Dedicated to the work of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger and all the other people, both actors and technicians who helped them make those wonderful films.
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The Lunch at Rules
19th March 2002
It's a tough life ... no it isn't, it's wonderful really :)
This afternoon Lou Volpe & I met Jill Flanagan, niece of Roger Livesey and her husband, John. Lou has written to them a few times, having tracked them down a while back after finding the cottage at Sarratt, Hertfordshire, where Roger & Ursula Jeans (Frau von Kalteneck in Blimp) used to live.
Jill is the daughter of Jack Livesey. There were 3 Livesey boys, sons of Sam Livesey a long time touring actor who used to take a caravan to small villages around the country. At each place they'd lower the side which turned into a stage and perform for whoever turned up. When the 3 boys were born they were all co-opted into the act. None of them were too keep on becoming actors it seems but Sam was a persuasive fellow.
This was really just a "getting to know you" session to introduce ourselves and explain what we wanted to find out. Also to find out what Jill knew of her Uncle. So we invited them to Rules in Covent Garden, the oldest restaurant in London (est. 1798). See Rules web site.
As it's in the midst of all those theatres & just around the corner from the opera house (see opening of TRS) it's long been a haunt of theatre people. In fact when Jill arrived she was asked if she was with "Miss Withers". Yes, Googie was there She is appearing in Lady Windermere's Fan at the moment.
But we were there to chat to Jill about Roger & Ursula so we didn't disturb Googie and her friends. Enough to say she's looking well for her years.
It turns out that Jill know a LOT about Roger & Ursula and was mildly surprised to discover all this interest in them. Especially when we told her about Lou's trips to Mull followed by the story of Nancy Franklin from New York (see documentary on IKWIG DVD). But it was a pleasant surprise, Jill was very pleased to hear about all you people all around the world who love Roger so.
There's definitely a biography waiting to be written (anyone looking for a project?) but what we'll do at first is to get some photos from the Flanagan's and little stories to go with them and try to use them to build up a picture of the great man.
It certainly seems that he was as lovely and kindly in real life as he so often appears in the films, especially the three he did for P&P. Jill had lots of little stories about how kind he was to various people.
Although Roger appeared in 35 films & Ursula in 27 (Blimp was the only film they appeared together in) they both did a LOT of work on the stage. Apart from a few old playbills, most of that work has gone unrecorded
Anyway, we had a lovely meal and a great time chatting away. Yes, Roger certainly could drive, so it's odd that Deborah (as Barbara) drove the car up to the house in Blimp. His family nickname was "Gin" - short for Ginger because of that shock of red hair. He was an inveterate tinkerer and was often building things in his workshop. And everyone agreed he was a lovely man
As we were in Covent Garden, Jill happened to mention that there had been a memorial service in St Paul's Church (the actor's church) which had been very well attended. After our lovely lunch (it only took about 3 hours) we went round to St Paul's to see the stone inside dedicated to Roger & Ursula. Others with dedications in there include Michael Redgrave, Flora Robson, Eric Portman and probably many others who appeared in P&P films to say nothing of the hundreds of dedications to actors who didn't.
So then we bad them farewell and headed off homewards (or back towards the office in my case). A lovely afternoon.
Another thing that Jill told us was that the 3 Livesey boys had a nanny to look after them. They called her "Nan" (what with that & "Gin" for Roger they seemed to like short nicknames)
As the boys got older they no longer needed a nanny but by then Nan was a family friend & wanted to stick around. "Well you all do this acting so it can't be that hard" she said ...
Nan Braughton appeared in the TV series The Grove Family (1954), Quatermass and the Pit (1958), had minor roles in the films Will Any Gentleman...? (1953) & It's a Great Day (1955)
But she was most notably Private Godfrey's sister Cissy in Dad's Army.
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