This issue of Slightly Foxed comes with our very best wishes to you all from all of us here for Christmas and the coming year. However there’s no escaping the fact that these are anxious times, and we were touched by a reader in Australia who wrote to us recently: ‘I can only say, to all the Slightly Foxed team, that you are a saviour. Slightly Foxed has kept me in touch, kept me sane, made me relish the humour, the warmth, the quirky charm of the English way of doing things.’ Wherever you are in the world, we hope you feel the same.
‘The English way of doing things’ was certainly put to the test in 1956 when the late Sir Laurence Olivier made the ill-judged decision to direct and act in a film with Marilyn Monroe. The title was The Prince and the Showgirl, based on a play by Terence Rattigan. It was filmed at Pinewood Studios and from the moment Marilyn stepped off the plane, accompanied by her new husband Arthur Miller, her drama coach Paula Strasberg of the New York Actors Studio, and the rest of her American entourage, it was a disaster.
As it happened, young Colin Clark – son of Lord Clark of Civilisation – had used his contacts to get himself a job on set as a general dogsbody, and happily for us he kept a diary. The Prince, the Showgirl and Me, our Winter Slightly Foxed Edition (see p.13), is a sharp-eyed and hilarious account of the upstaging of poor Sir Laurence, the very embodiment of English professionalism, by an actress who rarely turned up on time and couldn’t remember her lines but still magically outshone him on screen.
Another book to soothe the nerves and raise the spirits is this season’s Plain Foxed Edition, The Young Ardizzone, a charming account by the author and illustrator Edward Ardizzone of his Edwardian childhood, much of it spent at the Suffolk home of his maternal grandmother in the company of his cheerful young unmarried uncles and characterful great-aunts. The story opens in 1905 when his mother brought her three small children to England from Haiphong where their father was a telegraph engineer. Like many colonial children, they didn’t see her again for three years, and then only occasionally, once with a surprise new brother and sister in tow. It’s a lovely book, written with the same gentle humour that distinguishes Ardizzone’s affectionate illustrations, a must for fans and a perfect Christmas present for anyone who hasn’t yet discovered him.