Thanks, LA. There's some nice info in that article, so I've cut-and-pasted some of it, just in case. That's a shame that not even lip-readers could decipher the missing dialogue in the Gentleman's Club scene. As far as who the writers were for the five SWINGING LONDON sketches, the article says they were 'young and British'. I wouldn't count out Marty Feldman as a possibility.
AWESOME ORSON GOODIES
(by Alison Bean)
'London' was commissioned by the American television company CBS; it was to be part of a series of three films about European cities (London, Vienna and Venice). The format of the series was obviously very loose, as 'London' consisted of five comedy sketches, while 'Venice' featured Welles performing extracts from Shakespeare's 'The Merchant of Venice'. The bulk of 'London' was shot in 1968, but before completion CBS cut their funding. Undeterred, Welles changed the title to 'The One-man Band' and kept on filming. Perhaps unhappy with the result or unable to find a buyer for the programme, Welles re-shot parts of one sketch and also filmed linking material for the sketches in 1971. The programme was then abandoned and forgotten, Welles even
lost the sound to one of the sketches in 1970s. With all this to contend with, Filmmuseum Munich have done an excellent job restoring the film and tracing some of its history.
The sketches in 'London' are 'Churchill', 'Swinging London', 'Four Clubmen', 'Stately Homes' and 'Tailors'. 'Churchill' features Wellesas Winston Churchill, with Oja Kodar as Lady Churchill. Mostly shot in darkness or silhoutte, Churchill is bombarded with a series of questions about his politics from three unseen interviewers (two male, one female). One of the interviewers, the first to be heard, is Graeme Garden. The other male interviewer sounds very much like Jonathan Lynn. The female interviewer I could not identify.
'Swinging London' is familiar to many Goodies fans as it appeared in the 1996 documentary 'The Lost Films of Orson Welles'. It is shot in London's West End, and features Tim Brooke-Taylor as a bowler-hatted travelogue compere, vainly trying to find Carnaby Street and some swingers, but having to settle for a Chinese strip-joint owner, an old woman selling violets, a stereotypical London policeman, a tramp busking as one-man band and other West End characters, all played by Welles. The version of this sketch as it appeared in 'London' was longer than that familiar from 'The Lost Films of Orson Welles', containing more extensive footage of Welles' characters. Of special interest to Goodies fans is that Bill Oddie's song 'One Man Band', sung in this instance by Welles, is background music during parts of this sketch.
'Four Clubmen' is set in a gentleman's club and features Welles as all four of the clubmen, with Lynn as their elderly waiter. The soundtrack for this sketch was lost in the 70s, although the sound effects track still exists. Filmmuseum Munich and Oja Kodar have devoted a lot of time to restoring this sketch, but with little success. Unable to find the script, they hired lip-readers in the hope that they could work out what the Four Clubmen were saying. Sadly the lip-readers were unable to identify anything apart from the odd word, as Welles was heavily made up and doing accents when he played the men. Watching this sketch without dialogue is therefore a surreal experience and the only joke that works in this context is when Lynn's waiter trips up rather spectacularly, sending a tray of drinks flying across the room.
'Stately Homes' is again familiar from 'The Lost Films of Orson Welles' and as I have described, parts of this sketch were re-shot three years after the original filming took place, removing most of the voiceovers by Graeme Garden. Welles plays himself interviewing Lord Plumfield (Welles again), a hard-up aristocrat who has been forced to open his family home to the public. Kodar plays Lady Plumfield, a silent character with a disconcerting stare, Brooke-Taylor plays Algy Plumfield, their dim-witted son, and Blemish, the butler is played by a man who looks very much like Graeme Garden (it is difficult to confirm this as Blemish is a silent part and he is not shot close up). The edit of this sketch seemed a little looser in 'London' than it was in 'The Lost Films of Orson Welles'. Also, at the conclusion of the sketch in 'London' there is a brief shot of Brooke-Taylor as Algy falling over. I suspect this is a blooper or a piece of footage edited from the film by Welles, but included when 'London' was put together, as it does not fit in with the sketch proper.
The final sketch, 'Tailors', is the funniest of the five. Mr Short, an American (Welles), goes to a Saville Row tailor to have a suit made. Mr Mapleton the tailor (Charles Gray) and his assistant (Jonathan Lynn) are rather unimpressed by Mr Short and proceed to humiliate him in various ways as they measure him for his suit, such as commenting on his weight behind his back. Welles is marvelous as the victim of Gray and Lynn's jibes.
It is a shame that these sketches were lost for so many years and that relatively little is known about them. The identity of the writers remains a mystery, other than they were young and British. This points in the direction of the Oxbridge generation of the 60s, which included The Goodies, Monty Python and Jonathan Lynn. While it is plausible, I, and the Monty Python expert I saw 'London' with, concluded that while the themes of the sketches (travelogue spoofs, popular culture, the aristocracy and the establishment) were common in Goodies episodes and Python sketches, the style of the comedy in these sketches was different. This is not suggest that future Goodies and Pythons were not involved in writing these sketches (after all, Oddie wrote the song 'One Man Band'), but if they were I would not be surprised to hear that someone, probably Welles, had significantly edited their scripts prior to filming.
At the conclusion of this presentation at the NFT, Stefan Droessler and Oja Kodar appealed for further information regarding these sketches. They are particularly interested in identifying the writers or finding copies of the scripts. If you have any information please write to:
Filmmuseum im Munchner Stadmuseum