Sunday, 30 January 2011

Lowry's Poem 'The Drunkards' in the New Yorker May 5th 1962

"The noise of death is in the desolate bar
Where tranquility sits bowed over its prayer"

The above are the first 2 lines from Malc's poem 'The Drunkards' posthumously published in the New Yorker on 5th May 1962. The poem was written between 1940 and 1954.

You can read the full poem in the Collected Poetry of Malcolm lowry edited by Kathleen Scherf.

Lowry's 'The Forest Path to the Spring' in Maclean's Magazine, 15 July 1961

Maclean's Magazine, 15 July 1961

Toronto, Maclean Hunter. 1961, First Edition. Stapled, Folio - over 12" - 15" tall. Cover art painting by William Winter from a sketch made in the St. Lawrence Market in Toronto. Contents: Editorial - Is the RCMP recruiting university students to spy on each other?; Battle Creek Health Centre - the world's leading scientific weight-control clinic; The Kellogg Brothers' angry road to fame - Will and Dr. John Harvey Kellogg of the breakfast cereal fortune; The Anatomy of Success, by Sidney Katz; We're finally outlawing 'goofballs' - amphetamines and barbituates; Ypres - The price of Canada's first glory in battle, by Ralph Allen - includes photo of a gas attack in 1915; The Forest Path to the Spring, by Malcolm Lowry who took a shanty on the B.C. Coast for a honeymoon and never really left - This is the story of that shadowed idyll; British Politics; Abduction on the night train to Lisbon - Bruce Hutchison reports what happened to him; Great colour photo ad for Pepsi. Moisture stain to the top of the Malcolm Lowry article - text unaffected. Tears to back cover. Average wear. A sound copy. Good.

Above is currently for sale on Antiqbook

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Lowry's poem, 'Thirty-five Mescals in Cuautla' 1937

Click on the photo to enlarge

On the pictured calendar, set to the future,
The two reindeer battle to death, white man,
The tick of real death, not the tick of time,
Hearing, thrusts his canoe into a moon,
Risen to bring us madness none too soon

The above lines are taken from Lowry's poem, 'Thirty-five Mescals in Cuautla'. The image of the reindeer locked in battle has always fascinated me. I was recently reading a Life magazine dated 24th May 1937 and there on page 96 was the above article. Could this possibly be the source for Lowry's image of the two reindeer in his poem?

As I have already noted in a post on the Source for "In Memoriam Ingvald Bjorndal And His Comrade", Lowry uses a variety of sources for his work including newspapers, magazines, journals and periodicals.

He may have been reading the Life magazine whilst drinking the 35 mescals in Cuautla! Chris Ackerley notes in Lowry's Collected Poems that Malc claims the poem was written in the town in July 1937. But Chris goes on to say that Conrad Aiken claimed it was sent to him from Charlie's bar in Cuernavaca.

Agua Hedionda Cuautla, Morelos, México, entre 1926 y 1935

I have featured Jose Guadalupe Posada before on the blog and I came across the poster below whilst searcing about Cuautla:

In 1900 Maucci Brothers, a Spanish publisher, commissioned José Guadalupe Posada. Posada to illustrate a series of pamphlets for children on the history of Mexico. Each pamphlet measuring 4 3/4 x 3 1/4 in. is approximately 16 pages. The cover illustrations are probably the only mechanically produced chromolithographs that Posada ever did. See more here

Q-Ship: H.M.S. Tamarisk

In a recent post on Q-ships, I mentioned H.M.S. Tamarisk as a possible source for the S. S. Samaritan in Under The Volcano.

H.M.S. Tamarisk was a Aubretia class sloop — built by Lobnitz & Company, Renfrew, launched 2 June 1916. Sold for breaking up 17 October 1922.

The Aubretia class sloops were a class of twelve sloops built under the Emergency War Programme for the Royal Navy in World War I as part of the larger "Flower" class. They were also referred to as the "cabbage class", or "herbaceous borders". The Flowers were the first ships designed as minesweepers.

Like all the Flowers, the Aubretia class were originally designed as single-screw Fleet Sweeping Vessels, with triple hulls at the bows and an above-water magazine located aft, to give extra protection against loss from mine damage when working. However, the utility of the design was found to be as a convoy escort, and as such other classes took over the minesweeping role. The Aubretias were re-classified as Convoy Sloops.

Unlike the preceding "Flower"s of the Acacia, Azalea and Arabis classes, with their unmistakable warship appearance, the Aubretias were designed to look like small merchantmen, in the hope of deceiving U-boat commanders, a tactic known as the Q-ship. These vessels were built by commercial shipbuilders to Lloyd's Register standards, to make use of vacant capacity, and the individual builders were asked to use their existing designs for merchantmen, based on the standard Flower-type hull.

Q-Ship 1928 @ 2011 British Silent Film Festival

Q Ships
15.04.2010 11.00
Screen 2 Phoenix Sq - Leicester UK

I have learnt that the movie Q-Ships 1928 which I have recently posted about is to be shown at the above event. More details here:

Music and sound in silent film will be our key themes during the four days of the 2011 British Silent Film Festival. A packed programme of rare silent films will explore how filmmakers communicated sound to cinema audiences through music and visual clues, what it was like to be in the audience of the ‘silent movies’ and how the British industry geared up for the talkies. Accompanied by the world’s best silent film musicians the programme will feature special events, presentations by special guests and unique archive film from the BFI and other collections.

The Festival is organised in partnership with the British Film Institute and the Cinema and Television History Centre at De Montfort University. The conference is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council as part of its ‘Beyond Text’ programme, and organised in conjunction with Royal Holloway, University of London and the University of Edinburgh.
More info

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Two Ships Called Inglewood

There were actually two ships with the name Inglewood, the first was a sailing ship which was the one that intrigued Lowry when he saw the Sable Island wreck map indicating the wreck of the ship with the same name as his childhood home; the second was a barque.

Inglewoode: Sailing Ship Circa 1890s?
The ship's name was spelt Inglewoode as can be seen on the above photograph of the name board.

Here is the caption from the Wreck Site archives:

Inglewood was on voyage from Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada to Cow Bay, Nova Scotia, Canada. On the 27th April 1893, Inglewood ran aground, off Sable Island, north side near centre of island. Cargo: in ballast

I think Lowry would have smiled at the ship being "in ballast" due to the fact that it was partly the name of his novel In Ballast to the White Sea, which he was working on in 1943 when he got a copy of the Sable Island wreck map. The novel actually includes a sea disaster.

Inglewood: Iron Barque Built 1875
The Inglewood was an iron barque built by R.Williamson & Son at Harrington and launched in July 1875. The Inglewood was reputedly a sister ship of the Mallsgate and Geltwood, and was owned initially by Fisher & Sprott of Liverpool, and was registered at Workington. She had been built under the personal supervision of her future master, Captain Brocklebank.

The Inglewood made her maiden voyage from Liverpool under the command of Captain F.Brocklebank, departing 15th November, for Sydney, where she arrived on the 20th February 1876, a passage of 91 days. She carried a mixed cargo that included salt, soda, wine, beer and whisky, pig iron, wire, bricks and earthenware, rope, and tobacco. She went to Newcastle in March to load coal for San Francisco, and from the Californian port she returned to London. Her second voyage was from London to San Francosco, then to Portland, Oregon, from where she returned to London with a grain cargo.

In September 1878 the Inglewood arrived at Otago, New Zealand, from London, bringing 1900 tons of general merchandiise, 5 tons of powder, 19 passengers and a Clydesdale horse called Lord Salisbury. The barque had left Gravesend on the 31st May, and the passage had taken 89 days, port to port., in the latter part of which rthe vessel had suffered some severe weather. In November 1878 the Inglewood again arrived at Sydney, from Bluff harbour (New Zealand), and still under the command of Capt. Brocklebank. Read more at Mighty Seas

If Lowry had known about this vessel and its demise then I am sure he would have not only been fascinated by the coincidence of the name but also the Norwegain connection:

The Inglewood, bound from New York to Stockholm with a cargo of naphtha and petroleum, put into Mandal (not Arendal, as in the newspaper report below) on Friday, 20th March 1908. She was forbidden to enter the harbour because of her dangerous cargo, so anchored in the roads outside. The following Saturday, 28th March, at 5 pm, the barque caught fire and her cargo exploded, killing most of her crew. According to the Times, 16 of her 18 crew were killed, including one of two men in a rowing boat who were returning from the shore with provisions. Other reports give the number of dead as 13 or 14, but some of the survivors were terribly burned and may have died later. The Times also reported that some fishermen from Mandal in Mannefjorden were also feared dead. The barque sank 20 minutes after the explosion. At least one seaman, 15 year old Lambertus van Laten, from the Netherlands, was buried locally, at Mandel Kirke. Mighty Seas

The Sydney Morning Herald, Saturday, 23rd May 1908;

" BARQUE INGLEWOOD DESTROYED - The Norwegian barque Inglewood (1077 tons), which loaded kauri gum at Auckland for New York in October last, was totally destroyed by fire on March 28 while on her way from New York to Stockholm. At the time of the disaster the Inglewood was loaded with naphtha, and put into Arendal, a small port on the east coast of Norway, in order to make inquiries regarding the condition of the port of Stockholm, as the master feared that this port was still icebound. While the barque was lying at anchor she took fire, and the cargo exploded, completely wrecking the vessel, which sank. Captain Svensen was ashore at the time, and of all the crew only the chief officer, the steward, and the sailmaker were saved."

Isle of Lost Ships

I recently mentioned the Isle of Lost Ships in a recent post on Malc's fascination with the ship wrecks of Sable Island. Malc thought that Sable Island may have been original island of the story. There have been many tales of such islands but Crittenden Marriott's novel The Isle of Dead Ships written in 1909 and the subsequent films are probably the source for the story in the 20th Century consciousness.

Here are details of the 2 films of the book:

The Isle of Lost Ships 1923

A silent film adventure/melodrama directed and produced by Maurice Tourneur and distributed by Associated First National Pictures. The film is based on Crittenden Marriott's novel The Isle of Dead Ships c.1909.

The Isle of Lost Ships 1929

The story was re-filmed in 1929 by director Irvin Willat. Tourneur himself made a different story with similar theme called The Ship of Lost Men(1929) which had a young German actress, Marlene Dietrich in the cast.

Released in both silent and sound versions, Isle of Lost Ships 1929 stars Jason Robards Sr. as Frank Howard, an accused criminal being transported to prison by no-nonsense cop Jackson (Robert Emmet O'Connor). While sailing towards their destination, prisoner and policeman are swept up in a storm at sea and deposited on an island "decorated" with derelict ships. Having already performed heroically during the storm, Howard further proves his mettle by saving heroine Dorothy Renwick (Virginia Valli) from lecherous privateer Captain Forbes (Noah Beery Sr), killing a marauding shark, and braving the depths of the Sargasso Sea to repair a submarine. Understandably impressed by all this, Jackson changes his mind about following the letter of the law and sets about to prove Howard's innocence. Isle of Lost Ships was later reissued in excerpt form as the Robert Youngson one-reeler An Adventure to Remember. ~ Hal Erickson, All Movie Guide

Information on is scarce on the Net - there is an entry with biographical details in Science-fiction, the early years: by Everett Franklin Bleiler which I have been unable to access.

However, I did come across this interesting snippet:

"Tourneur soon afterwards made The Isle of Lost Ships (1923), a work which Hitchcock once included in his list of favourite films. Unfortunately Tourneur's film has been lost. But one can read a description of it: 'Crittenden Marriott's vivid story formed a wonderful basis for the atmospheric filmmaking talents of Tourneur. The "isle of lost ships," at least in Tourneur's interpretation, isn't an island at all, but a cluster of derelict ships, from ancient to modern times, floating together on a bed of seaweed in the Sargasso Sea.' Against this melancholy background a love story takes place involving an escaped convict - wrongfully convicted, it turns out - and a millionaire's daughter. The couple end up getting married and returning to civilisation". The McGuffin's Web Page

Maurice Tourneur also directed a film based on Conrad's Victory.

Sable Island: Isle Of Lost Ships

Click on map to enlarge
Gerald Noxon - a friend of Lowry's - wrote a letter to him on June 6th 1943:

"In the meantime I enclose something which I found in Halifax which will give you some idea of the fantastic story of Sable Island. I found the little map in a ship-chandler's on Water Street and I think you will agree that it is something of a curiosity. In fact I know of no more amazingly suggestive document in connection with men and ships - suggestive and at the same time tantalizing."

Lowry was fascinated by the map sent to him by Noxon and wrote back on June 15th 1943:

"What a romantic story. It's the most exciting thing I've heard of - I suppose Sable Island is the original Isle of Lost ships legend."

Lowry goes on to speculate abut the ships mentioned especially Inglewood - the name of his childhood home. He concludes by saying; "I would like to live on Sable Island for a few months after the war and write a book containing 195 chapters, one for each ship."

When I first read the above, I too was immediately fascinated by the thought of such a map. The only problem was that Sherril Grace, the editor of the Collected Letters, informed readers that the map had gone missing from the letter. Recently, I came across the map on the Nova Scotia Department of Education website.

Sable Island (French: île de Sable) is a small Canadian island situated 300 km southeast of mainland Nova Scotia in the Atlantic Ocean.

Sable Island is famous for its large number of shipwrecks. An estimated 350 vessels are believed to have fallen victim to the island's sand bars. Thick fogs, treacherous currents, and the island's location in the middle of a major transatlantic shipping route and rich fishing grounds account for the large number of wrecks. The first recorded wreck was the English ship Delight in 1583, with the second-to-last occurring in 1947. The last vessel to wreck on Sable Island was a yacht, the sloop Merrimac in 1999.[12] The construction of two lighthouses on each end of the island in 1873 probably contributed to the decrease in the number of shipwrecks.
Few wrecks are visible on the island as the ships are usually crushed and buried by the sand.[13] The large number of wrecks have earned the island the nickname "Graveyard of the Atlantic",[12][13] although the phrase is also used to describe Cape Cod and the Outer Banks area of North Carolina.
Read more on Wikipedia

You can read more about Sable Island here.

I will be returning to the stories behind the ships picked out from the map by Malc. I will also post on the story of The Isle of Lost Ships which Malc refers to in his letter to Gerald Noxon.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

The Light That Failed 1939

The earliest short story written by Malc to survive is his 'The Light That Failed Not' a parody of Rudyard Kipling's The Light That Failed.

Until, recently I didn't know that Kipling's story had been made into a film directed by William A. Wellman starring Ronald Colman, Walter Huston, Ida Lupino and Muriel Angelus.

Artist Dick Heldar returns to 1890's England from the war in the Sudan after sustaining eye injuries and turns to painting for a living. While his realistic paintings of scenes from the war in Sudan slowly achieve a certain popularity, he ekes a living painting romanticized portraits. Eventually, the old war injury to his eyes starts getting worse and Heldar realizes he is going blind. Before he completely loses his sight, Dick resolves to paint his masterpiece, Melancholia, using a prostitute named Bessie as a model. He drinks heavily to keep his eyesight going. Dick deliberately drives Bessie to hysteria to get the right expressions.

Dick's eyesight fades just as he completes his masterpiece, and he collapses in exhaustion. Bessie returns and destroys the painting in revenge, smearing the still wet paint across the canvas. When Dick invites his friend, Maisie, to view his masterpiece (which he can no longer see), she cannot bring herself to tell Dick about his ruined canvas. Bessie returns and reveals she has destroyed his masterpiece.
In despair, Dick travels back to the Sudan and joins his old company. He persuades his friend Torpenhow to put him on a horse and joins the charge into enemy lines with the other soldiers, where he is quickly shot and killed.

There are some interesting themes in this story which would obsess the older Malc - alcoholism, fetishization of prostitutes, female betrayal, the symbolism of blindness, melancholia, the East and the failed artist. Here is a clip of the film:

The Bat 1926

Malc refers to the stage version of the The Bat in a letter dated June 1926 to Carol Brown, his teenage friend in Caldy.

You can watch a 1926 film version below

A silent film based upon the Broadway play by Mary Roberts Rinehart and Avery Hopwood, this Silent Gem was directed by Roland West in 1926, later being Remade as the Bat Whispers in 1930 (by Roland West) and again in 1958 in the Bat starring Vincent Price, also available at the Archive. Oh, and when I say silent, I mean silent - this was transferred from a 16mm print and was probably meant to be played with live musical accompaniment.

SYNOPSIS: The Bat, a masked criminal, terrorises a mansion filled with the guests of a mystery writer, a mansion in which a robber has hidden $20,000 of Stolen money.
The House guests along with a detective search for Clues - them being the location of the money and the identity of the Bat.

N.B - As many Batfans will know, this film is where Bob Kane got the Inspiration for the comic book superhero "Batman" - if you look, you'll notice the Bat-signal, here used to frighten the guests before the Bat attacks.

Sound: Silent - No Music, No Vocal Track - Live Accompaniment preffered
Colour: B&W
Genre: Horror/Mystery
Release Date: 1926
Director: Roland West
Internet Archive

Peer Gynt 1941

Above photo courtesy of Indiana University

I recently re-read Lowry's poem 'The Lighthouse Invites the Storm'. The first part of the poem is called 'Peter Gaunt And The Canals' which has many allusions to Ibsen's Peer Gynt. I came across the above film of Ibsen's play while researching Lowry's original source for his poem.

The 1941 silent, student-made, low budget film version of the play starred a seventeen-year-old Charlton Heston. The film was directed by David Bradley and co-starred Betty Hanisee as Aase.

Here is an extract of the film:

'Swinging the Maelstrom'

'Swinging the Maelstrom' was one of the titles of a novella written by Lowry which was eventually published as Lunar Caustic in 1961.

Where does the name "maelstrom" originate and where exactly is the whirlpool?

For many centuries, the Norwegian Sea was regarded as the edge of the known world. The disappearance of ships there, due to the natural disasters, induced legends of the monsters (kraken) which halt and sink ships. As late as in 1845, the Encyclopædia metropolitana contained a multi-page review by Erik Pontoppidan (1698–1764) on ship-sinking sea monsters of half a mile in size.

Many legends might be based on the work Historia de gentibus septentrionalibus of 1539 by Olaus Magnus where he described the kraken and maelstroms of the Norwegian Sea. The kraken also appeared in Alfred Tennyson's poem of the same, in Herman Melville's Moby Dick and in Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne.

Between the Lofoten islands of Moskenesøya and Værøy, at the tiny Mosken island, lies the Moskenstraumen – a system of tidal eddies and a whirlpool called a maelstrom. With the speed of the order of 15 km/h (the value strongly varies between the sources), it is one of the strongest maelstroms in the world.

It was described in the 13th century in the Old Norse poems Edda and remained an attractive subject for painters and writers, including Edgar Allan Poe, Walter Moers and Jules Verne. The term maelstrom originates from the combination of Dutch words malen (to grind) and strom (stream); it was introduced into English language by Poe in his story "A Descent into the Maelström" (1841) describing the Moskenstraumen.

The Moskenstraumen is created as a result of a combination of several factors, including the tides, position of the Lofoten and the underwater topography; unlike most others whirls, it is located in the open sea rather than in a channel or bay. With the diameter of 40–50 meters, it can endanger small fishing vessels even in modern time, which might be attracted by the abundant cod feeding on the microorganisms sucked by the whirl.
Read more on Wikipedia

We can now see what the name of "maelstrom" could conjure up for Lowry - Norwegian connections in place and mythology, links to his favourite writers such as Poe and Melville and childhood links to reading Jules Verne. Malc may also have known about the Norse myth from his mentor E.E. Kellett who wrote The Northern Saga (1929) which refers to Edda. These links combined with the word's association with "violent or turbulent situation" become a perfect metaphor for Lowry's state of mind when he entered Bellvue Hospital in 1936 - the source for the novella.

Monday, 17 January 2011

Q-Ships and Ronald Niel Stuart VC DSO RD RNR

The character Geoffrey Firmin, the Consul in Lowry's Under The Volcano was a Lieutenant-Commander of the Q-Ship S.S. Samaritan during WW 1. In the novel, Firmin is haunted by his involvement in the deaths of a captured German U-Boat crew by placing them in the furnace of the Samaritan. There is no documentary evidence that this event occurred in the war. I have already discussed a few sources in a previous post centred around the movie Dark Journey 1937.

I have been exploring the possibility that the source for Lowry's naval background for the Consul may have been from his own contacts in Liverpool. Bowker notes that Malc was taken by his bother Wilfrid to see a Q-ship in Liverpool in either late 1918 or 1919 (Bowker Pursued by Furies P16). Wilfrid was then a member of the Royal Naval Reserve based on H.M.S. Eagle (Eaglet) in Canning Dock. Could the ship have been H.M.S. Tamarisk based in Liverpool and commanded by Ronald Niel Stuart? The intriguing possibility that Neil was the basis for the Consul's wartime exploits is that he was the same rank, he was involved in the sinking of UC-29 in which German detailed below, he survived the war and was a local hero returning to service with the Canadian Pacific based in Liverpool. Stuart had been a member of the Royal Naval Reserve before the war and became a leading member when he returned.

Following the action Stuart remained with Campbell and Loveless as Inspectors of Shipping, choosing those vessels they believed to be best suited to Q-ship work for naval service. After some time ashore all three returned to sea in a vessel they had personally chosen, an old, battered tramp steamer named SS Vittoria. Renaming it HMS Pargust, they armed their vessel with a 4" gun, two twelve pounders, two machine guns, torpedo tubes and depth charges. Thus armed the Pargust departed on her first patrol to the same grounds where U-83 had been sunk, in the waters south of Ireland. For the first few days her duties consisted only of rescuing survivors from sunken cargo ships but with increasing German activity, an attack was expected at any moment. On the 7 June 1917, Pargust was suddenly struck by a torpedo fired at very close range from an unseen German submarine. Unlike the Farnborough action, the damage done to the Pargust was immense. The ship was holed close to the waterline, and its cover was almost blown when one of the twelve pounder gun ports was blasted free from its mounting; it was only the quick thinking of sailor William Williams, who took the full weight of the gun port on himself, that prevented the gun being exposed. One petty officer was killed and a number wounded.

By this stage in the war, the German submarine authorities had become aware of the existence of Q-ships and Captain Ernst Rosenow of the UC-29 was taking no risks with his target, remaining at 400 yards (366m) distance watching the staged panicked evacuation of the ship. While the hidden gun crews watched the enemy approach the lifeboats, the officer in charge of the boats, Lieutenant Francis Hereford, realised that the submarine would follow his movements, as its commander assumed him to be the captain. Hereford therefore ordered his men to row back towards the ship, thus luring the enemy into range. This made the submarine commander believe that the ship’s crew were planning to regain their vessel and he immediately closed to just 50 yards (46m), surfaced and began angrily semaphoring to the "survivors" in the boats. This was exactly what the gun crews had been waiting for and a volley of fire was directed at the U-boat. Numerous holes were blown in the conning tower and the submarine desperately attempted to flee on the surface before slowing down and heeling over, trailing oil. The gun crews then stopped firing only for the submarine to suddenly restart its engines and attempt to escape. In a final barrage of fire the submarine was hit fatally, a large explosion blowing the vessel in two. Rosenow and 22 of his crew were killed, whilst two survivors were rescued by the panic party. Wikipedia

It isn't impossible that Wilfrid may have heard stories/yarns or quite conceivably unpalatable truths of the Q-ship war, due to his access to sailors who had fought in the war. He may have related these stories to Malcolm or Malc may have heard them first hand and adapted them later from memories of an impressionable child in 1918/19.

I also came across another mention of H.M.S. Eagle (Eaglet) and Q-ships which involving a Liverpool sailor which again demonstrates the strong local links and the possibility of Lowry getting first-hand accounts of the Q-ship action.

One other coincidence in tracing this story is that the original H.M.S. Eagle was destroyed in a fire in 1926 and was replaced by a former Q-ship Sir Bevis - could this have been another possible source?

The photograph below was taken in the 1970's when I recall seeing her myself many times:

Here is the Sir Bevis in her guise as a Q-ship:

Q-Ships: Review New York Times September 17, 1928

I have not been able to unearth any clips of the movie Q-Ships. However, I discovered this review of the film:

Thrilling and wonderfully realistic episodes in the campaign against the German U-boats during the World War, reproduced by the New Era Films, Ltd., of London, are to be seen at the Cameo Theatre in a picture called "Q Ships." This production is presented in this country by Captain Harold Auten, who won the Victoria Cross as the commander of the Stockforce, one of the Q ships, and he and several members of the original crew of that vessel re-enact in this film their roles of those eventful days of strife.

"Q Ships" is an expertly sketched drama of sea fighting, and although Britain emerges victorious, the courage of the rival forces is depicted with fairness. The welcome arrival of the United States destroyers is emphasized as one of the prime factors in defeating the hitherto successful efforts of the submarines by convoying ships through the danger zones.

This picture begins by dealing with the ravages of the submersibles before America entered the war, and there is a glimpse at the British Admiralty of officers discussing the sinking of food ships and another flash wherein Admiral Jellicoe himself appears, greeting an actor made up to resemble Admiral Sims. Thereafter is shown the gradual weakening of the U-boats and a daring attempt of one of the German commanders to enter Scapa Flow.

The U-boat's manoeuvring is watched by British officers on an electrical contrivance which permits them to follow the craft as she is steering through the mine-field.

Another incident in this production depicts the success of the listening devices aboard destroyers and a U-boat resting far below the surface to keep away from the dreaded depth bombs. The stifling atmosphere aboard the submersible causes the officers and men to have difficulty in breathing, and one perceives, a little later, their relief, when they come to the surface, after the destroyer has sped on its way and they are able to breathe deeply of fresh air.

The most dramatic feature of this film is when the Q ships are introduced. Call the vessel the Stockforce, as it was a vessel resembling that masquerader. The panic crew and the working crew are seen, and during the time that no submarine is in the offing the officers and men play cards, write letters, read books. Suddenly comes the report of a periscope being sighted off the port bow. The producer then turns to the submarine, with the commander declaring that the Stockforce looks just about the size for a torpedo. He watches the Stockforce through the periscope and finally gives the order to fire the torpedo, and the only too familiar white line of those days is seen in the water as the engine of destruction speeds on its mission toward the steamer. Auten turns the engine room telegraph and the torpedo strikes his ship under No. 1 batch.

Not long afterward, when smoke is seen coming out of the Stockforce's bows, Auten gives the order for the panic crew to act their best and take to the boat. There is the negro, his face whitened with paint on which he had been busy at the time of the explosion; the black cat, the seaman who was left and who has to take a dive into the sea.

The working crew, hidden cleverly, go about the decks of the Stockforce on hands and knees, and officers are watching the submarine through craftily concealed periscopes. The U-boat Commander is chary about coming to the surface, but eventually he concludes that the Stockforce is harmless. Auten bides his time until he is sure that he can reckon with the submersible, and the manner in which this is done is most interesting, but it is better to leave it here, untold.

Captain Auten is the author of the script of this production and also the technical adviser. The German details were supplied by a former U-boat Commander, Kapitan-Lieutenant H. Roehn. NY Times

You can view a photo on Getty Images of the filming of the movie outside the American Embassy in London in 1928.

Just found out that you can buy a DVD of the film here

Q-Ship on Fox-Movietone

In my last post on Dark Journey 1937 which features Q-ships, I mentioned another movie featuring Q-ships made in 1928. There used to ba clip of this movie on You Tube but it has disappeared. Hoever, I did find this clip of film:

FOX-MOVIETONE NEWSREEL EXCERPTS 5 - National Archives and Records Administration - ARC Identifier 89123 / Local Identifier CBS-CBS-WWI-5 - Columbia Broadcasting System, Inc. Fox-Movietone - Balloon observers. Balloons attacked. Intercuts of ground crew seen from balloon, looking down. Balloons shot down in flames; Zeppelin in flight, falling in flames; Exploits of the U-35. Sub making attacks on various ships; British armed merchantman (Q ship.) Crewmen pull back deck housing, reveal gun. Sub surrenders to Q ship when guns aimed.; Headline, Wilson Breaks With Germany; U.S. fleet steams out to sea

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Dark Journey 1937

The character Geoffrey Firmin, the Consul in Lowry's Under The Volcano was a Lieutenant-Commander of the Q-Ship S.S. Samaritan during WW 1. In the novel, Firmin is haunted by his involvement in the deaths of a captured German U-Boat crew by placing them in the furnace of the Samaritan. There is no documentary evidence that this event occurred in the war.

I have been researching the possible source of Lowry's fictional event. Ronald Binns and Chris Ackerley suggest:

Ronald Binns [MLN 8, 6] has tracked down the probable historical source of the Samaritan incident: the so-called "Baralong incident" of 19 August 1915, after the capture of the British ship, the Nicosian, by the German submarine U-27. A British Q-ship, the Baralong, appeared flying the American flag, let fall its false sides, and sank the submarine. The master, Lieutenant-Commander Godfrey Herbert (whose name and rank is similar to Geoffrey's), ordered his crew to give no quarter, and twelve German sailors were shot. There was no court-martial, nor any suggestion of officers being put in the furnace, but the incident aroused great resentment among the Germans. As well as tracing the historical source of Lowry’s Q-ship episode, Binns has suggested [MLN 7, 20] a cinematic source, the movie Dark Journey (1937), produced by Alexander Korda and starring Conrad Veidt with Vivien Leigh. Russell Lowry [MLN 8, 7] dates Lowry's visit to a Q-ship in Liverpool docks as 1919 or 1920; the Lowry brothers saw a dummy run of the Q-ship drill, dropping the false bulkheads, exposing a gun, and firing a blank round. Chris Ackerley's Companion to Under The Volcano

You can view the film Dark Journey on the Internet Archive or here:

Cast & Crew
Victor Saville: Director
Conrad Veidt as [Baron Karl] Von Marwitz
Vivien Leigh as Madeleine [Goddard]
Joan Gardner as Lupita
Anthony Bushell as Bob Carter
Ursula Jeans as Gertrude
Margery Pickard as Colette
Eliot Makeham as Anatole [Bergen]
Austin Trevor as Dr. Muller
Sam Livesay as Schaffer
Edmund Willard as Chief of German intelligence
Charles Carson as Head of fifth bureau


In the spring of 1918, Swiss modiste Madeleine Goddard returns to Stockholm after an excursion to Paris to buy dresses. Madeleine, who is a spy for the Nazis, then visits her German contacts and gives them the information she has gathered on Allied troop movements. Madeleine's information is cleverly sewn into the gowns she transports, and the Germans believe that she is one of their top spies. Unknown to them, Madeleine is actually a French double agent, and so she resolves to learn the identity of the new German secret service section leader who is being stationed in Stockholm. While Madeleine confers with her confederates, two German citizens cross the border into Switzerland. One is Dr. Muller, who is to reorganize the spy network of which Madeleine is a part, and the other is Baron Karl Von Marwitz, a deserter from the German Navy. While at a nightclub with her frequent escort, English secret service agent Bob Carter, Madeleine exposes the trick behind Von Marwitz's game of predicting what a girl will say after he kisses her. Intrigued by Madeleine's beauty and cool demeanor, Von Marwitz visits her shop the next day in the company of Lupita, a Brazilian socialite. Von Marwitz quickly tires of the temperamental Lupita and begins asking Madeleine to go out with him. When she continually refuses his requests, he begins to buy all of the stock in her shop until finally she gives in. Madeleine gives her German contacts information about an Allied counter-offensive, then begins seeing Von Marwitz. Despite their different nationalities, the couple quickly fall in love, much to the dismay of Bob, who returns to Stockholm after a brief journey to London to investigate Madeleine's trustworthiness. On the night Von Marwitz proposes to her, Madeleine's faithful porter and co-conspirator, Anatole Bergen, is murdered. Shaken by Anatole's death, Madeleine confers with Muller and the others, who tell her that the information she provided proved disastrous for the German Army. Muller orders her to go to Paris immediately and determine whether her French contacts are to be trusted. After a difficult journey, Madeleine reaches Paris, where she is secretly greeted by a French official and given the medal militaire for her service to her country. Upon her return to Stockholm, Madeleine deduces that Von Marwitz is the German secret service leader, and he reveals his knowledge that she is actually a French spy. The lovers are glad to be rid of the lies between them, but acknowledge with heavy hearts that their dream of a life together can never be realized. Madeleine rushes to Bob, who promises to help her escape from Stockholm and the Germans, while Von Marwitz is simultaneously planning her capture. The next day, Bob engineers Madeleine's arrest by the Swedish police, thereby foiling Von Marwitz's plan to apprehend her quietly. Madeleine is deported, but once the boat she is on has sailed out of Swedish jurisdiction, it is stopped by a German submarine. Von Marwitz boards and arrests Madeleine for being a French spy, but his plans are once again foiled by Bob's cunning plans. Disguised as a tramp steamer, a British destroyer enters the scene and engages the submarine in battle. The Germans are defeated, Madeleine is rescued and Von Marwitz is captured. Madeleine is assured that Von Marwitz will not be shot, but will instead be detained until the end of the war, and with the hope of a future together, the lovers wave goodbye as Von Marwitz is taken aboard the destroyer. TCM

The above movie is a feasible source but Lowry read considerably during his youth devouring sea stories. After WW1, there was a considerable literature around Q-Ships which I have been researching hoping to turn up the source of the fictional S.S. Samaritan. There was also a movie called Q-Ships made in in 1928 by Geoffrey Barkas and Michael Barringer. I will return to the subject in subsequent posts.

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Nordahl Grieg Reads 17th May 1940

While researching Lowry and Grieg, I came across this You Tube clip of Nordahl Grieg (centre in above photograph) reading his famous poem 17th May from NRKs broadcasting in Tromsø during the Norwegian independence day in 1940. At that stage in the war, the northern part of the country was still in Norwegian control:

The building from which the broadcast was transmitted is now a museum:

Kvaløyveien 450
Phone +47 77 61 52 89
Tromsø Broadcasting Station, operated 1936-1991, was the last broadcaster of free Norway in 1940. Collections of telegraphs, telephone equipment and switchboards from 1865 to the present day.
Opening times:
Wednesday: 10am-2pm.
Other days on request only, phone 77 67 02 04/77 63 63 47.
Admission free of charge

Grieg was also involved in the saving of Norway's gold from the Nazis - see the Gold War and Grieg

Monday, 10 January 2011

CBS Studio One Production: Under The Volcano 29th April 1947

I have just discovered that you can listen to the above broadcast on the Internet Archive.

The idea of a radio production of Under The Volcano came about after Lowry met Fletcher Markle and Gerald Noxon in March 1947. Lowry had been on his way back to Dollarton following a visit to New York for the publication of the novel. The three met in a Toronto bar across the street from the CBC buildings where Markle and Noxon had worked on radio drama projects.

Fletcher Markle was a Canadian film and television writer and producer who was with the CBS programme "Studio One". Gerald Noxon had worked with Markle in Canada and together they adapted Under The Volcano for the first transmission of the CBS "Studio One" production.

Lowry accepted appears to have accepted the limitations of the adaption of turning his complex novel into a 60 minute play. Noxon sent Malc the following telegram which Lowry answered positively which gave the go-ahead for the production:


The adaption featured Everett Sloane as the Consul and Ann Burr as Yvonne.

Here is the publicity blurb which appeared in Billboard magazine prior to the broadcast:

As it turned out, Lowry was unable to hear the transmission on the night due to a friend's radio set breaking down. CBS eventually sent him a recording of the broadcast on a shellac disc. The only documentary comments with have of what Lowry thought of the production come in a letter to Noxon dated June 21st 1947 (See Letters of Malcolm Lowry and Gerald Noxon Pgs 144-45). Malc was pleased that the reviews had been positive but says he was "hellishly disappointed not to hear it over the radio". The recording sent by CBS appears to have been of poor quality which seems to have affected Lowry's enjoyment of the production but he adds that "we got a good idea and enjoyed it". Lowry's only criticism was the following:

"Sloane's odd interpretation, everyone else was to the contrary, was my chief criticism. I know he's a damn fine actor, but I cannot see why he emoted Lostweekendwise so much. He could have just spoken plenty of horrors, and poetry too, and it would have been more all right by me; but I guess I reckon without the difficulties."

It is interesting to read Malc's description of Sloane's performance in terms of the novel/filmThe Lost Weekend. The Lost Weekend's appearance before Under The Volcano haunted Lowry for ever more. With hindsight, Lost Weekend has none of the depth of Under The Volcano and only shares the subject matter of alcoholism.

In 2011, the production seems odd and stilted to my ears demonstrating how difficult it is to distill a novel like Under The Volcano into one hour. I agree with Lowry that Sloane's interpretation is off key and doesn't fit with my idea of the Consul!

Chartres in Orson Welles's F for Fake

F for Fake (French: Vérités et mensonges) is the last major film completed by Orson Welles, who directed, co-wrote, and starred in the film. Initially released in 1974, it focuses on Elmyr de Hory's recounting of his career as a professional art forger; de Hory's story serves as the backdrop for a fast-paced, meandering investigation of the natures of authorship and authenticity, as well as the basis of the value of art. Loosely a documentary, the film operates in several different genres and has been described as a kind of film essay. Read more on Wikipedia

On 10th March 1947, Lowry flew back from New York to Vancouver after celebrating the success of his novel Under The Volcano. He booked himself into the Sylvia Hotel where proceeded to get drunk. He called the local paper the Vancouver News Herald to arrange an interview. In this interview published on 15th March 1947, Lowry told the reporter that Orson Welles was interested in making a movie of Under The Volcano. This was an exaggeration because though Fletcher Markle, a colleague of Welle's, had sent the director a copy of the book, apparently Welle's didn't like the novel. Personally, I have always thought that Welles would have been a good choice but it was not to be.

One thing that appeals to me about Lowry is the coincidences that can occur while studying him - Lowry himself was fascinated by Baudelaires's idea of "correspondances":


La Nature est un temple où de vivants piliers
Laissent parfois sortir de confuses paroles;
L'homme y passe à travers des forêts de symboles
Qui l'observent avec des regards familiers.
Comme de longs échos qui de loin se confondent
Dans une ténébreuse et profonde unité,
Vaste comme la nuit et comme la clarté,
Les parfums, les couleurs et les sons se répondent.
II est des parfums frais comme des chairs d'enfants,
Doux comme les hautbois, verts comme les prairies,
— Et d'autres, corrompus, riches et triomphants,
Ayant l'expansion des choses infinies,
Comme l'ambre, le musc, le benjoin et l'encens,
Qui chantent les transports de l'esprit et des sens.
— Charles Baudelaire


Nature is a temple in which living pillars
Sometimes give voice to confused words;
Man passes there through forests of symbols
Which look at him with understanding eyes.
Like prolonged echoes mingling in the distance
In a deep and tenebrous unity,
Vast as the dark of night and as the light of day,
Perfumes, sounds, and colors correspond.
There are perfumes as cool as the flesh of children,
Sweet as oboes, green as meadows
— And others are corrupt, and rich, triumphant,
With power to expand into infinity,
Like amber and incense, musk, benzoin,
That sing the ecstasy of the soul and senses.
— William Aggeler, The Flowers of Evil (Fresno, CA: Academy Library Guild, 1954)

Patrick McCarthy has noted that; "one of the most striking elements of Under The Volcano is its reliance on coincidences and correspondences less suggestive of random occurrence than the operations of a partly enclosed fate." Forest of Symbols 1994.

Lowry's first reference to Baudelaire's "forest of symbols" comes in the short story 'Hotel Room In Chartres". Returning to Welles's film, it struck me as coincidence that Welles's would talk about authorship in place which had significance for Lowry who visited the city twice in 1934 which resulted in the short story plus Lowry had touted Welles for the director of a film version of Under The Volcano. Lowry was often afraid of being branded a "fake" by critics and other writers after he was accused of plagiarism by Burton Rascoe amongst others. (See Sherril Grace's "Respecting Plagarism: Tradition, Guilt, and Malcolm Lowry's 'Pelargiarist Pen' in Strange Comfort Pg. 103


Lowry mentions Zamboanga, a long, semicircular peninsula located in northwestern Mindanao, Philippines, in his short stories 'Tramps' and 'Goya The Obscure'. There is no documentary evidence to suggest that Lowry visited the peninsular as part of his 1927 voyage to the Far East. It would appear that Lowry's mention of the peninsular is perhaps part of a youthful obsession with the "exotic East" which, manifested itself in the composing of the song 'I've Said Goodbye to Shanghai' with his Cambridge musical partner Ronald Hill. The peninsular features in Joseph Conrad's novel Lord Jim and is probably Lowry's source as he read the book in his youth.

Here is an interesting travel movie 'Zamboanga' made in 1936

"Zamboanga" was directed by Marvin Gardner in his native Philippines in 1936. His screen name was Eduardo De Castro. Thought lost forever, it was found in 2003? by Philippine filmmaker Nick de Ocampo at the US Library of Congress. (The copy came from Finland, hence the subtitles.) It stars Fernando Poe, Sr., the father of Fernando Poe, Jr., Philippine actor and presidential candidate. It is the oldest Filipino feature film known to exist. It was produced by Americans Tait and Harris and intended for American audiences. I have read that it was the first Filipino film entered in the Oscar Awards, but I'm still researching that. I had never even hoped to see any of my grandfather's work, as we thought it was all destroyed during WWII. The original film is now back in the Philippines. Nick included "Zamboanga" in his book, SineGabay: A Film Study Guide. He was kind enough to send some copies of the movie to my family. Read more

Shakespeare and Company Bookshop Paris 1934

Sylvia Beach's Shakespeare and Company Bookshop was one of Malc's regular haunts while he was in Paris in 1934. (See Gordon Bowker Pursued By Furies Pg 175. Bowker recounts the tale that Malc famously missed a reading by James Joyce at the bookshop in February 1934 because Malc didn't think Joyce would turn up!

Sylvia Beach found the name of Adrienne Monnier’s bookshop in a French literary journal and decided to seek out the little store on the rue de l’Odéon when she was in Paris. She regularly attended the readings by authors such as André Gide, Paul Valéry andJules Romains. Inspired by the literary life of the Left Bank and by Adrienne’s efforts to promote innovative writing, Sylvia dreamed of starting a branch of Adrienne’s book shop in New York that would offer contemporary French works to American readers. Since her only capital was USD$3,000 which her mother gave her from her savings, Sylvia found that she could not afford such a venture in New York. However, Paris rents were much cheaper and the exchange rates favorable, so with Adrienne’s help, Sylvia opened an English language bookstore and lending library that she named Shakespeare and Company. Four years before she opened her shop, Adrienne had been among the first women in France to found her own bookstore. Beach's bookstore was located at 8 rue Dupuytren in the 6th arrondissement of Paris.

Shakespeare and Company quickly attracted both French and American readers—-including a number of aspiring writers to whom Sylvia offered hospitality and encouragement as well as books. As the franc dropped in value and the favorable exchange rate attracted a huge influx of Americans, Sylvia’s shop flourished and soon needed more space. In May 1921, Shakespeare and Company moved to 12 rue de l’Odéon, just across the street from Adrienne’s Maison des Amis des Livres. Shakespeare and Company gained considerable fame after it published James Joyce's Ulysses in 1922, as a result of Joyce's inability to get an edition out in English-speaking countries. Beach would later be financially stranded when Joyce signed on with another publisher, leaving Beach in debt after bankrolling, and suffering severe losses from, the publication of Ulysses.

Shakespeare and Company experienced difficulty throughout the Great Depression of the 1930s, but it managed to keep afloat by the generosity of Beach's circle of wealthy friends, including Bryher. In 1936 when Sylvia Beach thought that she would be forced to close her shop, André Gide organized a group of writers into a club called Friends of Shakespeare and Company. Subscribers paid 200 francs a year to attend readings at Shakespeare and Company. Although subscriptions were limited to a select group of 200 people (the maximum number the store could accommodate), the renown of the French and American authors participating in readings during those two years attracted considerable attention to the store. Sylvia Beach recalled that by then, “we were so glorious with all these famous writers and all the press we received that we began to do very well in business”. Shakespeare and Company remained open after the Fall of Paris, but by the end of 1941, Sylvia Beach was forced to close.

Sylvia Beach was interned for six months during World War II, but she kept her books hidden in a vacant apartment upstairs at 12 rue de l'Odeon. Symbolically, Ernest Hemingway"liberated" the shop in person in 1944, but it never re-opened for business.

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Bill Adams

Like Bill Adams I came fresh to sea life from an English public school where I wore a tophat and carried a silver topped cane. 'China'

Lowry appears to have been an avid reader of sea stories before he went to sea in 1927. It is easy to see why Malc would identify himself with Bill Adams who had gone off to sea himself at 17 as had Malc at the same age in 1927. Bill Adams also used his sea experiences as a source of inspiration for his writing. Similarly, Malc was used his experiences from his Far East voyage in 1927 for his early short story 'China'.

Bill Adams would have also appealed to a young Malc with his mentions of windjammers, Liverpool and the Mersey.

Bertram Martin Adams (Bill Adams)(1879–1953)

Bill Adams was born in England to American parents. He left college to go to sea at age seventeen in a career that lasted four or five years and logged seven passages around Cape Horn.* Before his sailing career was ended by ill health, he had attained the rank of mate. After retiring from the sea, he lived in the San Francisco area, where he became involved in the socialist movement and found inspiration in Jack London’s* writings of the sea. In 1921 Adams began a modest literary career of his own, culminating in 1937 with an autobiography, Ships and Women.

His early sea stories were collected in Fenceless Meadows (1923), and he published a volume of sea verse,Wind in the Topsails, in 1923. In the late 1920s and early 1930s he published several good sea stories. Although they appeared in such excellent magazines as The Atlantic Monthly andEsquire, and there were enough for another volume of stories, he never collected them. At least three of his stories appeared in O. Henry collections of best short stories of the year: “Jukes” (1927), “Home Is the Sailor” (1928), and “The Lubber” (1933). “The Foreigner” appeared inBest Short Stories of America (1932). As ex- pressions of his socialist values, his stories often celebrate the lives of working sailors, and they are notable for their frequent inclusion of sea songs.


You can read a complete list of published poems here

Bound Away

A three-skysail yarder with her hatches battened down,
And the grey sky up above her, and the Mersey's muddy brown
A-rippling at her forefoot. The red stack tug's ahead,
And the chanteyman is singing in a voice to wake the dead.
The windlass pawls are clanking. The mate shouts "Heave away!
Heave a pawl there! Rouse and lift her" Out beyond the bar the spray,
The wheeling gulls, and the cold green water
Are waiting for the coming of the sea's tall daughter.
We've lowered away Blue Peter, and the anchor's off the mud,
And there's cheering, and there's laughter, and the tide is at the flood.
"Heave away there! Loose those tops'ls! Stamp and run!"
Bawls the chief mate. Comes a glimmer from the sun,
And her lofty spars are shining through the smoke a-blowing past,
While a little sea apprentice chap is running up each mast.
Now he's out along the footrope, now he's casting loose her sail,
And the pilot shakes the skipper's hand and clambers o'er the rail.
Now we're hauling in the hawser, for her six big tops'ls draw,
And her white wake trails behind her. Ho, we're running from the shore!
A three-skysail yarder with her holds jammed full,
And a cheer from the pierhead for the pride o' Liverpool!

Read more poems here

Saturday, 1 January 2011

"Carry Me Back to Old Virginny"

Nicole and Barban dance to a jazz version of "Carry me back to Old Virginny" while Dick goes on drinking. The Cinema of Malcolm Lowry: 'Tender Is the Night' Ed. Miguel Mota & Paul Tiessen

"Carry Me Back to Old Virginny" is a song which was written by James A. Bland (1854 – 1911), an African American minstrel who wrote over 700 folk songs. Written in 1878, soon after the American Civil War, when many of the newly freed slaves were struggling to find work, the song has become controversial in modern times. Read more on Wikipedia

Carry me back to old Virginny,
There's where the cotton and the corn and tatoes grow,
There's where the birds warble sweet in the springtime,
There's where the old darke'ys heart am long'd to go,
There's where I labored so hard for old massa,
Day after day in the field of yellow corn,
No place on earth do I love more sincerely
Than old Virginny, the state where I was born.


Carry me back to old Virginny,
There's where the cotton and the corn and tatoes grow,
There's where the birds warble sweet in the springtime,
There's where this old darkey's heart am long'd to go.

Carry me back to old Virginny,
There let me live 'till I wither and decay,
Long by the old Dismal Swamp have I wandered,
There's where this old darke'ys life will pass away.
Massa and missis have long gone before me,
Soon we will meet on that bright and golden shore,
There we'll be happy and free from all sorrow,
There's where we'll meet and we'll never part no more.

Read more about the song here

Here is a jazz version of the song from Benny Carter: