Competition no. 238: results

John Brophy sets an unusual (and I am afraid, not howlingly successful) competition. He has been stung by an (unnamed) author writing that Greta Garbo is a “puppet” (this is actually a commonplace), and wants a reasoned and specific criticism of Garbo’s skills as an actress in the talkies. By the way, Brophy does not like the shortening of her name to “Garbo”. He sees this as a mannerism borrowed from opera. However, all the contestants call her ‘Garbo’ so he is forced to back down.

In 1934, Garbo was between Queen Christina and Anna Karenina, and had starred in the indifferently-received The Painted Veil. You can see a little of it here. In fact, she was more or less halfway through her brief career – ten years only – of talkies.

Garbo

Garbo in The Painted Veil, 1934

Brophy swats away reference to her sex appeal – Lionel Millard extols her in these terms, and Brophy simply says he gets more for his money than he (Brophy) does. Edmund Casson admits he has never seen her. Or a film. (It apparently does not stop him being sarcastic about her.)

Several are congratulated on their discrimination: N.A. Smith, H.C. Riddell, John Skinner, Lester Ralph, Jane Short, Waverley. But the winner is Guy Hadley (there is a runner-up, Touchstone, but his entry is not printed, presumably for reasons of space). Oddly, Brophy admits that Hadley’s prose lacks specifics and originality, but claims it is ‘deftly expressed’. Beg to differ!

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Competition no. 216: results

V.S.Pritchett asks us to assume Oedipus has just come across the fact that Freud has been mentioning him in his lectures, and brings an action for defamation of character. He wants up to 500 words of the speech for the plaintiff.

Oedipus

Pritchett says he finds judging this hard, and also says the entries fall into two categories: orthodox and original. The orthodox line says that Oedipus claims he didn’t know that his father was Laius and Jocasta was his mother. But, reasons Pritchett, isn’t the point of the Oedipus complex that it’s unconscious? (There is something slightly astray about this argument, but let it pass – from the point of view of a chooser of better winners, Pritchett is right.)

T.E. Casson, ever the classicist, is mentioned in dispatches for sending in an extract from an Aristophanic play. A new name, ‘Lamentable’, argues for Oedipus that his dignity is liable to be damaged. Pritchett comments that this is going to hold no water in an English court. He gives the first prize to Guy Hadley, who has done what winners do – gone beyond the brief. the The runner-up, Eremita, has Oedipus asking for the right to retire peacefully in Tunbridge Wells. Hmmm.

Hadley’s choice of an American wide guy is interesting in that many of the ‘Scarface’ films suggest an Oedipal motive. Freud himself, of course, was still alive, and still in Vienna – he didn’t come to England until 1938, well after Hitler’s annexation of Austria.

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Honours Board 1933

This year we can run to a top twenty (just). L.V.Upward (who is to feature for many years to come) is the first to claim Seacape’s crown, although not quite equal the number of his victories. The numbers at the end are previous placings. As the race for third, seventh and tenth place show, this was a close and far more even outcome than the previous three years.

1.    L.V.Upward              8 victories        £11.0s.0d     (-,9=,8=)

2.   E.W.Fordham           7 victories        £8.8s.0d       (6,-,-)

3=      William Bliss          9 victories       £7.7s.0d        (5,-,-)

W.Leslie Nicholls      7 victories       £7.7s.0d        (-,-,-)

T.E.Casson                 7 victories        £7.7s.0d       (-,-,-)

Black Gnat            5 victories       £6.6s.0d      (-,-,-)

7= Guy Hadley         4 victories        £5.5s.0d       (-,-,-)

 Southron              5 victories       £5.5s.0d       (-,-,-)

Lester Ralph        3 victories       £5.5s.0d      (10=,-,-)

10=  James Hall         5 victories       £4.14s.6d     (3=,-,4)

Alice Herbert      3 victories      £4.14s.6d     (-,-,-)

Marion Peacock  4 victories     £4.14s.6d         (-,-,-)

Redling                 5 victories     £4.14s.6d       (-,-,-)

H.C.M.                   3 victories    £4.14s.6d        (-,-,3)

15=  N.B.                   4 victories    £4.4s.0d         (-,-,-)

W.A.Rathkey       3 victories       £4.4s.0d      (10=,-,-)

Eremita                 5 victories    £4.4s.0d        (10=,-,-)

P.S.C.                     2 victories    £4.4s.0d        (-,-,-)

Seacape                 2 victories   £4.4s.0d         (1,1,1)

20= Rosellen Bett        3 victories   £3.13s.6d       (-,-,-)

Prudence              2 victories   £3.13s.6d        (-,-,-)

 

A few points:

The major absentees are W.Hodgson Burnet, who won no prizes (but did judge a competition), and who died in the last month after what must have been a severe illness; Pibwob and Little Billee, both of whom managed three wins, and both of whom will return with a vengeance; W.G.; Valimus and Non Omnia.

Black Gnat and Seacape are one and the same, so if they had entered as one, they would have come equal second.

T.E.Casson, in his fourth year, has finally seen rewards for his persistent, weekly entries.

W. Leslie Nicholls is the major new name.

It will be interesting to see who decides to keep going when the WR is taken over by New Statesman and Nation. At least three of the above were still winning prizes in the 1950s.

In 1933, there were 90 winners (down from 114, perhaps a sign of failing circulation) who won £192 (down from just over £201 – not least because of several prizeless B comps). The number appearing behind initials had shrunk from 15 to 8, and the number of pseudonyms was down from 45 to 30. So 50% of the entrants are now providing their names.

 

 

 

 

Competitions nos. 174A and 174B: results

A brand new judge, and the most eminent so far – not only that, but a judge who would over the next few years, with the absorption of the WR by New Statesman, judge many more: V.S.Pritchett (Victor Sawdon Pritchett, 1900 – 1997), one of the greatest short story writers in English, and the author of two memoirs as well as five novels (not successful) and countless collections of literary and other essays. (His first collection of short stories had appeared the previous year; he was already a New Statesman contributor, and was to become its literary editor.) At this point he was 33, and his first marriage was nearing its end. His second marriage began a dynasty that gives us the writer Oliver Pritchett and the cartoonist ‘Matt’. Not the least remarkable thing about this competition is the man who just misses out in the B competition …

The A competition asks for a love letter from a shy delegate at the Economic conference to a widow with three children (why this detail?!), using the language of economics. In his report, Pritchett notes that it was easy enough to come up with double-meanings, including ingenious ones, but harder to give a necessary sense of sentiment. He prints an entire entry by someone labouring under the pseudonym ‘Tentacle’, to illustrate that it is possible to be witty and amusing, but fail to win the competition. Here it is:

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Incidentally, the Economic conference, attended by representatives from 66 countries, lasted for most of June and almost all of July, and was eventually scuppered by Roosevelt, much to the chagrin of European leaders. One of the observers was H.G.Wells, who wrote about it in The Shape of Things To Come – see his description here. It was held in London at the Geological Museum, and its failure reflected badly on Macdonald, seen here at the opening with a German delegate:

UK WORLD ECONOMIC CONFERENCE

The winners are A.H. Ellerington (note the misprint) and Guy Hadley.

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The B competition is just as quirky – it asks for an apology in eight lines of verse by a surgeon who has left an implement inside a patient’s body, the patient being a purveyor of quack remedies. This strikes me as another competition in which the information is just too complex. Pritchett is sharp enough to spot that he should have allowed his entrants more lines (he also notes that opinions of surgeons and quack remedy-sellers are very low). He considers four winners and gives the first prize to E.W. Fordham and the second to W.E.B. Henderson (Henderson has been printed but not rewarded before – see Competition no. 134B here). Just off the money are L.V. Upward – and J.F.Wolfenden. This is none other than a thirty-year-old John Frederick Wolfenden, the educationist who was about to move from Oxford to become headmaster of Uppingham School, who was later to be Vice-Chancellor of the University of Reading, and who is best known for chairing the 1954 committee and subsequently producing the 1957 report which recommended the decriminalisation of homosexuality – the report effectively that led to the 1967 Act that did just that.

Wolfenden

 

Still, he didn’t win half-a-guinea.

 

 

 

Competition no. 166: results

Once again, no B competition, and the prizes being 3 guineas, and one guinea. The dual competition format, inherited from The Saturday Review is doomed.

Norman Collins reveals the (startling) fact that, in Portugal, bulls were not allowed to be killed in bullfights, unless the bullfight were for charity. He asks for up to 20 lines of Popeian satire, as spoken by one of these Portuguese bulls.

Portuguese bullfight

A more recent Portuguese poster.

There is quite a large entry to this (Collins says he thinks Popeian couplets are easy), and there are quotations from Chauve-Souris, James Hall, Eremita, Little Billee, Guy Innes, and many other usual suspects. But we can be quick with this competition: the winners are Guy Hadley and F.C.Burgess (whom you may recall nearly won the last one, and has therefore been spurred on).

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Competitions no. 160A and 160B: results

J.C.Squire amasses a huge postbag with his requests for ballades that have the refrain ‘I don’t know where the _______  ____ we are’. He is is driven to congratulating Lt Col H.P. Garwood, W. Leslie Nicholls, E.W.Parsons, and also (an unfamiliar name) Geoffrey Parsons, who, I suspect, is the lyricist who later (1954) co-provided the words for Charlie Chaplin’s melody ‘Smile’ (a song most associated with Nat ‘King’ Cole).

smileThere are also commendations for William Bliss and “Seacape II” – who’s this then, Black Gnat bored with not being Seacape?

After considerable flannelling, Squire gives first prize to Mariamne, and second to Obispo, while admitting that he’s not really sure what the latter always means with his blanks:

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Ely Culbertson was a Russian with a surprising background, who popularised contract bridge, virtually single-handedly. There’s a piece about him here.

Culbertson

Ely Culbertson

 

The B competition goes awry, but perhaps because Squire worded it wrongly. He wanted an example of a ‘purple patch’ of prose, but he meant an existing one, and instead received lots of examples of the genre. He decides to give Guy Hadley a prize for some very purple prose, and a runner-up prize to Muriel M. Malvern, who has quoted something, albeit in translation (this was originally held over for space reasons, but I’ve restored it).

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Competitions nos. 151A and 151B: results

A new judge, Dorothy Avery (about whom I can find nothing whatsoever, so any help appreciated), asks for a rhyming English translation of the following lines from Cyrano De Bergerac:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAShe says she hoped the tricksiness would deter entrants, but reports that scores have risen to the challenge. There are many commendations – Valimus, T.E. Casson (of course), a couple of entries who are following the vogue for reversing the letters in their name (Yram, Nagal Mac), Non Omnia, and Evan John (whom I suspect is the actor and screenplay-writer active at this time – born 1901, died 1953). But the winners are Black Gnat (Seacape) and William Bliss – note how the latter is now winning, usually by coming second, almost every week:

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The B competition suggests that, in the current economic crisis, and where have I heard that term before, a case of whisky be used as the unit of currency. What would be the effect in Feb 1934 if this measure were to be adopted in Feb 1933 (prose or verse)? Why, asks Avery, is everyone so shy of the B competition? (the answer is threefold: it is often cancelled, rubbished, or just plain dull, and this one is no different). Casson has sent in a ballad, which she commends as a ballad, but says is not much to the point; Bliss, Nagal Cam and Ronald Bargate are commended, but the winners are reliables: W.A.Rathkey and Guy Hadley:

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And at this point, Dorothy Avery disappears. She seems to have written no books, no articles, no letters. It may be that she is a pseudonym.