes, he cannot remember them. However outside these he embarks on several adventures, trying in vain to win Netta's affections, including a 'romantic' trip to Brighton which goes horribly wrong (Netta brings Peter and a previously unknown man with whom she has sex in the hotel room next to George's).

Apart from being a source of money and alcohol, Netta's other reason for continuing to associate with George is because of Johnnie. He is one of George's long-time friends who works for a theatrical agent, and Netta hopes that through him she will get to meet Eddie Carstairs, a powerful figure in the theatre. However in a final reversal of fortune it is George, not Netta, who ends up attending a party amongst the theatrical great and good whilst Netta is cast aside by Eddie who (unlike George) has immediately seen her for the unpleasant person she is. George suddenly realises what it is like to be surrounded by 'kind' people who are interested in him as a person rather than what he can provide.

This potentially promising turn of events in George's life is, however, dashed, when he suddenly clicks into a dead mood and resumes his murder plans. He executes his murder of Netta (and also of Peter, whom the narrative describes as a 'Fascist' moments before he is murdered) before escaping to Maidenhead. Throughout the novel, Maidenhead represents for George a semi-mythical new beginning, and representing a picture of traditional Englishness in contrast to the seaminess of Earl's Court. However, in the closing pages of the novel the stark fallacy of that dream becomes apparent to George. It is the same as everywhere else. Now penniless, he gasses himself in a dingy Maidenhead boarding house.

Friday, 27 May 2011

Malc on Facebook

Frédéric-Yves Jeannet has set up a Facebook page for Malc with the conceit of pretending to be Malc which actually works and is fun! Please drop over and join "Malc"!

Malc on Twitter

My Lowry e-friend Nicolas Labbe has set up a Twitter page for Malc. If you are a Lowry fan then please drop over join!

Cow Dung Lake

Lowry seems from an early age to have taken an interest in unusual or exotic names which he built into his work.

In Under The Volcano, Hugh recalls an "idiotic verse" which refers to a series of places in Saskatchewan. Year later, Malc referred to these names in a letter to Clemens ten Holder:

p.120 Silly, unimagainative names in the state of Saskatchewan. They have some beautiful examples in British Columbia of which Cow-Dung Lake is perhaps the most expressive.

I have started trying to track down images for the places named in Lowry's works for my Postcards from Malc blog. I cannot imagine that Malc ever visited all these places as elsewhere he mentions looking at an atlas searching out unusual place names. The searches on those long nights in his Dollarton cabin probably recalled his youth in his Inglewood home where you can imagine him looking to where you could go in the world!

I failed to find Cow-Dung lake until I discovered that it had been renamed:

This lake near the Yellowhead Pass has been known by several names. In 1824, Hudson’s Bay Company governor George Simpson, heading for the Athabasca Pass, noted, “the track for Cranberry Lake takes a Northerly direction by Cow Dung River.” The Cow Dung River was the Miette and Simpson’s Cranberry Lake may have been our Yellowhead. In 1862, when the Overlander gold seekers crossed Yellowhead Pass (which they called Leather Pass) they camped on Cow Dung Lake. A year later, the lake was known to Milton and Cheadle as Buffalo Dung Lake. In 1872 George Grant suggested its present name, recalling the namesake of the pass.

“It is a very charming litle sheet of water,” wrote Arthur Wheeler, “four miles long, with a greatest width of half a mile. There are several narrows, and the irregularities of its form are by no means the least part of its charm. For the most part it is surrounded by green forest and is distinctly one of the most beautiful lakes in the district. In colour the waters are a creamy sap green.”
Read more on Spiral Road

Sir Walter Raleigh

Oh , Hugh saw, it was a grotesque and pathetic picture enough, that of the youth who imagined himself a cross between Bix Beiderbecke, whose first records had just appeared in England, the infant Mozart, and the childhood of Raleigh, signing on the dotted line in that office....... Under The Volcano

Chris Ackerley in his annotations to Under The Volcano has pointed out the of the allusion to Sir Walter Raleigh:

....but Hugh has in mind the painting by Sir John Everett Millais, 'The Boyhood of Raleigh' (1870), now at the Tate, which depicts a small boy sitting at the foot of a sailor, listening spellbound to tales of the sea. In October Ferry [152], the painting is mentioned by name.

There is little doubt that Lowry would have known such a famous painting. However, there is another reason why Malc may have chosen to emulate Raleigh:

The Boyhood of Raleigh is a painting by John Everett Millais, which was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1871. It came to epitomise the culture of heroic imperialism in late Victorian Britain and in British popular culture up to the mid-twentieth century.

The painting depicts the young, wide-eyed Sir Walter Raleigh and his brother sitting on the beach by the Devonshire coast. He is listening to a story of life on the seas, told by an experienced sailor who points out to the sea.

The painting was influenced by an essay written by James Anthony Froude on England's Forgotten Worthies, which described the lives of Elizabethan seafarers. It was also probably influenced by a contemporaneous biography of Raleigh, which imagined his experiences listening to old sailors as a boy. Millais travelled to Budleigh Salterton to paint the location.

Millais's sons Everett and George modelled for the boys. The sailor was a professional model. Millais' friend and biographer, the critic Marion Spielmann, stated that he was intended to be Genoese. He also argues that the sailor is pointing south towards the "Spanish main".

There is a connection between the location of the painting and Malc in that he spent a summer holiday with his family in Budleigh Salterton in 1924. You can imagine a young Malc obsessed by the sea "re-living" the tale told by the painting on the beach. Malc may have even visited Raleigh's childhood home at Hayes Barton, a farmhouse in the village of East Budleigh, not far from Budleigh Salterton.

Sign to Parian

I came across Malc's inspiration for his famous "sign to Parian" in Under The Volcano while I was rummaging around for material on the post about Winchester in the novel.

The sign can be found in Thomas Hardy's Jude The Obscure - Thither Jude Fawley

Malcolm Lowry A hundred Years On: A Byronic Perspective

A lecture by Sir Drummond Bone, Liverpool University which I missed back in 2009:

Well why Lowry at this Lecture? Really just because one hundred years after his birth I wanted to think about Lowry again – back in the seventies I wrote a bit about him – and since then of course I have the Liverpool connection – Lowry having being born in 1909 in New Brighton and brought up in Caldy next to Hoylake – and I’ve also had the chance to visit some of the Lowry sights in Mexico. I remember having a morning beer in an empty bar opposite the original of Jacques Laruelle’s....Read more

Malc's MG Magna

I had to smile at the above advert given the fact that a Magna was the only car Malc ever possessed which he unsurprisingly managed to write off! Day says in his biography that Malc 'disembowelled it on a great tombstone of a rock'(Day, 181).The car was acquired by Lowry from Tom Forman, to whom Ultramarine was dedicated. Jan Gabrial recalled the car in her book about her time with Malc; "He'd wrecked his short-lived MG Magna, but was fortunately unhurt. Thank God I had not been with him when he crashed!"

The car does creep into Malc's work; "......The English "King's Parade" voice, scarcely above him, the Consul saw now, of an extremely long low car drawn up beside him, murmurous: an mg Magna.....Under The Volcano 79; in October Ferry; "Nor their towing the MG away — it was still the same one (and one of the few of its kind, that special 1932 four-seater convertible MG Magna "University" model), like the sporting hearse..." (115)

It was not until September 1931 that the first 12 horsepower Magna was introduced, known as a 'light six'. This car was to be the MG Car Company's venture into the smoother running six cylinder sports car market. The six cylinder cars were however to be produced in relatively small numbers compared to the Midgets of the era as they did not generate quite the same affection. Performance wise, although smooth, they did not give quite the exhilaration of the smaller MGs. The appeal for the six cylinder cars was nonetheless understandable when you consider that most of the 1930s cars had solidly mounted engines and non synchromesh gearboxes and when directly compared with their four cylinder counterparts, the 'light sixes' ran far smoother with far less vibration. The first and the most popular of the Magnas was the F type which had a production run of 1250 cars. The car was basically a C type that was stretched by 10" in length and it was powered by an M type engine that had two extra cylinders 'tacked' on. The hefty power unit was derived straight from the Wolseley Hornet but was cunningly camouflaged externally by MG engineers. Twin carburettors helped to produce a modest 37 bhp and performance was adequate, certainly not startling, however the car sold well if only because it looked the part. There were two body styles available, a four seat tourer and a close coupled salonette. 1250 cars were produced in just over 12 months which was a good figure by MG standards. An improved model was introduced at the 1932 Motor Show with better, larger brakes. In total 129 of these were produced either in two seater form, known as the F2 or in four seater guise designated the F3. Read more on MG Owners Club

Life Magazine 'A Round Table on the Movies' 27 June 1949

In 1950, Malc wanted to see his film script of Fitzgerald's Tender Is The Night turned into a movie. Frank Taylor was keen to produce the movie which can be seen from the several letters written by Malc to Taylor.

In one letter dated 12 April 1950, Malc refers to an article in Life magazine about a conference on movies which included a round-table discussion involving Alistair Cooke who had been a contemporary of Malc's at Cambridge University.

You can read movie report in Life 27 June 1949.

Teba, Spain

One of the most frustrating things about running the Postcards from Malc blog has been sourcing appropriate postcards. I made the task harder for myself by wanting to only use postcards contemporary to when Malc or others had written the piece.

One of my favourite letters written by Malc is one to The Viking Press in 1951 after the company published Samuel Putnam's translation of Cervantes's Three Exemplary Novels. He wrote to the company concerning the phrase "We are neither from Thebes nor from Murcia" and the annotation on the phrase and whether Cervantes was referring to the Andalusian town of Teba. What follows is a wonderful description of the memory Malc has carried around with him since passing through the town on a train back in 1933 while on holiday:

Though I've never met anybody who has been there, & have never even heard the place mentioned until this bit in Cervantes called it (even wrongly) to mind, it made a greater & weirder & more dramatic impression upon me than any single place I have ever seen in my life, - though I only passed through in it in the train. That is to say the town is about 3 miles away from the station, at which we stopped only about two minutes, but built between Taxco the House of Usher & the Castle of Worms, painted by Ryder & El Greco, with orchestral effects by Wagner Hieronymus Bosch & God. All this is 20 years ago, but I remember there was a terrific thunder storm going on, & a sinister individual in dark clothes wearing a top hat descended from the train climbed into a dark coach drawn by two black horses & then began to drive up the hill into the lightning as the train drew out, so that I told myself I certainly was going back to Theba one day & also knew that I could never forget it.

The train journey Malc refers to was either the outbound trip from Algeciras to Ronda en route to Granada or the reverse journey in the early summer of 1933. It was during this holiday in Spain that he met Jan Gabrial who he later married. There is an earlier record of the impact Teba had on Malc as he wrote to Jan in June 1933:

Did you see a place in Spain called Ceba or Seba or Zeba - anyway pronounced Theba, obviously a corruption of Thebes: twenty or thirty miles from Ronda I imagine - I saw it from the train & I thought "we must go there". It is unearthly place looking like Poe's Usher, or Kafka's Castle place I've ever seen.

Teba is a town in Spain. It sits on a rock saddle in the mountains east of Ronda, some 15 kilometre north of Ardales, in the comarca of Antequera and provincia of Málaga in Andalusia. The castle Malc is writing about is called Estrella Castle, locally known as Castillo de La Estrella or Castillo de Teba, which lies on a hill next to Teba. Estrella Castle was probably built somewhere in the 10th century by the Moors. During the 12th and 13th century, under Almohad rule, the castle was strengthened and enlarged. Read more about the castle and see photographs on

Sievx - Malcolm

A mystery band to me who have an instrumental on Youtube called Malcolm:

The making of Under the Volcano by Guy Cassiers

Guy Cassiers stages one of the great literary works of the twentieth century, Malcolm Lowrys Under the Volcano (1947). Cassiers will adapt the novel together with actor/author Josse de Pauw, who will also play the role of the consul. For the performance images were shot in Mexico.

Read more on 19th Hole

SOIS PATIENT CAR LE LOUP - Catherine Delaunay, John Greaves

Here is a short piece SOIS PATIENT CAR LE LOUP - Catherine Delaunay, John Greaves after Malc's poem 'Pacific is a feeble symbol of death':

See other poems on Youtube:

No Time To Stop And Think

I have just come across one of Malc's poems put to music by the Consumirantes:

Música: Juan José Rueda
Voz: Eva Paéz
Bajo: Miguel Ángel del Arco
Piano: Juan José Rueda


The only hope is the next drink.
If you like, you take a walk.
No time to stop and think,
The only hope is the next drink.
Useless trembling on the brink,
Worse than useless all this talk.
The only hope is the next drink.
If you like, you take a walk.

Marquis of Granby, Fitzrovia

A short film about a pub in Fitzrovia frequented by Malc in the 1930s:

Malc in Fitzrovia 1932

In the summer of 1932, Lowry went to live in London firstly at the Kenilworth Hotel in Great Russell Street which was then a temperance hotel run by Cranstons described by León Ó Broin 'that home of saddle-bag atrocities and Presbyterian principles'. He began to frequent the Fitzrovia pubs around Charlotte Street in Bloomsbury including the Marquis of Granby, The Plough, The Duke of York and the most famous - the Fitzroy Tavern.

Fitzrovia is probably named after the Fitzroy Tavern, a public house situated on the corner of Charlotte Street and Windmill Street within the district. The name was adopted during the inter-war years initially by and later in recognition of the artistic and bohemian community habitually found at the public house. (The name Fitzroy derives from the Norman-French for "son of the king", although it usually implies the original holder was the bastard son of a king)

The name Fitzrovia was recorded in print for the first time by Tom Driberg MP in the William Hickey gossip column of the Daily Express in 1940.

The writer and dandy Julian Maclaren-Ross recalled in his Memoirs of the Forties that Meary James Thurairajah Tambimuttu aka "Tambi" editor of Poetry London had used the name Fitzrovia. Tambi had apparently claimed to have coined the name Fitzrovia. By the time Julian Maclaren-Ross met Tambimuttu and Dylan Thomas in the early 1940s this literary group had moved away from the Fitzroy Tavern, which had become a victim of its own success, and were hanging out in the lesser-known Wheatsheaf and others in Rathbone Place and Gresse Street. Maclaren-Ross recalls Tambimuttu saying: "Now we go to the Black Horse, the Burglar's Rest, the Marquess of Granby, The Wheatsheaf... in Fitzrovia." Maclaren-Ross replied: "I know the Fitzroy" to which Tambimuttu said: "Ah, that was in the Thirties, now they go to other places. Wait and see." Tambimuttu then took him on a pub crawl.
Read more on Wikipedia

You can read more about this period of Malc's life in Gordon Bowker's Pursued By Furies: A Life Of Malcolm Lowry Pgs. 139-149.

Below is a video called Viva Fitzrovia about the area.

Viva Fitzrovia by FitzroviaTV

You can read more about the literary connections and pubs at Pear Shaped Comedy

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Malc Playing Bumblepuppy in Bonn 1928

Whether I in turn am unfair to Weber or not, which may be, he certainly hated me, so that it was a moment of satisfaction to me when I finally managed to better him at his favourite game of Bumblepuppy. Letter Clemens ten Holder April 23rd 1951.

Malc spent eight weeks in the Autumn of 1928 at Captain Weber's English College on the Koblenzerstrasse in Bonn learning German. The Captain later featured in Under The Volcano as a villain in revenge for Mal's experiences at the college.

I was intrigued as to nature of the the game of Bumblepuppy.

I have come across several variations on the Net:

Bumble-puppy - also known as tetherball - was a game for two players who use their hands to hit in opposite directions a ball that is on a length of rope attached to the top of a pole. The object of the game is to wind the rope completely around the pole. If Deryn Lake's novel 'Death at St James's Palace' is to be believed, it seems to have been in existence in the 1760s at the Queens Head in Marybone (Marylebone) Park, London.

We had an identical game - using a tennis ball on a metal pole - which we used to play at the caravan but we called it swingball.
Words, words, words and (phrases)

a game of whist played carelessly or contrary to rules and conventions.

1a) the old game of nine-holes b) whist or bridge played without a system
2) a game in which a ball slung to a post is struck with a racket by each player in opposite directions, the object being to wind the string entirely around the post; also the post so used.

One of the more interesting games was the one mentioned above called "nine-holes" which I quite liked because the obvious golf reference which would have gone down well with Malc:

a rectangular slate, six foot by three, built on brick piles or irregular height and sloping down at one end. At the lower end was a strip of wood with a series of numbered holes, with little boxes behind them. Bumblepuppy, which some of my older village customers played regularly, was played with smooth stones which they could pick up from the river bank if they lost the old ones. The players were allowed five stones each and bowled them down the slate towards the numbered holes in the strip of wood: they were caught in the boxes on the far side of the strip…’ Patrick

The above website goes on to describe the origins of "nine-holes". It is difficult to imagine that this was the game Malc played with Weber unless he had built something similar. I would imagine that it was the card game but Malc was young and active in 1928 so he may have relished beating Weber a the more vigorous ball game.

Though before we leave this post, I came across a more sinister version which had a certain resonance as to where Germany was going in 1928:

The Director and his students stood for a short time watching a game of Centrifugal Bumble-puppy. Twenty children were grouped in a circle round a chrome steel tower. A ball thrown up so as to land on the platform at the top of the tower rolled down into the interior, fell on a rapidly revolving disk, was hurled through one or other of the numerous apertures pierced in the cylindrical casing, and had to be caught. Aldous Huxley Brave New World 1932


I have just discovered that Malc's former German language teacher Karlheinz Schmidthus wrote to Clemens ten Holder about the game:

As to the game of "bumblepuppy", it was an awful thing. It takes place around a three -or-four-metre-long post to which a rope is attached; at the end of the rope hangs a leather ball at about chest height of the players. There are two players who hold a piece of wood with which they hit the ball so that the rope has to twist itself around the post. The goal is to twist the rope around the post in one's direction and to keep the other player from doing the same to himself. The game is played until everybody is dripping i sweat and completely exhausted. There is no German name for the game. The only place where I have seen it in Germany was in out garden in Bonn.

Jean Epstein Finis Terrae Part 2

I have managed to find another clip of Epstein's wonderful movie Finis Terrae which I featured on the 19th Hole back in 2009 and still not available on DVD!

You can see a third clip on

Read a recent review of the film on Wonders in the Dark

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Manor House School, Stoke Newington

The ability had often stood him in good stead during that very time of darkness and misery at prep school, exhibiting, in those early Stoke-Newington days, and long before he found he had a truly encyclopedic memory October Ferry to Gabriola

In October Ferry to Gabriola, the main character Ethan identifies himself with Edgar Poe because both attended Manor House school in Stoke Newington. Poe lurks in the background of October Ferry - you can read more on Poe's presence in Anthony Kilgallin's "The Long Voyage Home" in George Woodcock's Malcolm Lowry The Man And His Work. One possible source for the reference to the school was Lowry's visit to the Valentine Museum in Richmond which features in his short story 'Strange Comfort Afforded by the Profession'.

You can read the details of Poe's time at the school in the excellent Poe Log:

On or about 11 December 1811 Poe’s father may have died. On the death of his mother, 8 December 1811, in Richmond, Virginia, Poe is taken into the home of John Allan, of the merchant firm of Ellis & Allan, and Allan is added to his name. Accompanying John Allan to Scotland, where are visited his family and friends, and to London, England, where in 1815 a branch of the Richmond firm is established, are his wife Frances Keeling Valentine Allan, his wife’s sister Ann Moore Valentine, and Poe. Poe is first tutored by the Misses Dubourg in London; later he attends the Manor House School of the Reverend John Bransby at Stoke Newington. Read more on Poe Log.

The above photograph is from Arthur Hobson Quinn's Edgar Allan Poe: A Critical Biography 1941 in which he says of the school:

The Manor House School is of singular interest. In his story of “William Wilson” Poe described in terms of fiction not only the place, but also its master, to whom he gave his right name of Bransby, with the addition of a “Doctor” to which the reverend gentleman seems not to be entitled. Since our interest in the school lies entirely in Poe’s connection with it, William Wilson’s own words are better than any paraphrase:

My earliest recollections of a school-life are connected with a large, rambling, cottage-built, and somewhat decayed building in a misty-looking village of England, where were a vast number of gigantic and gnarled trees, and where all the houses were excessively ancient and inordinately tall. In truth, it was a dream-like and spirit-soothing place, that venerable old town. At this moment, in fancy, I feel the refreshing chilliness of its deeply-shadowed avenues, inhale the fragrance of its thousand shrubberies, and thrill anew with undefinable delight, at the deep, hollow note of the church-bell, breaking each hour, with sullen and sudden roar, upon the stillness of the dusky atmosphere in which the old, fretted, Gothic steeple lay imbedded and asleep.
Read more

Outward Bound Movie 1930

Ethan had met her one winter afternoon of thunder and snow in 1938 within the foyer of a suburban Toronto cinema, where they were showing Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., in Outward Bound. October Ferry to Gabriola

Outward Bound (1930) is a film based on the hit 1923 play of the same name by Sutton Vane. The film stars Leslie Howard, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., Helen Chandler, Beryl Mercer, Montagu Love, Alison Skipworth, Alec B. Francis, and Dudley Digges. It was later remade, with some changes, as Between Two Worlds (1944). Malc saw a performance of Sutton Vane’s play Outward Bound at the Theatre Royal, Exeter in 1924 on a family holiday. The play was most influential on Malc’s late work October Ferry to Gabriola in which he used the play’s title as a title for Chapter 3 of his novel.

A disparate group of passengers find themselves aboard a darkened, fog-enshrouded crewless boat, sailing to an unknown destination. Their stories are revealed one by one. Tom Prior, a prodigal son, discovers that he's travelling with his ex-boss Mr. Lingley, a captain of industry; Tom's mother, Mrs. Midget, whose identity the son does not know, is curious about how her son is doing; Mrs. Cliveden-Banks, an affected socialite, chats with the steward Scrubby; Rev. William Duke, a clergyman, is keen about his missionary work in the London slums; and a young couple, Henry and Ann, who are facing an impossible love affair and find they cannot live without each other, wonder if they'll be together forever.

In time, the passengers slowly realize what's going on -- the one thing they have in common is that they are all dead, and they are on their way to either heaven or hell; during the course of the trip they will be judged. Arriving at their destination, they sit awaiting judgment by Thompson, the "examiner". He will determine what sort of punishment or reward they receive in the next world.

But Henry and Ann, who unsuccessfully committed suicide and now hover in a sort of limbo between life and death, have not quite crossed over yet. Scrubby, the ship's steward, has already been condemned to sail the ship for eternity, having successfully committed suicide. Henry is eventually saved from asphyxiation by his dog breaking a window pane; he calls to Ann, she revives, and together they are rescued by an ambulance.
Read more on Wikipedia

You can view the trailer for the movie below:

You can read more about the use of the movie in October Ferry to Gabriola in Anthony Kilgalin's 'The Long Voyage Home' available in George Woodcock's Malcolm Lowry The Man And His Work

The unfortunate thing is that the movie does appear to be available on DVD.

Winchester in Under The Volcano Part 2

I have discovered some video of Winchester in the 1930's since my first post on Winchester in Under The Volcano:


Malc in London 1927

Malc sailed from Birkenhead Docks on his 1927 Far East voyage on Pyrrhus but docked in London on his return.

Below are extracts from Claude Friese-Greene's 'The Open Road' filmed in the previous year to Mal's trip:

Malc in Devon 1924

In the summer of 1924, Malc went to Devon for a family holiday at Budleigh Salterton. (Bowker Pursued By Furies P 32).

The videos below give you a flavour of Devon at that period. The videos are extracts from Claude Friese-Greene's 'The Open Road' - originally filmed in 1925/6 and now re-edited and digitally restored by the BFI National Archive. Britain seen in colour for the first time was heralded as a great technical advance for the cinema audience - now we can view a much improved image, but one which still stays true to the principles of the colour process.

The rather haphazard journey from Land's End to John O'Groats creates a series of moving picture postcards. Look out for shots containing the component colours - red and blue-green. Read more on British Film Institute.


....only the signs above and around her said: Dubonnet, Amer Picon, Les 10 Frattelinis (Malc's spelling).... Under The Volcano

...and to push the matter further we can even half remember that Dick (les Fratellinis, ...) had "helped" a circus clown......The cinema of Malcolm Lowry: a scholarly edition of Lowry's "Tender is the Night By Malcolm Lowry, Miguel Mota, Paul Tiessen, Francis Scott Fitzgerald

Lowry first saw the famous clowns at the Grand Guignol in Paris during his 1926 visit to the city with his school for a hockey tournament.

The Fratellini Family was a famous circus family in the late 1900s and 1920s. An engagement at the Circus Medrano in Paris, France, after World War I was so successful that it sparked a strong resurgence of interest in the circus. By 1923, the Fratellini brothers had become the darlings of the Parisian intellectuals. They were lauded in print and worshiped by adoring fans who would show up at the circus just in time for the Fratellini entree, which sometimes ran as long as forty-five minutes:

Paul Fratellini (1877–1940)
François Fratellini (1879–1951)
Albert Fratellini (1886–1961),

Read more on Wikipedia

I have been searching for some video on the Fratellinis sometime to illustrate this post - finally found one:

Les freres fratellini les trois fameux clowns by jean_luc_arsene

You can read more here:

The Clown Hierarchy

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

250 Plus Postcards from Malc

I have recently passed the 250 mark on the number of postcards posted on my new blog - Postcards from Malc

I have plenty more postcards lined up so please keep dropping by. The new blog has already produced some new ideas for posts on the 19th Hole especially when I have been unable to find the appropriate postcard!

Monday, 23 May 2011

Winchester in Under The Volcano

Winchester! Hell, that’s something else. Don’t tell me. Righto! The Black Swan is in Winchester. They captured me on the German side of the camp and at the same side of the place where they captured me is a girl's school. A girl teacher. She gave it to me. And you can take it And you can have it."
Under The Volcano

Weber's words in Under The Volcano made me wonder how Lowry knew the city. There is no record of him visiting the city though it is possible that he passed through the city on trips to the West Country in the 1930s. However, I have come to realise that Malc often imbues deeper meaning into his writing with literary references is this possible with Winchester?

The character of Weber pervades the different versions of Under The Volcano Malc describes him as "a sort of pseudo-American fascist" who is part of the sinister sub-plot of the novel. Could Malc have seen death and evil in Winchester? The reference to the Black Swan could be yet another pub Malc imbibed in or is it a reference to the Conan Doyle story where Sherlock Holmes and Watson have lunch with Miss Hunter in The Adventure of the Copper Beeches. There are some Lowryan coincidences in the story beyond the Black Swan - the villain Mr Toller is a drunkard; one of the characters Mr Rucastle has a dual personality - which reflects Malc himself and something which he was obsessed with; Holmes's remarks at the beginning of the story have a certain resonance in Malc's methods of working: "To the man who loves art for its own sake," remarked Sherlock Holmes, tossing aside the advertisement sheet of The Daily Telegraph, "it is frequently in its least important and lowliest manifestations that the keenest pleasure is to be derived." and the female character Miss Hunter has "a rather peculiar tint of chestnut" to her hair i.e. reddish, which Malc had; Miss Hunter later becomes principal of a girls' school and there is even a dead dog!

Unfortunately, the black Swan was demolished before World War Two and stood in part on the site now occupied by Barclays Bank.

You can read the full story here

Or you can watch the silent movie version:

Georges Treville appeared as Sherlock Holmes in a number of short features in 1912. His series of films were the first officially authorised series of Holmes Films, produced under the supervision of Conan Doyle himself. This is the 8th and final episode it is also the only episode that survives. The series comprised the following films, all directed by Adrien Caillard and produced by Eclair.

1. The Speckled Band
2. The Silver Blaze
3. The Beryl Coronet
4. The Musgrave Ritual
5. The Reigate Squires
6. The Stolen Papers
7. The Mystery of Boscombe Valey
8. The Copper Beeches

Ecalir also produced a feature, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes in 1911, which is lost.

We also have the other references to Winchester in Under The Volcano. Chris Ackerley has noted:

During World War I, there had been a large military camp on the out-skirts of the city, which was used in the later days of the war to house POWs. There is a girls' boarding school directly opposite the site of the camp, but Weber (whose smuggled arms may include Winchester repeating rifles) seems to be living out a fantasy since it was not built until 1932-34.

The camp could possibly be Hursley Park but I will need to speak to Chris as I could n't find the girl's school. Chris refers to Weber's "fantasy" - Weber besides having a sinister political role also adds to the sexual mores of the novel - Yvonne overhears him having sex in the next room to her's in Acapulco in the 1940 Under The Volcano. The girl's school may also be an echo back to Malc's time at the Leys with the Pense Girls school lying across the road. Both may combine to underline Malc's own feelings of sexual inadequacy.

Another literary reference to Winchester lies in Hardy's Tess of the d’Urbervilles. See Literary Winchester

South of Pago Pago 1940

McGoff didn't have much use for modern Vancouver. According to him it has a sort of Pango Pango quality mingled with sausage and mash and generally a rather puritan atmosphere. Under The Volcano

I am always intrigued by Malc's references to places and why they crop up. His own explanation for Pango Pango is as follows:

Pango-pango quality a quality vaguely of the South Seas, pertaining to Vancouver. Pango-pango is the capital of somewhere in the South Seas, maybe it is Pago-pago, but Pnago-pango is sadder or more amusing or something. Hugh evidently thinks. The reference is to the amount of rainfall which Vancouver, like Pango-pango, is very heavy. Letter to Clemens ten Holder 23rd April 1953.

As ever with Malc - he managed to spell the place incorrectly! Could he have had the 1940 film South of Pago Pago in mind while he was writing Under The Volcano?

SOUTH OF PAGO PAGO (1940: Scoundrels search for precious pearl bed off the coast of tropical island. South Seas adventure starring Jon Hall, Victor McLaglen, Francis Farmer, Olympe Bradna, Gene Lockhart, and others. Directed by Alfred E. Green Atlas Visuals Checkout the Atlas Visuals site for more "jungle" genre films.

Here is a clip whic I love set in a bar with sailors and a prostitute - how appropriate for Malc:

While researching this post I came across a host of images relating to the South Seas which seems to have gripped the American imagination in the 1940s and 1950's including reference to Pago Pago. So it is possible that the island slipped into Malc's imagination through this route?

The above image is from an interesting website Arkiva Tropika: An online archive of my paper ephemera collection, Arkiva Tropika celebrates not just Polynesian Pop, but also the classic heyday of all tropical (& tropical themed) restaurants, hotels, nightclubs, bars, cocktails, etc.

The above also has resonance for Under The Volcano because Yvonne is originally from Hawaii which has always made me wonder why Malc chose that island?

To finish off the post you can view a 1944 travelogue featuring the South Seas:

Benn W. Levy’s This Woman Business

While in London on no account miss seeing a play called “This Woman Business.” by Benn Levy, whom I wish I knew. Letter to Carol Brown June 1926

The above photo from The Theatre World and Illustrated Stage Review shows Fay Compton and Frank Cellier as Crawford and Addleshaw with Leon Quartermaine as Hodges in a scene from Benn W. Levy’s comedy, This Woman Business, Haymarket, London, 15 April 1926.

‘A Witty Comedy.

‘The theme of this amusing comedy is woman, and the five characters who occupy the stage for most of the time are, professedly, woman-haters. They spend their time in theorising about woman, in the abstract, and avoiding her, and escaping from her society, individually.

‘In the delightful seclusion of a country house in Cornwall, where four of them are guests of the most extreme misogynist of them all, one Hodges, they air their views about this disturbing creature, woman. The only member of the much-maligned sex who is there to disturb the serenity of the purely masculine atmosphere is Nettlebank, the parlour-maid [played by Evelyn Culver]. But even in Nettlebank, unimportant though she is, feminine appeal is so strong, that Honey, the youngest member of the party, finds himself compelled against his will to kiss her.

‘In the midst of a discussion between these five men as to the manifest defects of this lower order of being, who, yet, has such an unfortunately magnetic effect upon them, a girl appears on the scene. She is a typist, who has run away from her employer’s office, having first stolen some money. She had come to find shelter with her old nurse, whose cottage used to stand on the site of Hodges’ country house.

‘The Story of the Play.

‘How the woman-haters shelter her, in spite of the fact that she is a thief and has but the shadowiest ideal of truthfulness, is the plot of the play. How Crawford, the typist, two-thirds true woman and one-third minx, mothers them all in turn and charms their critical theories into nothingness, is the oldest story in the world, but so wittily and amusingly told, that we seem to be listening to it for the first time.
‘Hodges, not recognising a symptom of the malady that has seized him - extreme exasperation with the object of his devotion - finds, with a shock, that he is in love with Crawford, and, finally, throws his essay on woman at her feet, and she tears it up with a smile of triumph. This is the end of the play.

‘Fine Acting.

‘Fay Compton, as Crawford, is as delightful as ever, although the part does not make a great demand upon her powers.

‘As the Judge, O.B. Clarence adds yet another picture to his gallery of masterpieces. Leon Quartermaine, as Hodges, is successful. Bromley Davenport as Crofts, and Frank Cellier as Addleshaw, are both excellent. Clifford Mollison as Honey, and Sebastian Smith as Brown, give good performances.

‘The characterisation throughout is amazingly good. The dialogue is witty and clever, and the humour is real.

‘Another point upon which one may congratulate the author is that none of the characters are unduly exaggerated. They might so easily have been, specially, perhaps, in the case of Addleshaw, who is accused, though with some unfairness, of having persecuted his typist. But the refreshingly unhypocritical remarks that fall from his lips, and the admission that Crawford herself is not wholly blameless in the matter, bring the whole scene to a common-sense level, very different from the stereotyped treatment of such things to which one is too often accustomed, on the stage.

‘The fundamental truth, round which the whole situation in this amusing comedy is woven, emerges as the play proceeds, and gives the average audience what they so insistently clamour for, like children at a school-treat, "something to take away."’

(A.G., The Theatre World and Illustrated Stage Review, London, June 1926, p.29)

Benn Wolfe Levy (7 March 1900 – 7 December 1973) was a Labour Party Member of Parliament in the House of Commons of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. He was educated at Repton School and University College, Oxford and served in uniform in both World Wars. Outside politics, Levy was a successful playwright who also wrote (and on occasion directed) for the movies. He was married for more than 40 years to the American-born screen and stage actress Constance Cummings; they had one daughter and one son. As an MP, Levy made an unsuccessful effort to abolish theatrical censorship in Britain, and towards the end of his life, he was the principal author of a report opposing the arguments for censorship made by Francis Aungier Pakenham, 7th Earl of Longford. Read more on Wikipedia

Saturday, 21 May 2011

De Mille's Male and Female 1919

Thanks awfully for the snap, GloriabetogoodnessBebedaniels-Swanson. I wish I could be a Thomas Meighan to you. But unfortunately my hair is untidy. My shoes always dirty. My face is a Z 15 model and above all - I am not Six Foot Two. Letter to Carol Brown 2nd June 1926

Malc's joke about gloria-be-to goodness, includes the names of the film stars Gloria Swanson and Bebe Daniels who along with Thomas Meighan starred in Cecil B. De Mille's film Male and Female 1919. Male and Female is famous for the scene pictured above when Gloria Swanson had to act with a lion. This amused me as there are countless references to lions in Malc's works which relate to Leo his star sign.

Male and Female is a 1919 silent film directed by Cecil B. DeMille. Its main themes are gender relations and social class. It is based on the J. M. Barrie play "The Admirable Crichton".

The film centers on the relationship between Lady Mary Loam (played by Gloria Swanson), a British aristocrat, and her butler, Crichton. Crichton fancies a romance with Mary, but she disdains him because of his lower social class. When the two and some others are shipwrecked on a desert island, they are left to fend for themselves in a state of nature. The aristocrats' abilities to survive are far worse than those of Crichton, and a role reversal ensues, with the butler becoming a king among the stranded group. Crichton and Mary are about to wed on the island when the group is rescued. Upon returning to Britain, Crichton chooses not to marry Mary; instead, he asks a maid, Tweeny (who had fancied Crichton throughout the film), to marry him, and the two move to the United States.

The film contains two famous scenes, indicative of de Mille's predilections as a filmmaker. An early scene depicts Gloria Swanson bathing in an elaborate setting, attended by two maids, lavishing her with rose-water and bath salts, silk dressing gown and luxurious towels. Toward the end of the film, a fantasy sequence about ancient Rome shows Swanson posed as Gabriel von Max's famous painting, "The Lion's Bride", which involved her being photographed with an actual lion.
Wikpedia Read more on Wikipedia

You can watch the whole movie below:

Friday, 20 May 2011

I'm Just A Country Boy At Heart (1937)

The Consul looked up; the man, Weber, was singing. "I'm just a country b-hoy. I don't know a damn thing." Under The Volcano

Chris Ackerely in his Notes on Under The Volcano suggests one possible source for Weber's song:

"I'm Just a Country boy at heart," by "Pinky" Tomlin, Connie Lee, and Paul Parks, featured in the 1937 Melody Pictures musical film, Sing While You're Able:

I've seen the moon rise over Broadway,
I've felt enchantment from the start,
Yet I keep thinking of a harvest moon:
I guess I'm just a Country Boy at heart.

Listen here:

The Shooting of Dan McGrew

In my last post, I looked at Malc's allusion in his novel Under The Volcano to the poem Face Upon The Floor. In the post I referred to a poem by Robert W. Service which is linked to the allusion.

The Shooting of Dan McGrew" is a narrative poem by Robert W. Service, first published in The Songs of a Sourdough in 1907 in Canada.

The tale takes place in a Yukon saloon during the Yukon Gold Rush of the late 1890s. It tells of three characters: Dan McGrew, a rough-neck prospector; McGrew's sweetheart "Lou", a formidable pioneer woman; and a mysterious, weather-worn stranger who wanders into the saloon where the former are among a crowd of drinkers. The stranger buys drinks for the crowd, and then proceeds to the piano, where he plays a song that is alternately robust and then plaintively sad. He appears to have had a past with both McGrew and Lou, and has come to settle a grudge. Gunshots break out, McGrew and the stranger kill each other, and the Lady that's known as Lou ends up with the stranger's poke of gold.
Read more on Wikipedia

Here is a famous poem recited c.1915 by Taylor Holmes:

Taylor Holmes also recorded a recitation of The Face Upon The Floor

The Face on the Barroom Floor

He turned round quickly, still free of the Chief: it was only the uncontrollable face on the barroom floor, the rabbit, having a nervous convulsion, trembling all over, wrinkling it nose and scuffling disapprovingly. Under The Volcano

Chris Ackerley in his excellent notes to Under The Volcano explains Lowry's allusion in the final chapter of the novel as follows:

Combining Yeats' "uncontrollable mystery on the bestial floor" [see #146.2] with 'The Face on the Barroom Floor', by the popular vaudeville entertainer Taylor Holmes (1878-1959), recorded October 1923 with 'The Shooting of Dan McGrew' [Rust, 359]. This is mentioned in a letter from Conrad Aiken to Lowry [UBC 1-2]. Sugars notes [Aiken / Lowry Letters, 172] that Aiken uses this line in his poem ‘Exit’ in The Morning Song of Lord Zero [45], and that the original ballad was written by Hugh Antoine D’Arcy, published in the 7 Aug. 1887 issue of The New York Dispatch. She adds that D'Arcy's poem was appropriated for Prohibitionist ends. Lowry blended this information with Yeats' phrase, above.

Hugh Antoine d'Arcy

Hugh Antoine d'Arcy (March 5, 1843 – November 11, 1925) was a French-born poet and writer and a pioneer executive in the American motion picture industry.

Hugh Antoine d'Arcy is most famous for his 1887 poem, The Face upon the Floor. It is sometimes erroneously called The Face on the Barroom Floor, a sorrowful tale of a painter who takes to drink after his lover deserts him for the fairhaired lad in one of his portraits.

Keystone Studios adapted the poem for a 1914 film of the same name starring Charlie Chaplin, and John Ford used it for his film, The Face on the Bar-Room Floor (1923). It was put to song by country music stars Tex Ritter on his 1959 Blood on the Saddle album and Hank Snow on his 1968 Tales of the Yukon album. D'Arcy's byline appeared in a comic book in 1954 when the poem was illustrated by Jack Davis and Basil Wolverton for Mad #10 (April 1954),

D'Arcy married the daughter of Philadelphia film mogul Siegmund Lubin[1] and went to work as the publicity manager for his Lubin Studios. The studio used a story he had written for a 1912 film titled Madeline's Christmas.

Hugh Antoine d'Arcy died in 1925 in New York City.

The Face Upon The Floor (poem)

Written in ballad form, it tells the story of an artist ruined by love; having lost his beloved Madeline to another man, he has turned to drink. In the poem, he enters a bar and tells his story to the bartender and to the assembled crowd. He then offers to sketch Madeline's face on the floor of the bar but falls dead in the middle of his work.

Read full poem here

Taylor Holmes

Taylor Holmes (May 16, 1878 – September 30, 1959) was an actor who appeared in over 100 Broadway plays in his five-decade career. However, he is probably best remembered for his film roles, which he began in silent movies in 1917. By the 1940s, he was working more on film than on stage. Holmes played a number of memorable roles, including the gullible millionaire conned in Nightmare Alley (1947), a shifty lawyer in Kiss of Death (1947), the Bishop of Avranches, who fiercely denounces Pierre Cauchon in the Ingrid Bergman Joan of Arc (1948), Marilyn Monroe's potential father-in-law in the 1953 Gentlemen Prefer Blondes ("I don't want to marry your son for his money, I want to marry him for your money!"), and the voice of King Stefan in Disney's animated feature Sleeping Beauty (1959) - Holmes' last credited screen role. He also played Ebenezer Scrooge in what is largely considered a notoriously bad (and cheaply made) half-hour television version of Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol, first telecast in 1949. He was married to actress Edna Phillips and was the father of actors Phillips Holmes, Madeleine Taylor Holmes, and Ralph Holmes. Wikipedia

Taylor Holmes The Face Upon The Floor

The Face on the Bar Room Floor, Central City, Colorado

The picture which opens this post comes from a bar in Central City. I have included it in the post because I fell upon it while researching the post. The story behind the picture reminded of the kind of story Malc seems to have collected from newspapers, periodicals, magazines and conversations to build into his work.

Unlike apparitions of the divine, there's no miraculous origin to the "Face on the Bar Room Floor" in the Teller House bar. It's just an oil painting on a floor.

Most folks believe that it was the inspiration for a once-famous 1877 poem of the same name, about a drunk who painted it to prove that he had once been a famous artist. It was "the face that drove me mad," according to the poem, an ex-girlfriend who had jilted the artist years earlier. The only thing interesting about the painting (and the poem) was that when the guy finished, he fell down on top of it and died -- probably from malnutrition after trying to find a parking space in this tourist nightmare of a town.

The truth is even less exciting. The drunk in the poem was someone that the writer met in New York City. If he ever did paint a floor there, it's long gone. This floor wasn't painted until 1936, by one or two locals (accounts vary) who knew of the poem and who painted the floor one night as a prank. But out-of-towners didn't know that, and Floor Face eventually became the most popular attraction in Central City. It still is.

Just bring a lot of patience -- and spare change -- if you want to see it.
Roadside America