Cherchez Lom

Well, I don’t always manage it. Keeping my everyday contained in a single journal devoted to popular culture; or working my life around its keeping. Not that I am being secretive about what else is going on. I am merely trying to stay within the boundaries I defined for broadcastellan; and sometimes the connections between old-time radio and my present can only be got at with considerable stretching. I wonder whether Walter Pater had this problem turning his life into a work of art, which no doubt is the most graceful and fulfilling way of controlling ones existence.

Today, for instance, I am leaving for Prague without much more than this radio program to keep me on track. It is a 1930s travelogue from the obscure series Ports of Call. Then, there is Tom Stoppard’s Rock ‘N’ Roll, a radio dramatization of which aired on BBC Radio 3 earlier this summer. The play is currently on stage in Prague; but I doubt that I am up to watching Stoppard in translation (in a language, no less, that is entirely foreign to me).

According to the Internet Database, my departure for the country I still cannot spell without consulting a pocket dictionary coincides with the 90th birthday of the only major Czech-born actor with a career in English language film I know: Herbert Lom, born (if the Database is to be believed) in Prague on this day, 11 September, in 1917. Lom (looking rather like a Czech Charles Boyer in his pre-Pink Panther period) fled his native country after my fascist forebear invaded and began acting in England in the early 1940s; he was last seen in Marple, the latest television series to dramatize the mysteries of Agatha Christie (last encountered here on her birthday during my trip to Istanbul).

The last time I spotted Mr. Lom in one of his big-screen outings, he was a bad guy after the titular figurine in Brass Monkey (1948), a genre-defying comedy-musical-thriller co-starring The Smiths cover girl Avril Angers set . . . in the world of radio broadcasting. As I said, quite a stretch; I need not have struggled quite this much, considering that, during World War II, Lom was an announcer for the BBC’s Foreign Service.

Now I have got to stretch out a bit before our journey. I hope to be reporting back while on location—with thoughts of Kafka, perhaps, or the Golem—as abject a failure as I am at these on-the-spot updates . . .

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