Monday, 29 September 2008

Lady don't fall backwards



Those of you who dip into this blog from time to time could be forgiven for thinking that I spend all my time watching TV. Well, I don't, but I have developed something of a liking for the Sunday night Poirot dramas on offer at the moment.

In last night's episode, the eponymous Belgian detective uncovered a dastardly plot to relieve a young woman of her fortune. The girl's long-lost father proved to be a fortune-seeking impostor, and her half-sister a murderer, who attempted to frame said young woman for the crime.

One semi-regular character is Ariadne Oliver, played by Zoe Wanamaker. Ms. Oliver is a writer of detective stories and, as such, has developed a semi-professional relationship with Poirot. In this episode we hear that her latest book is Lady don't fall backwards. Now, this must be a complex work of fiction, as Alf Renny, Ms. Oliver's concierge, states he has read the book four times and still doesn't know who the murderer is. The title of the novel seemed strangely familiar to me. Eventually I realised that this title is a respectful nod to Ray Galton and Alan Simpson, writers of (among other things) Hancock and Hancock's Half Hour in the sixties. Tony Hancock, if you haven't heard of him, was a gloomy, po-faced British comedian of undoubted genius whose heyday was the 1950s and 60s. He committed suicide in Australia in June 1968. In The Missing Page, first shown around March 1960, Tony Hancock is reading Lady don't fall backwards, a whodunnit written by Darcy Sarto. The book features detective Johnny Oxford and the murder of no less than twenty five United Nations Organisation typists. Hancock arrives at the end of the book and, as the murder is about to be revealed, realises that some previous reader has torn the last page from the book. The rest of the episode follows Hancock's attempt to turn sleuth himself and deduce the identity of the murder from the clues in the novel.

I have since discovered that Lady don't fall backwards is also a book by Joan le Mesurier, dedicated to the memory of Joan's husband John (of Dad's Army fame) and Tony Hancock, and the title of a Babyshambles song. Isn't it amazing what can be triggered by a chance encounter with a half-remembered phrase.

4 comments:

Rob (Inukshuk Adventure) said...

Fascinating isn't it and one might say you're doing a Colgan! He he.

chris hale said...

Rob - I think you might just have coined a new phrase! "Doing a Colgan" - to seek out connections between apparently unconnected facts, ideas or objects. Stevyn will be pleased!

Rob (Inukshuk Adventure) said...

Well, remember you heard it here first...bugger, this is your blog!

Stevyn Colgan said...

Help! I'm being done! Seriously good links though Chris. I ove stuff like this. Might I also add a couple of odd facts to the mix? Did you know that Hancock's ashes were returned to the UK by comedian Willie Rushton? Or that the name D'arcy Sarto was an amalgam of two American gangster triller writers called D'arcy Glinto and Ben Sarto? Or even that the actual book used by Hancock in the show mistakenly had the name D'arcy Clinto on the cover? I need to get out more ...