All Time Great British Heroes
CHURCHILL a great British hero during World War Two
Winston Churchill was less than brilliant during the First World War but he did shine during the 2nd World War.
Australians don't see him as much of a hero, however,because of remarks he made toward Australia during the 2nd World War and also because of the Gallipoli mess during the First World War.
Sure Winston Churchill was an inspiration to the British people during World War Two but, being an Australian, that isn't quite enough for me.
SHAKESPEARE LIVES ON IN HIS PLAYS AND ALSO IN MOVIES AND TELEVISION.
William Shakespeare continues to be the best known of English playwrights. He understood the theatre of his day better than anyone else and many of his plays are still being constantly performed somewhere in this world. He was also a respected poet.
It seems that everyone exposed to English knows of at least one Shakespearean quote. 'To be or not to be' from Hamlet is very popular. 'All the world's a stage' still rings true to this very day.
Of the plays attributed to Shakespeare the most well known are: Macbeth (mentioned in a very early episode of Doctor Who), Hamlet (much has been made of Mel Gibson's performance in the lead role of the 1990s film version), Romeo and Juliet (Westside Story movie was once a modern interpretation), A Midsummer Night's Dream (originally performed at a wedding), The Tempest (much was made of this play in an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation) and The Merchant of Venice.
There have been many successful offshoots of Shakespeare's plays and occasionally actors have been known to play the role of William Shakespeare in various movies and television shows.
An actor playing Shakespeare, for example, made an appearance in an episode of the original Twilight Zone.
Another actor played Shakespeare in an early episode of Doctor Who titled The Chase and yet another actor played Shakespeare during David Tennant's time in the TARDIS. Perhaps it should be noted here that David Tennant has recently played Hamlet on stage.
In the original Star Trek episode The Conscience of the King (the title a quote out of Hamlet) the crew of the Enterprise take the plays of Shakespeare as well as a troop of wandering performers into the depths of outer space.
The 1942 film To Be or Not to Be, starring Carole Lombard and Jack Benny, is a war time propaganda effort about actors trapped in Warsaw during the German invasion. How they use theatrics that William Shakespeare might have approved of to fool the Nazis makes the film a whole lot of fun to watch.
Mel Brooks did a remake with the same title in 1983 which is worth watching for both Mel Brooks and Anne Bancroft's excellent performances.
Is it better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven?
Willam Blake was a 19th Century poet and artist who didn't make it big in his own time. His poetry and art, however, did hit a nerve in the 20th Century among accademics and continues to be popular going into out 21st Century.
Blake's views on Christianity were radical and remain so to this day. The 1967 movie Bedazzled, starring Peter Cook and Dudley Moore, was based on some of his ideas concerning God and why the Devil was expelled from Heaven. It also touches upon Milton's famous work, Paradise Lost and also Christopher Marlowe's play The Tragical History of the Life and Death of Doctor Faustus.
It should be noted that Rachel Welch gives a great performance as the sin LUST in the 1967 Bedazzled.
The remake of Bedazzled made in 2000 starring Brendan Fraser and Elizabeth Hurley unfortunately lacks the energy of the lower budget original.
It can be said that Blake was inspired by the writings of John Milton. It was, after all, Milton who's version of Satan in Paradise Lost came up with: 'Better to reign in Hell than to serve in Heaven.'
Novelist Thomas Harris makes much of Blake's red dragon image in his 1981 book Red Dragon. The 2002 movie based on Red Dragon, starring Anthony Hopkins and Edward Norton, is worth checking out.
FIGHTING THE ENGLISH FOR FREEDOM!
. WILLIAM WALLACE
William Wallace was a Scottish leader who fought against the English in order to reduce English rule in Scotland. It has been said that because he wasn't born into nobility that, in the end, he had to be brought down in order to protect the interests of the nobility.
Regardless, the people of Scotland see him as a national hero who did what he could against the odds set against him.
The movie Braveheart, starring Mel Gibson (1995) is an action packed summary of Wallace's life with some artistic licence included.
THUNDERBIRDS ARE GO!
Gerald Alexander Abrahams, better known to the world as Gerry Anderson, was involved in many aspects of 1960's television in the UK. Some of the programs he was involved in that brightened up many a childhood include: Supercar, Fireball XL5, Stingray, Thunderbirds, and Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons. When I was young my favorite toy was a model of the super submarine, Stingray.
A decade ago I remember giving one of my nieces a model of Lady Penelope's famous pink super futuristic rolls royce for Christmas. She was delighted. Lady Penelope is the fictional British contact for International Rescue, the organization that uses the Thunderbirds to rescue people.
My favorite Thunderbird was Thunderbird 4, the submarine. My brother's favorite Thunderbird was Thunderbird 2, the powerful workhorse of the International Rescue organization. One of my favorite episodes involved a rescue in outback Australia.
The live action Thunderbirds movie made in 2004 was, unfortunately, a dud. This was more the fault of a bad script than bad acting. The Thunderbirds looked good but, unfortunately, we never really got to see them in action rescuing anyone. The movie was aimed at teenagers but even the teenagers I spoke to after I first saw it thought it more of a miss than a hit.
Meanwhile if you want to see a full length Thunderbirds film check out Thunderbirds Are Go (1966). It is supermarionation like in the TV series but don't let that stop you from enjoying it. FAB!
On the other hand, there is a fantastic new television show out sporting the name Thunderbirds Are Go that has the old Thunderbirds machines in action for a new generation.
The Voice of Lady Penelope
Born Sylvia Thamm, but better known as Sylvia Anderson, this intelligent and highly active blonde was instrumental to the success of British television in the 1960s. She was the wife of Gerry Anderson and also one of the brains behind a lot of great British television.
She worked on such shows as: Supercar, Fireball XL5, Stingray, Joe 90, The Secret Service, and Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons.
The role people know her best by is as the voice of Lady Penelope, International Rescue's British operative on Thunderbirds and quite the female spy.
Sylvia is also credited as costume designer on the live action television show UFO.
Wells was the British father of Science Fiction
HERBERT GEORGE WELLS
For the British, for more than three decades, Herbert Geoirge Wells was the heart and soul of Science Fiction. His best remembered science fiction novels are: The War of the Worlds (1898), The Invisible Man (1897), The Time Machine (1895) and The Shape of Things to Come (1933).
Wells not only influenced the development of British science fiction but also Australian and American science fiction as well. Many television shows and movies have been based on his writing. In terms of movies the list includes: Things to Come (1936) which was scripted by Wells, The War of the Worlds (1956), The War of the Worlds (2005), The Invisible Man (1933), The Invisible Man Returns (1940), Invisible Agent (1942), Memoirs of an Invisible Man (1992), and Hollow Man (2000), The Time Machine (1960) and The Time Machine (2002).
There was an old joke told when an elevator stoped at a floor and no one got on or off. "Oh, That's just Claude Rains out for a stroll.' Claude Raines was the 1933 Invisible Man.
Television shows made around Wells' ideas include: The Invisible Man (1958-1960), The Invisible Man (1974-1976), The Invisible Man (2000-2002), The Tripods (1984-1985) and War of the Worlds (1988-1990).
Back in the 1970s Marvel Comics brought out their own comic book series involving Martian conquest titled War of the Worlds. Apparently, H. G. Wells' Martians return in 2001 to have another go at taking over our earth. This time they have somewhat more success.The earth hero of the resistance is named Killraven.
H. G. Wells has had more than a passing mention on Doctor Who. He, in fact, took a trip in the TARDIS during an adventure in time and space titled Timelash with Colin Baker, the 6th Doctor. A gungho Herbert George Wells was played by David Chandler.
In one episosde of the show The Big Bang Theory the gang manage to purchase the time machine prop from the 1960 movie The Time Machine.
The Man who made the Spitfire a reality
REGINALD JOSEPH MITCHELL
Reginald Joseph Mitchell was the man responsible for the Spitfire.Its elegance in flight comes from what was then a unique wing design.
Mitchell was experimenting with aircraft long before Great Britain was to declare war on Germany in 1939. He realized that the biplane had had its day as a fighter long before the RAF was willing to come to this conclusion.
Unfortunately, Mitchell did not live long enough to see his Spitfires successfully help defend his homeland against the German invader. Even so, in a sense he was there during the Battle of Britain in that his fighter plane, the Spitfire was there.
Douglas Bader, one of the most famous British fighter pilots during World war Two, flew both Spitfires and Hurricanes during his career.
Australian flying ace Paterson Clarence Hughs scored all 14 of his victories during the Second World War in Spitfires. He was one of a number of Australian fighter pilots in the Battle of Britain.
It is true that there were more Hurricanes than Spitfires during the Battle of Britain. For this reason Hurricanes may have played a more crucial role in defending Britain. Still it was the Spitfire that won the hearts and minds of pilots as well as civilians and went on to become a legend in air warfare.
Before his death Mitchell had come up with a new design for a bomber. Unfortunately he passed away before it could be fully realized and put into production.
Simon Templar - THE SAINT!
Leslie Charteris is best known as the writer responsible for the creation of Simon Templar, The Saint. From the late 1920s onwards The Saint has been with us in short stories, books, film, and television. Not all adaptions of Leslie Charteris' writing have been successful but most certainly have been.
The Saint started fictional life as a bit of a rogue. He would steal from theives and low-lifes. He would even commit the occasional murder to satisfy his sense of justice. Once in a while he would steal from the rich. Over time though he came to be more and more on the side of the angels. Even so, he continued to know his way around the criminal underworld.
The Saint knew how to fly and this endeared him to at least one RAF fighter pilot. There is old film footage of this fighter pilot near a Spitfire with the stick figure of The Saint with halo on his flight jacket. This film was shot during the Battle of Britain.
Some of the better Saint novels written by Leslie Charteris include: The Saint in Miami (1940), The Saint on Guard (1944) and The Saint Sees it Through (1946).
The movies made about the adventures of The Saint include The Saint in New York (1938). Here Simon Templar cleans up New York by murdering the lead gangsters terrorizing the city.
Other Saint movies include:The Saint in London (1939) and The Saint in Palm Springs (1941).
Recently,The Saint has fallen on hard times. Not everyone gets him and those who don't really shouldn't try to deal with him.
The Saint starring Val Kilmer was released in 1997 and has to be the worst movie based on this great fictional character I have ever seen. Why it was released I don't know. Those responsible should have left it caged up for the fans of Leslie Charteris and his famous fictional character.
One highlight of television in the 1960s was the television version of The Saint starring Roger Moore. It ran from 1962 - 1969. Here Simon Templar was definitely on the side of the angels and, when he stole, it was generally for charity. If he shot and killed anyone it was definitely a case of self-defence. The first lot of episodes were based on Leslie Charteris' own writing.
Since the 1960s there have been attempts to put The Saint back on television but none as yet have met with any great success. This does not mean, however, that there won't be such success in the future.
THE SEXY FEMINIST
Diana Rigg is best known for her role as Emma Peel in the television show The Avengers. Emma Peel wasn't the first girl friday in the show but she became the most memorable.
Honor Blackman, who gave a very good performance as Pussy Galore in the James Bond film Goldfinger (1964) was a rather cold fish as Cathy Gale when she worked alongside Patrick McNee in his John Steed role.
A better formula was Peel and Steed. Dianna Rigg as Peel represented the modern world whereas Steed, with his sword cane or umbrella and bowler hat, was a tad more old fashioned. They were, in other words, a delightful mismatch. The cases they were put on tended to be quirky and they got quirkier as the series went on.
For many people in the 1960s Diana Rigg as Emma Peel represented the new feminist. She was a young woman of action and took a backseat to no one. Arguably, for the male viewer, she was easy on the eye.
She did not do well as a Bond girl in the film On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969). In my opinion this was not her fault but that of a poor script. On Her Majesty's Service remains one of the least popular of the Bond films. Other more successful films she appeared in include Theatre of Blood (1973) and Evil Under the Sun (1982).
Deductive Reasoning and the occasional bout of swordplay
ARTHUR CONAN DOYLE
Arthur Ignacius Conan Doyle is best remembered as the creator of Sherlock Holmes. He was a doctor, a writer and, during the Great War, a war correspondent. He wrote historic fiction as well as science fiction. It is in detective fiction, though, that he made his name.
Arthur Doyle's father, Charles Altamont Doyle, was a Victorian artist who suffered from alcoholism and depression. He continued to paint until his death in 1893.
It has been said that Arthur Doyle turned to deductive reasoning to prevent either being hit by alcoholisdm or depression. It has also been said that deductive reasoning was hammered into him by a professor at the university he studied medicine at and that this professor became the basis for the character of Sherlock Holmes.
The stories written by Arthur Conan Doyle concerning Sherlock Holmes and his faithful companion, Doctor Watson include: A Study in Scarlet (1887) and The Hound of the Baskervilles (1902).
Arthur Conan Doyle's historic novels include The White Company (1891) and Sir Nigel (1906). Set in medieval times, the above mentioned novels have a strong swashbucking flavour and are a delight to read.
In the realm of science fiction there is Arthur Conan Doyle's The Lost World (1912).
Much of Arthur Conan Doyle's writing has been adapted for either the cinema or for television.
In terms of movies based on Sherlock Holmes, the list goes back to the silent film days and is rather long.
The Holmes films I enjoy the most are the ones starring Basil Rathbone as Holmes and Nigel Bruce as Doctor Watson. My favorite among these wartime propaganda masterpieces would have to be Sherlock Holmes and The Voice of Terror (1942).
I also have a soft spot for They Might Be Giants (1971) starring George C. Scott as the man who thinks he is Holmes and Joanne Woodward as the woman who know she is Doctor Mildred Watson.
A strong legal mind one day wakes up and his real life is stripped away. He believes himself to be the famous fictional detective, Sherlock Holmes. He also believes that the ever sinister Professor Moriarty is real and is also responsible for much of the unhappiness we find in this world. All up, it develops into a rather strange but delightful romance between would-be detective and psychiatrist. It is a movie not for everyone but it does have its moments.
Of the recent Holmes movies I like Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (2011) starring Robert Downing Jr. best.
The two new Sherlock Holmes television shows, Sherlock (UK) and Elementary (USA) are both worth the effort of watching.
HARTNELL - The First of the Doctors
WILLIAM HENRY HARTNELL
William Hartnell was a British actor who, in his long career, was often called upon to play tough thugs or tough military types. He is best remembered as being the first Doctor on Doctor Who. The recent movie An Adventure in Time and Space (2013) gives many insights into Hartnell and how he took to the role of The Doctor.
He began the role as the Doctor as a rather unpleasant old man always wanting to have things his own way even if he has to cheat to get what he wants. This attitude caused the kind of moments of conflict with the other main characters needed to get Doctor Who off to a flying start with viewers. It couldn't and didn't last.
Hartnell mellowed into the role and became the sort of old British gentleman always out to put things right which, to some degree, became a common trait among actors who later took on the role. Over time he became the symbol of rebellion against society when society was clearly in the wrong. Young people warmed to him. The fact that he wasn't the first and also the last Doctor says volumes about his acting, the scripts he was given, and also the other actors he worked with.
My favorite all time Doctors are The first, the fourth and the fifth.
The Daleks were first introduced to the public during Hartnell's reign as the Doctor.
Movies that William Hartnell was in include: Carry on Sergeant (1958) and The Mouse that Roared (1959). The Mouse that roared was a send-up on how the leaders of the USA had developed a reputation for plowing a lot of money and other resources into countries that the USA had defeated.
The Writer responsible for Modesty
Peter O'Donnell is best remembered for his creation of the sexy adventurer, Modesty Blaise. Yes, the name is an oxymoron and a delighful one at that. We don't explect someone who is presumably modest to blaze (not quite the right spelling but phonetically perfect).
Peter O'Donnell's Modesty Blaise stories are action packed with traps, escapes and gun blazing here and there. Mdesty has even been referred to as the female James Bond.
Modfesty Blade Novels include: Modesty Blaise (1965), Sabre-Tooth (1966),and Dragon's Claw (1978).
THE NAME IS BOND, JAMES BOND
IAN LANCASTER FLEMING
Ian Lancaster Fleming is best known as the creator of the super spy, James Bond. For a time he was a naval intelligence officer so he did know something about the spy game. Most people, however, would agree that Bond and his methodology is strongly fiction and very much tongue-in-cheek British.
Ian Fleming's James Bond novels include: Casino Royale (1953), From Russia, with Love (1957), and Diamonds are Forever (1956).
My favorite all time James Bond movies are: You Only Live Twice (1967) , Diamonds are Forever (1971), Live and Let Die (1973) Moonraker (1979) and Golden Eye (1995).
In my opinion the best of the Bond films were made during the Cold War. I liked the idea of Russia and the USA about to lock horns and mother Britain coming along to sort out their problems and stop the coming nuclear holocaust. Silly? You bet! But fun!
Also, in my opinion, Daniel Craig is too much a knuckle scraper to make a good James Bond. He definitely doesn't have the class of a Sean Connery or a Roger Moore. Also one gets the impression that Daniel Craig's version of Bond doesn't care that much for the opposite sex.
Dodgy meat pies, witches, and residents of Unseen University
Terry Pratchett will always be popular and famous for his Discworld series of novels. They reflect upon our own mixed up world in strange but fun ways. There's humor as well as reflection on the absurd.
Unfortunately Terry Pratchett is no longer with us but his work lives on.There are the books but there are also the movies and mini-series for television based on his novels.
As well as the Discworld treats you also have delights such as Johnny and the Dead (1993) and Johnny and the Bomb (1996).
So what is the Discwortd, you ask? Well, it is flat, hence the name, and it rests on top of four huge elephants that sit upon a gigantic turtle that's flying through space. It is a world of magic.
There are the witches in the mountains and in the city of Ankh-Morpork you have Unseen University, the home of a great, galloping collection of wizards. In this city you also have a talking dog and a seller of rather dodgy pies.
Discworld didn't develop over night. It came into being over a period of many years and quite a few novels. Each novel can be read and enjoyed on its own but, as a reader, you quickly want to lay your hands on the rest.
The Disworld novels of Terry Pratchett include: Guards! Guards! (1989), Men at Arms (1993), Night Watch (2002), Unseen Academicals (2009) and Snuff (2011).
Unfortunately Terry Pratchett passed away a while back and so is no long with us.
THE WOMAN WARRIOR OF ROMAN TIMES
Boadicea was a woman warrior of note who, during the time of Roman rule in parts of Britain, led a revolt. This was between AD 61 and AD 63. It was successful at first but eventually she and her people were defeated by the Romans.
One of the reasons for the eventual defeat may have been dropping hit and run tactics for more open warfare. In open warfare the Romans were almost impossible to beat.
In the 19th Century, with Queen Victoria on the throne, Boadicea came to be a romantic figure. She was the Queen of the Iceni who would not bow down to unjust rule.
If the Romans had treated her and the Iceni fairly there would not have been a revolt at all. The fact that other tribes at the time also had a bone to pick with the Romans meant the revolt quickly picked up steam. In the end, however, Roman tactics won out.
A recent novel touching upon this period in British history is the novel Queen of Iron Years by Lyn McConchie and Sharman Horwood (2011). Lyn McConchie is a New Zealand novelist and Sharman Horwood is a Canadian writer.
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