Who’s Kidding Who?

“They called him Danny La Rue, because in drag he looks as long as a street,” whines the chatty little journalist in Film Review, published by the EMI Film and Theatre Corporation, who are also responsible for the distribution of Our Miss Fred, Danny La Rue’s entry into the mindless world of telly orientated cinema. The film is liberally sprinkled with an array of “dirty” jokes designed to make fifty-four year old disgusted Mr and Mrs Fred Nudge masochistically ‘Tch, tch’ in the rear stalls of the ABC Purley.

Technically well directed by Bob Kellet and beautifully photographed by Dick Bush, the film appears on the surface to be a mild piece of entertaining whimsy, with Danny as a small time actor, possibly this is the only element of realism in the film, who is conscripted into the army during World War Two and is sent to France to keep the lads happy and gay with his drag act. While in mid-performance his platoon is captured by the Germans who set him free, believing him to be a civilian woman. Shades of St Trinians follow as he falls in with a butcher than butch Lally Bowers leading a bunch of blue stocking schoolgirls to safety from cocks and Nazis. In the true tradition of hackneyed British comedy prose, he fancies the girls and has to be acutely embarrassed when believing him to be yet another unsullied virgin from next door, he gets asked to unzip that awkward clasp at the back of someone’s dress. Of course being a good green blooded English lad, even when he’s wearing his straight all-male clobber, he goes a bright shade of pink at the very mention of the word thingy, because underneath it all, he’s a yellow bellied, clean living heterosexual, who’s never got nearer to the sex act than a few good double entendres in the Rose and Crown on a Saturday night. In pursuit there’s also notoriously anti-gay actor/comedian, Alfred Marks (do you ever listen to “Does the Team Think?”) as a German general, who, guess what, fancies Fred or as he’s now calling himself, Frederica. So off they all go in a rickety old car trying to make their way to the Channel, with Fred continually murmuring, between innuendos: “When I get my trousers back on, they’re on for life.” But he’s putting up with it all for dear old England.

What is really disturbing about the film is the general suggestion that the character must hate wearing drag, because otherwise he’d be homosexual and undesirable, and most of the funny lines are based on this idea. Danny La Rue, whenever he’s interviewed by the Press on on TV, and that’s pretty often, goes to great pains to deny he’s a homosexual, and to suggest that it’s all a big laugh, a kind of novelty glamour act, and all the lads call him ‘Dan’. This is lapped up by the viewers who either believe it, or being British, delight in his hypocrisy, laugh heartily at his act, and shrink back in fear if they see a transvestite in the street. Those who believe him think he is aping the way homosexuals behave and that we all dress up in women’s clothes. Many gays adore him, for his luxurious attire, which is well displayed in the film, obviously made very much with the “gay market” in mind, and his public utterances give them ideal opportunity to gossip on the lines of — “Of course he lives with his mother. So and So saw him in the whats it club last week.”

What I call the real drag acts, people like Marc Fleming and Mrs Shufflewick, who you see in the pubs and clubs, make themselves look as grotesque as possible because they are sending up the whole idea of beautiful women and handsome men. Their jokes are blue and unashamedly homosexual, and by the end of their routine you are plunged into a drunken euphoria, knowing the whole damn beauty conscious world is just a farce. The radical drag queens in London GLF are attempting to express similar ideas, although in a very different way.

I’m not saying that they are not heterosexuals who like wearing drag, but like it or not drag is closely associated with homosexuality in the minds of the public.

Mr La Rue being as much in the limelight as he is, could try to be a bit more honest about his own sexuality and attempt to eradicate some of the misconceptions. Because you’re gay, you don’t necessarily like wearing women’s clothes, and you’re not necessarily a homosexual or a transvestite if you do.

Whatever your sexuality, if it’s not in out, in out heterosexuality, you’re likely to have cheap jibes thrown at you by the telly dictators like Danny La Rue and “The Comedians”, who ultimately shape people’s attitudes.

Why can’t you be constructive, Danny, and use this wonderful opportunity you have to destroy the myths in peoples’ minds, to do something about the maniacal situation, whereby Larry Grayson is the TV personality of the year at our expense, ultimately at your expense.

Up Frankie Howerd

“Up The Front” Directed by Bob Kellet. Starring Frankie Howerd, Dora Bryan, Lance Percival, Bill Fraser, Zsa Zsa Gabor. Distributed by Anglo-EMI. Cert ‘A’ – 88 mins.

05-197208xx-9Oooh. No. what? Ah. yes ….. No, Listen. Poor soul, no, don’t laugh. Who else but Francis Howerd, master of the double entendre and the camp gesture. Not seen much these days on television, and in danger of being knocked off his throne in that media by Larry Grayson, having now transferred his talents to celluloid. Let me put it on record, before I continue, I have been a fan since Variety Bandbox (whoops, me age is showin’). So when I blatantly state that he is wasted on film it is for genuine concern for him as an artist. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that I have always preferred him as a stand-up comic, and do not think that situation comedy is his forte. I do of course understand his desire to progress, remembering him so long ago pleading with Johnny Speight to write a film script for him. I wish he had. It was obviously a market he wanted to conquer, and did, his first two films being box-office hits. But I always thought he was selecting his material with a care for his image. Like the late great Tony Hancock whose intention to move in a more artistic direction failed and tragically lost him his public and eventually his soul, maybe Frankie Howerd saw the moral. Although I would much rather sit through and enjoy the underrated ‘Punch and Judy Man’ than ‘Up the Front’.

The plot, as with the laughs, is thin, woven around Lurk (Howerd) as a loser, but under hypnosis, from a nice cameo role by Stanley Holloway, whose assistant has the most liquid jellified boobs I have ever seen, seeks to save England and become a war hero, which of course he does, by having the German master plan tattooed on his bum. Bill Fraser as ‘Groping’ (not just his name it’s his hobby) is excellent and has better lines than the star, as does Lance Percival as a German Officer. Dora Bryan plays Dora Bryan again, constantly squeaking the appalling title song … they don’t write ’em like that any more, in fact they wrote better. But despite a few asides Frankie Howerd has little or no comic lines; the only high-camp high-spot where he has a chance to shine is the scene with Zsa Zsa Gabor, as Mata Hari. So as ‘Carry Ons’ do, so will the ‘Ups’, continuing ad infinitum. Me?

I’m still diggin’ the Runaway Bus……