They wrote it this week: What happens when an actor takes a ...

Ideas

They wrote it this week: What happens when an actor takes a Viagra overdose

Extracts from diaries and letters written between January 27 and February 2

Journalist
David Hemmings in his prime, in the 1966 film 'Blowup'.
Babes and the wood David Hemmings in his prime, in the 1966 film 'Blowup'.
Image: Wikimedia Commons

January 27

1999, London

David Hemmings as he was when he attended Gyles Brandreth's party in 1999.
hemmings and ha-ha-ings David Hemmings as he was when he attended Gyles Brandreth's party in 1999.
Image: Wikimedia Commons

[At a dinner party] David Hemmings (off the sauce) arrived with his own herbal concoction tucked under his arm and his hands splayed out in front of him as though he were trying (with difficulty) to suppress a huge erection. He walked around like this for quite a while, muttering: “It’s the Viagra – haven’t got the dosage quite right yet.”

  • Gyles Brandreth, British writer, politician and TV personality, b. 1948 (Viagra had been introduced less than a year earlier and was still very much a novelty. David Hemmings was an actor most well-known for his role in the 1966 cult classic Blowup.)

Something Sensational to Read in the Train: The Diary of a Lifetime by Gyles Brandreth, John Murray, 2009

Noel Coward arrives at last in Durban after his long trip across Africa.
coward in the country Noel Coward arrives at last in Durban after his long trip across Africa.
Image: Wikimedia Commons

January 29

1944, Khartoum

[To his secretary, Lorn Loraine. Coward was taking the then-arduous air trip from North America to South Africa, where he would undertake a morale-boosting tour.] At 5 o’clock that afternoon we arrived at Accra. It was surprisingly cool and very White Man’s Burden indeed. Lots of large gentlemen in shorts carrying golf clubs having had a “bit of a go of malaria”.

  • Noel Coward, British playwright and entertainer, 1899-1973.

The Letters of Noel Coward edited by Barry Day, Methuen, 2008

January 30

1942, the mid-Atlantic

[Colville was on a crowded troop ship en route to South Africa for flight training.] Started the day badly by getting out of my hammock clumsily and cutting myself in an embarrassing place. The orderly in the hospital, when asked for first aid, said none of the books prescribed bandages for such a wound; however he contrived something.

As a diversion I started reading RH Tawney’s Religion and the Rise of Capitalism.

  • John Colville, World War 2 RAF conscript and private secretary to Winston Churchill, 1915-1987.

The Fringes of Power: Downing Street Diaries Volume Two: 1941-April 1955 by John Colville, Sceptre, 1987

The Duchess of York poses with the rhino she shot, as she describes below.
shot in the park The Duchess of York poses with the rhino she shot, as she describes below.
Image: Wikimedia Commons

January 31

1925, Kenya

[To her friend, D’arcy Osborne. Elizabeth and her new husband, the future King George VI, were on a honeymoon safari.] I find that I have taken wildly to shooting. I shot a rhinoceros the other evening, and when I tried to have my photograph taken standing sternly with one foot on the beast, I found this was quite impossible, and had to be taken ignominiously peering over its back. I have been very lucky & seen quite a number of lions, and we hunt them wildly which is lots of fun.

  • Elizabeth, Duchess of York, future queen consort to King George VI and Queen Mother, 1900-2002.

Counting One’s Blessings: The Selected Letters of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother edited by William Shawcross, MacMillan, 2012

2016, Anglesey, Wales

Gyles Wood with his wife Mary Killen.
killen me softly Gyles Wood with his wife Mary Killen.
Image: Wikimedia Commons

Mum was amazed at how our generation of parents put our children first. Rosie [his daughter]’s godmother Lucie asked her mother, “Did I cry a lot when you put me to bed as a baby?”

Lucie’s mother shrugged and shook her head. “I don’t remember,” she said unguiltily. “Your bedroom was right at the other end of the house so we couldn’t have heard you anyway even if you were bawling your head off.”

  • Giles Wood, British artist.

The Diary of Two Nobodies by Giles Wood and Mary Killen, Virgin Books, 2017

February 1

1916, London

Lord Basil Blackwood.
basil's brush Lord Basil Blackwood.
Image: Wikimedia Commons

[While her husband was away fighting the Germans on the Western Front, Lady Cynthia was conducting a heavy-duty flirtation with Lord Basil Blackwood.] I had an assignation at 4.30 with Curtis, whom I had not seen since ten years ago reading-parties at Stanway when he cherished a romantic passion for me. He has a professorship at Trinity College. Basil wanted to accompany me and we had a great altercation – I, very anxious that he should not do so, finally prevailed. Curtis and I had tea in a little room furnished with large photographs of me: conversation mainly reminiscent. He has written a book on the Normans and is engaged in one on Ireland. I kept Basil waiting in the east wind by a ticking taxi for ages; he was furious and made a good story of keeping him standing in a draught while I talked to a “swain”. He drove me home in facetious dudgeon.

  • Lady Cynthia Asquith, British aristocrat and writer, 1887-1960 (Lord Basil was killed in battle a year later.)

Diaries 1915-1918 by Lady Cynthia Asquith, Hutchinson, 1968

Randolph Scott and Cary Grant enjoy some poolside foreplay at the home they shared in 1930s Santa Monica.
get a room, boys Randolph Scott and Cary Grant enjoy some poolside foreplay at the home they shared in 1930s Santa Monica.
Image: Wikimedia Commons

1938, Santa Monica, California

[To his mother] I’ve had a lovely week here staying with Cary Grant and Randolph Scott in a little house right on the edge of the sea. I’ve been whirling about from studio to studio and party to party hobnobbing with all the glamour boys and girls. I was photographed upside down and inside out with Shirley Temple whom I must say is sweet. I did an hour’s broadcast on Sunday with Ronnie Colman, Carole Lombard and the Marx Brothers for which I was paid a thousand pounds! Of course I shan’t see much of it owing to the income tax but it was a nice thought!

  • Noel Coward, British playwright and entertainer, 1899-1973 (In flagrant defiance of the discretion demanded of film stars at the time, Cary Grant and Randolph Scott lived openly together in the 1930s.)

The Letters of Noel Coward edited by Barry Day, Methuen, 2008

February 2

1916, rural Wiltshire

[Wood had been visiting his mother on Anglesey.] Why, after a week of coastal walks, chopping wood for Mum’s wood-burner, substituting Medjool dates for Snickers and watching the portions, haven’t I lost any weight but remain stuck on 15 stone?

What may have happened, it occurs to me, is that Mum only eats a boiled egg per day. Like a lot of octogenarians, she has a sparrow’s appetite. My love of gourmet meals prepared from scratch has not improved her appetite. After a few desultary mouthfuls she has been secretly shovelling her portion when my back is turned on to my plate in a behavioural pattern that might be dubbed “granorexia”.

  • Giles Wood, British artist.

The Diary of Two Nobodies by Giles Wood and Mary Killen, Virgin Books, 2017

Previous Article