Talk over her, Norrie. She asked you what you’re reading. Tell her. Make it up if you have to.

“I’ve been re-acquainting myself recently,” I said affectedly, “with Cahiers du Cinéma, particularly the article by Truffaut attacking La qualité française and the auteur theory. Cahiers, you’ll recall, re-invented the basic tenets of film criticism and theory — resulting in the re-evaluation of Hollywood films and directors such as Alfred Hitchcock, Howard Hawks, Nicholas Ray, and Fritz Lang .”

(I’ve hinted that university undergraduates back in the day had a big tip for themselves. My tip was possibly bigger than any held by my contemporaries.)

“Mr Maclean, please . . .” the casting director attempted to interrupt me.

“I’d really like to get your director’s take on this. Can I meet Mr Relph, please?” I asked.

“Listen . . .”

Smash her, a Thormoid. Take a deep breath and carry on. Give her both barrels.

“I’d like to mention a book I’ve been studying in Higher Ordinary Celtic this year,” I proceeded to lecture, “It’s called The Dialect of the Island of Barra. It’s a real sodium amatol. Only a superhuman intelligence can read and understand this work. The author is an eminent Scandinavian philologist called Borgstrom. Tell you what, I’d be willing to offer my services to your scriptwriter, Monja Danischewsky – that’s her name, isn’t it? – as a sort of script consultant or, alternatively . . .”

“Please, stop talking, sir,” the Casting Director pleaded.

“I’ve just had a great idea,” I said. “I could hire myself out as a dialogue coach. You know, the accents of many of the supporting actors in Whisky Galore, and particularly that of the voice-over artist in the opening scenes, were considered by readers of Cahiers du Cinéma a trifle – comment on dit? – un petit peu faux, n’est ce pas?”

You’ve got her on the ropes, Norrie. She’s got her buff gloves up over her ears already.

“I see the film as a great opportunity,” I continued without pausing.

“For whom?” the casting director asked in a faint, trembly voice.

“For . . .for the island of Barra, for Scotland,” I said. “The lush colours here will surpass even the glowing shades of the west of Galway where John Ford filmed his classic The Quiet Man, which I venture to describe as a kind of Hibernian Taming of the Shrew. Quite Shakespearian, don’t you think? Of course big Marion Morrison (the birth name of John Wayne) and Maureen O’Hara finally get married, and, goodness, wasn’t that long fight scene between Wayne and Victor McLaglen absolutely thrilling?”

Your smooth patter, a Thormoid, has caused the lady to relax completely. She is now sprawled across the scarred table, her cheek pressed against the wood with her eyes tight shut.

“Of course, it’s all about the chemistry between your leading actors, isn’t it,” I continued, hardly taking a breath. “I thought Humph (yes, I called Humphrey Bogart by his abbreviated forename) and Kate (Hepburn) were one of cinema’s most attractive couples.”

The lady was opening and closing her mouth like a goldfish,  but no sounds emerged. I was greatly encouraged.

“Oh, I nearly forgot to mention From Here to Eternity,” I continued with scarcely a break. “I’d read James’s novel while I was still in high school and wasn’t disappointed with director Fred Zinneman’s follow-up to High Noon. The classic scene of Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr kissing in the surf is, in my humble opinion, the most romantic scene ever filmed.” The casting director’s shoulders were heaving beneath the oilskin outer garment. I reckoned my work here was done. I rose and silently tiptoed to the door. Before leaving the snug I turned to say my farewell.


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