Friday

Week 11 : Text : Variety Magazine, p3, May 8th, 1928.

APPLE OF EDEN BRUISED
CHURCH PRESS EVENT GOES AWRY
By Anton Wilson
The makers of the forthcoming feature The Apple of Eden committed a very original sin yesterday during their gala press launch: they allowed an actor to speak off script. Celebrated British stage actor Sir Richard Cunningham, in his first big Hollywood break, may never be let back into the garden after yesterday’s performance.
It began as a solemn enough affair. Heinrich Hushvod, the film’s writer, director and producer, must have budgeted for an almighty indulgence, securing the atrium of St. Paul’s Cathedral in downtown LA to host everybody who’s anybody in movie journalism and not a few stern-faced men of the cloth. The frisson in the air between the two tribes was palpable, like some dance arranged for the boys’ and the girls’ schools in which nobody wanted to make the first move. Whatever ice there was broke with a tremendous crash upon the entrance of Sir Cunningham. 
 I had what I consider the privilege to attend a performance of his King Lear in London three years ago. Yesterday I saw him play The Fool. Seemingly in ruddy good health, his skin deeply tanned after shooting in Morocco these past three months, I fear the North African sun has baked his brain. He stumbled about the room, giggling to himself and with mock solemnity making the sign of the cross before the impassive faces of each priest he met. Meanwhile his director persevered with a prepared speech in which he sought to allay the clergy and their constituency’s fears that his film was a satire of their faith. “That’s it, Henny, you tell ‘em,” interjected the falling star, “They do a good enough job of lampooning Christ. We don’t want to get into a turf war, what? Holy relics, indeed!” At this point he reached a hand down the back of his trousers, rummaged about and then presented for us all a clutch of pubic hair and pronounced, “Behold, the divine dingle berry!”
Few assembled knew what this particular term meant but the intention was clear enough and most deftly accomplished. The room quickly drained of its inky cohort, leaving a stunned press gallery, barely able to summon the presence of mind to snap a shot. Cunningham appeared to take this silence for rapt attention and launched into a speech one can only suppose has been percolating in his soul for some time. I did not take it down. My pencil was poised to record but I could not look away. I paraphrase from memory. “Well boys, I’m done for now. Don’t worry for me. I lost my eternal soul to the god of theatre, Dionysus, long, long ago. He’s the true creator spirit. The priestly pretenders attempt to harness his power when they command you to suspend your disbelief and accept the bread as flesh and wine as holy blood. It’s an act. Oh, there is some truth in it. We are all fallen. But only in a theatre can we be restored. We lucky few who make believe, we gather in the darkness of our temple and are transported into a state of grace, up there in that realm of light upon the screen. But who has the authority to excommunicate? Ha! Imagine telling an audience that if they don’t like your movie they’re not allowed to come and see another one ever again. Sixteen brothers and sisters I have. The most devout of us, my eldest sister, falls in love with a Protestant and SHWIFF, Father Brennan does away with the lot of us. Sixteen souls, plus their spouses and the children they have borne and all theirs to come – expunged! Not a very good marketing strategy, eh boys?”
Not a very good marketing strategy indeed. Cunningham was still speaking, Hushvod head in hands at the foot of the podium, as the last of the press made their leave, as sorry as any penitent after Sunday sermon.

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