Friday, March 18, 2016

"SONNY BOY" AL JOLSON in "THE SINGING FOOL" 1928 vitaphone .. Playing on wireless late one night in GRANTHAM HOUSE .. 3/18/16




The house, more an urban, petit palace, was quiet. Almost everyone was upstairs sleeping after an evening of dining with friends and attending the cinema ( Abel Ganz' NAPOLEON). All was dark, or almost dark. Small sconces scattered here and there provided a bit of illumination for the occasional night owl. London was not without its private 'after hours' clubs. Many were elegant affairs frequented by bright young things, the smart set, dashing scions and noted beauties. Lady Mary Crawley Talbot certainly made the cut. True, she was in her early thirties, but a noted beauty none the less... and a handsome, daring auto racing husband only added to her allure. When the film ended, she and Henry joined a group at The PEACH TREE CLUB, a posh spot full of cream colored walls accented by classic columns and banquets all upholstered in pale, muted oranges and tans. The kitchen served racks of tiny, grilled lamb chops accompanied by smooth, almost custardy dollops of buttered grits and small cubes of the best toasted corn bread this side of The Old Dominion. But people just nibbled. Most went for the minty, supposedly American Southern cocktails and (if they still had enough energy) took a few turns on the dance floor ( the 'Charleston' and all that )

But Mary seemed distracted. Henry could tell. Indeed, everyone could tell. She feigned a headache. He got their coats. They left. He asked her what was wrong and she wanted to explain, but the family was still so new to him and old scandals can be so tedious.

So they rode in silence. She caught the eye of the driver in the rear view mirror. Even he sensed something... But London cabbies were oh so discrete. Henry didn't want to press her and pretended to be taken with the lights of Piccadilly...

Upon arriving home, Lester, the night watchmen, let them in. That's how late it was. Even the butler couldn't be expected to wait up at that hour.

She kissed Henry and told him she wanted some cold lemonade in the kitchen for her headache. He offered to join her, but she insisted he get his sleep. He didn't press it.

And Mary really did want a cold drink, but on her way to the kitchen she saw a bit of light coming from the small 'parlor' off the 'family' dining room. She peeked through the crack. Her father was in there, nursing some scotch and staring into space.... The wireless was turned down low, but you could still hear Al Jolson singing 'Sonny Boy.'

She went in and silently took a seat across from him. He knew she was there but didn't say a word.... 'Sonny boy,' how fitting. Then she whispered - I met someone on the street today.... Oh, really? Who? - mumbled her father..... In a 'calm' voice she said - Lucas, your son.....

He didn't say a word, but he tensed and his eyes teared up.... Mary said - Do you know who that is?.....

He nodded....

She quietly asked - What do we do now?.... That's when he broke down... Mary got up and locked the door....

For earlier that evening, her father had seen him too....

<more next time>

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