art, screen

Pauline: A Suitable Case for Treatment (Part Five)

It’s the final instalment of the life of Pauline Boty told as a film treatment – where fact and fancy, half-way meeting, interpenetrate, forming a loose patchwork of scenes, moods and biographical threads to make a story. (Here is Part One of the movie scenario. And Part TwoPart Three, and Part Four.) 

Pauline Boty was a celebrated English Pop artist of the 1960s who died young and her work went missing for decades. Part Five  covers Pauline’s last years. 

The Beatles
of the beginning

Through 1963 to 1964, every fortnight Boty contributes to the arts show Public Ear on BBC Radio. Pauline interviews celebrity guests and recites monologues – or thought machines – she writes herself.

The opening scene of Part Five finds Boty interviewing the Beatles. This is early Beatles. Think moptops, suits and goofy jokes – no beards, no kaftans, no lawyers. Beatlemania has erupted up and down the land and all around the world. As well as much screaming, there’s a lot of consternation from the fusties, feeling all shook up at rampant displays of teen hysteria – on the day Pauline interviews the Fab Four, The Daily Telegraph compares a Beatles concert to the Nuremberg rallies. 

It’s quite cramped in the recording booth with Pauline and the Fab Four squeezed in like sardines. Through the interview, George Harrison deliberately mispronounces Pauline’s surname as Botty. He says Botty three times. The camera fixes on George (to be played by Harry Styles) and pulls in close as he mouths the word Botty one last time, silently, in slow motion, before we cut to a widescreen representation of BUM – Pauline’s final painting.

The focus on BUM lasts for two seconds, merely serving as a neat cutaway for a return to the radio station, where a different guest is now sitting with Pauline. This time it’s Benjamin Britten – a very different type of British musician. In an alternate universe of quirky casting, Britten would be played by Courtney Love; but we will no doubt be delighted to have Charles Dance take the role of the grouchy composer. There’s hardly any grouch, though. Britten is not the brittle patrician of reputation – he appears charmed by Boty as well as delighted at the news that he and the pop artist are neighbours on the Cromwell Road. 

A line has formed outside the radio recording booth, stretching across the production room and out into the curved corridor beyond. The queue features all the people interviewed by Boty during her year on the radio – this includes designer Mary Quant; David Frost; joke writer Dick Vosburgh; Vanessa Redgrave; a footballer in his shorts, with muddy socks and caked boots (Danny Blanchflower, down from White Hart Lane); a jockey in hornet stripes with grubby cheeks; Joe Bown; Gerry from Gerry and the Pacemakers; a short string of writers carrying Olivetti typewriters (the Lettera 22 model of 1954); and Orson Welles with a long, slender cigar fixed between his teeth. 

Orson Welles
Ask not what you can do for your country. Ask what’s for lunch.

The scene dissolves from the orderly file of celebrities to Pauline alone in the recording booth. Now that her guests have departed, with all the interviews recorded and put away, Boty is reciting her personal monologues to tape. First she reads an eager homage to James Dean, with her suburban accent rising and falling as she pitches the words into the mic. Then the camera blurs from the gospel on Dean to a monologue on William Morris and the wholemeal virtues of Arts and Crafts. Then blur from Morris to Marcuse, the perils of advertising and society’s One-Dimensional Man. Dissolve from Marcuse to Boty on the public school system, racism, to the kind of party she’d throw if she won the pools. 

There is also a succession of klaxons on gender. Pauline speaks up for her sex. She rails against the silencing of women. She petitions for the slave by the stove as she warns against the dodgy suasions of wedlock. The golden climax of life, she says, doubling the doubt in her diction – A young girl’s dream. Yes, yes, yes, the stories say, Marry, Marry, Marry. Get him and nab him and hook him and grab him. But Beware, warns Boty, be sure you don’t get married alive! She almost shouts her heartfelt warning. And means every syllable. And yet, and yet… Boty has to smile at the gap between her words and the gold wedding band on her finger.

Domestic Blocks
In the early months of their marriage, Pauline Boty and Clive Goodwin spend a rare evening at home together and end up watching a film on the television. The film is called In a Lonely Place and stars Humphrey Bogart as an emotionally unstable Hollywood screenwriter who falls in love with his neighbour, Gloria Grahame. 

Our intruding camera is on the move, it slides through the Boty-Goodwin home, across the bare floorboards recently stripped and painted, past the dining table with the leftovers from dinner, up and over the hump-backed sofa covered in orange and grey felt, and round to the side for a medium close-up of Boty and Goodwin – wrapped and entwined – watching Grahame and Bogart express their new-sprung love in an indirect fashion. 

Grahame asks Bogart, how do you write a movie love scene? Bogart says the best romantic scenes are the inbetween moments. So, for instance, here we are together, it’s morning and I’m making you breakfast, preparing a grapefruit, looking for a grapefruit knife in the drawer. And the intimacy of this moment conveys a closeness and attachment far better than me saying I Love You, I Love You, with dewy eyes of intent.

In a Lonely Place, Humphrey Bogard. Gloria Grahame, Dir Nicholas Ray

As she observes this romantic exchange on screen, Boty leans closer into Goodwin and squeezes his arm. But this shared couch potato moment isn’t slated to be the couple’s phatic love scene. This particular event arrives the following day, as we switch to a wet morning further blighted by a blocked toilet. Goodwin scratches his head, embarrassed as well as stumped at how to shift it. He heads for the phone and the Yellow Pages. But Boty calls him back to the scene of the crime. She’s not frittering their money. She has a solution. Her cerebral husband looks on in wonder as his wife showcases her skills, wielding a plunger, hot water plus gravity to flush out the pipes. Now we’re truly joined, she declares.

There were some who said Clive was too dull for Pauline, reports Nell Dunn to camera, sitting next to Pauline in her Battersea garden.

But Clive listens to me, replies Pauline. He is interested in me as a woman. 

It’s an easy summer’s day, warm finally, and Boty and Dunn are outside, sitting on matching blue rugs. Pauline is smelling a rose and puffing away on an Embassy Regal. Dunn thinks these actions are contradictory, but doesn’t comment. She wonders, as do I, if Boty ever sees contradictions, or simply different things to do?

Clive was the first man I could talk to very freely, says Pauline. He likes women – a terribly rare thing in a man. A lot of men are square and find it hard to talk to women. I mean here’s someone to whom women aren’t kind of things or something you don’t quite know about. 

Boty hesitates, distracted by a flicker at the far end of the lawn. Something live and grey as a rat is moving into view. Except it’s not a rodent, just a loose strip of sack turning in the breeze. Pauline smiles. Clive was the first man who made me laugh sort of quite sincerely over the telephone. Seriously. I hate the telephone. She stubs out a cigarette and scratches the back of hear head. Clive makes me feel secure. I know ten days isn’t very long. 

Were you frantic? Dunn wonders. 

The speed was also about Philip. I felt badly about my affair. I loathed being left hanging on a string. I got married under extraordinary circumstances, very odd, because of being the other woman. I felt frustrated, simply waiting for the call can do your head in. Maybe that’s why I hate phones.

In an empty white room, a series of dayglo rotary telephones are lined up on a factory conveyor belt. Boty mimes a shocked display of  revulsion while painting each one black. In another small room, the office for the theatre magazine Encore, Clive Goodwin is speaking to a client, the phone receiver tucked between his ear and his chin.

If you’d looked at them you’d never have thought they were suited, observes the disembodied voice of a friend of Goodwin. Clive was straight and conventional and she was wacky. You never quite knew why she should be with Clive. But they seemed to be a happy marriage. (Actual words – like most of the speeches of this section.)

The camera cuts to an image of Goodwin walking along an empty street in central London. He is by himself. It’s an early Sunday morning and the introductory image to a short sequence of scenes featuring the husband as media worker – including Goodwin in a TV studio where he presented a youth programme on ITV called That’s For Me. Then Goodwin in an office at ITV’s Granada Television in his role as arts editor, introducing counter-cultural figures Joan Littlewood, Adrian Mitchell and RD Laing to a popular audience. Then Goodwin at a theatre rehearsal for an avant garde production with the actors dressed as eggs. There’s also a demo against the bomb in Trafalgar Square, and a march for cannabis in Hyde Park. Clive is busy and surrounded by people, but each event is bookended by a reprise of the same shot of him walking solo down an empty street. 

Despite the portfolio of careers and a broad network of connections, Clive is a solitary figure. Before he met Boty, says an acquaintance, Clive was very alone. A very quiet New Statesman-in-the-back-pocket sort of man, reports a colleague. The montage resumes by situating Clive in a barely furnished flat. A bachelor shell. And then we see Boty arrive, and there’s a dissolve as sticks of furniture appear in the room, followed by books and records, with flowers and food on the table, and wine being poured into glasses. And Clive gets up and walks to the dining table and takes some of the wine and passes it around in a room filled with visitors. Suddenly, when they got together, says the friend, Clive was transformed and their home became a social spot.

Darling
How’s the scene-by-scene texture doing as the pace gathers inside Part Five? It seems a good time to ask. My inner scenarist urges more speed, saying pole vault from the scenes of connubial bliss just passed, and go straight into the extended party scene that casts a first pale shadow of doubt – that night Pauline and some of Clive’s radicals got their wires crossed

But this seems too linear, and as narratives go, every highway needs a byway. Our pending diversion into the story of Darling isn’t just a sidetrack, or a runaway, more like a handy outline of how Boty often got took for a ride. So, let’s go with Darling first. 

There’s no record, certainly nothing that’s passed by here, of how Philip Saville – Pauline’s ex – responds to her sudden, headlong romance with Clive Goodwin. (Or indeed, how Philip’s wife feels reading Boty’s break-up telegram.) Soon, Philip will take up with Diana Rigg – around the same time that his wife tells Saville to vacate the family home. 

The rupture of Boty and Saville is not the end of their story. Arguably it’s just the start of an Oscar-winning screenplay by Frederic Raphael for Darling, a film directed by John Schlesinger. 

Darling, 1965, original film poster

Darling tells of the sudden rise to fame of an ambitious fashion model called Diana Scott, who climbs so high – almost a superstar – only to… Yes, that’s right, only to painfully crash and fall. Diana is played by Julie Christie – Boty’s unwitting nemesis returns for the latest twist in their peculiarly intertwined life stories.

The Darling segment of our treatment leads with a re-creation of the original film’s opening shot. We see a big roadside billboard ad in west London being pasted over. An arresting advert concerning global hunger is being replaced with a giant picture of a beautiful young woman, publicising the tabloid serialisation of her forthcoming memoir: Diana: My Story.

The camera tracks away from left to right, leaving the roadside billboard, and using a passing lorry to serve as an invisible dissolve, taking us to a meeting from two years earlier on the same busy avenue. 

Darling (1965) Julie Christie & Dirk Bogarde
the man in the background thinks he’s on TV

A younger and more innocent Diana is out walking as she skips into view – just as Christie’s character Liz skipped into view in Schlesinger’s Billy Liar. The carefree Diana is detained by a TV researcher and asked to contribute to a programme about young people and morality. Diana is interviewed outside the Victoria and Albert museum – just a stone’s throw from Pauline Boty’s new home at the head of Cromwell Road. Diana is charming on camera and shines brightly. The interviewer is Robert (Dirk Bogarde) – an older man who’s also a serious writer and only works on mindless TV for pay. 

Diana and Robert hit it off from the start. Her eyes light up and he just wants to say Yes to whatever she desires. He invites her out and they begin an affair. Robert leaves his wife and kids and moves in with his new lover just as her modelling takes off. But as Diana’s career starts to rise, the original sin of deception breeds a sibling when she goes to bed with an amoral advertising exec (Laurence Harvey) to land a part in a movie. Robert breaks off with Diana, calling his lover a whore – actually hurling the word at her in public across the escalators at Notting Hill tube station. Thereafter, Diana’s bold social and sexual adventures cause her existence to spiral out of control, as Schlesinger’s sour movie reveals its punitive moral code. 

Darling (1965) Julie Christie & Dirk Bogarde
the joke’s on who?

Darling’s critique of the new values feels corrupted itself. The film’s a set-up: everyone and every thing Diana encounters as she ventures into mass media and celebrity is preloaded as cynical and mendacious. Darling singles out the contemporary art scene, pointedly Pop Art, as specially vacuous and sold out to filthy money.

Pauline Boty was a Pop artist of course. Many of Boty’s friends were convinced the screenplay for Darling was inspired by Boty’s story. Not only Pauline’s complicated love life with Phillip Saville, and his sudden replacement by Goodwin, but Boty as a pop figure and independent woman well known to Schlesinger. 

Julie Christie and Pauline Boty share a physical resemblance, it’s obvious, while their stories were previously tied in knots through the planning, writing and casting of Billy Liar. As with Liar, Boty auditioned for Darling – for the lead role of Diana. Did she wonder at the script’s resemblances to her own biography? She had to, no? 

Let’s imagine that she did. We scroll through re-created extracts from Darling – the first glimpse of Diana swinging down the lane; a whimsical visit to a Bond Street gallery where she and Robert poke fun at the paintings; onwards to the escalator scene, as Robert reviles Diana; to a read through at home with Clive Goodwin helping Boty prepare for tomorrow’s audition.

Boty stands in the middle of the lounge, wearing her usual men’s Levi’s with bloke’s vest, skimming the script – when finally she has a moment of clarity, as if the thought had suddenly opened itself in her head. She punches the pages fiercely. Fuck!

What?

She shakes her head. The cheek! Fuck! Do you know what, my love?

What?

I think this script is partly about me?

I think it’s about you. 

You do? 

I assumed you did too.

You should’ve said. I will show it to Jane tomorrow. She’ll know. 

Jane will say the same. 

Boty growls. Grrr! I don’t know whether to audition or sue.

The camera closes in on Boty’s face, her eyebrows flared in shock at her life being pinched.

We cut to an audition in a Wapping warehouse overlooking the river. Schlesinger greets Boty as an old comrade, coming in for a bear hug, while Boty wriggles free. The atmosphere is false friendly. There’s ice between the auteur and his reluctant muse. And quickly the meeting is over, with Boty leaving knowing she won’t get anywhere near the part. Of course she won’t. Boty sees that Schlesinger dislikes her. He stole from Boty to create Diana; and then made her look empty and hateful. Why would he behave this way?*

The Policeman in Your Head
Pauline Boty and Clive Goodwin’s love nest is a large flat on the Cromwell Road, South Kensington. Today, the building is a gleaming block of service apartments. Here’s a picture. Look, no blue plaque for Boty.

The Fraser Suites, Cromwell Road, London, once the home of Pauline Boty

The newlyweds take the lease and paint the large rooms white and the floorboards dark brown. They buy in stylish furniture and bold curtains. The walls are filled with books and posters and art and shelves laid out with personal treasures. We see Boty putting up several of her own paintings. They even have a modish pod chair installed next to the window. It swings from the ceiling held by a chunky metal chain. Boty is sitting in the pod with her cat on her lap and her bare toes touching the floorboards, gazing at the rain outside as evening closes in.

There’s a gathering of friends coming round later. Mostly Clive’s crowd. They often hang out at the Boty Goodwin residence – Pauline enjoys bringing people together. They gather mostly to drink, smoke dope and talk revolution. Some of the regulars go on to be well remembered. There’s John McGrath, Dennis Potter, Vanessa Redgrave, Kenneth Tynan, Caroline Coon, Shirley Conran,  David Hockney, Michael White, Roger McGough and Alexander Trocchi.

Revolutionaries from France and Germany come to stay. But not a lot of Pauline’s old art buddies. There was a slight schism around that time, says artist Derek Boshier. He thinks it was Pauline’s switch to acting that caused the drift. But some of her longstanding chums thought it was due to Goodwin. They say he took Boty away from them. 

Tonight, Boty and Goodwin are serving wine in jam jar glasses. There are also plates of cheese and a basket of pot. The lounge is thick with the exhaled smoke and heartfelt discourse of radical blokes with facial growth. If we wanted additional directions to set the scene, we could dig out a copy of The Party, a play by Trevor Griffiths, the long term mate and client of Goodwin. The Party was staged at the National Theatre starring Laurence Olivier and is set in a trendy flat over the course of one evening. The set directions read: ‘SW7 [The Boty-Goodwin post code]. Big, white, sunny, rather cool. Hockney and Botys’.  

The guys are sprawled across the lounge, arguing about the struggle as Pauline keeps the wine, cheese and psychoactives circulating. Boty smiles a lot. She finds the new people in her life are delighted with her – which is pleasing – but not so interested in what she paints, or the things she says. Usually Boty accepts this, as she’s been accepting it as the stuff of life for as long as she can remember. But tonight, with all this insurgent babble, she feels an emancipation of mind and spirit, and is inspired to say something interesting about revolution. 

It is something she wonders about from time to time. Being a Pop artist, Boty knows a thing or two about the way capitalism inflitrates your dreams. The guys seem convinced that revolution is a pure thought. But just a moment, says Boty, what if the desires inside your head have been taken over? All of the desires?

What?

What if your dreams of revolution were put there by the system? 

Excuse me?

Think about it. The catchy TV jingle like an ear worm nagging in your consciousness. Why stop at soap powders and sofas? What if the notion of an autonomous being capable of revolutionary thought is just another bug in the cerebrum?

Boty stops to pop a cube of Edam in her mouth and passes round the plate. All the guys look at her for the length of a tumbleweed moment. Which, as we know, can be a long time. Some sit there with their mouths quite open. And still nobody says a word. And so Pauline says more, just in case she hasn’t made herself clear. She worries like that. 

We have drives that appear to come from deep inside. But Pop Art reveals how consumer capitalism colonises our inner dreamscape. We’re being manipulated from inside, insists Boty. All of us, she cries. Not just the masses watching telly, or the workers in the factories, but the intellectual elite. The struggle is in our head as well as the street. Boty says this and and at the same time hits herself on the forehead and makes a knocking sound with her mouth. Her acting skills can be handy. There’s a policeman inside our heads, she declares – then points a finger around the room. In your head as well. And you, and you, and in your head too. She bangs her nut again and repeats the hard knock. The policeman in our head must be destroyed!

It’s a great slogan. Pauline’s speech has now ended. She waits in vain for the men looking at her to nod, or even cheer. Instead, they just stare at Boty, all of them, while suffering a feeling of mild unease for the duration of another silent moment. Finally, one of the guys returns the discussion to where they’d got to earlier, concerning an anti-war demo coming up at the weekend. In the corner of the room, leaning against the book case, Clive Goodwin looks into his red wine in silence.

Cut from the Boty-Goodwin front room to Nell Dunn’s house. Boty looks bothered. She says, You know, there are lots of women who are intellectually cleverer than lots of men but it’s difficult for lots of men to accept this idea. 

Dunn nods in agreement. Yes, you’re right, I do know this.

It’s not going to be easy changing the world, says Boty. Men just want sex from women. Not talk. They just want to fuck you.

Pauline Boty, by David Bailey

Living Doll
We swing from Battersea to a studio in South Kensington and Boty on a photo shoot with David Bailey – who shall be played by Ben Wilshaw. Pauline is holding a ragdoll for a close portrait piece. She made the doll herself. She created several dolls in her workshop. Because it pleased her, but also as a kind of artefact, or thought experiment, commenting on the construction of gender. We won’t dwell on the doll’s subtext – it’s there to be read, or not, depending on the viewer. 

Pauline Boty, Living Doll by David Bailey

The photo session with Bailey is for British Vogue and will be titled Living Doll. Boty brings a friend to observe how it all gets done. Her name is Kathleen Tynan and she is the wife of theatre critic Kenneth Tynan. Kathleen admires Boty enormously. She says Pauline has it all and is quite incomparable. 

I had simply never come across anyone like her before, says Kathleen. She shook up my view of things. Kathleen counts off her fingers: Pauline was an artist, an actor, a radio presenter, dancer and model. She was beautiful and young and happily married and had friends coming out her ears. She had it all.

Or maybe had too much, mutters Boty in her head as Bailey asks her to pout.

For what is the measure of success in 1964? For men the measure is simple, it is work. And work. And then work. For women the primary social measure of accomplishment continues to be family or beauty.

From Pauline as Living Doll the screen dissolves through a montage of distortions. 

Pauline Boty, Tit Bits magazine
Pauline Boty in Scene MagazinePauline Boty, the Daily Express

These and several other images bubble up across the screen, their fixity matched by the headlines and shout lines, in an accumulated, lurid confirmation that it’s all about the looks. A talented artist is actually just ‘an ice cream of a girl’. Boty’s the ‘blonde with grey blue eyes,’ reports Men Only.  ‘A pet, a darling,’ whoops another publication.  ‘A luscious beauty’, declares a hack with a spoiled dictionary. That Boty also paints is either left unsaid or looked down on as a bit of a lark. ‘All my own work’ reads the kindergarden caption of Pauline posing with one of her abstracts.

Pauline Boty‘This is painting,’ says a voiceover from the news archive. ‘And in case you have any doubts it is called Painting. And the girl who painted Painting is 24 year old Pauline Boty’

‘Actresses often have tiny brains,’ suggests the intro to a lead article in Scene magazine. ‘Painters often have large beards. Imagine a brainy actress who is also a painter and also a blonde and you have PAULINE BOTY. 

‘Don’t wink at me, luv,’ barks a strapline as charming as a sex pest. ‘I know your secret.’

Pauline Boty in Scene Magazine

And the secret is that Pauline is just a dolly bird – not to be taken seriously as an artist. Anything else is confusing, you see. Around 1964 1965, Boty lost control of her image. Several softcore publications gained possession of photos of the artist stripping off  and published them altered and without permission. The original compositions featured Boty posing with her paintings, having been choreographed by Boty herself. But the porn mags excised the paintings, leaving Pauline just showing her suspenders and stockings: the artist cut up and repurposed as sex object.

The gallery of distorted photos and bad headlines lingers at the back of the screen, lit with an insalubrious beam of red and yellow uplights that gently pulse. The writer Caroline Coon, Boty’s friend, walks into frame and points the finger. She says it’s not just the porn publishers, or the tabloids, who won’t take Boty seriously, but also many of her friends and fellow artists. 

Coon steps away from the carnival backdrop, through a door at the side of the stage leading to a white cube room. On the walls are several of Boty’s lost paintings, from Scandal ’63 to Big Jim. Coon points at each artwork and and says, Missing. People kept losing Pauline’s art, she says. Why? 

The camera pans to the far side of the room and a line of chairs with several of Boty’s male friends sat looking nervous. There’s Peter Blake and Philip Saville and the theatre producer Michael White. They’re coralled like suspects in an Agatha Christie. Coon asks Peter Blake (Benedict Cumberbatch), Did you ever own a painting by Pauline Boty? Blake says, Yes. And what happened to the painting, where is it now? Blake scratches his beard. It was one of her collages, he replies. I remember that much. I forget the details. I lent it to somebody. I can’t remember who and I don’t think they ever gave it back. Blake looks at his shoes. Brogues.

Coon turns to Michael White, avid art collector and good friend of Boty. What happened to your Boty painting? White looks away. I always meant to buy one, he mutters. 

What about you, Philip Saville?  (Actually, maybe TV host Anne Robinson could play Coon, if Coon’s not available.)

I had one of Pauline’s paintings, Philip replies.

You had one of her paintings?

But I sent it back. After, you know.

And if it had been a Picasso….?

Coon turns and leaves the silent males in her dust. She looks into the lens of a handheld camera on the move, shadowing her progress, her face in close-up as she speaks of possible damage. Some of Boty’s male friends were a problem, she says. For important men to reduce her to the fact that they were in love with Pauline did immense damage. Boty was distracted from painting by the men around her, Coon continues. Most of these men weren’t going to encourage her that much because of her beauty. They were all telling her, You must be in the movies. They wanted her to be the beautiful Muse, to eroticise her body and to ignore her painting. 

At this point in the film treatment there’s a rising tension concerning Boty’s state of mind. A woman on the rise for some years, going up, up, up – the high grade rocket fuel rushing Boty towards the summit extra fast – lately Pauline has stalled and her existence feels precarious. In Nell Dunn’s garden, where she and Boty are drinking wine in the afternoon shade, Pauline admits to a low moodscape. I often feel weepy and depressed, she concedes. There are days I don’t want to leave the house. The thought of it is terrifying.

Dunn pours more wine as Boty absently stares into the large, clunky cassette recorder, its red light glowing as the spools rotate. Boty says, I feel I’m going round and round in circles. I’m not sure I’m getting anywhere as an artist. She pulls a strand of hair stuck to her lips. She leans forward to scratch her bare foot at rest in the spongy grass where the bugs and insects nestle. She is wearing a drab top – not a good clothes day. Boty opens her mouth to explain more, but hesitates to say extra before finally letting it out. I’ve been going through a terrible period of depression. 

There, I’ve said it now. Sometimes when I was little I got depressed. When you get very depressed everything goes along somewhere down there, on a sort of horrible level. This has been the worst darkness since before Wimbledon, I think.

Pauline Boty and Michael Caine in Alfie
smiling but drowning

The short garden scene concludes. The screen folds in on itself for a moment of blankness – then opens up in the thick of a grey street in west London, where a full scale film crew are setting up a shot outside a dry cleaners along a parade of shops. 

It is the day for filming Pauline’s walk-on part for the movie Alfie. It’s April 1965. They’re on location in Ealing shooting exteriors. Pauline is hanging around waiting for the crew to light the set. She’s bored. Not so long ago she loved filming, but today she wants to be at home painting. 

She nicks off round the corner for a smoke and sees a red telephone box. She goes inside on a hunch. At first we film her in medium shot from the pavement, until the lens zooms in through the small glass panels of the phone box to up close on Pauline’s face. The phone is clutched against her right ear, her phone ear. She’s wearing pearl ear rings and feeds the slot with two silver coins. She’s calling her agent to tell him she won’t be doing that advertising job next week. 

We see the agent taking Pauline’s call as the composition switches to split screen. You know the money’s good, he says – like agents will do, like they’ve been saying since before the dinosaurs were wiped out.  Pauline’s agent is quite senior and silver, but still handsome, sat in his office, plonked down behind a small chaotic desk with the window behind him overlooking Covent Garden fruit and veg market. 

I know, confirms Pauline. I realise it’s a lot of cash. 

But Pauline’s gone off acting. She’s turning it in. She’s just decided but doesn’t fully realise yet. 

I like pretending and dressing up, she tells her agent. And working with lots of people can be fun. 

It’s special work, says the agent. A privilege that pays handsomely.

But is it really my kind of life? 

The agent looks worried listening to Pauline. He opens his mouth to speak over her and then chooses against doing this.

Do I really want that kind of living – learning lines, going for parts, waiting for calls, either being let down and disappointed, or spending all day hanging about on set? Getting involved in acting, you start wanting the wrong things, says Pauline.

The agent doesn’t want to be hearing this, not at all – his eyes have narrowed and the office has darkened as the sun goes behind a cloud in Covent Garden in what may, or may not be a coincidence.

I seem to be getting more and more miserable, says Boty. And with this, she hangs up the phone. 

The agent is left dangling on his side of the screen, looking at a silent receiver.

The film returns to Pauline in full screen, exiting the phone box and stepping away lightly. I need to paint, says her interior voice. I have to get back to the easel. (Her actual words spoken to Nell Dunn. In case you think I’m making all this up.)

Pauline Boty, It's a Man's World I

The screen turns to black again, folding up like a piece of dark card. Then springs back with a wide shot of Boty’s latest painting.

It’s a Man’s World I features five horizontal panels subdivided into a comic-strip matrix of diverse Pop imagery. There’s a beautiful grey Elvis, Proust, Fellini, Muhammad Ali and The Beatles. Boty’s intense monochromatic style continues with swathes of blue and green for backspace or sky blue sky. Up above her gallery of good guys, the top panel flies a B52 bomber across an expanse of azure towards the inset of an anguished bomber pilot. The next panel celebrates in part the great works of civilisation from architecture to ancient sculpture. The lower panels however include a bull fighter, Lenin and assorted displays of male violence – from the killing of Kennedy, to Einstein and the birth of atomic warfare. In the penultimate panel, Boty’s signature red rose of female desire, and more broadly womanhood, is cramped and boxed in by all the bad stuff. 

Pauline’s sat on the multi-coloured, spattered floor of her studio, sat in the lotus position, looking at the canvas with a pensive face, wondering, Finished, or not finished? I want to find out if not-painting is the cause of my depression, she says. It could be so simple. Boty’s talking to Clive Goodwin, who is sat in the corner musing at the fascinating colourful artwork his incredible wife has made. Goodwin says he really likes her commentary on state violence.

Male violence, says Pauline.

Boty’s late paintings appear to foreground the cruelty that men do, highlighting patriarchy’s dark matter. The camera slides across a series of images accompanied by a sombre extract of modern classical – Shaker Loops by John Adams.  

Pauline Boty, Cuba Si

 

Pauline Boty, Big Jim Colisimo

Cuba Si celebrates Cuba’s history of popular uprisings, while situating in the foreground a coffin wrapped in the national flag. Big Jim Colosimo depicts a Chicago mobster of the 1920s. He’s upright in his chair, dapper in an off-white linen suit, spotless cotton shirt and striped grey tie. Jim has one small hand draped across his lap. His body fills the canvas, topped and tailed by multicoloured chevrons as filigree, with Big Jim spelled out in small letters.

Pauline Boty, Scandal '63

Scandal ’63 critiques the corruption and hypocrisy of the male establishment, starring a line of male controllers – Stephen, Lucky and Profumo, looking down from on high, while Christine Keeler wonders perhaps if she made the right call getting wrapped naked around the back of a chair. 

Pauline Boty, Count Down to Violence

In Count Down to Violence, under a proscenium arch, Boty enacts the brutal, inescapable end point of male violence with a coffin carriage and two dead presidents across the centuries – Lincoln and Kennedy, both shot in the head. The front of the stage is engulfed in the flames of a Buddhist monk on fire in South East Asia, with the conflagration surging toward a violent police arrest at a civil rights demo. Boty’s narrative selection suggests violence coursing through the international bloodstream. At the centre of the inferno, a red rose of desire is set to be dismembered by garden cutters in a depleted act of resignation.

The next featured artwork from late Boty is a sequel painting, It’s A Man’s World II. The oil on canvas depicts a series of passive or frozen female nudes – from soft core to life models. Several of the women are supine, or cut up and reduced to sex parts, as if their essential being can be boiled down to their reproductive bits. With the canvas Tom’s Dream, the supreme colourist in Boty – a painter always liable to create beautiful things, with washes of cream and rose – is palpably in conflict with a new mood of scepticism, where the faceless woman is all in a tangle, undressing against a cruciform backdrop – suggesting that sexual transgression will be punished. 

Pauline Boty, It's a Man's World II

Pauline Boty, Tom's Dream

Men just want to fuck you, says Boty to Clive. Her husband listens and looks. The screen is silent for a moment or two. Then Pauline tells her husband of the pessimism creeping up inside – Like damp or something rotten. I’m a long way from the Pauline of a few years ago. 

Pauline Boty, Portrait of Derek Marlowe with Unknown Ladies
because you’re gorgeous

In Portrait of Derek Marlowe with Unknown Ladies, the tyro author of A Dandy in Aspic is rendered with an adoring care and attention to his beauty, his charm, his confidence as an individual. If we bounce back and forth along that last sentence of descriptors, using our imaginary pointer, it is always that last word, individual, we land upon. Because compared to the gallery of unknown ladies watching over, Derek is a not simply defined by his gender, he is not an unknown figure or type straining and pouting to be noticed, he’s an individual – not a prisoner of beauty, the measure of female success, just an unique and good looking bloke. 

Life and Death
In April 1965, Boty filmed her brief appearance in Alfie and went back to painting full time. In June 1965, she had an appointment at the hospital.

The scene starts on a bright morning with an exterior shot of a large hospital in west London. The building is late Victorian – a solid mass of dark orange brick with black detailing stacked up high into the sky, looming across the narrow pavement and over the traffic below. The building has a narrow basement moat with cast iron railings crowned with crescent heads. The front elevation’s vertical piers break up some of the exterior’s bulk – but the weight of the hospital isn’t easily dissipated: this is an edifice for serious matters, a building for life and death.

The master shot of the hospital exterior is taken from the opposite side of the road and allows the traffic to flow in and out of frame. A black cab slows up to the pavement by the hospital entrance. A lorry obscures the view. Then a delivery van fills up the screen and next another lorry – before finally a break in the traffic reveals Clive Goodwin emerging from the taxi, followed by Boty. Goodwin holds Boty’s hand as she climbs out and pays the driver. The taxi pulls away, returning to the flow of cars, and the camera switches to a medium shot from behind while the couple go inside the building, leaving the bright day outside. 

There’s a blunt contrast in lighting as Boty and Goodwin adjust to a dark vestibule and then a short flight of steps leading into the main corridor, featuring numerous signs and pointers and maps and diagrams to process the human flow. The couple pause and look to navigate and then give up and ask for directions from the man at the desk, who has his next fag perched behind an ear. He says, Upstairs. 

The camera follows Boty and Goodwin down a short passage, then left and along, before heading up a grand staircase with a dark varnished hand rail, to the first floor and across a wooden landing with a high ceiling painted aqua. They pass through a heavy set of double doors that squeak. 

The panel over the doors points to various services and conditions. But we blur the words to delay the reveal and keep the audience guessing. The camera holds back and goes no further, just stares without grace as the couple continue down the corridor, side by side, medics and nurses and patients crossing back and forth and interrupting our view of Boty and Goodwin becoming absorbed into the health system. 

The fixed camera lingers, for an extra few beats longer than the normal rhythm, until the spell is broken as the screen fills with brightness again. The next scene is shot from inside a train carriage, with Boty in close-up sat by the window, her face leaning against the glass as the sun and the fields flood past outside. The weight of the sunbeam through the warm window pane causes the light to diffract and bend. The bright blurry off-focus continues into the next shot – the interior of Bridget Boty’s car, with Pauline holding her head against the passenger window as Bridget drives away from the front of the train station. 

Bridget talks awkwardly about the weather and the crops to cover for Pauline’s lack of fizz. Boty says she’s just tired, that’s all.

The camera shifts to outside the car, using a shot from behind, as the vehicle’s blue tail disappears round the corner of a lane banked by tall hedges and trees dipped in gravity. 

Bridget narrates the next few moments as we dissolve from outside the vehicle to inside the Boty farm kitchen, sitting round the large table. We had tea and cake and then we went and sat on the sofa, and she looked at me and said, I’m pregnant. And I gave her a hug and she started to cry and we went out for a walk.

Bridget’s voice trails away as we watch her walking with Pauline in the fields behind the farmhouse. They’re both talking, but we can’t hear what they’re saying, just indistinct speech and bits of sentences: Then he said, And I wanted to, But they recommend, And, Well, I don’t know, I’m not sure…

Bridget resumes speaking in voiceover as they cross between the cows towards the line of oaks at the top of the hill. Pauline said, It’s an accident. She said, It’s an accident I’m secretly more pleased about than I could ever admit. 

Bridget says, I was overjoyed for her, although very surprised as she’d never spoken about wanting children. But then, says Bridget, Pauline stopped by the gate and we looked across the hills and she didn’t look me and she said something else. More news. She said the doctors had found a lump on one of her breasts and that she had to go back to hospital for more tests. I feel the most astonishing tumble of emotions, says Pauline. I tried to cheer her up, Bridget remembers, telling her it was probably nothing.

The scene in the field fades out as the camera returns to the interior of the hospital and inside a consultant’s office. These medical scenes will consistently feature a distinct look and palette, an aesthetic that differs subtly from the rest of the film. The slight shift should affect the mood of the viewer. The interiors are muted and soft round the edges. The natural light outside the building pushes to get inside through the frosted windows, projecting an unsettling beam. This glow could simply be the light of life, but feels eerie and spectral, like the lux between places – this limbo land where the stuff of life and illness and health and death is processed.

The consultant’s room is large as is the consultant’s desk. The consultant is late middle aged. He wears a suit with a waist coat and has demi-lune spectacles perched on the bridge of his nose. The nose is large, and red from port perhaps. He looks over the top of his glasses and across the vast acreage of his desk to Boty and Goodwin, sat facing him in matching metal office chairs that are tight and low. 

The camera frames the desk scene using a wide lens side on at chest level, offering a medium coverage of the consultant and Pauline and Goodwin. 

The consultant clears his throat before he announces in a rumbling voice as deep as a far-off avalanche, that the test results have come back and that unfortunately Pauline has a tumour in her breast. 

The consultant pauses for his heavy words to land and settle. He then breathes in heavily to expand on his opening statement and says that Pauline is suffering from malignant lymphatic cancer. He decisively lifts up his fountain pen and unscrews the cap. He takes out a piece of headed hospital memo paper and starts to explain the pathology, and Pauline’s condition, while also writing it down as he speaks. Clive leans forward to listen. Neither he nor Pauline have said a word yet. This is how we are in the face of our godlike consultants at the National Health Service – struck dumb, deferential, quite lost. 

The consultant gets only one sentence into his speech when the camera shifts to another angle – to a medium close-up taken from the front of Pauline, who is sat quietly in her chair, apparently listening, but already mentally departed. Boty’s face is impassive. The consultant’s voice fades to incoherent mumble as Pauline briefly shuts her eyes. 

We see what Pauline looks upon in her mind’s eye – a roll of footage from childhood. It’s of Boty aged about eight, walking across the wasteland near her parents’ house in Carshalton. It’s a dire day, with terrible large grey clouds overhead and the air hot and oppressive. So close there’s almost a physical pressure pressing upon Pauline’s head. The camera from Pauline’s point of view peers down at the well-trodden grass curving across from the canal bridge towards the woods. Boty’s smudged white shoes tread carefully across the beaten path. Boty’s looking out for bad things, for snakes or cowpats, or discarded and dismembered dolls with scary eyes, or anything else her eight-year-old imagination can conjur that she fears encountering out walking – searching for her brothers, who once again are playing a trick on their younger sibling, hiding away somewhere in the trees. 

In quick succession she passes by a a cowpat, then a doll with scary eyes, and a stick that could be a grass snake.  And then abruptly Pauline stops walking and her point of view changes as she lifts up her eyes and stares into the nearby woods which are almost swaying in the electric haze. Boty is captivated by the light between and beyond the small cluster of slender tree trunks. It’s a soft silver grey light getting brighter and lighter and glowing like the light behind the consultant’s desk through the opaque window over his shoulder. 

Boty stares at the window and then down a little, at the shine on the consultant’s bald dome. And then lower, down past the glint of his glasses and the pink of his nose and his moist lips as he speaks. To the mini spot of blood on his chin from a nick shaving this morning. And down further to the top of his waistcoat where his light blue shirt is loose and gaping slightly to reveal his string vest.

Clive is holding Pauline’s hand. Suddenly he clenches and the tight grip hurts a little. Boty wants to say ouch, but is stoical instead.

Pauline’s Choice
The moment when the tumour is announced changes to a medley of wordless scenes of Boty in and out of hospital rooms and chambers and up and down corridors, passing through treatment facitilities and later arriving into large, grand offices for updates from senior medics. The last piece of the medley is a conclusive meeting where the same consultant from earlier, the one with the string vest, presents Pauline with a brutal decision. 

The tumour is very serious. Boty’s only chance of surviving the cancer is by undergoing chemotherapy, and soon. Such treatment would risk great harm to the foetus, he says. It therefore means Pauline must have a termination. The consultant advises Boty of the urgent need for the termination, tomorrow ideally, in order to start chemo forthwith. Pauline listens carefully to the consultant, she watches him with great attention. In the strange interior light, his head appears to bob in space, disconnected from his shoulders and hovering above his desk.

He finishes speaking and Pauline immediately says, No. 

The consultant lifts up his chin in surprise. But you must.

No. I won’t have an abortion.

Pauline is sure of it. She’s not wobbly at all. She says No again on being pressed. Absolutely not.

The consultant shuffles his papers pointlessly. This is an unexpected turn. The meeting has stalled.

Bridget Boty wonders if it was perhaps Pauline’s Catholic upbringing that made her this adamant concerning the fetus. Bridget is standing in the corner of the consultant’s room. Bridget as she was in 1992 at the Barbican show. She says, Pauline had never been against abortion. Not that I knew. But Pauline was determined to keep the baby whatever the price. Even the ultimate price, I suppose you could say.

The temptation is to see this and wince. To then plunge witlessly into the moral thicket. To roll out advocates arguing for and against concerning Boty’s sickening dilemma. Write a trial scene of sorts, like the celestial courtroom debate in A Matter of Life and Death – where lives and destinies are argued this way and that. And yet any dramatic rendering of Boty’s terrible choice could seem glib and a mistake. 

In place of an unsuitable debate club session on Survival vs Sacrifice, Bridget Boty is joined by Nell Dunn, the two women standing together at the far end of the room while the consultant, Boty and Goodwin are held on pause. Bridget and Nell face out of the frame towards the audience taking turns with anecdotal pieces in the hunt for a deeper understanding.

Dunn says: Some people who knew Pauline well, they say she got bad advice about her illness. 

Bridget: They claim that not enough people close to Boty argued forcibly for her life. It’s really as simple as that, people suggest. 

Dunn: Pauline had been depressed.

Bridget: Perhaps because of depression, Pauline forget how important her life was. 

Dunn: Can you forget the value of your own life? 

Bridget: Yes, you can. 

Dunn: After a patch of low moods, getting pregnant was the best thing to happen to Pauline in a while. But the cancer wanted to take  her best thing away.

Bridget: She refused to let this happen. 

Dunn: People wonder about it. They ask why didn’t Pauline fight for her own life? Why would she sacrifice so much?

Dunn: We forget the frail can often be timid. 

Bridget: A life for a life.

Dunn: Said a friend.

Bridget: Was it perhaps that Pauline failed to appreciate the severity of the cancer? 

Dunn: There were rumours.

Bridget: Did no one spell it out?

Dunn: Pauline told some of her friends that refusing the chemo would take a maximum of ten years off her life. 

Dunn: Ten years less the cost to save another. 

Bridget: Worth a deal? 

Dunn: We all have our ways with magical thinking.

Bridget: It obscures the view quite nicely.

Bridget and Dunn linger on in the consultant’s room while Boty and Goodwin ask about other kinds of treatment. The consultant raises the idea of a termination one last time. Pauline says No again – unequivocally her last word on the matter. On the way home from the hospital, Pauline stops off to buy a baby book from Peter Jones. A gesture of commitment.

Even with everything going on, says Bridget, Pauline was excited about the pregnancy. I really admired her for that. Dunn says the same.

On February 12, 1966, Pauline Boty gave birth to a baby girl, Katy Goodwin – who also came to be known as Boty Goodwin. For the first few days of her life, Boty Goodwin was with her mother in hospital. Nell Dunn remembers the baby in a basket at the end of the bed. She looked after the child well, says Bridget. But the cancer meant Pauline was too weak to cope and her parents soon took on the responsibility for their granddaughter. We see Veronica Boty lifting Boty Goodwin into her arms and walking out of Pauline’s hospital bedroom. Veronica bites her lip.

Dreaming of Darling
As Veronica exits the hospital, the camera also moves on, dissolving to a half lit scene inside a plush Chelsea mansion. This striking change of scenery suggests that momentarily we’ve given the heavy stuff the slip. But you can’t ever place monumental things on hold – they leak and push and intrude everywhere, even when you sleep. Especially when you sleep. 

The film treatment moves inside Boty’s nightmare. It shifts to a point of view camera shot, where we see through the artist’s eyes a dream where she silently walks around a large empty residence by the Thames. The place is a palace, a large Edwardian pile in Chelsea, situated just off Cheyne Walk. Boty understands that the property belongs to a wealthy Italian family who rarely come to stay. But she doesn’t know how she knows this.

Pauline is alone. The approach to the house has a small broad flight of stone steps leading to a large stained glass porch. Boty floats up the steps and is spirited through the handsome door without it needing to open. 

The house has a large hallway that fans out around a central staircase climbing to a gallery on the first floor leading to separate wings. Boty walks past the full length mirror in the hall and pauses to take in her reflection. She’s wearing a short summer dress and is going along barefoot, with dark red nail polish and tanned legs. Her hair’s in a tangle, like it hasn’t seen a brush in days.

Boty treads silently through the ground floor of the house, across a large dining room with a flagstone floor and thick rugs, to a small library and through a games room and then a drawing room with burgundy leather sofas and large wooden tables and antique chests. 

She returns to the main hall and towards the central staircase where she almost stumbles. She starts to climb. We look down at her hand holding tightly onto the dark wooden handrail. The balusters are carved with vines and grapes and the coping is varnished and flawless. 

Boty’s wordless progress through the palatial home is an exaggerated recreation of the meltdown scene at the end of John Schlesinger’s film Darling. It’s a repeating dream from Boty’s night lands which has been lodged in her unconscious since the diagnosis. The dream always changes the setting from Darling’s opulent Roman palazzo to this imaginary luxury London home.

Julie Christie in Darling (1965)

In Darling, Julie Christie’s stumbling, angry progress through the empty palace comes at the peak of her despair with her gilded and broken life. Christie tears through large rooms and Boty does the same. She reaches the the top of stairs and crosses the gallery and stumbles again. Although she appears to know where she’s going, everything is new and unfamiliar and quite strange. The uncertain footwork continues. It is is a rare moment in the film when we dispense with a fixed camera and use a handheld to get inside Boty’s dream head as she makes her way across a series of large rooms with decorated ceilings and glass chandeliers, stuffed with similarly clunky antique furniture to downstairs. 

There are two guest bedrooms off the corridor leading to a small landing with a lantern roof and a glass drum. The far corridor beyond the landing leads down a long passageway lined with old paintings. Half way down the corridor, the camera switches out from POV to a tracking shot, in profile and then face on with Boty. 

Boty looks tormented. She pulls at her rich dress and tears the fabric as she comes inside a large bedroom. It’s the matrimoniale –  where the husband and wife sleep. Pauline glances at the four poster with rage. She passes the camera as she pulls the dress up and over her head, then bunches it up and throws it at a wooden chest causing glass bottles to topple and crash. 

Beneath the torn off dress, Pauline is wearing a silver slip with lace panels. She approaches the long mirror at the far end of the room. We remain present but distant in a long shot as Pauline takes the slip off and weeps.

Julie Christie in Darling (1965)

We see her bottom briefly. The nakedness suggests a moment of clarity and the rejection of empty things. 

Pauline’s character grabs and pulls at her hair and hates herself in the mirror. The temptation is to zoom in close, but we keep back in a master shot. Pauline rage is a curtain-chewing performance, in the same way that Christie’s celluloid collapse is canted high drama. The moment doesn’t linger as it reaches an end point with Boty walking across to the large bed. At this point the camera tracks and covers from her bare shoulders upwards, following her tear-streaked face as she throws herself on the bed. All is lost as she crumples up in despair. It’s the end of the world.

Boty says the recurring dream started with the visits to the hospital. She had first seen Darling on its theatrical release and it hadn’t touched sides with her, not until the diagnosis. Now she gets the dream several nights a week. She amuses herself imagining Christie suffering from recurring dreams pretending to be an artist, irksome tedious nightmares where she struggles to paint with plausibility. 

golden

The next scene leaves the big house in Chelsea for the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium. It’s late April 1966, the night of the annual Academy Awards, and onstage Rex Harisson reads out the nominees for best actress: Miss Samantha Eggar, The Collector; Miss Simone Signoret, Ship of Fools; Miss Julie Christie in Darling. The TV camera lands on Christie, head bowed, sitting next to Terence Stamp. Miss Julie Andrews, for The Sound of Music; and Elizabeth Hartmann, A Patch of Blue. 

And the winner is Julie Christie. 

The actress rushes to the stage beaming but close to tears. She almost throws herself into Harrison’s arms then offers her thanks to My darling Johnny Schlesinger. 

At home in south Kensington, a sickly Pauline Boty is watching the TV.  Clive Goodwin has set up a day bed in the lounge. Boty’s switched on for the evening news. There’s a showbiz item on Darling and Christie’s big win at the Oscars. Pauline watches and we watch her as she takes in her one-time rival’s triumph. We say nothing and Boty’s inner voice is silent.

Goodwin comes into the room and waits a moment and then turns off the TV. He says, It’s Ken. 

Kenneth Tynan (Steve Coogan) walks in. He kisses Pauline and comes and sits by her side. His eyes flicker at Boty’s decline, but he keeps from commenting. Instead Tynan brings gossip – lovely, sweet, absorbing gossip. They talk about the Oscars and then Tynan tells Boty that he went to dinner last night with Marlon Brando and Princess Margaret.

The Cheap Royal, says Boty.

The Never Pays Royal, replies Tynan.

Was she excited to meet the finest male actor of his generation?

It was Marlon who was excited. Supper was his idea. He nagged  me to fix a meeting. 

How peculiar.

The Cheap Royal just went along with it. Dinner was on Marlon, of course.

Why did Marlon…?

And then all evening he wouldn’t even speak, or couldn’t speak.

What?

The greatest screen actor of his generation directed all his remarks to Margaret via me. 

I daresay the Cheap Royal found such deference quite unexceptional. 

How very dare you? By the way, Are you okay?

Well, not really. Although I did sketch the Rolling Stones yesterday. 

Who’s the fairest of them all?

Let me think. Brian, I reckon.

There are stories you know.

Tell me these stories.

Tynan nods. Naturally. But first, BUM?

Pauline Boy, BUM

In the last months of her life, Boty completed an artwork for Tynan’s rude stage show, Oh! Calcutta! Originally, Tynan asked Boty to design a Pop ballet for the revue. Then the cancer came. So he ordered a series of paintings instead. But all he got was BUM: a female arse in bloom positioned inside a theatrical arch – life is just a stage. BUM was Boty’s final work.** 

Boredom
Almost daily, Boty shunts back and forth between home and the Royal Marsden in search of better pain management. At the same time, Pauline continues to socialise, with many of Boty’s friends unaware of the seriousness of her condition. 

It was almost as if they covered it up,  says Geoffrey Reeve, an art friend from the college years. As if the less they admitted it to themselves, the happier she was. Reeve is sitting in an armchair facing Boty’s daybed late one afternoon in May, staring at the nicely painted floorboards, embarrassed. 

The cancer was always hopeless, says Natalie Gibson – also seated by Boty’s daybed as the room starts to fill up. Pauline became increasingly frail and was often in great pain. But I remember huge stacks of medical books next to the bed and talk of managing the illness. A certain sort of hope, I suppose, where despair is delayed by an act of will.

What shall I bring? asks Jane Percival, over the phone.

Bring that delicious cheesecake, says Boty.

She was too ill to eat it though, says Percival, who has joined Gibson at Boty’s side. 

It’s so nice to be thin at last, says Boty.

She asked me to bring veal and ham pie, says Natalie Gibson.

Others smuggle in great big joints, says Boty with a look of hazy relief. 

At one point she asked me to bring her some pills, remembers Penny Massot, standing between Geoffrey and the window. Because she couldn’t stand it any longer. But I told Clive and he said, No.

I thought I’d get better and get out of my sick bed, says Boty to her ever-growing company of visitors. But I seem to spend more and more of each day propped up in bed, trying to work, drawing at least. 

Boredom has always fascinated me, she says with a voice that’s lively still. Not lively like her radio voice used to be, bouncing up and down, but not too sickly either. You know, that muffling fog of boredom, she says – So profound that it covers everything, even boredom itself, in this dense apathy.

Her friends listen and don’t really know what to say.

I realise my life has been a struggle with boredom, says Pauline. I think that’s true for many. Boredom makes life look meaningless – leaving only nothing, which is too dreadful. I thought that being busy doing everything, that plenitude would make me full.  Some just accept boredom, others try to fight it off. I’m still not sure which is best.

For fuck’s sake! shouts Boty. Tell me what you’ve been doing! She shouts at everyone, but directly at Roger Smith. Roger’s just arrived and is sat at the foot of the bed all sheepish, not saying a word. She lost her temper and shouted at me a couple of times for being diffident, admits Roger many years later. She said to me once, at least tell me I look skinny. And she was emaciated, actually.

The last time I saw her, says Jane Percival, Pauline had a drawing-board on her knee, working on her sketch of the Rolling Stones. 

Boty died in hospital on July 1 1966 of a malignant thyoma.

We don’t have a bedside moment where Boty fades away. Instead we find Clive Goodwin in Boty’s room at the Royal Marsden, sitting quietly on his chair. And then he stands up and looks at Pauline lying there with her eyes closed. And then the camera cuts to outside the room, from a little way down the corridor, watching Goodwin as he comes out of Boty’s room and walks off in the other direction, the sound of his footsteps diminishing. 

Aftermath
At Pauline Boty’s memorial service, Clive Goodwin reads out a message prepared by Pauline before her demise: A testament,  a message of undying hope, of solidarity with the oppressed, and certainty about the future to give courage and determination.

In the years to come, Boty’s daughter Boty Goodwin would be part raised in the suburbs by Pauline’s parents, but also spent periods living in London with the family of actress Celia Hewitt and the poet Adrian Mitchell. She regularly visited the farm in Kent. 

As a little girl she’d come to ride the ponies, says Bridget. Apart from her wavy hair, Bridget continues, she looked just like her mother and was terribly pretty. But she would never talk about her mother or her mother’s art at all. If you brought it up, she’d change the subject. Later, Boty Goodwin went to a private Catholic school and worked in the creative arts as a young adult. 

In 1978, at a Los Angeles hotel, Clive Goodwin had just finished a business meeting with Warren Beatty concerning the film Reds, when he was taken ill in the lobby. Thinking that Goodwin was drunk, the hotel staff called the police, who handcuffed Goodwin and placed him in a police cell. In fact, Goodwin had consumed just a single glass of wine and his distress was the result of a stroke. Later that night, Goodwin died alone in a cell due to a brain haemorrhage. 

Four years later, the LA Police and the hotel made an out-of-court settlement to Boty Goodwin of  £500,000. She was very bitter about it, says Bridget, almost as if it was one death too many. She told me, Everything I touch dies. For a time, the legal payout funded a transatlantic, hedonistic lifestyle for Boty Goodwin, before she eventually went back to college in California – where in 1995 she completed an art degree. She overdosed on heroin on the night of her graduation party and died. 

I would never judge Boty Goodwin, or Pauline, says Bridget. They had to live their lives the way they wanted to live them. The biggest shame is that Pauline gave up her life for Boty, who just threw it all away.

Neglect and Return
When Pauline Boty died, her art was packed up and forgotten. We show Bridget and Arthur Boty clearing out Pauline’s things shortly after her death. Bridget telling Arthur, You can’t just put those in the skip! Not Pauline’s paintings.

So they sling the canvases in the horse box and we see them setting off down the Cromwell Road, heading for Kent. At the farm, we watch the paintings coming out, two by two, and tidied away in a corner of the old cowshed. Next we see Bridget and Arthur looking a bit older, with clothes from a different era, moving the paintings out of the cowshed and into the loft. And then a third scene with Bridget and Arthur looking a bit older still as they relocate Pauline’s paintings to one of the general purpose out-houses.

We film this scene with a overlayer of a distant memory of Pauline as a very young child, with her brothers playfully mocking their younger sister drawing on her bed in the summer holiday. The brisk treatment doled out by Pauline’s brothers, which she claimed made her the determined young woman she grew into – this background of established family roles and relations almost turns full circle, where Boty’s paintings could’ve been destroyed for ever because her brothers grew up not taking their younger sister seriously. 

It’s not a cruel moment of finger pointing. It’s just family habit. After all, the art world performed no better. As soon as she was gone, Boty’s art was quickly forgotten.

In 1969, David Bailey published a high gloss collection of photos celebrating the decade that was coming to a close. There’s a picture of Pauline Boty. She looks like Marianne Faithful. The photo comes from the Living Doll set for Vogue. What you notice is that Boty’s image appears without an explanation. There’s no accompanying text plate explaining the career and accomplishments of Boty the artist. Just a pretty face.

It was the beginning stages of decades of ‘wilful and conscious exclusion by the male-dominated art establishment,’ says Caroline Coon. ‘Pauline for many was an object of desire. And once that was gone, there was no space left for her art’.

In 1991, a major Pop Art retrospective at the Royal Academy in London featured one artwork by a woman artist out of a total of two hundred and two – the single piece was not by Boty.

In 1992, art historian David Mellor turns up at the Boty farm and meets Bridget and is taken to the out-house filled with weedkiller, sacks of potatoes, and a stash of Boty’s paintings. Mellor reports that on first view it could’ve been just a lot of firewood stacked up. But in fact it was something that changed the history of an art movement: once you get Boty’s work back, you have a different kind of British Pop.

Pauline Boty was a supreme colourist, an immersive, empathetic artist with a strong female point of view. Boty celebrated and criticised mass culture in a painterly style that was equally tactile and cerebral. Pauline Boty’s Pop recognises the ambiguous mediated nature of our experience but also takes delight in those experiences. She celebrated pleasure, a little high and a little low. Boty revered pop icons and then very belatedly became one herself.

Afterword
London’s Barbican hosted an exhibition called The Sixties Art Scene in London in 1993, featuring several of Pauline’s recently reclaimed paintings. Bridget Boty went to the opening. We know this from opening scenes of the film treatment. Boty Goodwin also attended the show. The Barbican exhibition was the first time  Boty’s work had been on display since her death. (Boty would figure at Tate Britain’s 2004 exhibition Art and the 60s: This Was Tomorrow. She also had a solo retrospective in 2013.)

At the time of the Barbican show, BBC TV’s Late Review gathered several critics together to discuss the exhibition. A leading male art critic casually dismissed Boty as a ‘derivative dolly bird who couldn’t paint.’

We hear these flippant, foolish words and as a reproof and rebuttal the film ends while the screen fills with as many of Pauline’s paintings as we can gather: one after the other, even the photos of those works still lost to the world. A concluding celebration of her achievement.

Pauline Boty, The Only Blonde in the World



some end credits:

Pauline Boty Pop Artist and Woman, a book by Sue Tate, Wave Publications (2013)


Pop Goes the Women, BBC: http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x1w1m66


Dream On, Adam Curtis:  http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/adamcurtis/2011/10/dream_on.html


Pauline Boty, the Anti-Uglies and Bowater House in Knightsbridge: http://www.nickelinthemachine.com/2013/02/pauline-boty-the-anti-uglies-and-bowater-house-in-knightsbridge-2/


Page Turner: The Secrets of the Forgotten 1965 Classic Talking to Women, The New Yorker: https://www.newyorker.com/books/page-turner/the-secrets-of-the-forgotten-1965-classic-talking-to-women


The Making of Alfie: https://www.thefreelibrary.com/Alfie+girl+Pauline+gave+her+life+to+save+her+baby+but+it+was+all+in…-a0123528859


Pauline Boty at the National Portrait Gallery: https://www.npg.org.uk/collections/search/person/mp10131/pauline-boty



* A journalist called Godfrey Winn, who worked alongside Schlesinger and Raphael during the production of Darling, tells a curious anecdote concerning the mysterious origins of the film’s narrative. There was a creepy story doing the rounds at the time, perhaps a legend, that a group of wealthy showbiz males had clubbed together and rented an apartment on Park Lane for an upscale call girl to live in, to whom they all had access. And that eventually the woman threw herself off the balcony and died. Winn suggests that this was the original idea for Darling, but that the film producer Joe Janni steered Raphael and Schlesinger in a different direction. Janni told Raphael, I know a girl who I’d like you to spend time with and follow around, who’s the perfect type for this movie. So we spent a lot of time with this girl, reports Winn, and finally a script based to a certain extent on her life was produced by Freddie. And we went ahead and made it. But who was this ‘girl’ – Boty? And did they actually follow her around?

** In November 2017, Pauline Boty’s BUM was auctioned at Christie’s in London for over  £630,000 – more than twice its high estimate, and more than 15 times higher than Boty’s previous auction record of £40,000. The Boty revival reaches six figures.


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