Saturday, October 20, 2012

Shameless Saturday Camp Explosion: A Sea Change

The hallmark of Camp is the spirit of extravagance.
- Susan Sontag, "Notes on Camp"

Today's SSCE requires me to, as David Niven said of the Oscars streaker, reveal my own shortcomings.  I have to admit that I either never knew or have utterly forgotten that the great British director/aesthete Derek Jarman filmed a version of The Tempest, let alone that it featured such a magnificently charming thing as this interpolated number.

Miss Elisabeth Welch, who was rather the UK's iteration of Miss Mabel Mercer, ravishes the eye and ear, singing "Stormy Weather" (very much her tune, long before it was Miss Horne's) in a costume that conjures up both her own glory days in lavish London revues and a thoroughly 1979 take on an Erté fairy queen.  It is a '30s moment, transmogrified, with its sailor suits and baroque shepherdess costumes, and above all by Welch's own serene, imperial presence, into something quite appropriately, for the work, "rich and strange."

I'm especially charmed by the way in which she has completely conquered the lineup of fetching young chorus boys - I wouldn't be at all surprised if Jarman hadn't briefed them on just why they should be amazed at the woman who, at the time she breezed through this lovely moment, had been a star for rising 60 years.  I couldn't be more pleased to have accidently stumbled on this while lost in the wilds of Youtube, and I hope you enjoy it as much as I have.


  1. You realize how much this looks like the prequel to "Sissy Boy Slap Party" don't you?

  2. Well, you know I hadn't, but now that you mention it, of course I see nothing else. Perhaps that whole contretemps was precipitated by one of the boys making a flip remark about Miss Welch's dress!

  3. The incomparable George Melly described this as "arguably the campest, most sparkling moment in the history of cinema".

    I am inclined to agree!


    1. What a marvelous quote!

      And I do hope you forgive the inadvertent plagiarism - I truly did just stumble across it over at YouTube and fell madly in love...

    2. It's hardly plagiarism dear. We merely share remarkably similar tastes... Jx