In philosophical mood…been sick the last couple of days, many “bugs” around and so just been mooching about, doing nothing, but thinking about this and that and how life has changed so dramatically in the last few years particularly, with the advent and advancement of technology.
I have been reading old friend’s Tony Garnett’s autobiography: the day the music died…think I told you I did a wonderful television play with him back in the day: The Birth of a Private Man, playing his sister. Apart from it being an interesting story of his “journey”, it is fascinating look at the times we grew up in. (He’s a little older than I am, but close enough.) He came from very humble beginnings and it is a testament to life then and his attention to detail, makes it a fascinating read and somewhat familiar.
Many people assume that my beginnings were strictly middle class, with money and very conventional, partly because I spoke standard English, that is English without a regional or identifiable dialect…Irish, Northern, Birmingham, Scots etc, etc. (very much the fashion in the theatre in the 60’s…they didn’t want posh, Received Pronunciation.) They were wrong…my upbringing was poor, a struggle and mixed….my Grandfather, from a ship building family in Newcastle, married a real Cockney (born within the sound of Bow Bells), but was a creative man in the theatre and insisted that his four children grew up reading books and speaking the “Kings” English,….ie: standard…so that’s how my artist mother Eve spoke. I lived with her and my Cockney grandmother, Daisy and my mother’s brother, Fred in genteel poverty in a third floor cold water flat. My other Grandfather was a famous Doctor, a refugee from Nazi Germany, having worked his way up from “peasant” (his words) stock. Dad, Werner, had a German accent, which he never completely lost. My parents were divorced so Dad lived around the corner from us in a bed sitter (one room).
I was quite good looking, which in a way was a strike against me in 60’s theatre industry….so two strikes …looks and proper speech …..hence I wasn’t taken very seriously as an actress by many in the business and had a hard time convincing the “luvvies”, as the great and the good were called, that I had any talent. There were some that believed in my ability and gave me some wonderful opportunities – thank you John Dexter,
However the times believed that plain, with a regional accent, were the only actors to be taken seriously. Of course in Hollywood it was completely different…they didn’t care about regional accents, only attractive looks and a good calling card to open the doors, which I had: The Lion in Winter, with a nomination to go along with it. Class in the UK equates to your birth and upbringing and in the States it equates largely to money…you are forgiven almost anything if you have it. If you don’t understand the issues of class in England, read Charles Dickens or you can get a reasonable idea from Downton Abbey, both working class views from middle class writers.
Now this is not a “poor me” rant…but I just want to set the record straight. We all have perceptions of people and where they came from. My childhood was difficult, not because we were poor, but because my parents were divorced, it created a struggle for all of us. Divorce then was a real stigma and I envied all the kids I knew, who were living in apparently happy proper families. I lived with my mother, so really only saw her side of the story, but my parents were individually, remarkable people……talented, courageous in the face of adversity and with real stamina for life.
We all have a story to tell and maybe I will write that biography. I have had an extraordinary life in many ways, full of much luck and a few bad choices – my own.
More later friends.