Tuesday 22 August 2023


Everyone's going nuts over Amazon Prime's Red, White & Royal Blue the gay rom-com based on Casey McQuiston's best-selling book of the same name. The premise: an enemies-to-friends-to-lovers story in which the Romeos in question are, respectively, the son of the first female President of the United States and the second (and therefore 'spare') son of the King of England.

It's not difficult to see why it's a hit: it's quirky and, obviously, 'queerky'; it's corny, cute and sweetish (though mercifully not over-sugared); it's fluffy, fuzzy and funny – if quite a long way short of Richard-Curtis-style comedy. And, in case you wondered, its lead actors (Taylor Zakhar Perez and Nicholas Galitzineare) are unashamed eye-candy-men and their relationship is... well...HOT. And I mean hot in a way that future seasons of Heartstopper cannot (and absolutely shouldn't) think of trying to emulate.
However, the high-octane sexiness is craftily filtered through a golden lens of innocence, so that the messiness of lust and desire are neatly neutralised by the honest-to-goodness purity of true love's dream.
If the film is 'about' anything, it's a hotch-potch of musings about Politics and Protocols, Duty, Family and Country and what happens when they impinge on individual choice and personal happiness.
Matthew López's direction is workmanlike – which is a compliment rather than a criticism, because it never gets in the way of the storytelling. The supporting cast (including Uma Thurman as POTUS) are good-to-excellent with the notable exception of Stephen Fry's toe-curling cameo as the King of England, which is self-consciously awkward and, frankly, both miscast and misplayed – although, thankfully, for only one scene towards the end of the movie!
The problem with Red, White & Royal Blue (and, I'm sorry, but there is a problem) is simply that these fairy-tale kingdom versions of White and Buck Houses and are burdened by too many attempts to draw (or imply) parallels with characters already familiar to viewers of The Crown
The 'Let's Pretend' Britain found here could have been more convincingly sold to us had it strayed into a more Ruritanian representation of privilege, position, pomp-and-circumstance instead of employing character names like Philip, Beatrice and, especially, Prince Henry – better known as Harry – which have totally misleading implications of satire that really does not serve this slight but entertaining story of the romance between Britain's Prince Charming and Washington's Mr Disarming.

Thursday 17 August 2023


The death of Sir Michael Parkinson at the grand age of 88 is a reminder of a lost art-form – or at least (if you disagree with 'art') then a lost aspect of premier journalism. He was the doyen of the TV 'chat-show': a true successor and refiner of the art of the television interview, previously pioneered on America's The Dick Cavett Show and, in Britain, on John Freeman's Face to Face.
'Chat-show' is too trivial a term for Parkinson's achievement as telly's Torquemada. It's true that 'Parky, as he was affectionately referred to be legion of viewers, was a man with the sharply honed mind of a seasoned inquisitor, but his mode of torture was invariably tempered with a genuine fascination with (and, often, admiration for) his 'victims'!. Above all, he was more intent on exploring the thoughts and views of his interviewees than in promoting his own; more determined to showcase his subjects than in ever pushing his own ego.
We worked together, for a few years, when I was a regular TV/Radio critic on his Sunday morning Radio 2 programme. I loved our easy, warm conversations and an annual joy for our group of reviewers (news, sport, film, TV etc) was to be invited to a delightful, intimate Christmas lunch hosted by Michael and where we each received an 'Award' for our work over the preceding year – all with wonderfully absurd category titles and, on at least one occasion, the opportunity to form an impromptu orchestra with kazoos and swanee whistles!
Not so long ago, I wrote to Michael to congratulate him on the BBC's then recent Parkinson at 50 series: an anthology of memorable moments (and there were so many!) from fifty years of the show: hilarious chats with Peter Ustinov, Dudley Moore, Kenneth Williams and Billy Connolly; delightful exchanges with James Cagney, David Niven and Ingrid Bergman; unforgettable encounters with Orson Welles, Muhammad Ali and Kermit and Miss Piggy; and, in what was his all-time favourite interviewee, an intense and incisive intellectual conversation with mathematician and philosopher, Jacob Bronowski.
Responding to my email, Michael replied:
Dear Brian
Many thanks for your charming letter which stirred lots of wonderful memories. It served as a reminder of how much I enjoyed doing our show on Radio 2. It was a very happy time for me made more so by a group of colleagues, including yourself, who just happened to be very good at what they did.
I am glad you enjoyed PARKINSON AT 50. We had a lot of great reactions and if I am allowed an opinion I think it was a marvellous reminder of a great team I worked with through the years and of the time when you were allowed to do a talk show without performing like a halfwit.
With every best wish
"A reminder of ... the time when you were allowed to do a talk show without performing like a halfwit."
Yes, Michael that just about sums it up! I won't say, in Hamlet's words: "I shall not look upon his like again", because I hope I may, but to reflect on Parky's career is to look with unqualified admiration on the absolute gold-standard for what being a chat-show host should be: a person who is on top of his research; not bound by pre-planned questions, but always open to seizing the opportunity of the moment and – above all – not just an 'asker' but a 'listener'. 
Art: 'Parky', a pastel portrait of Sir Michael Parkinson by Glyn Overton. Check her other artwork HERE

Friday 11 August 2023


Whether or not you remember – even hold as beloved – those childhood immortals Winnie-the-Pooh and Christopher Robin before they were appropriated by Walt Disney back in 1966, I think you'll enjoy Enchanted Places, a double-CD recording of A. A. Milne's verses (and Pooh's inimitable 'Hums') from the quartet of nursery classics: When We Were Very Young, Winnie-the-Pooh, Now We Are Six and The House at Pooh Corner – all of them accompanied by irreplaceable decorations by the magnificent Ernest H. Shepard.
Today, however, I guess there many Pooh-lovers who will be unfamiliar with the musical settings that were composed during the height of Mr. Milne's public popularity; although if you mention titles like 'They're Changing Guard at Buckingham Palace', 'Hush, Hush, Whisper Who Dares (Christopher Robin is Saying His Prayers)', 'Halfway Down the Stairs' and 'Cottleston Pie', then you may recall having heard them sung by performers as diverse as Gracie Fields, Robert Tear, David Tomlinson and Burl Ives – not to mention Robin and Rowlf from The Muppets!
The music was the work of H. Fraser-Simson, a popular composer of British light music and the long-running operetta, The Maid of the Mountains, and these delightful settings that have endured for almost 100 years and are now available on this new double-CD – the first-ever complete recording of the Milne/Fraser-Simson collaboration – released by EM Records.
The songs are performed by baritone Grant Major, accompanied at the piano by John Kember and singer and pianist deftly present the songs with considerable wit and a lightness of touch that is perfectly suited to the verses’ delightful mix of humour, sentiment, nostalgia and nonsense.
I might, immodestly, add that there's a cameo appearance by Yours Truly on Disc 2, narrating Milne's amusing introduction to his song, 'The King's Breakfast', and I also wrote the liner notes telling the story of Mr. Milne and Mr. Fraser-Simson and their enchanting collaboration, illustrated with rare Milne family photos from my persoanl collection.
This recording will certainly please all lovers of light verse and light music and will delight the young and the young-at-heart.
Enchanted Places is available from Amazon HERE

Tuesday 8 August 2023


"Happiness is having a large, loving, caring, close-knit family ––– in another city."

– George Burns (1896-1996)

[Caricature by Dave Woodman]

Sunday 6 August 2023


"That men do not learn very much from the lessons of history is the most important of all the lessons of history."


Aldous Huxley (1894-1963)


 [Cartoon: David Low (1891-1963)]

Saturday 5 August 2023


I just heard the word 'QUIBBLE' on the radio and was prompted to seek out the origin of this curious word. According to the Oxford Dictionary of Word Origins

"A quibble was originally a pun or play on words. It probably comes from Latin quibus, meaning ‘for which’ or ‘for whom’, a word that often appeared in legal documents and so was associated with subtle distinctions or verbal niceties. The idea of a pun led to that of basing an argument on some likeness or difference between words or their meanings, and from this arose the notion of a petty objection or a trivial point of criticism..."

I was also thinking, were I ever to have one, that QUIBBLES would make an excellent name for a cat!


Tuesday 1 August 2023



I am deeply saddened to learn the news of my friend and fellow Disney fanatic, Jim Korkis at the age of 72. How to sum of the life and prolific work of this popular and much-loved Disney historian?

I made an attempt in 2013 in contributing this commendation for the back cover of his then latest book, The Vault of Walt Volume 2: Other Unofficial Disney Stories Never Told. I wrote:

In Disney’s world of mice and ducks, the indefatigable Jim Korkis is a veritable terrier: tracking down juicy stories, sniffing out intriguing incidents and digging up forgotten facts! His encyclopaedic knowledge and dedication to research are matched by an incomparable narrative skill that effortlessly educates and enlightens in the most enthusiastic, engaging and entertaining way.

Of course it would have been better if I'd started  by saying: "In Disney’s world of mice ducks and dogs..." but it's too late now. 

Jim and I had a long-running correspondence that touched on many matters Disneyesque: specific films and characters obviously, but also Jim's former career within the Company and his, often feisty, commentaries of the changing face of 'Disney Inc.'; mostly however, we corresponded about our shared passion for 'Classic Disney', by which we meant the life and work of the Man Himself.

As I wrote today on the 'Disney History Institute's' Facebook page:

...Jim was a wonderful human being and an indomitable enthusiast; he poured his humanity and enthusiasm into everything he did and wrote. I have read, used and contributed to his many volumes and I have enjoyed them for their diligent research, clarity of storytelling and, most of all, their HUGE sense of fun and delight. Jim had a passionate love of all things Disney and he never wearied of passing on his passion and knowledge with the rest of us who shared that love. Thank you for your work, Jim, and your friendship. I will miss you and whatever your next few books would have been...

Remembering Jim prompts me to share the Foreword I wrote to his  2017 book, The Vault of Walt: Volume 6: Other Unofficial Disney Stories Never Told... 




I have something to get off my chest: despite having spent a disproportionate part of my life collecting and writing about all things Disney, my earliest encounter with the Mousetro’s work proved deeply traumatic for me and acutely embarrassing for my parents.


What ended as a nightmare had begun as a treat for my fourth birthday: a visit to a now-long-gone British institution, the News Theatre on London’s Waterloo Station. Open daily, from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m., the News Theatre screened a continuous program of newsreels, comedy one-reelers and cartoons. On this particular day, the bill featured the vintage 1938 Disney short, Brave Little Tailor, in which Mickey Mouse, in the title role, tackles an enormous Giant in order to win the hand of the Princess Minnie. At a crucial point in this drama, Mickey hides in a cart laden with pumpkins and, when the giant grabs a handful as a snack, Mickey finds himself being hurled into the Giant’s mouth. Dodging the pumpkins as they hurtle by him like bowling balls, he only avoids being swallowed by hanging onto the Giant’s uvular. These antics were, naturally, greeted with hilarity by every other youngster in the cinema – but not, unfortunately, by me! Terrified at the mouse-threatening scenario unfolding before me in the dark, I screamed and screamed until my humiliated parents bundled me out of the theatre and rushed me off to the nearest café to pacify me with tea and buns.


I make this confession as it may help to explain the fixation with Disney that has obsessed me virtually ever since that harrowing day! Without that shock to my young system, that jolt to my nascent psyche, would I have co-authored several books on Disney topics (from Mickey Mouse and Snow White to Mary Poppins) or made several dozen hours of radio programmes for the BBC about Uncle Walt, his company and movies? Probably not.


One of the by-products of this career (of which I’ve only provided the sketchiest of detail since I’m taking up space in somebody else’s book on Disney) is the occasional invitation to write a foreword such as the one I’m just about to get down to writing here.


Within the annals of cinema history there is a small but growing coterie of dedicated scribes who are dubbed Disney Historians. There is an urgent imperative to chronicle the life and times of Walt Disney and the achievements of his studio because it is the story of many people, most of whose contributions have only begun to be recorded in the past 50 years since the death of the man whose internationally recognised signature came to represent the combined talents of an army of artists, writers, musicians and technicians.


Some of us of a certain age can still recall when there were scarcely more than a handful books about the art and industry of Disney. Today there are shelf-loads of such books – representing a wide range of approaches from the academic and authoritative via the critical to the anodyne and scurrilous. Nevertheless, there are still first-hand recollections needing to be recorded and new chapters of the story waiting to be written – not to mention the tedious task of correcting inaccuracies and remedying misconceptions.


One of the most prolific of these Disney historians is the indefatigable Jim Korkis (“At last!” you say, “This Foreword is finally getting to the point!”) whose Disney Vault you are about to enter.  


I first met the Vault Keeper sixteen years ago, on 5 December (Walt's birthday) 2001. We were in the VIP lounge of the Norway pavilion in EPCOT and, whilst I no longer recall the reason for that choice of venue, I mention it since the fact that EPCOT has a Norway VIP lounge will be, for some, an irresistible piece of Disney park trivia eagerly learned.


After signing a book of mine for Jim (despite my protestations that the only valuable copies are the unsigned ones) he gave me a cracking interview for one of my radio shows as a result of which I immediately had the measure of Jim’s talent: he was, like Shakespeare’s clown Autolycus, "a snapper-up of unconsidered trifles", by which I mean that he collected a wealth of information that others had overlooked or disregarded and stored it away in his vast memory-bank – or, you could say, vault! 


Korkis books are always filled with these discoveries, fashioned together so as to create a series of diverse narratives of varying – but satisfyingly appropriate – length where the whole is always greater than the sum of the parts.


Jim is a born teller of tales, able to engage, excite, intrigue and amuse us with stories that reveal not just his talent for research but also his gift of infectious enthusiasm. If something fascinates Korkis he will make sure we share his fascination. This is not surprising since he has met and talked with dozens of Disney animators and those theme park wizards known as ‘Imagineers’ and has been writing about them and their genius boss for three-and-a-half decades.


Looking through the table of contents I can’t quite decide where I’ll start: maybe with the stories about Walt’s enthralment with Abe Lincoln and Charlie Chaplin; or, perhaps, with the appreciation of Disney Park Dinosaurs; or, possibly, with the articles on the Oscar-winning documentary, Seal Island, and the zany comedy that introduced the world to car 53 – Herbie, the Love Bug. Wherever I start, I can guarantee to be riveted and end up knowing immeasurably more than when I started.


In view of the distressing recollection with which I began this Foreword, I was wondering if an essay on Disney Giants might be on offer; but it really doesn’t matter because Jim can always add it to the possible contents list for his next foray into the Disney Vault; meanwhile (since I’ve detained you far too long already), you can start enjoying this one. Right, then! Off you go…


Well, what are you waiting for? Off you go to your bookseller-of-choice and get your hands on one of Jim's many books on Disney, maybe this one, published last year when he knew he was battling the disease that has finally taken him from us to that enchanted Neverland that created by the Dream-merchant whose work he loved and ceaselessly celebrated.