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13 July 2013

Emotion recollected in tempestousness

Mary Ure, with Richard Burton, in the film version of
Look Back in Anger. An excellent, modern BBC TV version,
starring Kenneth Branagh, is available on YouTube.
I am currently reading the autobiography of the playwright, John Osborne, and I came across a good and pleasantly concise description of the problem writers face when living with “normal” women.
     Soon after Osborne shot to fame with his ground-breaking kitchen-sink drama, Look Back in Anger (1956), he found himself rather unenthusiastically marrying the attractive and friendly but not hugely talented Scottish actress Mary Ure (who died twenty years later of alcoholism).
     I quote part of his description of Mary below because it is so poetically apt, and uses word fearlessly, as they should be used. But I should perhaps say first that it is mild by comparison with what Osborne said about a subsequent wife, Jill Bennett. 
     Unlike Mary whom he liked but did not love, Bennett he hated with a passion that is rare in people who stay married for as long as seven months, much less, as in his case, seven years. He said of her that she was “so demonically possessed by Avarice that she died of it”, which was “one of the few original or spontaneous gestures in her loveless life”. She was, Osborne said, so mean that “she never bought a bar of soap in all the time she lived with me”. And none of this was mitigated by professional skill. As an actress, her voice sounded “like a puppy with a mouthful of lavatory paper.”
     By contract, Osborne is kind to Mary Ure, though still pointed and unblinkingly truthful in the manner that projected him to world fame as the first “angry young man” in the late 1950s.
“Like most actors, she was hysterical when unemployed and resentful when appearing every night to full houses. She also entertained the common belief that a writer is only working when he can be seen head down at his desk. Why are you drinking/dreaming/farting/fornicating instead of making typewriter noises?”
     Is there any writer who has not suffered such barbs from the lady of their perhaps unwise choice?


1 comment:

  1. Can't but agree with Mary's statement that typing noises are much more pleasing to the ear than farting :) She had the point, didn't she?
    Writers - like most men - are quite often torn apart between the 'Madonna' and the 'Magdalene' types of women, they simply can't make their minds whether they need a quite Mommy-like woman in an apron baking mince pies or a dangerous and unpredictable one who only wears stockings to strangle her partner with them later on :)