Victor ’s tragic curtain call . . .
QUESTION Actor Victor Henry was once touted as the next Albert Finney. What became of him? THIS question came up at the British Film Institute South Bank last autumn, when two episodes of Victor Henry’s TV series Diary Of A Young Man were shown. But, even his co-star Richard Moore had not known what happened to Victor.
I saw him perform several times at the Royal Court Theatre, my local rep in the Sixties/seventies.
Victor was born in Leeds in 1943 and trained at Rada. His career began to build up in the Sixties, showing him to be one of the most versatile and gifted actors of his generation.
BBC TV showed great faith in him by starring him, aged 21, in Diary Of A Young Man (1964), a comedy series about the problems of life as seen through the eyes of the first post-world War II generation, featuring two provincial lads coming to the big city.
It was written by Z-cars graduates Troy Kennedy-martin and John Mcgrath, two of the best British writers of the Sixties, with several episodes directed by Ken Loach.
Victor’s film career included work with the new generation of directors such as Lindsay Anderson (The White Bus), Peter Watkins (Privilege) and Michael Reeves (The Sorcerers). However, his first starring role — Christopher Morahan’s All Neat In Black Stockings by Hugh Whitemore, co-starring Susan George — didn’t live up to its promise.
Where Victor was really making his mark was in theatre, particularly at the English Theatre Company’s Royal Court in Sloane Square, where he appeared in classic revivals ( Webster’s The Duchess Of Malfi, D.H. Lawrence’s The Daughter-in-law, Osborne’s Look Back In Anger which transferred to the West End) and challenging new plays (Heathcote Williams’s AC/DC).
In particular, he was associated with Christopher Hampton in whose first two plays, When Did You Last See My Mother? and Total Eclipse, he played the leads.
His career was cut short abruptly, ironically in Sloane Square itself, where he was the victim of a freak accident. While waiting at a zebra crossing, a car mounted the pavement and ran into him.
He went into a coma in which he remained for several years, some of his care being paid for by benefit performances at the Royal Court. He died in 1985 without recovering consciousness.
Peter Ferguson, London N1.
QUESTION I understand that Elton John and Kiki Dee recorded their No.1 song Don’t Go Breaking My Heart on different sides of the Atlantic. Have any other duets been recorded this way? THERE’S little doubt that the best duets are sung by both singers at the same time, so that they can interact and respond to each other in a natural way.
A good example is the recent Tony Bennett Duets album, where he insisted on singing each song with his opposite number present, famously flying over to Abbey Road Studios to sing with Amy Winehouse on Body And Soul, her last ever recording.
But the wonders of technology are such that it’s possible for artists to perform separately at different times and in different countries on different continents, if necessary, then combine their efforts.
This enables producers to create mash-ups such as the BBC’S 1997 production of Lou Reed’s Perfect Day featuring talent from all over the world; including David Bowie, Elton John, Lesley Garrett, Burning Spear, Bono, Tammy Wynette and Tom Jones, etc.
The antithesis to Tony Bennett’s method was the 1993 Frank Sinatra Duets album which was enormously successful commercially, though not well received critically.
This was in the most part down to producer Phil Ramone’s strange style of production, where all the vocal parts were recorded separately. Sinatra produced his part then the duettist was asked to fill in.
While most of the record was recorded by artists in the U.S., such as Tony Bennett, Aretha Franklin, Carly Simon and Liza Minnelli, one of the strangest recordings on the album was Sinatra’s duet with U2 frontman Bono on I’ve Got You Under My Skin.
While Sinatra recorded his section in California, Bono sang his part in Dublin. Bono has said: ‘I recall Sinatra’s people visibly wincing when I changed the line, ‘don’t you know, you fool, you never can win’ to ‘you know, you old fool, you never can win.’
Despite the separation, Elton John and Kiki Dee’s effort was far more successful. Elton recorded his part in Toronto and the tapes were sent to London. When Kiki got them she remembered: ‘Elton had recorded the song abroad and also did my vocals in a high-pitched voice, which was quite funny, so I knew which lines to sing.’
Ed Spencer, Norwich, Norfolk. SEVERAL songs have been recorded by artists on either side of an even greater divide. This has given two classic songs a new lease of life for younger listeners.
The best is Tony Bennett ‘duetting’ with Billie Holiday on her self-penned classic God Bless The Child.
It had me foxed for a while as Tony’s voice hasn’t aged much over the years and in the song he says, ‘Tell it like it is, Billie’ before she starts singing. It was put together as the final track on Tony’s 1997 tribute CD to Billie, Tony Bennett On Holiday.
The other one was a ‘duet’ between Natalie Cole and her father, the late great Nat ‘King’ Cole on her 1991 CD Unforgettable. Again, this was the last track, the exquisite Unforgettable, and it was the only one on the CD to use this idea.
Danny D’arcy, Reading, Berkshire.
QUESTION What is the story of RollsRoyce’s Flying Bedstead? THE earlier answer recorded two prototype Flying Bedsteads having been built: there were in fact three.
In summer 1963, I was an aircrew sergeant Winchman on A Flight, 22 Squadron, at RAF Chivenor, in North Devon. I suggested to the Flight Commander that we should fly a bedstead on the end of the rescue helicopter cable for the Battle of Britain display that summer — and told he me to build one.
I acquired a single bed from the stores, added a seat and fin stabiliser and fitted it with pyrotechnic rockets and flares. The result can be seen in the photograph below, left.
We flew it twice, once to test its aerodynamic qualities and again at the Battle of Britain display, in front of an enthusiastic crowd of 9,000 people.
Eric Smith, GM, Woking, Surrey.
QUESTION What is ‘pace -egging’? FURTHER to earlier answer, I was brought up in Rochdale and have vivid recollections of Pace-egging.
As children, at Easter, we would follow the players from street to street and I can still recall some of the dialogue. The action was based on the crusades and performers wore traditional costume. It went as follows: St George: ‘ Stand back thou Moroccan dog and let no more be said, for if I draw my trusty sword I’m sure to break your head.’ Saracen: ‘My head is made of iron, my body made of steel, I challenge thee to yield.’ A duel takes place and the Saracen is wounded. St George: ‘A doctor, a doctor, ten pounds for a doctor.’ Doctor: ‘Here am I.’ St George: ‘What can you cure?’ Doctor: ‘ The inks, the pinks, the palsy and the gout. A man once swallowed 19 muffins and I pulled 20 of them out.’
Star: Victor Henry with Susan George in All Neat In Black Stockings (1969)
Compiled by Charles Legge