The Larry King Show Goes British

Piers Morgan has given up his seat on the Britain’s Got Talent judging panel in order to fill the nightly interview seat held by Larry King on CNN for 25 years, but will remain on America’s Got Talent as a judge. King’s last show is set to air on December 16th. Speaking to, King said that, although he’s had Morgan on his show a couple of times, he knows virtually nothing about him. While King’s choice for his replacement would have been Ryan Seacrest, King did say about Morgan, “I like him very much. I wish him nothing but the best – he’s going to guest on my show in October. I want him to do well. It’s funny, my wife met him before I did, at a Dodger game.” King’s final guest will be former NY Governor Mario Cuomo, who was King’s first guest when the show began.

 Morgan told Entertainment Weekly that he’ll be shooting for the stars where his guests are concerned. “I’m going to go for the biggest targets on the planet,” he says. “I want to get the biggest names, the biggest people, go after the biggest stories. There’s nothing I like more than breaking big stories with big interviews, and creating headlines. It’s what I do best . . Why don’t you come up with a list of the 20 biggest names in the world,” he says, “and I’ll confirm I’m definitely interested in talking to them. I wouldn’t rule anybody in, and anybody out. You can take your pick.”

Known in the U.S. for his work on reality shows like America’s Got Talent and The Celebrity Apprentice, Morgan has a reputation as a hard hitting interviewer in the UK. He told EW, “I just saw a tweet from Sylvester Stallone saying that I’m one of the best interviewers he’s ever had,” he says. “There are some who know about me and know what I’ve done, and others who probably aren’t aware of what I do.” And Morgan’s got a reputation for doing what he does in a straight-from-the-hip, no-holds-barred manner. Will he be bringing that tough interview style with him across the pond?  “I don’t think I’m going to be softballing people,” he says, “but at the same time, I don’t think I’m going to be too brutal. I’m not going to basically kill the show by being so unpleasant that you can’t get any guests. I’m going to hopefully be quite charming to guests, and I think civilized.”

Morgan did admit to the Hollywood Reporter that he interviewed, “Simon (Cowell) in Britain for Life Stories and he said it was the best interview he’s ever given. I’ve already reached out to him for the CNN show and I’m getting pretty positive feedback. I think Simon sees it as like the old feudal days, when you’d have two guys on horseback jousting.”

Morgan has reportedly also signed a new two-year deal with ITV. The Sun claims that the contract, said to be worth £2.6m, will cover 12 new episodes of Piers Morgan’s Life Stories. Before breaking into British television, Morgan was the editor of a tabloid, the Daily Mirror. He was fired after the newspaper published fraudulent photos of British soldiers abusing Iraqi prisoners.

Morgan married wife Celia Walden on June 24th
Speaking about Morgan recently, Katy Couric said, “I’ve never seen him do an interview but it will be interesting to watch how it unfolds. I’m a real student of interviewing, so I will be intrigued to see how he peels the layers off the onion.”
We couldn’t agree more.

Leading Man News

Emma Thompson received her star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame last month
and showed up at the unveiling with a pig and a pint.

Yipppeee for Emma Thompson. Yes, I know Emma’s not a leading man, but she is working on a new project, a remake of My Fair Lady, to star Carey Mulligan as Eliza Doolittle and rumour is that she’s tapped Colin Firth to play Henry Higgins, with Hugh Grant in a supporting role. Emma has said in interviews that she was dissatisfied with the original film version’s sugary take on the storyline of Pygmalion which, however one slices it, revolves around a father’s having sold his daughter to an older man in a form of prostitution. Emma has said:

“It’s a very terrible thing [Eliza Doolittle’s father] does, selling his daughter into sexual slavery for a fiver. I suppose my cheekiness is in saying, “This is a very serious story about the usage of women at a particular time in our history. And it’s still going on today.” 

About the original film, and its female lead, Emma said:
“I’m not hugely fond of the film. I find Audrey Hepburn fantastically twee … Twee is whimsy without wit. It is mimsy-mumsy sweetness without any kind of bite. And that’s not for me. She can’t sing and she can’t really act, I’m afraid. I’m sure she was a delightful woman — and perhaps if I had known her I would have enjoyed her acting more, but I don’t and I didn’t, so that’s all there is to it really.”

With equal honesty, Emma spoke to the Daily Telegraph of Firth’s chances of playing Higgins, “He would do it brilliantly, but because it’s a really expensive movie it’s really up to the studio. They’re always really picky about these things.”

So, does this mean that Emma’s version of My Fair Lady will be more like dark molasses than white sugar? In the end, will Colin Firth actually play Henry Higgins? We’ll have to wait and see, but in the meantime, as Victoria let us know in yesterday’s post, it’s dead cert that Firth will be playing King George VI in The King’s Speech. Set to open in November, Geoffrey Rush plays royal speech therapist Lionel Logue, who worked to help George VI overcome his stammer. Helena Bonham Carter will play the Queen Mum (!?).

Mack the Knife

Oh, the shark, babe, has such teeth, dear
And it shows them pearly white
Just a jackknife has old MacHeath, babe
And he keeps it … ah … out of sight.
Ya know when that shark bites, with his teeth, babe
Scarlet billows start to spread
Fancy gloves, though, wears old MacHeath, babe
So there’s nevah, nevah a trace of red.
Now on the sidewalk … uuh, huh … whoo … sunny mornin’ … uuh, huh
Lies a body just oozin’ life … eeek!
And someone’s sneakin’ ‘round the corner
Could that someone be Mack the Knife?

Don’t you love Mack the Knife? I do. I’ve added Bobby Darin’s version of the song to nearly every cd I’ve burned. Imagine my surprise when I learned that Mack the Knife has it’s roots in England . . . . .  The character of Macheath, later to become Mack the Knife, first appeared in The Beggar’s Opera by John Gay (1685-1732). The Beggar’s Opera, a comic ballad opera, took London by storm with it’s portrayal of the lower-class criminals satirizing the government and upper-class society. The main character of The Beggar’s Opera is a swashbuckling thief called Macheath who is polite to the people he robs, shuns violence, and shows impeccable good manners while cheating on his wife. The character is usually understood as partly a satire of Sir Robert Walpole, a leading British politician of the time. The Beggar’s Opera was a success from its first production in 1728, and continued to be performed for many years. It was the first musical play produced in colonial New York and legend has it that George Washington enjoyed it very much.

The Beggar’s Opera by Hogarth

The play was so popular that it prompted Hogarth to fashion a painting upon it. Here is the description of the above painting from the Tate Britain website: “Between 1728 and 1731 Hogarth painted numerous versions of a climactic scene from John Gay’s The Beggar’s Opera, the great theatrical sensation of the period. Hogarth concentrated on a scene set in Newgate prison in which the play’s leading character, a condemned highwayman called Captain Macheath, is shown at the centre of a tug-of-love. The characters of Lucy Lockit and Polly Peachum, both of whom believe themselves married to Macheath, plead with their fathers – respectively a corrupt prison-warden and a crooked lawyer – to set him free. In both versions of A Beggar’s Opera displayed here, Hogarth included the stage trappings and protagonists of the theatrical environment in which Gay’s work was first staged. An elaborate curtain hangs over the proceedings, and Hogarth paints recognisable portraits of such actors as Lavinia Fenton (dressed in white), who famously played Polly Peachum. Furthermore, Hogarth depicts the most fashionable members of the theatre audience sitting on the stage, as was commonplace at this time.”

But back to the song . . . . . the much covered popular tune (Armstrong, Fitzgerald, Darin, Sinatra, Buble, et al) was composed by Kurt Weill with lyrics by Bertolt Brecht for their music drama Die Dreigroschenoper, or, as it is known in English, The Threepenny Opera – based on The Beggar’s Opera. It premiered in Berlin in 1928 and the song became a popular standard. “Mack the Knife” was introduced to the United States hit parade by Louis Armstrong in 1956, but the song is most closely associated with Bobby Darin, who recorded the song in 1958 and won Record of the Year in 1959.

Aah … I said Jenny Diver … whoa … Sukey Tawdry
Look out to Miss Lotte Lenya and old Lucy Brown
Yes, that line forms on the right, babe
Now that Macky’s back in town …

Kurt Weill’s widow, Lotte Lenya, was the star of both the original 1928 German production and the 1954 Blitzstein Broadway version and she happened to be present in the studio during Armstrong’s recording. He spontaneously added her name to the lyrics, which already named several of Macheath’s female victims. All the other women’s names, Suky Tawdry, Jenny Diver, Lucy Brown, etc., appear in the original German version.
You can watch a classic video of Bobby Darin singing Mack The Knife here.

The Wellington Connection: The Duchess of Kent

It is a little known fact that, had it been up to King William IV, the Duke of Wellington would have been appointed Regent in the event that William died before the heir to the throne, Princess Victoria, reached her majority. In theory, Wellington could have acted in the capacity of King until Victoria became eighteen. However, there were some in the government who felt that the Duke of Wellington had more than enough power already, thank you very much. And besides, the Duchess of Kent was jockeying for the position of Regent, with her brother, Prince Leopold supporting her so that he could be the power behind any Regency that might come to pass. 

As Princess Lieven wrote on October 25th “The Duchess of Kent and her brother hold themselves very high, as if the throne is to be theirs tomorrow – and this is most unpleasant to the King. Leopold does not show himself, but works silently underground.”

The Royal Princes, the King’s brothers, were also opposed to Wellington, but the point was ultimately settled by the Regency Act of 1830, which stated that the Duchess of Kent (at right) should be her daughter’s guardian and act as Regent during her minority. No doubt chortling with glee, the Duchess made the first false move in her relations with William IV immediately following the death of George IV.  She was too anxious for recognition, too eager to secure what she thought was due to her, and she did not give the new King the chance of showing his appreciation of her change of circumstances. She wrote instead to the Duke of Wellington, then Prime Minister, asking that a suitable income should be bestowed upon herself and her daughter, over which allowance she should have full control, and that the Princess should be put on the footing of Heir-Apparent.

To the demands of the Duchess, the Duke of Wellington replied that nothing could even be proposed for her until the Civil List was settled, but that nothing should be considered without her knowledge. This reply is said to have much offended the Duchess, and for a long time she ignored the gallant old man when she met him.

Both King and country showed confidence in the Duchess when the Regency Bill was under discussion— an important Bill, for if the King died, a minor would become the Sovereign. It was decided that if Queen Adelaide bore another child she should hold the post of Regent, but otherwise, during the minority of the Princess Victoria, the Duchess of Kent should be Regent. When this Bill was framed, the Duke of Wellington, mindful of his promise, asked the King’s leave to wait upon the Duchess with it. The King agreed, and the Duke wrote to Her Royal Highness saying that he had a communication to make to her on the part of His Majesty, and therefore proposed to wait upon her at Kensington Palace. The Duchess was, however, at Claremont, and from there she sent the following reply :—

” My Lord Duke,

I have just received your letter of this date. As it is not convenient for me to receive Your Grace at Kensington, I prefer having in writing, addressed to me here, the communication you state the King has commanded you to make to me.”

To tell the Duke of Wellington that you doubted his veracity and the likelihood of his relating the message from William IV exactly as William IV had delivered it, and to request that the King put his words in writing, rather than trust them to Wellington’s mouth, was a gross insult upon both the King and Wellington. No one else would dared to have spoken to the Duke in such a manner, much less to imply that he would act less than honourably.  Had she sent her general adviser, Sir John Conroy, to negotiate with the Duke, or had she invited the latter to Claremont, she would have kept within the limits of politeness; as it was, the only thing left for the Duke to do was to send the Bill to her to study, as he could not in writing give all the explanations he had intended. In the meanwhile Lord Lyndhurst had brought up the measure in the House of Lords, and the Duchess of Kent had sent Conroy up to hear him.
A Regency Bill was introduced by Lord Lyndhurst, but a change of Government occurring before it was carried, it devolved upon Lord Brougham, the Lord Chancellor in Lord Grey’s Administration, to take up and adopt the measure. The position was a singular one, because Parliament had to contemplate the possibility that William IV might die leaving a posthumous child. Lord Brougham could not find a parallel case in English history since the death of Geoffrey, son of Henry II, who left a son, Prince Arthur, whose claims were thrust aside by the usurpation of King John. The possibility of posthumous issue in William’s case having been provided for, the Bill passed both Houses and became law. The Duchess of Kent was named guardian of the infant Princess and regent of the kingdom, but she was to be assisted by a Council of Regency drawn from the royal family and the Ministers of State. Some months afterwards further provision was made for the education and maintenance of the Princess, and for the support of her honour and dignity as heiress presumptive. A sum of £10,000 a year was voted, in addition to the original annual grant of £6,000.

The Princess Victoria’s first appearance at Court during the new reign was made at the celebration of Queen Adelaide’s birthday, on the 24th of February 1831. The drawing-room held by her Majesty was stated to have been the most magnificent witnessed since that which signalized the presentation of the Princess Charlotte of Wales on the occasion of her marriage. The Princess Victoria stood on Queen Adelaide’s left hand. Her dress was made entirely of articles manufactured in the United Kingdom. She wore a frock of English blonde over white satin, a pearl necklace, and a rich diamond agrafe fastened the Madonna braids of her fair hair at the back of her head. She was the object of interest and admiration on the part of all assembled. The scene was one of the most splendid ever remembered, and the future Queen of England contemplated all that passed with much dignity, but with evident enjoyment.

When King William prorogued his first Parliament an interesting circumstance occurred, which caused much enthusiasm amongst those who witnessed it. Queen Adelaide and the princesses witnessed the spectacle of
the royal State procession. The people cheered the Queen lustily, but, forgetting herself, that gracious lady took the young Princess Victoria by the hand, led her to the front of the balcony, and introduced her to the happy and loyal multitude. In January 1831 the Princess made her first appearance at the theatre, visiting Covent Garden, and thoroughly entering into the pleasures of the children’s entertainment provided.

All was fine for a time . . . Until the Duchess of Kent began to put her daughter forward as all but England’s Queen – before the present King had died. See our past post to learn how the relationship between the Duchess of Kent and King William IV – and Wellington – further fell apart.

Do You Know About Dr. Finlay?

Yes, yet another medical based British telly series to tell you about. Based on a novella entitled Country Doctor by author and doctor A.J. Cronin, Dr. Finlay’s Casebook was a television series that was broadcast on the BBC from 1962 until 1971. The storylines centred on a general medical practice in the fictional Scottish town of Tannochbrae during the late 1920s.  
The latest television series featuring Dr. Finlay is set in the post-WWII era, with the plot lines revolving around a small local medical practice in Scotland. One of the recurring themes is the transition to the National Health Service, instituted in Britain in 1948. Doctor Finlay supports the move, while other doctors resist the change. The show stars David Rintoul as Dr. Finlay, Ian Bannen as his semi-retired practice partner, Dr. Cameron, and Annette Crosbie as his housekeeper, Janet. Other central characters include Finlay’s assistant, Dr. Neil, played by Jason Flemyng and Finlay’s new partner, Dr. Napier, played by Jessica Turner. The series is a Scottish Television production (now known as STV Productions) that was filmed in Auchtermuchty, Fife, Scotland. It aired in the U.S. on PBS’ Masterpiece Theatre.

Life in post-war Scotland–or to be precise, post-war Tannochbrae–is not getting any easier for Dr. John Finlay. His workload is increasing now that former partner Dr. Cameron is semi-retired, his relationship with young Dr. Neil is strained, and he is also preparing the practice for the setting up of the National Health Service. Meanwhile the ever-reliable housekeeper Janet is preparing for her marriage to local pharmacist Angus Livingstone, though she is worried about her successor at Arden House.

The interactions between three generations of doctors adds extra depth and interest to the stories. Each fellow has his own quirks and weaknesses. We like them all, even when they are cantankerous (Cameron), humorless (Finlay), or cocky (Neil).

A look at the plot synopsis for the first episode, which aired on 9 May 1993, will give you the flavor of this character driven series: In 1946, Dr. John Finlay is finally demobilized and he returns to life in private practice in his native Scotland. His partner, Dr. Alexander Cameron, has stayed on passed his retirement age to keep the practice open pending his return but it is now far less prosperous that when he left it and is barely paying for itself. Dr. Cameron hires a new locum, Dr. David Neil, to join the practice but fails to consult Finlay before doing so. Finlay and Neil begin to question the elder member of the practice’s judgment when they suspect he had mis-prescribed medication to a pregnant woman.

For the remainder of the series, the private lives of the characters and concerns of the patients drive the plots and often tug at the heartstrings. Settle in with a cuppa and enjoy these dvds, which should be available through most public libraries.