Dedicated to the work of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger and all the other people, both actors and technicians who helped them make those wonderful films.
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A biography for Roger Livesey
It is shameful that nobody has ever written a biography on that wonderful actor Roger Livesey and his wife Ursula Jeans (Frau von Kalteneck in Blimp and Mrs Fellowes in The Queen's Guards).
While he was trying to find out where Roger is buried, Lou Volpe found out where Roger & Ursula used to live and was put in contact with Roger's niece, Jill Flanagan. Lou & I took Jill & her husband John to lunch at Rules in Covent Garden, London's oldest restaurant.
We had a lovely time and laid out a rough plan of campaign.
Not as good as a proper written biography, but better than nothing.
- Jill & John will dig through the family archives to pick out some nice photos.
- Neal Lofthouse will add a few of the theatre programmes of the many stage productions Roger and Ursula were involved in.
- We'll all find some nice photos from the films they did (especially the ones they did for P&P of course).
- We'll write some words to link the various stages of their life and to describe all the pictures and Jill will fact check them.
- We'll publish that on the web.
That lunch at Rules
Jill is the daughter of Barry Livesey. There were 3 Livesey boys, sons of Sam Livesey a long time touring actor who used to take a caravan to small villages around the country. At each place they'd lower the side which turned into a stage and perform for whoever turned up. When the 3 boys were born they were all co-opted into the act. None of them were too keep on becoming actors it seems, but Sam was a persuasive fellow.
This was really just a "getting to know you" session to introduce ourselves and explain what we wanted to find out. Also to find out what Jill knew of her Uncle. So we invited them to Rules in Covent Garden, the oldest restaurant in London (est. 1798).
As it's in the midst of all those theatres & just around the corner from the opera house (see opening of TRS) it's long been a haunt of theatre people. In fact when Jill arrived she was asked if she was with "Miss Withers". Yes, Googie was there :) She is appearing in Lady Windermere's Fan at the moment.
But we were there to chat to Jill about Roger & Ursula so we didn't disturb Googie and her friends. Enough to say she's looking well for her years.
It turns out that Jill knows a lot about Roger & Ursula and was mildly surprised to discover all this interest in them. Especially when we told her about Lou's trips to Mull followed by the story of Nancy Franklin from New York (see documentary on IKWIG DVD). But it was a pleasant surprise, Jill was very pleased to hear about all you people all around the world who love Roger so.
There's definitely a biography waiting to be written (anyone looking for a project?) but what we'll do at first is to get some photos from the Flanagan's and little stories to go with them and try to use them to build up a picture of the great man.
It certainly seems that he was as lovely and kindly in real life as he so often appears in the films, especially the three he did for P&P. Jill had lots of little stories about how kind he was to various people.
Although Roger appeared in 35 films & Ursula in 27 (Blimp was the only film they appeared together in) they both did a LOT of work on the stage. Apart from a few old playbills, most of that work has gone unrecorded :(
Anyway, we had a lovely meal and a great time chatting away. Yes, Roger certainly could drive, so it's odd that Deborah (as Barbara) drove the car up to the house in Blimp. His family nickname was "Gin" - short for Ginger because of that shock of red hair. He was an inveterate tinkerer and was often building things in his workshop. And everyone agreed he was a lovely man :)
As we were in Covent Garden, Jill happened to mention that there had been a memorial service in St Paul's Church (the actor's church) which had been very well attended. After our lovely lunch (it only took about 3 hours) we went round to St Paul's to see the stone inside dedicated to Roger & Ursula. Others with dedications in there include Michael Redgrave, Flora Robson, Eric Portman and probably many others who appeared in P&P films to say nothing of the hundreds of dedications to actors who didn't.
That lunch at Rules has led to us (mainly Lou) doing a lot of work, meeting some more people & making a start on the
Biography of Roger & Ursula Livesey