London Then And Now In Photos

In 2010, journalist Claire Cohen wrote a newspaper article comparing old photos of London with the same locations then. The old photos had been discovered in the archives of English Heritage, and she asked photographer David Crump to take images of the identical places to compare them.

Earlham Street, 1903. At the time, the Seven Dials district was considered to be a terrible lawless slum.

Earlham Street, 2010. Now part of the trendy Covent Garden area, the 1903 pub has become a designer clothes shop.

Borough High Street, 1903. Just south of London Bridge, it was in one of the poorest districts of London.

Borough High Street, 2012. The same area, with the old buildings replaced by a horrible office block.

Bush House, Aldwych, 1932. Looking quite elegant.

Bush House in 2010, the same area overcrowded with offices.

Tower Bridge under construction, 1887.

Tower Bridge in 2010.

The Pool of London in 1914, busy with commercial shipping and warehouses.

The same view in 2010, with only pleasure craft on The Thames.

Oxford Circus, 1910.

Oxford Circus 100 years later.

Regent Street at the junction with Piccadilly Circus, 1910.

The same corner, 100 years later.

One film, two versions: True Grit

In 1969, I went to see John Wayne in a new western film. He was 62 at the time, but looked older and craggier than ever. The film was called ‘True Grit’, and starred Wayne as a grumpy drunken sheriff, Rooster Cogburn. He has a great reputation in the territory, and always brings in the hardest and toughest criminals. When Frank Ross is murdered by his hired hand, Frank’s daughter Mattie Ross (Kim Darby) travels to find Rooster, wishing to hire him to find and arrest her father’s killer, Tom Chaney. She has chosen Rooster, as she believes him to be a man who has ‘true grit’.

Chaney is hiding out with the gang of outlaw Ned Pepper, (Robert Duvall) and Mattie insists on accompanying Rooster on the search. The pair are joined by the affable LaBouef, (Glen Campbell) a Texas Ranger who is also hunting Chaney. They head out to look for the gang, but as they close in on them, Mattie is captured by Ned Pepper, and Rooster and LaBouef must save her.

This was a lot of fun. Wayne doesn’t take himself seriously as Rooster, and we are all in on the jokes. Kim Darby is perfectly cast as the feisty Mattie, prim and proper, and full of fight. Glen Campbell is surprisingly good too, considering he was best known as a country and western singer. Then there is the flawless supporting cast, including the already mentioned Duvall, as well as Strother Martin, Dennis Hopper, and Jeff Corey. The ending is not pat and comfortable, and the action is believable. This was an immensely satisfying film, in every respect. And John Wayne won an Oscar for his performance too.

Anyone who reads and writes about films will tell you that you are not allowed to say anything bad about the Coen brothers. They are lauded from ocean to ocean as the modern-day wonders of American cinema. I like a lot of their films, and agree that some are excellent indeed. But I am about to say something bad about them, so look away.

In 2010, they made their version of ‘True Grit’. Not a remake, it was claimed at the time, but a different adaptation of the original book. It starred Jeff Bridges as Rooster, Matt Damon as LaBouef, and Hailee Steinfeld as Mattie Ross. Josh Brolin was Tom Chaney, and Barry Pepper played Ned Pepper. (No relation) It is a darker film, with a few slight changes to the original, and a slightly extended end sequence. The cast play their parts well, but much of the humour is lost in the process, and Hailee is no Kim Darby when it comes to playing Mattie Ross, as well as looking too child-like. So, it was a remake, and a pointless one at that.
In my opinion, The Coens should have stuck to what they do best.
Being original.

One film, two versions: Anything For Her

In 2008, I watched an interesting and exciting French thriller called ‘Pour Elle’. The title in English was ‘Anything For Her’, and it starred Diane Kruger and Vincent Lindon. The story starts as a simple mystery. Happy couple Julien and Lisa are living a normal married life with their small son Oscar, when one day the police barge in, and arrest Lisa for murder. She has no idea about what she has been accused of, but the court finds her guilty, and she is sentenced to twenty years in prison.

Julien is distraught, and spends much of his time trying to find proof of his wife’s innocence. The film moves on three years, with no other evidence forthcoming, and Lisa still incarcerated. Flashbacks tell the viewer what actually happened, (no spoilers) but Julien still has no idea, and Lisa continues to protest that she is not guilty. In desperation, Julien contacts an author who has written a book about how he escaped from prison, and arranges to meet him. The man gives him lots of advice, so he embarks on a complex plan to free his wife from prison, by staging a escape.

With his plans going well, things are suddenly disrupted by the news that Lisa is refusing to take her Diabetes medication, and is due to be transferred in three day’s time to a different facility. Suddenly, Julien has only 72 hours to put his plan into operation. This is an exciting film that never stretches audience credibility too far. Full of tension, with a climax that will have you on the edge of your seat. It has a tight script, good editing, and skillful direction from first-time film-maker Fred Cavaye. Well-worth watching, if you ever get the chance.

Just two years later, in 2010, a remake was released in America. Starring Russel Crowe as the husband, and Elizabeth Banks as his wife, it was written, produced, and directed by Paul Haggis, who changed the title to ‘The Next Three Days’. The supporting cast featured such luminaries as Brian Dennehey, and Liam Neeson. It was filmed in Pittsburgh, and contained two major changes to the story that Haggis preferred. Otherwise, it is much the same film, and in many cases, scene by scene similarity is evident. So, a good film perhaps, but one just made so that people could watch the same story (almost) without subtitles. Crowe is no better an actor than the craggy faced Lindon, and Kruger is arguably more convincing in the role of the wife than Banks. It’s not a bad film, and if you had never seen the original, you might have found it fresh and original. But I had, so didn’t.

So, is it pointless? I thought so, but maybe you won’t agree.

Significant Songs (142)

She Said

Sometimes, a song comes along that is a real one-off. Something different, and hard to categorise. I am not a fan of Rap, and most Hip-Hop leaves me cold. To top it all, English voices should never rap, it just doesn’t sound right. Rapping is an American ‘thing’, and only works with that accent, in my opinion.

Ben Drew is an English actor, singer/songwriter, rapper, and producer. I firmly believe that the words ‘English’ and ‘rapper’ do not belong in the same sentence, as I have just implied. However, I like to give credit for talent, and I am always honest whenever a new song grabs my attention, and won’t leave my head, no matter how hard I try to expel it.

In 2010, Drew’s group, Plan B, released the second single from their second album. It was called ‘She Said’, and I immediately noticed it, as well as it becoming a major chart hit. The sharp-suited Drew looked the part in the promotional video, and the unusual mix of contemporary pop, retro beats, and smart lyrics made this the standout song of that year. Seven years later, I still never tire of hearing it.

Enjoy something really different, and very English.