26 JANUARY 1962, Page 14


Clown Edwards


CONSIDER the clown Edwards. What a clown this is! Seven faces have been ascribed to him, but in fact he has as many faces and voicesas may be required by whatever script he is given to read, and all of them testify to the truth of Hamlet's observa- tion, that one may smile and smile and be a villain. He is the all-purpose clown; no work is too dirty for him; he can jump through any number of hoops; as the bogus head of an in- comprehensible organisation, his ability to mis- manage is classic and incomparable. If he were not so much a figure of fun, the clown Edwards would be quite sickening, but a figure of fun he is, and having just heard the hilarious radio version of his Whack-0! series, coming soon after the televised Seven Faces of Jim, I cannot wait until December to nominate Jimmy Edwards as Clown of the Year.

Another rumbustious performer in the same vein is Billy Cotton, who deserves more critical praise than he gets. Like Bardolph, his face is 'all bubukles, and whelks, and nobs, and flames o' fire,' plus a certain shrewd bifocal benevolence that gives him the look of a singing Roy Thomson. He has an easy, non-strident vulgarity about him, enlivening Saturday nights.

Saturday nights certainly need some enlivening, since both sides have fallen into the iron grip of formula. The Perry Mason series (BBC) becomes increasingly like a parody of itself—oh, for some- thing to knock that silly, knowing grin off Mr. Raymond Burr's fat face when he accepts his brief from the judge at the beginning of each episode lj Always the first part shows the crime, always the second has a court-room clash which Mason wins —and I hasten to add that what is wrong is not just this formula, but the way any formula sooner or later inevitably leads to cliché, so that the whole thing becomes a tired assemblage of improbable crimes and glib explanations. There is so much in that Southern Californian world that could be made fascinating as a part of the drama. From time to time we are given glimpses of the social scene, in those low wooden country houses with all the big cars parked outside like unpulled molars, but neither script nor camera linger, and back we come quickly to the portentous Burr- Mason and his dreary assistants, leaving us all too sadly aware that Erle Stanley Gardner is not in the same bracket as the late Raymond Chandler when it comes to writing thrillers-plus But if BBC's Americana is poor, TTV's is no better in The Pursuers, an American series which stars Mr. Louis Hayward as a detective looking like an old onion. And as for the home-grown humour of Candid Camera, it too often crosses the line between permissible practical joking and over-complicated gags which seem to originate in a rather disparaging, condescending view of the ordinary people gulled. Still, the comedy of inarticulacy is all the fashion nowadays; some of the sequences might easily have been written bY Harold Pinter.