Le Temps Des Fleurs: Remembering Dalida

Yolanda Christina Gigliotti was born into an Italian family in Cairo on 17th January 1933. As the first violinist at the Cairo Opera House, her father Pietro Gigliotti instilled her and her two brothers with a appreciation for music from an early age. After attending an Italian Catholic school in the Egyptian capital, and Yolanda dreamt of becoming a model, an ambition that would be easily realised on account of her breathtaking Mediterranean beauty.

Winning the title of Miss Ondine at a beauty pageant in 1950, Yolanda was again triumphant when she competed for the crown of Miss Egypt four years later. Her new found status brought her to the attention of the French painter and film director, Marc de Gastyne, who promised to help her pursue a film career and she moved to Paris in December 1954. Changing her name to the more French sounding Dalila, she later decided upon its variant Dalida. In Homage to the continent of her birth, it was of African-Swahili and Arabic origin, from the former, her new moniker translated as ‘gentle,’ and from the latter, ‘to tease.’

Isolated and far away from her family and friends, Dalida found solace in music and took singing lessons. Not only did she have natural talent, she also had a powerful stage presence and was hired to perform her own cabaret act at a the Olympia, a music hall in the 9th arrondissement with her signature tune being Étrangèr au Paradis, a hit from the 1953 musical Kismet. Dalida also appeared in several films including the Egyptian motion picture Sigarah wa kas (1955) and Marc de Gastyne’s Le masque de Toutankhamon (1955), but it was whilst working at the Olympia, that she met Lucien Morisse, a produce at Europe n° 1, the biggest radio station in France at that time, and the record producer Eddie Barclay. Instantly captivated by her, Morisse proposed despite already being married. Morisse later divorced and they would eventually wed on 8th April 1961, although the marriage dissolved in matter of weeks following Dalida’s affair with the French actor Jean Sobieski.  Continue reading

The English Boy: Richard Warwick’s Great Performances

The third of four sons, Richard Carey Winter was born in the Kent village of Longfield on 29th April 1945, but grew up near Tewkesbury in Gloucestershire. He would always consider the county his true home and speak fondly of it, marvelling at its rich history and once telling a friend that, as he sat in a local dentist’s chair, he delightedly realised that he was in the very room from which Margaret of Anjou had observed the bloody aftermath of the Battle of Tewkesbury in 1471.

With a father who was an aeronautical engineer, and no familial acting connections, it came as a surprise to his parents when Richard won a place at RADA after leaving the Dean Close School in Cheltenham. From RADA, Richard joined the National Theatre, and, having adopted the stage name ‘Warwick’ for Equity reasons, at the age of 23, he was cast as Gregory in Franco Zeffirelli’s lavish Romeo and Juliet.

At the same time, he appeared as the recusant sixth-former Wallace in If…., Lindsay Anderson’s brutal dramatisation of the English public school system. Catching the counter-cultural wave that was spreading across Britain and other parts of Europe in the 1960s, the film was a cinematic triumph, and was awarded the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival in 1969. Malcolm McDowell, may have been the film’s main protagonist, but as Anderson said of Warwick, ‘I never met a young actor like Richard! Without a touch of vanity, completely natural yet always concentrated, he illumines every frame of the film in which he appears.’ His enormous talent, stage presence and charmingly boyish looks made Warwick ideal for the televised plays then loved by British audiences.

Above: Trailer for If…. (1968)

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Once In A Blue Moon: Suwanni Sukhontha’s Stories

Suwanni Sukhonthiang was born in Phitsanulok, a province of Northern Thailand, on 1st March 1932. After leaving school, she travelled to the capital Bangkok, where she spent the next two years studying at the Pohchang Academy of Arts; she completed her education by taking a course in fine art at Silpakorn University, graduating in 1951. Taking a job as a teacher, she worked at the Bangkok School of Arts before lecturing at her alma mater. At the same time, she began penning short stories under the pen name Suwanni Sukontha; her first published story being Chot Mai Thueng Puk for the Siam Rath Weekly. Encouraged the positive reaction to her writing, Sukhontha decided to devote herself full-time to it, and produced her debut novel Sai Bo Yut Sane Hai in 1965.

Noted for her masterful character development, and powerful imagery, Sukhontha won the SEATO literature award in 1971 for her novel Khao Chue Kan, a gritty tale about an idealistic young doctor and his dissatisfied wife, dealing with the corruption and dishonesty of those around them and its catastrophic impact upon their own relationship. By 1973, the story had taken on a greater significance with the student uprisings in Thailand, and the ensuing transition of the previous military dictatorship into a more pro-democratic political system.

A year after she was given the prestigious award, Sukhontha founded and edited the female-orientated literature journal Lalana and used the publication as a platform for her progressive ideas about women and their involvement in Thai society. Sukhontha also received the National Book Week’s Award for Duai Pik Khong Rak in 1973. Continue reading

Silver Blaze: The Illustrious Jeremy Brett

‘It’s very rare I’ve been able to get into the twentieth century. When I turn from 1899 to 1900 I jump for joy. I did in Rebecca, I got into the 30s then. I have done some modern stuff but I’m so thrilled I over-act like crazy. I’ve got pockets! I’m so used to wearing tights all the time that when I put my hands in my pockets I nearly fall over. I’m so unused to playing a modern guy.’ Born Peter William Jeremy Huggins in the Warwickshire village of Berkswell on 3rd November 1933, Jeremy Brett as he would be known professionally (he changed his name upon his father’s request, choosing ‘Brett’ from a label in one of his suits) spent the majority of his career performing in period pieces, a path he naturally found himself following, owing to his quintessentially English good looks and upper-class demeanour.

The youngest of four brothers, Brett was the son of Lieutenant Colonel Henry William Huggins and his wife, Elizabeth Edith Cadbury (a member of the famous family of chocolate-makers). After an idyllic childhood, in which he developed a lifelong love of horse-riding and archery, Brett was sent to Eton, where he was a self-confessed ‘academic disaster’ and struggled with a speech impediment which affected how he pronounced the letters ‘R’ and ‘S.’ A surgical procedure, which he underwent in his late teens, coupled with daily vocal exercises, gave Brett the resplendent voice for which he would become renowned.

Interested in acting from an early age, after leaving Eton, Brett studied at the Central School of Speech and Drama, making his stage debut at the Library Theatre in Manchester in 1954. Brett remembered how his father had initially been disparaging about his chosen career, as he had believed that ‘any respectable middle-class boy shouldn’t do a thing like that. He thought it was all drinking champagne out of slippers.’ Continue reading