Pauline: A Suitable Case for Treatment (Part Four)
It’s the fourth instalment of the film of the life of Pauline Boty. (Here is Part One; and here is Part Two; and this is Part Three.)
Pauline Boty was a celebrated English Pop artist of the 1960s who died young and her work went missing for decades. Part Four, the penultimate entry, covers Boty’s big, swinging years.
Artist Slash Actor
In the spring of 1962, Ken Russell’s art film Pop Goes the Easel is broadcast on the BBC and Pauline’s speed of life accelerates. Easel not only has tons on Boty’s paintings, but features two memorable dabs at acting by the young artist. All this coverage generates a lot of attention for the twenty four year old. Not all of it what you’d predict.
when cigarettes ruled
In the next twelve months Pauline will feature in art shows at the Arthur Jeffress Gallery, the Festival of New Art, and a group exhibition celebrating Pop Art. She is approached by the dealer Mateusz Garbowski, who is known for taking on emerging talent going places. Boty starts receiving private commissions. She also has her first solo opening. The rate of progress is impressive.
sofa, so good
However, Pop Goes the Easel has a much wider impact on Boty’s story as Pauline suddenly becomes an actor – probably without intent. She is offered jobs on TV and at the theatre. Boty appears in another Ken Russell film made for the BBC, this time a daring study of the life and work of Béla Bartók. (Here’s a photo of the composer. Well a photo of a statue of Bartók, in South Kensington – just up the road from Boty’s final home.)
Russell’s Bartók film includes extracts from the composer’s passionate and violent ballet, The Miraculous Mandarin, transposed to a contemporary urban space. In a sign of things to come, Pauline is cast as a malign prostitute who lures a feckless client into a trap, where he is savagely atacked by a gang of no-goods down a Brutalist alley. Our treatment not only features a replica of this violent event, but also a lead-in scene with Ken Russell (Toby Jones) directing Pauline on the correct emotional tone for her performance, insistent that her character remain impassive through the beating.
There are roles for Boty in the TV detective series Maigret, the Edgar Wallace Mystery Theatre and the prestigious Armchair Theatre slot. Pauline is typecast by looks: she’s Nell Pretty in Strangler’s Web; a mistress in an episode of Espionage directed by Michael Powell; an ‘Irish tart’ in North City Traffic Straight Ahead; the ‘seductive Maria’ for a string of episodes in the crime series Contract to Kill; a sexual refusenik in the TV play, The Day of the Ragnaork; and a teenage virgin and ‘the girl with the golden bra’ for the Royal Court production Day of the Prince – playing opposite Bernard Bresslaw from the Carry On films. Boty also appears in Afternoon Men at the New Arts Theatre with James Fox.
At this time, Pauline not only acts on stage, but designs sets and theatre publicity materials. She creates the programme and poster for The Knack at the Royal Court and is set designer for a production of Jean Genet’s The Balcony.
Part Four gathers pace with a teaser medley of Boty in the role of actress. We flow wordlessly through rolls of celluloid with Pauline in a variety of costumes and hair styles, studio sets and theatre backdrops. We observe Pauline rehearsing and filming before switching to her performing on stage in front of a live audience, or being watched on glowing black and white TV sets in various living rooms across the nation, even a remote country farmhouse on the side of a hill. The showreel captures Pauline changing outfits in closet dressing rooms, getting her hair and make-up fixed, fluffing her lines, delivering a storming rebuke, or purring in the role of temptress. In bed one night with Philip Saville, Pauline runs through tomorrow’s lines for North City Traffic Straight Ahead. After which we dissolve to next day at the studio and Pauline reciting the same lines to the drama’s lead male, being watched through the monitor by Saville in his role as director.
Saville intervenes to stop the rehearsal, Wait, Wait, Wait! He shakes his head and leads Pauline off to the side for some coaching. He reminds his lover what they said this scene required chatting in bed last night. Saville believes they’re out of view from the rest of the cast and crew during his pep talk, with his arm around Boty as he whispers in her ear. But the sound engineer has a clear view, and raises an eyebrow in the direction of the camera operator, who raises an eyebrow back, because he also has a clear view of the secret lovers being intimate in the work place. Meanwhile the lead male observes this exchange of knowing looks and feels even more anxious than before.
The song on the soundtrack for Boty’s chain of performance clippings is Sparring Partner by Paolo Conte – I don’t why, but I like the piano and the song has peaks and lulls like a drama. The montage continues as the camera follows Pauline leaving the sound stage at the end of a long day. As she bids goodnight to the rest of the crew, Boty quietly disappears out the back door and we cut to the rising young star out on the town with Phillip for an opening night party, attending a film premiere, in the middle of a hip gathering off the King’s Road, deep in Notting Hill, perhaps to a dive bar in North Soho.
In the Country
The medley concludes as the screen dissolves to a close-up of Boty sat in a mainline train heading into Kent. She stares out the window at a bright yellow field and then turns her face inside the carriage, shifting her gaze to a young woman across the aisle.
The young woman is the same age as Pauline and is holding a baby in her lap. She is wearing an orange woollen coat and has pale, papery cheeks. There’s a wasp buzzing about the mother’s red hair then dive bombing round the baby’s bright cheeks. Pauline suggests it might be the orange drawing the wasp. She stands up and almost topples over as the train suddenly lurches. Then Boty rebalances, and skilfully wielding a rolled-up discarded copy of today’s Telegraph, she escorts the wasp out the carriage via the letter box window.
Onwards to the exterior of a country rail station somewhere in Kent. As Pauline comes through the station exit, she is met by her sister-in-law Bridget Boty. They drive to the Boty farm with the five Tudor oaks lined up at the top of hill. It’s the same farm from the 1990s we saw in Part One, but it looks prettier in the sixties. The five Tudor oaks will be flattened in the great storm of 1987.
Pauline often visits her family at the weekend, putting the ritzy urban lifestyle on hold for a day in the sticks. We see Pauline and her brother Arthur embrace as she arrives inside the farm’s cobbled front yard. The camera shifts briefly to glance at the door leading to the storeroom where Boty’s paintings will be stashed for decades after she’s dead.
We also briefly remember moments from Part Two, of Boty and Arthur as kids being mean and cross with each other in the wastelands near the family home. And here they are, all grown-up, Pauline almost a famous painter and actor, while Arthur’s in green wellingtons side by side with his wife Bridget in their large farmhouse kitchen.
Bridget is baking as Pauline and Arthur talk about their parents. Bridget kneads the dough for a fruit loaf. She turns sideways and speaks directly to camera, with the Boty siblings oblivious of her speech. Pauline would come for the weekend, says Bridget, Catch the train down so, as she put it, she could ‘re-energise’ in the countryside. We became good friends and I’d always enjoy feeding her up, because I think she starved herself in London.
Next scene, Pauline’s in the car with Bridget and Arthur pulling up outside the family home in Carshalton. It’s a beige Sunday in late winter. The twins have also come for lunch, bringing the grandchildren. Veronica mentions seeing Pauline on TV. Dad nods and says he saw it too. Alfred exhibits mixed emotions – proud of his Pauline, but dubious at the risqué parts she plays and disappointed she’s not married yet. Alfred watches as Pauline lifts up one of the toddlers. She makes the noise of a jet plane while whizzing the little thing through the air and back down onto her lap. Alfred smiles hopefully.
He didn’t even want me to work when I left school, says the voice inside Pauline’s head. Daddy still has strictly limited hopes and expectations, even though I went to college, made waves as an artist and now I’m on TV.
The screen fills briefly with moody publicity shots of Boty as a rising star.
I get fed up with him when I go home. Any time I play with his grandson or something he says, That’s what I want to see. And I think, You silly old fool. (Boty’s actual words, spoken to Nell Dunn.) I love the ‘silly old fool’ remark. Boty’s going to have to say it twice.
silly old fool
The typical awkward family visit deep in suburbia concludes with an image enclosing Pauline and her toddler nephew in the pale flash of an interior sunbeam – two generations of Boty rolling round on a green and black diamond rug with tassles.
The screen erupts with a striking change in scenery and mood as we cut to a sunny enchanted spring afternoon in London. It’s lower Park Lane. We swoop down to photograph Hyde Park, over the green railings and between the budding trees – across multi-coloured beds of flowers in early bloom – yellow, red, purple and orange – plotted between landscaped swathes of emerald green grass. The camera pans across the busy traffic heading north and south, a red bus, an army truck, and pantechnicon included, to the forecourt outside the Dorchester Hotel – where the small fountain sends vertical jets of water up into the air, headed, just a little, towards a high dome of blue sky carrying a flotilla of fluffy white clouds.
Inside The Dorchester, on the lower ground floor, Pauline Boty is meeting with film director John Schlesinger to talk about his new film Billy Liar. This is to be young Schlesinger’s second feature film, but the director is already losing his top hair and the battle of the bulge. (Schlesinger will go on to direct Darling, Midnight Cowboy, Marathon Man and Yanks). The director has brought along a casting agent as they set about interviewing Pauline for the part of Liz – the free-spirited ex-lover of the film’s male lead. The exchange between Pauline, Schlesinger and the casting agent is brief. We take pleasure photographing the opulence of the hotel lobby, the gold deco stair rail and tessellated marble stairs leading down to a private room decorated with textured black and gold wallpaper.
The film trio are served a fancy high tea, delivered to their soft furnished room upon a silver trolley with a surprisingly squeaky wheel, carrying a three-tiered porcelain cake stand and delicate blue Wedgwood china tea set.
Billy Fire, Billy Liar
Pauline and Schlesinger know each other already, just a little. The director was first choice to make Pop Goes the Easel, but quit the BBC production to go work on Billy Liar. Schlesinger has suggested Boty audition for a part. He says he saw Easel and mentions other Boty appearances on TV. He doesn’t say anything pro or con about her work, just asks did you read the script.
Not that you needed to really, interjects the casting agent – who immediately realises he’s made a blunder.
Schlesinger frowns but doesn’t comment. Pauline looks puzzled. She says, Yes I read the script, it’s going to be a wonderful film.
Billy Liar tells the tale of a provincial fantasist stuck in a humdrum town, job, relationship, life. Billy works at an undertakers, the ultimate dead end job. He’s managed to land himself with two girlfriends but still lives with his parents. For much of his day, Billy escapes reality by disappearing inside his head, where he stars in elaborate Walter Mitty fantasises as soldier, saviour, ruler, lover. The screen fills with a chopped-up montage of fantasies – from battlefield to period romance to the conquering hero’s parade.
As a dramatic shift in gear, Billy falls in with Liz again, who’s up from London on a return visit to their home town. Liz and Billy are kindred spirits in a world of fools. Liz is unconventional, irreverent and bold – but unlike Billy, she acts on her dreams. Liz is a gift for Boty.
Billy Liar was initially a novel by journalist Keith Waterhouse, and then a successful West End play starring Albert Finney. But Finney’s not available for the film role.
Do you know for certain who will play Billy? Boty asks Schlesinger.
We think Tom Courtenay, the director replies.
We cut to a swatch book screen effect flipping through Courtenay’s film roles of that period – Private Potter; King & Country; The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner, with Courtenay the rebellious borstal whippet busting a gut racing across a cold field in England.
We freeze upon that last image before switching to a Knightsbridge mews and a black cab coming to a standstill. The real life, walking, talking Courtenay emerges from the back of the taxi. He pays the driver and turns to cross the width of large cobble stones, over to the glossy black door of number 13, where the number three has been reversed. Courtenay, who will be played by Sam Riley, is done up in a suit with tiny lapels and a narrow red knit tie, a dark shirt and brown desert boots. He frowns at the switched-around door numeral.
when cigarettes ruled
Then cut to an interior of number 13 with Pauline sitting in the small lounge. Boty is wearing a black knee-length skirt with bare legs and white boots that come up to mid calf, and a white jacket with black piping on the collar and lapels. She looks like the photograph above, but she’s taken off her cap and placed it next to her on the sofa.
The camera is at Pauline’s height. Pauline pulls and smooths the lap of her dress. She picks the cap up and then puts it down again and repeats this manoeuvre as she’s not convinced the sofa pad is the safest place to keep her new headgear, wondering anyway if it’s bad luck to put a hat on a chair.
The doorbell rings. It makes the sound of the opening refrain to Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. Pauline didn’t know it did this. The mews house is rented by the hour by the production company. Next time Boty will get together with Tom at her own place.
Boty stands up, and the camera rises as she does, rising to be level with her ears. Pauline starts to walk and the camera moves too, matching the speed of her stride as she crosses to the door. And as she stops to open the door, the camera also pauses.
The young actors shake hands. The camera follows Tom as he follows Pauline inside the small lounge and then it stops as he stops and stays level with Courtenay’s shoulders, which are quite narrow.
They stand awkwardly between the two arm chairs and the sofa. Tom says it’s a lovely day and should they go for a walk? Pauline says there’s a small garden in the back. She gestures with her thumb yonder over her shoulder.
They step outside together, the camera follows Pauline at her pace. Stops when she stops. Similarly, the lens descends as Boty drops to take a perch on the edge of a dark green metal chair that looks like it will be hard on a bony bottom.
Then Pauline immediately jumps up and the camera follows. Drink? She splutters. Sorry! Tea? Coffee? Wine? She laughs. Vodka, whiskey, gin, absinthe? I’m sure there’s something. But I don’t live here, obviously, so I don’t know.
Tom Courtenay shakes his head. Maybe we can make some tea later, he suggests in a voice that is mild but confident. Originally Courtenay was Albert Finney’s understudy for Billy Liar through its West End run. At first Boty rehearsed for the film version with Finney. But then Finney dropped out for another film and Courtenay got the job. Boty wonders how Tom will compare to Albert. A speech bubble asks who’s best, Courtenay or Finney? Courtenay sees the speech bubble and says, Finney, of course. I was the understudy.
Boty laughs. This is the first of a series of informal meetings for Pauline and Tom as they prepare for the film. Tom says he’s excited that Boty is set to play Liz. It’s little surprise he feels this way really, as it’s plain that Boty and Liz are almost interchangeable. Schlesinger has his real life Liz in Boty.
But this isn’t just a lucky find for the director – Schlesinger made this happen. The role of Liz has been developed and enhanced for the screen by Waterhouse with Pauline in view. In the stage play, Liz only joins the drama in the final act. In the screenplay however, she is present from the early stages of the film, both as a key figure in Billy’s life so far and also pivotal to his evolving story. The writer and director have even provided Liz with a grand entrance into the film as she arrives back into town. Unlike anything else in the movie, Schlesinger indulges himself with a loose rambling tracking shot accompanied by a distinctive freewheeling jazz tune as Liz wanders around the city centre, swinging her handbag as she skips between the traffic and up and down the pavement, staring into shop windows, admiring the sparkling new consumer goods and gazing at her own reflection and smiling about that too.
This ventilation of the part of Liz has been written with Boty as her real-life model. Liz is carefree and pretty and fashionably dressed. Plainly she is the future, floating above the urban fray largely still manacled to the past. Her rambling city traipse and casual bohemian confidence mimic the Boty persona.
And now that the script is complete and ready to shoot, here is Pauline Boty in the running for the role. How often does an actor get a chance to play a role based on themselves? Boty feels ready to make the switch from TV set to cinema screen. She believes the role is perfect.
But, as the film starts shooting, Boty is suddenly ditched. A week or so into principal photography, with Liz’s first scene a matter of days away, Schlesinger recasts the film. He lets Boty go and offers the role of Liz to an little-known actor with a skinny CV. Her name is Julie Christie.
Years later, Schlesinger half explains the sudden switch. Christie came in and tested, twice, he says. And we turned her down, both times. The other girl in the running dropped out and there we were in producer Joe Janni’s office, and there was a magazine which Julie was on the cover of. I pointed at it and said, We need someone like her, not recognising Christie. So they called her agent. And Boty’s agent called Pauline with the bombshell bad news.
Why did Schlesinger not refer to the part about flipping Boty? Did he misremember, or did he tell fibs about Billy Liar?
when cigarettes ruled
Blowin’ in the Positively Freezin’ Cold Wind
The screen goes dark, then opens again on a busy main road heading west out of London. Pauline and Philip Saville are driving to Heathrow airport in Phillip’s Ford Zephyr saloon. It’s winter. It’s just a week before Christmas 1962 and it’s raining cold outside. By Boxing Day the rain will have turned to sleet and then snow and it will stay frozen for months in a rampant British winter like no other. We film Boty and Saville’s car journey from outside, with a camera mounted on the bonnet of Saville’s Ford. Through the windscreen wipers. Pauline says, There. Philip barks, Where? Pauline points to the left and Philip turns the steering wheel in the same direction.
Inside the main airport terminal. At Arrivals, the tannoy announces the BOAC flight from New York has landed. Philip and Pauline are stood behind the barrier waiting for their guest to alight from Customs. Pauline is holding a handwritten sign saying Bob Dylan.*
The frosted double doors open wide, disgorging a disordered stream of intercontinental travellers. Dylan comes dawdling through at the back of the line, slouching, tickling his half goatee in amusement. The folk singer is carrying a guitar case and is dressed the way he looks on the cover of The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan – biker boots, denims and suede coat. He is very handsome and smiles out the side of his mouth. (I know, I do recognise that Dylan with just a guitar case and no other bags seems unlikely – but the iconography of the rambling troubadour requires it.)
On the journey back into London, Pauline drives Phillip’s car as the rain piles down. Dylan is perched in the back seat with his guitar carry case next to him and clearly visible in the medium shot through the windscreen. Dylan has already fired up a joint. Phillip wonders where he got the weed. He says weren’t you worried about customs, but the singer shrugs and passes round the reefer. Philip declines a puff. But Pauline says, Yes please.
Dylan’s travelled to London for three weeks for a job. He’s going to work with Philip. In late December 1962, Saville directs a new production for the BBC, for the high-profile Sunday Night Play slot. The play is called Madhouse on Castle Street. It’s written by Evan Jones and is Bob Dylan’s first appearance on British television. In fact it’s the singer’s first ever trip outside the USA. Saville saw Dylan performing in a Greenwich Village club on a previous visit to New York, and later he had a casting brainwave and decided to offer the singer two thousand pounds to cross the Atlantic and play the lead in Madhouse.
Madhouse on Castle Street is the story of the interconnected relationships of a misfit bunch of lodgers in a boarding house – and what happens the night one of them locks himself in his room, refusing to come out again until the world has turned into a better place.
A few days into rehearsals, it becomes apparent that it’s not going to work with Dylan as an actor, especially not in the lead role of Lennie. Dylan struggles to remember his lines, is repeatedly late for run throughs, and smokes weed all the time. Saville and Evan Jones devise a fix by which the lead role is split in two. They rush out and hire the actor David Warner to play Lennie, while Dylan takes the new role of Bobby the Hobo – a boarding house resident who performs four songs commenting upon the action. Bobby’s repertoire includes the first public performance of Blowin’ in the Wind. (Madhouse is a lost item – wiped by the BBC in 1968 during one of the corporation’s periodic clear outs. It’s since become a most sought after lost piece from the venerable Dylan archive.)
Who shall act the part of Bob Dylan in our film? HRH Cate Blanchett has already played him once. In the same spirit, maybe Lady Gaga could made a stab. Or Tricky. Or should it be safe bet Oscar Isaac from the excellent Inside Llewyn Davis? (Maybe Ed Sheeran, now that he’s been in Game of Thrones).
Madhouse was filmed live on the evening of December 30 1962 – with some retakes shot on January 4 – and broadcast of January 13. This was slap in the middle of Britain’s coldest winterval on record, with snow drifts as big as houses, icicles three feet long, abandoned trucks stranded on the highway for days on end, and postmen making their rounds using Nordic skis.
During his three week visit to London, Dylan crashes at different places across the city. He first stays at the Mayfair hotel, but is soon asked to leave on account of his strumming the guitar all hours and the clouds of cannabis blowing from his room. Dylan moves on to the Cumberland eventually, but first he spends a night in the vacant attic room at Saville’s house, where early the next morning he sings for the family’s Spanish au pair from the top of the stairs.
One evening in Christmas week, the artist Jane Percival invites Pauline and Philip to dinner. They turn up at her Blenheim Crescent studio flat with some mysterious musician in tow. Percival recalls: Pauline said, Look, I’m terribly sorry, Jane, we can’t come in, we’ve got to go to a reception, but will you look after this guy for the evening? Percival let Dylan join them, to eat and sleepover, and in return for his supper he sang to her guests.
Dylan often goes out and about round town by himself. He trawls the London folk scene, from Dobells to the Troubador, to a basement club in Soho. One night at the King & Queen club, he heckles from the bar – shouting, What’s all this fuckin’ shit? Another time, Dylan hooks up with British folk singer Pete Carthy. They go back Carty’s home in Belsize Park, where it’s so cold they use a samourai sword to chop up a broken piano for fuel.
Dylan also spends time with Boty. He flops for four nights at her flat in Notting Hill. What does Bob make of Boty? The art college bohemian with an open sexual confidence. Her heart-clenching beauty and easy going familiarity. Dylan was in a relationship at the time and so, sort of, was Boty. But all that flirty vivacity without reserve.
Historically there has been gossip. After Dylan returns to New York, he writes an enigmatic love song about a brief encounter in snowy London with a Liverpool Gal. Dylan never records the song and it has never been played live. Saying the girl came from Liverpool might be factually accurate, in which case, Boty doesn’t apply. Or, it might be a cunning sleight of misdirection.*
Liverpool Gal depicts the singer and the gal with whom he ‘spent the night, lay round on a worn-out rug’, talking ‘for hours by the inside fire’ as the ‘night passed on with the drizzling rain’. Only to feel the following morning, ‘Of her love I know not much’.**
The words of the song suggest a woman who is independent, confident, modern and equal – a lot like Boty. Many years later Phillip Saville spits out a throwaway remark concerning Dylan’s debut trip to London, and how the singer, ‘spent a lot of time in art galleries.’ Which taken literally, simply isn’t true. ***
Talking to Women
Houses and ghosts. Rooms with tales to tell of colourful scenes long gone. You wonder who’s living in the Boty bedsit today, what they know and all that stuff they probably don’t realise about the room in which they love to flop and eat a pot noodle watching the football on TV. Bob Dylan slept here. Andy Warhol came for tea. Kenneth Tynan first conceived of Oh Calcutta lolling on Pauline’s bed with the iron frame. In the deep background of negative space, might something eerie linger on, waiting for us to twig? It would be nice to think so.
The artist Derek Boshier called Pauline, A great bringer-together of people, under the roofs of the assorted flats she lived in across west London. But once a month, Boty leaves her patch to head south of the river – to Battersea. She doesn’t take a cab. She sits on the top deck of the 137 bus wearing a different hat, a quite funny hat this time, watching the mostly still blasted and bombed out mess of post-war London flow past.
Boty’s stop is down from Clapham Junction outside Arding and Hobbs. She glances at the window displays then walks up Lavender Hill towards the author Nell Dunn’s house. Dunn recently had her breakthough novel Up the Junction published. She is twenty-eight, and lives with her husband and their three young sons.
A master shot outside an Edwardian semi establishes the location as Pauline arrives into the frame with her usual swinging bucket bag and that funny hat. An insert close-up sees Pauline ring the bell. The interior camera follows the dark outline of Dunn as she walks down the narrow hallway towards the light coming through the opaque glazing of the front door.
Pauline and Nell greet with a hug. They relocate to the kitchen at the back of the house, where they sit at a table with a pot of tea and a tray of biscuits and an ashtray for Pauline. There’s a cat on the window sill. The ground in the garden looks frozen and the trees are still barren even though by now it really should be spring.
Once a month for a period of a year, Nell Dunn invites different female friends to come visit and simplytalk with her. Sometimes they drink wine and all of the conversations are recorded. In 1965, Dunn with the consent of the participants, publishes an edited collection of these conversations titled Talking to Women. All of the nine women featured were at this time detached in some way or other from the conventional way of living and thinking. The participants include writers Edna O’Brien and Ann Quin and the Pop artist Pauline Boty. Dunn asked to interview Boty because, I was interested in her as a woman who took being a painter very seriously. There are several ways we could film this compressed selection of Pauline’s confessional chats. Let’s try it this way. Pauline lights a cigarette and sips her tea. Dunn turns on the recorder.
Pauline starts to talk about her ‘situation’ with Philip and her usual sparky gladness at life drains away quickly. She instead looks frustrated and sad.
I can’t stand it, she says, as she sends an angry jet of cigarette smoke into the space between the two women. One of the awful things about being in a situation with a married man is that you’re kind of sitting in your little box of a room waiting for a phone call.
The camera leaves Pauline as her last few words take us to another place. While the voice track continues with Boty’s monologue, the visuals switch to Pauline alone in her bedsit. She is painting in her 501s and her favourite man’s vest, looking at the phone, scrubbing out a smudge on the canvas with a dishrag; and then doing a similar smudge again as she looks over at the phone for the third or fourth or fith time. But now she leaves the smudge alone, because she quite likes the way it looks – loose and individual and not perfect.
The camera moves away from Pauline’s room, outside to the pavement in front of her building, as Philip’s Ford Zephyr pulls up to the kerb.
Pauline says, And then every now and then they go up to this box and lift the lid and take you out and it’s lovely, you know.
The camera returns to Nell Dunn’s kitchen. And I hate that kind of inactive thing. I can’t stand it…
Dunn asks, Why do you wait for Phillip? What is it do you think?
Pauline stubs out a cigarette. She looks at her fingers. Philip says my hands smell of turpentine. I want him to love my painting. She reaches for the pack of Embassy Regal and takes out a stick and then thinks it’s too soon since the last one and puts it back in the box and then takes it back out again and lights up anyway.
You have many admirers, says Dunn. Look, I saved this for you, in case. Dunn gets up and goes to a whicker basket under the window. It’s next to the wine rack – which was an incredibly new form of home furnishing in 1963. The wicker basket is meant for storing logs for the fire, but Dunn has filled it with old newspapers and magazines. She pulls out a copy of last Thursday’s Evening Standard. Dunn turns to the middle and an interview with David Frost. She says, Look, David Frost picked you as his ‘ideal girl’. David Frost. Wow wee! You really do have many admirers.
Pauline looks at the newspaper and smiles pretending it’s the first time she’s seen this. However, she hates it when she does false modesty, a bad habit she has vowed to eliminate, so she admits that she’s already seen the interview and that it’s actually already been cut it out for inclusion in her scrapbook.
Boty returns to Dunn’s original question – Why Phillip? I’ll tell you why. There are so many men who just want a fuck. You know it after a few minutes. Oh, you just want to fuck me. I like to flirt a lot with men. I also want to fuck. I say this and they’re very taken aback. So, I think maybe some run away. Men, you kind of desire them but they’re slightly sort of awful, because they bring out the worst in you, this funny sort of puritan idea, sort of Adam and Eve and everything.
The camera holds Pauline’s face for a moment and then slowly retreats. The lens withdraws to a medium shot as itstarts to circle the table, round and around Boty and Dunn, three times in steady succession. The circling builds a mood of dizzying uncertainty. Then the camera stops and peers over Dunn’s shoulder in a medium close up of Boty’s face, which is shot through with doubt.
I’d like to be able to say what I really feel, mutters Pauline, But I feel it’s impossible. And what you feel is often a paradox – two opposites at the same time sort of thing.
As Boty’s voice trails away, Dunn rises to make another tea. The camera floats out the window, circuits the small pocket garden, and shortly returns through the window to back inside the kitchen. This time the camera is fixed in a different position, to come in at the conversation from another angle – crossing the room to the left of Pauline and bringing more of Dunn’s face in view. We now have the possibility of simultaneously witnessing both women as they speak and react.
I think of sex a lot when I’m painting, says Boty. Artists don’t really depict female orgasms, did you notice?
Dunn says, Well they’re considered a mystery by many.
Boty replies, Mine are lovely. Lovely orange circular shapes, streaming outwards with an audible pop, pop, pop.
Briefly we cut away from Dunn’s kitchen to a widescreen display of Boty’s Red Manoeuvre. The painting features a solider with his head stuffed inside a large shiny helmet and a string of orange balloons floating across the sky.
Boty changes her tone of voice as she slips into the past simple. Philip, the married man I got involved with, who pursued me so violently – it was a fantastic surprise. He talked in such romantic language all the time. He had this terribly romantic point of view. It felt like an old fashioned romantic courtship and I was impressed. Nicer than wanna fuck?
Boty stubs out her cigarette.
He never made any commitment to the relationship. His theatrical language and gestures, if turned around, you might say they disguise an underlying dishonesty and evasiveness. Maybe. Perhaps not.
Boty stands up.
I’ve stopped understanding. I never really quite believe anything he says. Even though probably a lot of it might be true. But I never sort of have confidence that people love me. I know people love people at moments you know, and very genuinely – I can’t believe that someone can love someone consistently.
You are free to find out, suggests Dunn
Boty sits back down and shakes her head. I’m not free, she says. That’s very clear. Because I am having an affair with Philip Saville and Philip’s married. So, he’s not free either. Which means Pauline spends a lot of time waiting around for Philip to be available. And this makes Pauline feel bad.
Boty laughs – with bitter amusement perhaps for getting caught in the predictably hopeless role of the other woman. Maybe it was being raised a Catholic.
Do you think?
I feel guilty. The whole situation has just dragged on and on and on… Just incredibly boring. And has to peak. Doesn’t it?
Yes, Pauline’s right, it does have to peak. But not just yet.
It’s a Scandal
First we pick up on what Pauline’s been working at lately.
In Dunn’s kitchen, the camera zooms in close on Boty’s thunder face of romantic trouble and strife. And then quite slowly everything fades, through many – but not all – the variations of grey, before darkening to an inkiest black.
And then the composition stays black. It’s not a regular transition between moving images. The screen stays dark for longer than normal. And then, at last, a small red light blinks at the edge of the frame, followed by a disembodied male voice, whispering with gravel in their throat: Pauline, can you hear me?
It’s the voice of a sound engineer. Boty replies, Yes, as slowly she opens her eyes and we see a small BBC radio recording booth from her point of view. She’s looking at the usual large fluffy microphone and an empty seat opposite. She blinks to get her thoughts straight as her head dips down to the script on the table. She wrote the lines yesterday and copied them out again this afternoon in neat small cursive rows of blue ink, underscored with the occasional stroke of red to encourage emphasis.
We switch from Boty’s POV to a medium shot of Pauline reviewing her script. She’s counted in by the engineer and starts talking into the microphone. Her voice is swift, lively and bright.
There’s another kind of hero now, she announces, then pauses for breathe and effect as the words land in the listeners’ brains. I think the nearest thing to a contemporary romantic image is Jean Paul Belmondo. The screen divides in two – one half with Boty in the radio studio, the other a set of stills and footage of Belmondo.He lives carelessly, she says. Like young people today – according to his own morality. He’s lawless. He creates about himself a feeling of anarchy. You feel he is completely free. He has no guilt. We see Belmondo shoot a motorbike cop down a country lane and drive away fast. And I think this in particular is a contemporary feeling. His freedom makes him full of a marvellous kind of wild energy and he belongs to the here and now. Belmondo is the idol and image of freedom for the youth today.
The speech concludes with a screen-high shot of Boty’s flourescent portrait of Belmondo. The painting oozes with desire. The viewpoint is a worshipper’s regard, with Belmondo’s face rendered in cinematic black and white, directly representational and with a superfan’s preoccupation for loving precision and high fidelity.
It is 1963 and Boty is entering the purple passage of her career as a painter. Her love of pop icons brings Marilyn Monroe to canvas for a three-part series of portraits. There’s also Elvis, Fellini, and the Beatles. But gangsters too, and writers, and Lenin, a matador, and the scandalous Christine Keeler.
I’m a star, how could I not shine?
Boty’s painted icons are exuberant with colour and bright with life. They have an insurgent energy and sense of freedom and change. Painting stars, says Boty on the radio, It’s almost like painting mythology. A present day mythology, she says. Film stars are the new gods and goddesses.
The screen fills with even more close-ups of Boty’s pantheon of gods and goddesses – painted singers, actors, filmmakers and revolutionaries. Her speech is put on hold for several beats while the soundtrack bathes the visuals with Lust for Life by Lana del Rey.
life is sweet, when you’re a star
As del Rey’s singing recedes into the sonic background, Boty’s urgent homily continues. Stars are a repository for our fears, she declares, our hopes, frustrations and dreams. People need them. And the myths that surround them. Pop Art colours those myths. It means millions are no longer alone.
Boty is fascinated by Monroe, with the movie star’s sexual glamour and tragic vulnerability. Monroe revelled in her beauty but arguably suffered for it too. Pauline tells Nell Dunn that Monroe makes her determined to be taken seriously as an artist and woman. But also to have fun and enjoy her looks.
Across the trio of Monroe paintings, Boty vacates the perspective of the superfan. Her Monroes are more painterly and less mimetic as the compositions develop into a blend of figurative, abstract and collage. The painstaking precision of the hero-worshiper is superseded by a freer style – one founded in the confidence of an artist developing their own distinctive voice.
The Only Blonde in the World – is a snatched view of the star – All dazzling, hurrying along.
Epitaph to Something’s Gotta Give is based on stills from Monroe’s unfinished final film
Colour Her Gone is Boty’s memorial to Monroe following her sudden death in 1962.
Boty’s Monroes transform Pop’s mass media gestures into gallery art. Boty asks questions about female sexuality and female autonomy in a man’s world. The mature artist has started an interrogation for which there are no easy answers.
weird on top
Boty’s awkward questions lead her off page and down between the folds of glossy fandom. Before David Lynch has even tumbled out of high school, Boty flips the teen melodrama to poke around its troubled unconscious.
We move the camera slowly across the face of My Colouring Book. A sextet of story panels. A ghost in shades. A rainbow ceiling projecting blue hearts – one dark, one light. An empty bedroom conjured as the eerie after-image of an abandoned romance. A rebel dude with a leather jacket and a fag hanging out of his pouty mouth. A girl clinging onto the white ghost of her ex. A necklace of green beads draped around an orange backdrop.
The painting My Colouring Book alludes to a 1962 Ebb and Kander pop song of the same title recorded by Barbara Streisand. The pained, melancholy song tells of a love affair that ended with a heart broke in pieces. Boty’s My Colouring Book replicates the unhappy love story in etched scenarios and written commentaries. As we scan the canvas, the film soundtrack plays the song which the artwork transcribes: ‘These are the arms that held him/and touched him/and lost him somehow. Colour them empty now.’ ‘These are the eyes that watched him as he walked away,’ continues Boty’s eerie Pop object of strangled desire. ‘These are the arms that held him, and touched him, and lost him somehow.’
The camera lingers on the green beads and blue hearts. And then the ghost of the lost boyfriend the heartbroke girl can’t let go off, in the room that ‘I sleep in and walk in and weep in and nobody knows.’
And then the song shuts off suddenly with the scratching screeching sound of a record needle tearing across the vinyl. The camera pans from the canvas to the front door to Boty’s flat, which flies open as Philip Saville walks in boldly, his nose twitching in the air.
Boty puts down the brush and rushes across the room to embrace her lover.
Philip’s nose continues to twitch as he returns the embrace. He can’t let the smell go. What is that, burnt toast?
Yes, burnt toast for lunch, says Pauline. What shall we do? I’ll cook maybe, says Pauline.
Saville thinks of the burnt toast. He looks at the easel and canvas, the brushes and palette – and then at Boty’s hands. We hear him briefly in voiceover. I used to have to tell her to scrub her nails because they always smelled of painting.
Boty sees the look on Philip’s face. In her head she wonders, Am I not glamorous enough for you, Philip? as she walks over to the sink and starts to wash out her brushes. Philip shouts, Burnt toast. One day, you know, you’ll put turpentine in the salad dressing instead of vinegar.
I’m a bad wife, Philip – is that it?
Saville ignores the question. He looks at the new Boty canvas still drying. He wonders if the high drama of love gone bad is political enough. He wonders at the bright colours and the comic strip panels, but he really likes the young dude posing tough. The dude has the face of an insolent poet. It crosses Philip’s mind that he might be an ex lover of Pauline. Or maybe a young actor Philip might poach for a part. Philip’s always on the hunt for new actors, as he whistles tunelessly and turns on his heels. Whereupon his eyes fall upon a striking red canvas in the corner. Or is it the camera that notices the red canvas first?
Philip walks over to Scandal ’63. He lifts up Christine Keeler for a proper look, then props her on the table.
Philip says, This one’s new.
Actually, not really so new, but Boty says Yes to be agreeable.
Scandal ’63 is Boty’s comment on one of the biggest news stories of the year. Pauline just had to do Christine. She saw Lewis Morley’s celebrated photograph of Keeler and felt compelled to paint a response. Keeler was the heart of a sex scandal involving a Russian military attache and John Profumo, the incumbent British Minister of War. As the waves of controversy flood the establishment, Keeler sits naked astride an Arne Jacobsen chair. She’s positioned against a backdrop of saturated scarlet and her face is painted to look dubious. The red backdrop is dotted with blue grey specks of something, rain or tears or dirt. There’s a woman’s face in a rictus grin on Keeler’s left and a rosette with a number 69 to her right. Across the top of the canvas is a gallery of men, four of the lead males from the kerfuffle, ranging from Profumo to Lucky Gordon.
Do we elaborate on Scandal ’63? Maybe some archive news footage? A couple of lurid headlines from the red tops spinning across the screen. Also a clip from the 80s biopic – with beautiful Joanne Whalley and a soundbite sliver of Dusty Springfield and the Pet Shop Boys singingNothing Has Been Proved.
The Artist Has No Clothes On
Scandal ’63 was a private commission for Boty that was sold on in the year it was painted and never put on public display. The ownership and whereabouts remain unknown. It’s almost a fifty-year-old art mystery, where all we have to go on are a few photographs. These photos usually feature the artist.
In Part One, we already dipped into how Boty liked posing with her paintings. These highly styled photographic sessions are their own artworks wherein Boty engages with a long tradition in fine artof the self conscious artist blurring subject and object, boldly returning the viewer’s gaze.
In the first two of the next photo set – by Lewis Morley – a super chic Boty is stood with a pair of her paintings, one of them a different version of Scandal, when it was still just a work in progress. The image is taken in Boty’s studio with the artist surrounded by her murals and with her art materials scattered at her feet – or, to be precise, at her fancy boots. Here I am performing two roles, says Pauline to camera, glamorous woman and working artist.
The art photos continue with portraits by Bailey, John Aston and Michael Ward. By now, Pauline is her own star; and with celebrity comes media scrutiny and photographers. The Evening Standard sends Ward round to Boty’s for a spread. Boty takes over the session and takes off her clothes.
In a different photo session, for Town magazine, Pauline goes naked with Belmondo, including face down on a daybed with her bum in the air, acting up with Boucher and Velasquez on her mind.
It is plain to see Pauline enjoys her looks and knows the value of nudity to a prurient media. But beneath this basic exchange lie deeper layers of meaning. Not that Philip Saville’s in the mood for deep meaning. Philip’s visibly cross as Boty prepares their dinner. You got carried away, says Saville, watching Pauline slices radishes thinly for the salad. From Pop artist to Pop icon, replies Boty – amused at the sound of this thought being verbalised for the first time.
You’ve lost the plot, replies Philip. Pauline tears pieces of Romaine lettuce, arranging them higgledy-piggedly in a blonde wooden salad bowl. Do you know how many female artists dress down and dowdy, says Pauline, almost pretending they’re not women? Pretty much all of them, that’s how many. She mixes oil and vinegar with mustard, salt and pepper, and a pinch of sugar, dipping her finger to test the dressing. (I’ll give him turpentine, she mutters in her head.) But not Pauline, eh? The art world’s naked doll. I won’t wrap my gender in androgyny, Philip. Naked, there’s no pretending: I am a woman, it is an incontrovertible fact. They’ll say incontrovertibly your looks have gone to your head, darling. Wouldn’t that be a funny thing to say? But no darling, that’s what you’re saying. I won’t hide. What do we do with the pretty girl no one takes seriously? Take her clothes off. Taste the salad, will you. I am a sexual being, a sexual woman, naked and in control. You’ve been duped. Boty doesn’t answer this one as it seems for now so blatantly wrong of Philip. All of Saville’s objections, though superficially plausible, lack real explanatory power. If you stare long enough at Pauline as an object putting herself in the picture, you find the artist as subject staring straight back at you, boldly roping her body to her art, simultaneously delighted at her own chutzpah. Boty is unorthodox and brave and transgressive playing with the photographers like this. But she is also reckless: because those you manipulate, can assume it’s alright to manipulate you right back. As Boty eventually discovers. But, for now, Philip scowls and Boty giggles, and the domestic scene of dispute concludes by way of a fancy iris wipe – as the screen becomes a shrinking circle closing in on the salad bowl, the tops of the tossed lettuce leaves the last thing we see.
Horse and Carriage
One afternoon in mid June 1963, Pauline Boty and Philip Saville go for a stroll. Saville has snatched an afternoon from his busy schedule to spend time with Boty before he heads off on vacation.
We were walking down the street, Saville recalls, And I saw Ken Tynan, who I knew. And his friend Clive Goodwin was with him. I could see Clive was desperate to be introduced – his eyes were popping out of his head.
So the introductions are made as the quartet stand and talk on the pavement for a few moments. We move inbetween and around the four adults using a single handheld camera and available light. The choice of filming this way, in a playful pretend documentary style, is intended to give the scene extra flavour and a grainy energy.
Clive Goodwin is an actor and a writer. A working class boy from Willesden whose dad was a waiter, Goodwin is a paragon of social mobility who started his own theatre magazine, Encore, and has set himself up as an agent for writers. Later on, Goodwin will co-launch the radical underground paper Black Dwarf with Tariq Ali. Goodwin was a leftie, situated at the intersection of activisim and the avant garde. His friends include not only Tariq Ali and Kenneth Tynan, but Vanessa Redgrave, RD Laing and Marxist playwright Trevor Griffiths.
The day after this chance meeting in west London, Philip Saville leaves Britain to go on a family holiday with his wife and children. He’s away for two weeks. The day Saville departs for the continent, as his Ford Zephyr heads for Dover, Pauline Boty and Clive Goodwin go on a date.
We film Saville stuck in a holiday traffic jam on the long crawl down to the ferry. His hot sticky situation is intercut with Pauline painting in her flat. And then the phone rings. It’s Clive Goodwin. We shoot Clive on the left-hand side of a split screen, saying to Pauline that Ken Tynan gave me your number and I hope you don’t mind? On the right side of the screen Boty is beaming with delight as she speaks into the phone, her lips close to the enamel receiver, telling Clive that it’s perfectly fine, that in fact I’m so glad you called. She says, Are you doing anything later?
Clive pauses and stutters. No, he says.
I am, you see, says Boty.
Yes, it’s so nice outside, I thought I’d go for a walk in the park, she says. With you.
Ha, ha! It’s actually threatening to rain. But bold Boty. They meet at the south entrance of Holland Park. Clive suggested Kensington Gardens, but Boty said Holland Park. It’s the start of a rapid montage of dates filmed without dialogue and accompanied by the song Here, There and Everywhere by the Beatles. (Obvious song and probably unlikely. But sweet.) Boty and Goodwin walk in the park. They go for coffee in the window booth of a restaurant filmed from the pavement outside. They laugh at a joke in the street. They visit the penguin house at London Zoo. The new couple are seen going into a cinema, then a theatre, and later on coming out of a private Mayfair gallery pulling faces.
In Battersea Park, Clive points at a boating lake but Boty shakes her head. He points again. She shakes her head vehemently. Clive is surprised but shrugs it off. As they cross back over the river at dusk, in the middle of Albert Bridge, the couple stop to kiss.
Clive Goodwin – when cigarettes ruled
For several days, Boty and Goodwin are inseparable and quickly figure out that they are actually in love.
I just got on terribly well with him, Boty says to Nell Dunn. We got stoned all the time. He was the very first man I met who really liked women.
At the end of her whirlwind, lovestruck week, Pauline gets the train down to Kent, to go see Bridget and Arthur as pre-arranged. But this time she brings a guest, her new boyfriend.
She arrived with Clive Goodwin, says Bridget, a 31-year-old writer she had met just a week before. And yet, later in the day, Pauline took me to one side and said, Don’t tell anyone, but we’re getting married on Monday.
The marriage takes place only ten days after the couple’s first ever meeting. The camera sets up outside the registry office and captures the couple as they come out the large civic doors and pause to have their photo taken at the height of the pale stone steps. They look into each other’s eyes for the lens. Pauline wears a white tunic dress, a check jacket, and a grey felt hat with a pink band. Clive is in a suit and a tie.
From the scene outside the registry office we backtrack to earlier the same day and Pauline walking into a branch post office in Notting Hill. She crosses the dusty interior to a booth and writes out a telegram using a ballpoint on a chain. The camera zooms in on her neat handwriting. At the head of the message she is set to send to France she writes, Dear Philip…
The telegram arrives later the same day – to a small French town on the Atlantic coast. To the Grand Hotel with its bright ice cream render and blue and white awning – where the paper message is delivered to a hotel bedroom by a young man in a suit and a cap. Philip Saville’s wife answers the door. She receives the sealed telegram and opens it without thinking, fearing news of an emergency back home. The telegram says: By the time you read this I will be married to Clive Goodwin. Please forgive me.”
End of Part Four
(Part Five, the final instalment, will follow in a fortnight – or something like that.)
* Bob Dylan’s arrival to London. At Heathrow, in Arrivals, as Pauline Boty holds up a hand-written sign saying Bob Dylan – we mut somehow squeeze out a visual gag referencing the famous short film for Dylan’s Subterranean Homesick Blues Maybe we can shoot Boty similarly flipping through a series of hand-written cards: Bob Dylan, Welcome to London, Fair City, Hope You like beer.
** Dylan’s three week visit to London and the city’s folk scene had a significant impact on the singer. His headlong exposure to traditional Irish and British folk melodies and lyrics cause a change of style of playing and song writing once he returns to the US.
*** Dylan in the Madhouse is a BBC Arena film about Dylan’s London winter wonderland of 1962/1963 and the continuing search for his lost TV play.