So for those of you about my age or older, who had parents who liked the non-commercial side of TV, that saying surely only has one connotation: Rumpole of the Bailey, discussing his Missus.
I have recently discovered, to my delight, that Leo McKern/Horace Rumpole is not, actually, the originator of that saying. Instead, it is the full title of the titular character in She, by H. Rider Haggard.
I’d heard of the book in passing, and had recently listened to King Solomon’s Mines (more on that in a bit), so I was delighted to find it at Librivox. I got seriously hours of entertainment from listening to She. It’s a glorious adventure tale – very obviously of its time; one of the few difficulties is getting past the “he was a good fellow… for a savage” comments that abound – with handsome young men, ugly old stalwarts, servants who know their place, cannibals, and a supremely beautiful yet terribly flawed woman. I couldn’t figure why I’d never heard of it as a movie – there are some scenes that just seem to have been written for the screen – but I’ve discovered there have actually been two movies. One b&w number from the 1930s, which from IMDb stays faithful, and one starring Ursula Andress as She and Christopher Lee as one of the ‘savages’ (boot polish, anyone??) (and Bernard Cribbins as the servant – that’s Donna Noble’s grandpa!) from the 1960s that is… less so. I don’t think I’ll bother.
Anyway, it’s great. All sorts of interesting questions are raised: are men simply zombified by love? Are all women expected to wait 2000 years for their true love to return after they kill them the first time (oops, slight spoiler)? Are all savages either utterly corrupt or utterly noble? Can hair really go from grey to golden?
Patrick Swayze was surprisingly good, although I wonder whether Quatermain was American in Haggard’s original. He looked surprisingly buff for a man who must be in his mid to late 40, surely, if not in his 50s. I don’t know why the girl was, but she was pretty average; the black guy, who played Mbosa (?? the one who turns out to be the king, anyway…) was really good.
I also didn’t realise that this was a telemovie, which is why it was so darn long – nearly 3 hours’ worth of it. And, not to spoil it too much, but they don’t even get to the mines until the last 15 minutes! It’s not really the point of the whole thing.
I think – I think – I might have to read this. Eventually. If only for comparisons sake.
Later edit: turns out I have seen the chick before. She played Dr Elsa Schneider, in the last Indiana Jones movie, which brings me to the other thing I meant to say – Alan Quatermain is basically Indiana’s father. Speilberg must have been a huge fan of Haggard.
Just went to the vid store. I had no idea that a new movie had been made of King Solomon’s Mines! With Patrick Swayze as Alan Quatermain! This might give me a feel for whether I should actually go and read the books… I have heard some dubious things about the worth of H Rider Haggard’s style… the story will hae to be pretty good, I think, to make me go read it. Just looked it up in Wikipedia (my respect for which as a general source of probably-true information has grown recently), and I don’t think I realised that the oldest Alan Q book was published in 1885…