You might not know this guy's name, but you're probably very familiar with his work. We're talking about Ralph Douglas Slocombe who has died aged 103.
This was the cinematographer who gave us some of the greatest films of the 20th and 21st century; a man who, for many, was the eyes (and dare we say "the soul"?) of the near legendary Ealing Studios; a man who way back in the 1930s helped warn the world of the dangers of the Nazi party.
For someone who led such a colourful life, it's interesting to note that many of his best moments were actually in black and white. Let's drop a few film titles and see what reaction we get:
Dead of Night (1945)
Hue and Cry (1947)
It Always Rains on Sunday (1947)
Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949)
The Man in the White Suit (1951)
The Lavender Hill Mob (1951)
The Titfield Thunderbolt (1953)
The Young Ones (1961)
The L-Shaped Room (1962)
The Servant (1963)
A High Wind in Jamaica (1965)
The Blue Max (1966)
The Italian Job (1969)
Murphy's War (1971)
The Great Gatsby (1974)
Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
Never Say Never Again (1983)
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)
Douglas Slocombe was born in London, but was educated in France. In 1939, he was working in Danzig (Gdańsk) as a photojournalist and recorded on film a rally by the infamous Dr Paul Josef Goebbels; an incident that led to his brief arrest.
Soon after, also in Danzig, he filmed a synagogue being torched and was spotted. He was forced to beat a hasty retreat by way of Warsaw and Stockholm. The train he was travelling on was strafed by a German fighter, but he escaped uninjured. That drama gave Slocombe his first real taste of what was to follow. The date, by the way, was 1st September 1939
Upon his return to the UK, he worked for a while for the British Ministry of Information creating films about the Atlantic convoys plus other propaganda material of the day.
▲ Actress Muriel George, as Mrs Collins, shows British film audiences of the 1940s exactly how to deal with invading Nazis. Went the Day Well? Not for one German paratrooper who came up against an irate British housewife.
Soon after, he met Alberto Cavalcanti (1897-1982) who directed the classic (and essential) Went the Day Well? (1942), a tale about a group of German paratroopers attempting to inveigle themselves into British life as the vanguard of a full-on German invasion. As a piece of WW2 propaganda (complete with graphic instructions on what the average British housewife might do if she was unlucky to encounter a genuine Nazi), this film is unbeatable.
Slocombe was actually a junior on this project, but the film was the springboard for his own celluloid adventures that saw him trying original and highly inventive ideas about movie lighting, and helped him develop other cinematic tricks to get exactly the shot he needed.
▲ Alec Guinness played seven men and one woman in this classic Ealing comedy drama. But it was Douglas Slocombe who made it all work.
For example, in the 1949 film Kind Hearts and Coronets, Dennis Price and Alec Guinness take the lead roles, but Guinness actually played eight parts (the entire D'Ascoyne family). To achieve the shot of the entire group sitting together in the same room, Slocombe is said to have literally nailed the camera to the floor and slept on the film set over a number of days to ensure that the movie negative could be accurately double-exposed, and treble exposed, etc. In the days before CGI, it was a clever device that worked perfectly and both amused and stunned cinema audiences of the day.
Over the next six years, his output as a cinematographer was prolific, and he quickly earned a reputation as the man you wanted to have behind the camera lens be it a prisoner-of-war romp, to a classic period bodice ripper, to a contemporary drama, to a hi-jinks adventure.
▲ The original Italian Job. Michael Caine, Noel Coward, and a squadron of British Leyland Minis. Did this film have the greatest car chase in cinematic history? There's a strong argument in its favour. The movie was re-made in 2003, but it was a poor (and unfaithful) re-working.
But by 1955, Ealing Studios ran into terminal financial trouble and was bust. Slocombe, however, stayed in demand and he was busy throughout the late-1950s and into the 1960s hitting a high-spot in 1969 with The Italian Job. By the time he had The Great Gatsby and Raiders of the Lost Ark in the can, his reputation was doubly assured. He was the undisputed master of his craft. The great shame was that Slocombe, a man with a very discerning and creative eye, was towards the end of his life almost blind.
Interestingly, he was eleven times nominated for a BAFTA, but he won the award only twice. He was three times nominated for an Academy Award, but never received one. But he did win many other lesser awards, and among his peers he was highly respected.
His total output was 87 feature-length films over 47 years, plus numerous other professional projects and associations. In 2008 he was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE). He was twice married, once divorced, and is survived by his only daughter.
We've received an email from Jake Robbins who many of you will know through his established business repairing and manufacturing girder forks. Well Jake also builds custom motorcycles, and now he's co-founding (with Robin Johnson and Shaun Fenton) a new show to be held between Saturday 30th April and Monday 2nd May 2016, inclusive.
It's called The Revolution Show and will feature custom motorcycles, motorcycle films, motorcycle photography, and motorcycle art. The event will be held during the free 2016 May Day Run weekend when, we hear, between 40,000 and 90,000 riders will flock to Hastings, East Sussex.
There are all kinds of ways to commit suicide, and the Japanese know as much about it as anyone. But this could be a new method of practicing hara-kiri, commercially speaking at least.
The Big K is planning to open its own dealership and sell its own motorcycles direct to the public. So what? Well, if you operated a Kawasaki showroom and was faced with the various problems of getting the right bikes when you need them (at the right price), or getting the right display material (at the right price), or getting the right back-up and product support, or dealing with all the other issues and problems faced by a modern bike retailer, you might be a little concerned if the factory decides to compete with you and potentially eat into your margins.
And that's essentially the threat here. By selling its own bikes, Kawasaki can potentially undermine other Kawasaki dealers in all kinds of obvious (and not so obvious) ways, such as putting itself at the top of its own supply chain, or by financially underpinning its showrooms in ways that independent dealers can't, or by restricting the supply of bikes, or through any number of other means from financing to technical training to online marketing.
But Kawasaki sees it differently. The company says, with some justification, that it's faced with a number of "Open Points" around the country that need to be filled. These are areas or regions where there is little or no Kawasaki representation, and one of those areas happens to be in the South of England. That's where the new dealership is to be.
Apparently, this has been a problem for years. Other manufacturers have limited or significant representation around this particular Open Point. But the Big K is out in the cold because property prices in the south are expensive, and start-up costs are so high. Consequently, no one in the current economic climate has the private capital to launch a new Kawasaki venture and exploit whatever market is available. That's the story, anyway.
Of course, you have to wonder how it is that other bike dealers are able to operate in this no-mans land. But the truth is, we haven't made a sufficiently detailed analysis of the rival businesses or the specific geography involved. And part of that is because Kawasaki hasn't yet put an X on the map and told us exactly where the bomb's going to fall. Nevertheless, on face value this move has a very suspicious smell that needs closer investigation.
▲ K-Options from Kawasaki UK. The current 5.9% APR on the firm's Personal Contract Purchase plan is competitive. But now the company is exercising another kind of option that's making Big K dealers worried.
But don't panic, says the firm. This is a one-off situation. It's a sales leak that needs plugging, and it's not the start of a national takeover. And if that doesn't sound a bit like Hitler in Poland, we're obviously holding onto the wrong end of a very long and crooked stick.
Howard Dale, Kawasaki UK's general manager promises "full transparency". The firm knows that hackles have already been raised. It knows that many dealers will be (a) deeply unhappy, (b) suspicious as hell, (c) despondent and possibly contemplating a little suicide of their own, and (d) murderous.
Dale reckons that the K-Plan is simply to sell more bikes in an area where few are being sold. And certainly, it's all very plausible and might well be nothing other than a desperate move by the Big K to see off the likes of BMW, Triumph, Ducati and Co who are steadily gaining territory and consolidating their grip on the UK market.
But does it make any difference to you as a rider? Probably not. This is an internecine issue that might resolve itself in a kind of cold commercial war, or give struggling Kawasaki dealers another reason to throw in the towel and retire to the sun, thereby creating even more Open Points. Or maybe it will simply increase Kawasaki's street presence to the benefit of all associated dealers.
Either way, Kawasaki has a very tricky hand to play. And if it fails, there's scope here for a lot of serious and long standing damage. So better stand well clear. This could get bloody.
Victory Motorcycles has announced its latest projectile, the 1179cc Victory Octane muscle bike based upon the much-hyped Project 156 prototype racer (Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, etc).
Nominally a 1200cc V-twin, this liquid-cooled motor is claimed to produce 103 horsepower @ 8,000rpm, and 76lbs-ft of "tyre shredding" torque @ 6,000rpm. The cylinder bore is 101mm. The stroke is 73.6mm thereby making it shorter rather than longer, and that alone will give this engine a very different feel to, say, your average Harley-Davidson (but has similar dimension to the rival V-Rod's 100mm x 72mm).
Astride this penis-extension, the firm reckons you can sprint the quarter mile and set your lungs alight in just 12 seconds and hit 60mph in four elephants—which is roughly where, say, the V-Max was donkey's years ago.
Features of the new bike include double overhead cams, four-valve heads, a cast aluminium frame, an 18-inch front tyre, a 17-inch rear tyre, and 10-spoke cast wheels at both ends.
The front brake is a 2-piston caliper on a 298mm disc. The rear brake is a single-piston caliper on a matching rotor. The front suspension is a conventional 41mm telescopic fork offering 120mm travel. And at the rear there are twin shocks/dampers with 76mm travel.
Primary drive is by gear (via a wet multiplate clutch), and there's a final drive belt to help keep things clean, tidy, quiet and contemporary.
The wheelbase is 62-inches. The weight is 534lbs (243kgs). And there's said to be 32-degrees of available lean with an "agility previously unknown to American V-twin motorcycles".
The mucho macho low slung look is said to be enhanced by the Matte Super Steel Gray livery, and the press release is naturally dripping with hype and promises.
The styling, meanwhile, leaves us pretty cold. This looks like the tail end of a design trend that urgently needs to look for a new direction. There's too much Indian Scout in this which is perhaps hardly surprising seeing as Polaris Industries owns both Indian and Victory. But there are a lot of other bikes in the mix too which, we feel, gives this one something of an identity crisis. Worse still, there are numerous touches that simply look like design for design sake.
So okay, that's okay up to a point. And Victory isn't the only culprit. But really good design is economical and doesn't offer any unnecessary frills and curlicues. Take a look at military vehicles and see for yourself. Check the Brown Betty teapot. But this bike, like a lot of modern machines, is trying too hard to impress. Therefore it's "dishonest", for want of a better way to express it.
On the plus side, the price is a competitive £9,799 for the starter package, and there's a creditable 5 year warranty. Additionally, the first 100 customers, we hear, will get a bike with the Project 156 logo embossed in an engine cover. So if you hate Harley-Davidsons (and the people who ride 'em), loathe Jap bikes (and the people who build 'em), and just can't get excited about European hardware, here's a piece of prime Americana that you can buy with pride and ride with gusto.
It's hard to fault modern motorcycle engineering. The engineers know exactly how to make things walk and talk, and modern design software walks it right off the computers and onto the CNC equipment and suchlike. All the stresses are understood. Everything is machined to cost-effective perfection. Modern industrial finishes are generally excellent.
But the Victory Octane would be way down our shopping list of must-have motorcycles, if it made it onto the list at all.
— Del Monte
The trouble with owning a BSA M20 is that you get deeply attached to it. So okay, that's true of lots of bikes, and lots of anything for that matter. But these chuffing 500cc British sidevalve singles are, we think, a special case (and yes, they're all special cases, etc).
Some owners call 'em the bikes that won the war. Some owners have turned pride of ownership into an obsession and know every nut, bolt, washer and split pin by its first name. And others, like us, are slightly more laid back and just quietly get on with the enjoyable business of riding 'these wonderful antiquated old heaps whenever the moment calls for it.
In short, they get under your skin. And so, to ensure that you don't get that skin too chilled, we've devised these new BSA M20 "Blueprint" T-shirts and have added them to the Sump T-shirt range.
As with all our tees, we spend ages developing a new design. This one features techy images that we've lovingly recreated from our MAINTENANCE MANUAL and INSTRUCTION BOOK for MOTOR CYCLE (SOLO) 500cc S.V. BSA MODEL M20.
The colour is army green, which is usually whatever the army had left in the tin when mixed with whatever the hell was in those other tins that got stirred in with dust, mud and sand before it got sprayed or brush-slapped over the bikes, jeeps, artillery or tanks. In other words, we ain't got a Pantone of RAL number, so you get pretty much what you get. And although each computer monitor will display the hue slightly differently, we're pretty confident that the colour of these shirts won't disappoint.
Incidentally, we recycled a slogan that we've used on another Sump BSA M20 T-shirt: "It's not just the bike ... it's the journey." Why? Because we like it and felt that it still had some juice left in it.
The sizes are M, L, XL and 2XL. If demand is high enough, we might increase that range by adding S and 3XL. The tees are in stock right now, and if you ask nicely, we can rub yours in the mud in the field opposite for that extra touch of authenticity (and ask about our genuine bullet-hole and shrapnel service).
And the price? £15.99 plus P&P. Better get yours before the fighting starts.
OKAY, TAKE ME TO THE BSA M20 "BLUEPRINT" T-SHIRT PAGE
— Big End
▲ Span(ner)dau Ballet, Geoff Storer.
Here's something that might interest all you culture vultures out there (and we know that plenty of you guys and girls have more on your minds than motorcycles).
Christchurch Arts Guild has teamed up with the Sammy Miller Motorcycle Museum in New Milton, Hampshire to present around 300 paintings from local artists working in various disciplines from figurative to contemporary to abstract to modern.
The exhibition starts on 20th May 2016 and runs until 4th June 2016. The artworks will be displayed in two marquees erected on the museum premises. And yes, the paintings will be on sale and, we understand, will be realistically priced.
▲ Pincers, pliers and Snips, Geoff Storer.
We're advised that the Christchurch Arts Guild has developed a reputation for quality work in which the group's artists have displayed their creations at some of the top London galleries including the Royal Academy.
During the exhibition, one or two of the local artists will be on-site to demonstrate their techniques whilst offering encouragement and support for anyone wishing to join the guild. So if you're the art attack type, you know what you have to do.
This exhibition alone is a pretty good reason to mosey on down to Sammy Miller's. But the museum itself is well worth a ride (or even a drive) and day out. It's a great atmosphere. It's well sorted. And there are all the usual facilities including disabled access.
▲ The Fish Shack, Aldeburgh, Geoff Storer.
▲ Calm harbour, Lyme Regis, Geoff Storer.
The art exhibition is free. But there is an entrance fee to the museum which is currently £7.50 for adults, and £3.50 for the kiddies. Opening times are 10am to 4.30pm. But take note that if the weather is particularly inclement, opening hours may be restricted.
We think this is a great initiative and adds a very welcome dimension to the fun of riding old and new motorcycles. Other bike show & event organisers take a hint. Meanwhile, if we can get time off for good behaviour, we'll be checking this out first hand.
Geoff Storer, Christchurch Arts Guild: 01202 922456
— Queen of Sump
In December 2014, the drink-drive laws changed in Scotland by lowering the legal blood-alcohol level from 80mg per 100ml to 50mg per 100ml.
But despite a drop in recorded Scottish drink-drive offences of 12 percent in the first nine months, and 8 percent for the year overall (thanks to a Christmas and New Year celebrations spike) Under Secretary of State for Transport Andrew Jones MP has announced that there will be "no review" of the laws in England and Wales.
Road safety charity Brake has criticised the government complacency stating that:
"Early indications show a clear reduction in offences in Scotland which can only make our roads safer and mean fewer devastating preventable deaths and injuries. This would be a useful step in moving towards a complete zero tolerance of drink driving, which is the only way to make our roads safe.”
Actually, we can think of a lot of ways to make the roads safer, but no doubt Brake simply poorly phrased their press comment.
Since May 2010, cricket-loving Andrew Jones has been the Tory MP for Harrogate and Knaresborough constituency in North Yorkshire. Since he became a member of parliament, he doesn't appear to have made a lot of waves or upset too many people. He supports better transport links, especially those that get him from Harrogate to Westminster, and we can't see that he's got shares in any of the big breweries.
So why hasn't he been more supportive of lower drink-drive limits in England and Wales? Well check his website. It's currently carrying this message:
"In Harrogate and Knaresborough the brewing and pub sector is a dynamic part of the local economy. It directly employs nearly 1000 people, 500 of whom are aged between 18 and 24. In cash terms, the industry adds an estimated value of £25million to the local economy."
Could be a connection there, or are we reading too much into this?
The guy offering this classic 1957 88-inch Land Rover is Tim Hughes. Tim hails from Shropshire, and he's looking for offers around £200,000. The vehicle is currently on eBay (10th February 2016). The advert is classified. The vehicle is described as "Used".
What makes it special is the fact that it's claimed to be the first ever production diesel Land Rover. Not the FIRST Land Rover, note. And not the first DIESEL Land Rover. No, it's just the first PRODUCTION diesel Land Rover. It's up for sale now because the two millionth Solihull-built Land Rover was recently sold for £400,000 (or roughly ten times the standard dealer price) and the wave it was riding might still be rolling.
This two millionth Land Rover (image immediately above) was bolted together by a bunch of celebrities having been specially reworked by the manufacturer. A crowd funding project was launched aimed at keeping it in the UK. But that failed. A Qatari businessman took a shine to it and, via Bonhams, paid the best part of half a million quid.
Tim's 1957 Land Rover is interesting for a number of reasons.
1. It was supplied as an open-topped vehicle. The first owner built the cab.
2. It doesn't have the original diesel engine.
3. Instead, it has a contemporary diesel engine on the back.
4. It needs a lick of paint and some other odds and ends sorting out.
5. Tim won't accept £150,000. But that price is "getting there".
We spoke to him and asked if he'd had a head injury recently. "No," he said. "Why?" So we explained that £200,000 seemed a lot of money for a Land Rover in that condition when its only (untested) claim to fame is the fact that it's the first production diesel.
"That's why I haven't restored it," said Tim. "It enables interested parties to come along and have a proper look. But if I had to restore it, I could probably do it for less than £50,000."
We then asked why he thought £200,000 was a reasonable and realistic asking price. "Why not?" he said. "A Ferrari recently sold for £30million."
That would be a 1957 Ferrari 335 S Spider Scaglietti (image immediately above) that actually fetched €32 million (£24.7 million) and broke the record for a racing car sold at auction. Also, Tim explained, Winston Churchill's personal Land Rover was sold by Cheffins in October 2012 for £129,000.
"But that's Winston Churchill," we suggested. "And he's got something of a reputation and a fairly large claim to fame."
Tim agreed with that, but nevertheless said that he wanted to test the market and see what he could get for the Land Rover.
"Take anything over £1,000," we suggested. But Tim said that he thought he could get more than that.
▲ Winston Churchill's Series One Land Rover. It was a present on his 80th birthday in 1954. With 12,932 miles on the clock, Cheffins estimated £50,000 - £60,000. It sold for more than double that. There's no evidence that "Winnie" ever drove it. But it's got a padded chair and a heater inside.
We have to say that he sounds like a perfectly decent and intelligent bloke. He was happy to take a little teasing, but insisted that this is a genuine advert with a £200,000 asking price. Therefore, if Tim can really get that kind of money for his barn stored non-runner, it has to be further evidence that it's us who are wildly out of step with the rest of the human race.
His telephone number is on the eBay advert, but he prefers email enquiries from genuinely interested parties, of which he claims there are many. Meanwhile there are a lot of idiots out there, he says, and they're making silly offers.
It's worth noting that his Trailers and Components business is getting a lot of free advertising as a result of this eBay offer. So maybe we're missing something here.
Either way, good luck to him. But if you do make a bid, make you you ask if he's got ... say, a couple of spare Land Rovers that he can chuck in. It don't hurt to ask, does it? And hey, check the MOT too. There are some very dodgy cars on the roads these days.
— The Third Man (back from holiday)
We're still waiting to hear what Bonhams has to say about its latest auction adventures at Les Grandes Marques du Monde au Grand Palais in Paris on 4th February 2016. But no doubt a press release will drop in the inbox sooner or later.
Meanwhile, we counted 54 motorcycle lots of which 15 were unsold. The top selling item was the bike immediately above which is Lot 247, a 1972 Honda CB500R (650cc) racer that made £67,994 (€ 88,333). It's a confusing name because this CB500 is indeed 650cc. The engine dimensions are 64mm x 50.6mm. It produces a claimed 80bhp at 10,700 rpm.
Honda built two of these machines to compete in the All Japanese Championships. This example is the more highly developed of the pair and was created by the Research & Development department in Saitama (as opposed to Honda's racing department (RSC).
Moving on, this beautiful red 1928 Indian 101 Scout (Lot 235, image immediately above) sold for £19,474 (€25,300) which strikes us as pretty good value when compared to the asking (and selling) prices of numerous arguably lesser motorcycles. And take note that this isn't the more usual 600cc 101 Scout. This is the later 750cc (45 cubic-inch) variant that was introduced in 1927. Features include detachable cylinder heads, helical gear primary drive, and Indian's legendary indestructibility.
The 42-degree V-twin sidevalve produces around 22hp. It's good for maybe 75mph (with decent fuel and a favourable wind). And it was a very stable bike too thanks to its long wheelbase, hence its popularity with tourers, racers and carnival riders alike. The weight was 375lbs. The bike was later supplied with a front brake (as shown on this example). The list price when new was around $300.
Coincidentally, the (immediately) above 1930 737cc (45-cubic inch) Excelsior Super X has a history that's tightly intertwined with the rival 101 Indian Scout. The Super X arrived in 1925. It was intended to challenge Indian's market position, with particular regard to the Scout. The IOE (inlet-over-exhaust) engined Super X borrowed a few features from Excelsior's larger 1,000cc (61-cubic inch) stablemate, but was extensively reworked as a unit construction motor with a helically-geared primary drive (similar to the Indian Scout).
During its first years of production (as with the Indian Scout) there was no front brake. It was rear brake and engine-braking only. And, of course, boot soles. But within two years, Excelsior had matched Indian's stopping power and a front brake was added. The Super X was, however, heavier than the Indian Scout, but was still good for around 65mph. The price new was $325, give or take a few cents.
This example (Lot 232) was sold by Bonhams for £19,474 (€ 25,300)—the same price as the Indian. So after all these years, the two rivals are still neck and neck, which is perfectly appropriate.
Excelsior: The company
Excelsior was founded in 1905 (variously quoted as 1906) and produced its first, market-ready bikes in 1908. Ignaz Schwinn (1860-1948) acquired the firm in 1911. In 1917, he also bought Henderson from founding brothers Tom and William. Excelsior was one of the American "big three" which included Harley-Davidson and Indian. Schwinn had been heavily involved in the manufacture of bicycles (Arnold, Schwinn & Co), and he brought much experience and know-how to Excelsior including improved manufacturing methods and technology.
As with most motorcycle manufacturers of the age, Excelsior began with singles. By 1910, the firm's first V-twin appeared. With the acquisition of Henderson, Excelsior now had an inline four configuration to add to its portfolio.
Henderson, note, had from the start favoured an inline four arrangement. The firm's bikes were fast and reliable, but under the management of Tom and William, partly through being under-financed, the business had been fraught with problems. However, Schwinn (image right) took up the challenge and injected new life (and cash) into the business and effectively kept the Henderson concept rolling for another decade or so.
The Excelsior-Henderson fours and the Super X brand struggled through the Wall Street Crash of 1929 and for two more years of the depression. But by 1931, Ignaz Scwinn abruptly called it a day. He'd feared even darker times ahead, and he chose to cut his losses and concentrate on more profitable ventures. The Excelsior, Henderson and Super X brands were at once defunct.
Other bikes sold at the Grand Palais include a Ducati 450 Scrambler at £7,966 (€10,350) and a Gilera Saturno at £7,081 (€ 9,200). However, the 1934 Ariel Square 4 (main image on this page) didn't sell.
— Big End
▲ Frank Finlay (left) with Susan Penhaligon in the TV drama series Bouquet of Barbed Wire. And Frank Finlay (right) as Casanova. In their day, both shows shocked and tantalized smut-hungry British TV audiences. But there was much more to Frank Finlay than a bit of titillation...
Classic British theatre and film actor Frank Finlay has died aged 89. He was most famous for playing Casanova in the sensational 1971 British TV series of the same name, and for his role as the tormented patriarch in the 1976 TV series Bouquet of Barbed Wire.
Both productions were highly controversial and sent the legendary Clean Up TV campaigner, Mary Whitehouse, into more than one a tailspin. Casanova was "shocking" for its obvious sexual themes and bedroom shenanigans that were broadcast on prime time TV (it's said that many of the sex scenes involved real London prostitutes; the only women who were prepared to do exactly what was asked of them). Bouquet of Barbed Wire achieved notoriety for its tortuous and melodramatic dysfunctional family themes that included domestic violence and (implied) incest.
But there was much more than that to Frank Finlay. He was primarily a repertory theatre actor who took on a variety of roles from Shakespeare to Osborne to Miller to Potter. He worked with the likes of luminaries that included Joan Plowright, Laurence Olivier, Rex Harrison, Albert Finney, Billie Whitelaw, Michael York, Richard Chamberlain, Oliver Reed, and Michael Caine.
▲ Frank Finlay (left) and Albert Finney (right) in the 1971 movie Gumshoe. Set in Liverpool, it's a wry noir-ish comedy-drama about an unlikely private eye (and bingo caller) involved in gun running, illegal drugs and a dodgy brother. Look out for it. It's an oft-overlooked British gem.
The characters he played included Sancho Panza, Iago, Porthos, Jacob Marley, Inspector Lestrade and Adolf Hitler. He also turned up once or twice in the British TV crime series Prime Suspect playing opposite Helen Mirren.
Always cool, commanding and cultured, he was a dependable leading man and excellent in whatever supporting role he took. Other thespians, directors and producers liked Finlay for his sheer professionalism. Audiences liked him at first for his slight air of menace and his obvious stage and screen presence. But later, after Casanova and Bouquet of Barbed Wire, he found himself viewed as a sex symbol. As a consequence, for the following decade or so that image became something of an albatross that he was not always comfortable with.
Frank Finlay was born in Farnworth, Lancashire. His roots were humble. His father worked in a battery factory. Frank Finlay worked as a butcher's boy and a grocer's assistant. He began his acting career as a 14 year old amateur. In 1954 he took on his first professional role in Guildford, Surrey, then moved around the country with theatre companies to Hammersmith, London, and to Coventry, Warwickshire (now West Midlands).
He was never big on the big screen. But then, for Frank Finlay his first love was the theatre. The TV roles were, no doubt, mostly taken to help pay the bills. That said, he was pretty much always in work, and always in demand.
Finlay was a devout Catholic and was appointed CBE in 1984. He married once and fathered two sons a daughter. He is survived by one son and a daughter.
Okay, here's the pitch. Last December (2015) we had a few T-shirts printed bearing much the same copy as the T-shirt design immediately above. It was just a whimsical thing really (see Sump December 2015). We had some spare print capacity, so to speak, so we took advantage of it. We were pleasantly surprised when the T-shirts sold so quickly. Well, most sizes anyway (we've got one 2XL left). And then we started to get enquiries asking for more of the same. So we obliged.
But this time, we wanted to make 'em a little more snazzy or arty or whatever you prefer to call it, and that's where we're at now. We wanted to make these tees even better than before. So we had them lovingly silk-screened by elves, fondly printed on the best cotton tee stock that we could find, and delivered by woodland nymphs.
And because they cost a little more to produce, we've raised the price a little. The tees are £15.99 plus postage and packing, which is still pretty good for limited run shirts such as these. They're all black, pre-shrunk, 100% cotton with double-stitched shoulders, neck and sleeves. Therefore they should wear very well and will age better than you or us. And maybe the irritating people in your life will read your message and stay clean outa your way.
That said, these shirts ain't supposed to be taken too seriously. They're just something grumpy gits like us might wear whenever we're in another mizzy, which lately is pretty much most of the time.
If you want an Old Biker Mantra T-shirt, click one of the links around here (we've put 'em everywhere). We figure that the shirts will sell fairly quickly, so make your play and reach for your readies while stocks last (and all that high-pressure salesmen stuff).
— Big End
The British government is looking for a buyer for robes and a dagger once owned by legendary military liaison officer, diplomat, and archaeologist T E Lawrence (1888 - 1935). Famed among bikers for his love of Brough Superior (and Triumph) motorcycles, and equally famous for the fate that befell him following a high speed crash in Dorset, Lord Lawrence has become an increasingly mythologised figure who helped champion the Arab Revolt of 1916 - 1918 against the Ottoman Turkish Empire.
The robes and dagger as shown in the image immediately above and immediately below were sold to a "foreign buyer" last year. The price was £122,500 for the dagger and £12,500 for the robes. However, to prevent this "irreplaceable cultural loss to the British people", HM Government put a temporary block on the export. The hope was that a British buyer would step forward and match the asking price, thereby keeping the near sacred objects on home turf.
Some, however, might wonder what all the fuss is about. The truth of Lord Thomas Edward Lawrence is hopelessly lost among the claims and counterclaims as related in the numerous biographies. He did this. He did that. He led this amazing charge on camels. He did no such thing. He was raped by the Turks. No, he wasn't. He was a hero. He was a fool. He was a spy. He was a legend. He was a traitor. Do you want a punch in the gob?
Granted, he was an interesting character (and we saw his movie which had a great film score). And it's clear he was also a man of extremes, and a tragically flawed one. He lived fast and died fast (at age 46). He was certainly a great self-publicist, and others sensationalised his life to a British public ever hungry, and even desperate, for new heroes. And possibly anti-heroes. But most of all he was simply a divisive figure (as all the really interesting people are).
Many in the British establishment called him self-serving, irresponsible, reckless, a fantasist, and a masochist. Nevertheless, his awards included: the Companion of the Order of the Bath, the Distinguished Service Order; the Chevalier de la Légion d'Honneur; and the Croix de Guerre.
As much as we love English heritage and hate to see treasured national items disappearing overseas, you have to wonder whether this particular knife and piece of Edwardian cloth is actually worth as much as the government thinks it is. It's been on offer for months, and the asking price is merely small change for any of the thousands of British multi-millionaires and billionaires with money to burn. And no one has yet stumped up the dosh.
The export block runs until April 1st 2016 (an appropriate date). It could be extended. But it seems wiser and fairer to have done with it all and move on to more worthwhile campaigns.
— Sam 7
DeLorean cars could be back in production soon. Sounds unlikely, but raking over the coals of the past is the future for many, if not most, automotive firms, and the DeLorean coals are still smouldering.
Founder John Zachary DeLorean (image immediately above) died in 2005 aged 80. Born in Detroit, Michigan, in his younger years he became a General Motors engineer and company exec. He was quickly considered something of a maverick, but he was possessed of many ideas, commanded a huge salary, enjoyed a jet-setting lifestyle and had a lot of friends in the right (and wrong) places. Frequently he clashed with other GM executives and eschewed corporate orthodoxy whilst doggedly pursuing his own ideals and agendas. But in doing so, he helped re-launch the GM Pontiac brand at a point where the marque was losing identity and momentum, and many people credit him as the creator of the first American muscle car.
That would be the Pontiac GTO. He was also responsible for the Pontiac Firebird, the Chevy Vega and, to a lesser extent, the Chevrolet Nova.
In 1973, aged 48, John DeLorean left General Motors to start DMC; the DeLorean Motor Company. But the first and only model, the DMC-12, didn't appear until 1981. It was powered by a Renault-built V6 engine designed and championed jointly by Volvo, Renault and Peugeot. Almost one million of these units were manufactured.
The DeLorean styling was handled by Giorgetto Giugiaro of Italdesign. The body panels were (famously) punched out of stainless steel and were given that classic brushed finish. Lotus handled the chassis. The gull wing doors, although not original, caught the public eye. And the cars were assembled in Dunmurry, Northern Ireland with production backed by a Northern Ireland Development Agency grant of around £100 million.
At that time, Northern Ireland's political troubles were taking their toll leading to huge unemployment and depressed social prospects. The notion of a new car company based in the area, with all the jobs it would create coupled with the obvious industrial prestige, was exactly the carrot needed to set the government donkeys running.
Production, however, was fraught with problems. There were technical issues leading to delays. There were management screw ups, a falling market, budget overruns, and disappointing critical reviews of the first cars. The DMC-12s were also more expensive than most rival sports cars (the "12", take note, was intended to reflect the US price tag of $12,000. But by the time the cars were ready, you could double that. And more).
Worse still, the performance was more "adequate" than "exhilarating", and the production delays meant that the styling was dated by the time the first vehicles hit the streets. But it was at least a generous sized car. John DeLorean was six feet four inches tall, and he was said to be comfortable inside any of his creations. The 2.8 litre engine was available with a 5-speed manual transmission or a 3-speed automatic.
Early in 1982, around 7,000 DeLoreans had been built of which only 2000 or so had been sold. The company collapsed and went into receivership, but another 2,000 vehicles were later built. The entire production run had lasted just 21 months. It was all a long way short of the 30,000 cars per annum that John DeLorean had envisaged. And it was all a huge industrial disappointment for the people of Northern Ireland and for the UK government bean counters.
That same year, John DeLorean was entrapped by the FBI and the DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration). He was viewed as someone in a weak financial position and was therefore a likely candidate, and a "sting" operation was set up. DeLorean was videoed agreeing to a cocaine trafficking deal, and he was prosecuted. But was General Motors behind any or all of this? And who stood to gain from DeLorean's downfall Your guess is as good as ours.
However, he "beat the rap" arguing that the FBI and the DEA had acted illegally, and the judge agreed. Nevertheless, his reputation was wrecked. His business had moved beyond receivership into bankruptcy. His credibility was destroyed. He was finished. And it's worth mentioning that John DeLorean had no criminal convictions, neither before nor after the FBI/DEA debacle.
He subsequently fought numerous law suits related to his personal debts, and he became a divisive figure who was admired and respected, and despised and ridiculed in perhaps equal measure. Certainly, the general public knew little or nothing about the real man and the pressures and problems he faced. He was simply John DeLorean, the crook, the man who had swindled £100 million from the British government and dealt in drugs. And there's certainly a smoking gun there, but it's not always clear who's holding it. Donald Trump now has a golf course on what was once the DeLorean Estate.
The new DeLorean cars are to be built by the current owners of the DeLorean Motor Company name and brand who have large stocks of original, unused Delorean components including complete body shells. These stocks are said to represent around 99 percent of the parts needed to get the wheels rolling.
Based in Texas, USA, the CEO is Stephen Wynne who described this move as a "game changer". But what exactly changed?
Well, US law changed recently. That's what. Until now, all vehicles manufactured in the USA had to meet current safety standards which have moved on a long way over the past three or four decades. However, if less than 325 cars are built annually, the safety regs now won't apply. So you can forget about crumple zones and modern impact absorbing bumpers, and you can instead crash and burn in the old-fashioned way.
Wynne's DeLorean outfit hopes to have the first new vehicles ready by 2017. The unit cost is expected to be around $100,000. However, there are still plenty of original DeLoreans on the market at "affordable" prices (£15,000 - £35,000) to satisfy general demand, which makes it hard to see why many folk would spend $100,000 on a new one—especially when the current company sees "no reason to change anything".
After the mess that poor old John DeLorean got himself into, it seems only appropriate that this venture should fall flat on its face, perhaps with an FBI/DEA entrapment bust thrown in. But instead, it would be nice to see something good and profitable come out of one of the less happy chapters in the World Book of Motoring.