Sunday, 28 March 2010


For those of you not on Twitter and who missed the Best Inappropriately Funny Story of the Last Ten Days: the Times carried a report on the latest sex abuse scandal, this time involving the Vienna Boys Choir and gave the story to a reporter named--- well, see for yourself...

Roger WHO?

Yes, it really does say Roger Boyes!

Oh, dear! However, unlike the widely-circulated urban myth that Captain Pugwash featured a character named 'Roger the Cabin Boy', Roger Boyes really is the name of a thoroughly respectable journalist.

Next time a story like this comes up, Roger, I'd take a vacation if I were you --- and avoid Vienna!

Thanks to Twitter-tweeter, Irascible Ian for the bottom line on this story.

Saturday, 27 March 2010


Since becoming the leader of the most powerful nation on earth and winning the Nobel Peace Prize, Barack Obama, had decided to apply his gifts to more modest endeavours...

Obama Air Freshener 1
And here he is doing it...

Obama Air Freshener 2
And here are the warnings, including: "Review State laws before hanging from rear view mirror"! A reminder of bad ol' days in the South, perhaps...?

Obama Air Freshener 3 (The Warnings)
There was story when Barack was running for President that Michelle Obama had told Glamor magazine that her husband snored and had B.O. Let's hope that the good people of China sent a few free sample of the Obama Air Freshener to the White House!

Our thanks to Polkadots & Moonbeams for bringing us back this excellent souvenir from Washington, home of republican democracy!

Images © Brian Sibley, uploaded via my flickr Photostream.

Thursday, 25 March 2010


Back to Bewitched...

You remember the theme-tune: "Dee-dum, dee-dum, dee-dee-dee-dee-dee-dee..."? Well, you only know the half of it!

As a young (but quite observant) viewer I was always puzzled by one of the closing credits...


Er...? Excuse me...

WHAT song?

There was music, yes, but no lyrics!

Well, actually there were, it's just that we never ever heard them.

And here they are...

Bewitched, Bewitched,
You've got me in your spell.
Bewitched, Bewitched,
You know your craft so well.
Before I knew what I was doing
I looked in your eyes
That brand of woo you've been brewin'
Took me by surprise.

You witch, you witch,
One thing is for sure.
That stuff you pitch
Just hasn't got a cure.
My heart was under lock and key,
But somehow it got unhitched.
I never thought that I could be had
But now I'm caught and I'm kinda glad to be---

And here they are being sung --- with a bit of help in the nose-twitching department from the witch herself, Elizabeth Montgomery...

Composer, Jack Keller recalled of the song he wrote with Howard Greenfield once said: "The pilot had used Frank Sinatra's 'Witchcraft', but they didn't want to pay for 'Witchcraft', so they asked us to write something. We only had a week to write the song, do the demo, and get it out to California, and they accepted it and they put it on. The show was a smash."

However, despite the fact that Greenfield and Keller and already had several hits including 'Everybody's Somebody's Fool', the song was only ever used orchestrally. I first came across the words on a recording by one of my favourite singers, Peggy Lee, for who it might almost have been written...

Among others who recorded the number was Steve Lawrence ('Mr Eydie Gormé', for those old enough to know what the hell I'm talking about) on the flip-side of his 1964 single, 'I Will Wait For You'. Forty-one years later, that version was included on the soundtrack of the 2005 less-than-magical movie version of Bewitched starring Nicole Kidman and Will Ferrel. Here it is, accompanied by images from the original TV show...

You can read more about the Bewitched theme tune, incidental music and much more here.

Monday, 22 March 2010


In case you don't recognise us (we've had rather a lot of worry lately!) this is David and I attending the re-opening-in-new-premises-party of one of our favourite local restaurants, Amici...

Everyone was invited to wear masks so we selected a couple of Venetian ones from our own collection.

As anyone who's ever visited Venice knows, pretty much every other shop sells Venetian masks - many of which - if the naive tourist did but know it - were made a long way from Venice and imported for sale to souvenir-seeking day-trippers!

There are, in fact, only three or four authentic mask-makers left in the city, compared with some three or for hundred mask shops!

And you wouldn't believe how many of them have notices in their windows advising potential purchasers that they were the exclusive providers of masks for Stanley Kubrick's 1999 film, Eyes Wide Shut. Some even have testimonials from Tom and Nicole. You'd think, bearing in mind what a turkey the film was, that they'd want to keep quite about such an association!

But I digress, the masks we are wearing above were made in Venice - David's in papier mache and mine from leather with horse hair eyebrows!

This be-crystalled confection, on the other hand - despite being offered for sale only a few hundred yards from St Mark's Square, - was made by Swarovski of Austria...

Moon Maiden
And a great many of the masks on sale don't even carry that pedigree.

However, if you know where to look, you can find authentic mask 'laboratories' where the antique crafts are still practiced...

In such establishments you can buy the beautiful...

Or the beastly...

Or a little something to tickle your fancy...

Once a year, at Carnival (just before the beginning of Lent), the masqueraders take to the campos, calles and bridges and decorate this already elaborately decorative city with outlandish flowerings of exotic costumery and eccentric masks for the benefit of post-card and art-book photographers and the general wonderment of tourists who imagine, quite wrongly, that they are getting a peep at what Venetian life was like back in those rudely, romping days of Casanova and Co.

Never mind, Venice is a theatre and the mask-wearers are - like everyone who visits the city - performers on its stage...

Photos of masks © Brian Sibley, uploaded via flickr. You can see more of my photos of Venice (and elsewhere) on my flickr Photostream.

Friday, 19 March 2010


a fond farewell to


Walt Disney's Davy Crockett,

hero of our 50's youth

Like all former kids of a certain age, Fess Parker's TV portrayal of Davy Crockett for Walt Disney was a cultural milestone in our young lives.

I had the privilege of interviewing Fess for one of my BBC radio series and even managed to get him to sing me a verse of that famous 'Ballad' by George Bruns and Tom Blackburn that was originally (and ironically) written just to bulk out the TV show which was running under time! A number one hit and several million copies later, it became the song by which many of still remember a particular year in the 1950s!

And, if you weren't part of the Crockett generation, then here's a glimpse into what all the fuss was about...

Fess went on to appear in a several Disney feature films - The Great Locomotive Chase, Old Yeller and Westward Ho, the Wagons! - before playing another iconic western hero, Daniel Boone.

But it is as 'The King of the Wild Frontier" that he will always be remembered.

Fess Elisha Parker, Jnr
August 16, 1924 – March 18, 2010

King of the Wild Frontier

"He's ahead of us all in meeting the test,
followin' his legend
right into the West..."

Thursday, 18 March 2010


Writing, recently, about Ronald Searle at 90 reminded me that there's connection between this great cartoonist and illustrator and one the favourite TV shows from Sibley's '60s teenage years.

Bewitched, as you may recall (or have been told by elderly maiden aunts), was a popular American sit-com about the everyday life of a witch married to a mortal who is desperately trying not to use her magical powers in middle-class suburbia.

In June 1966, Ronald Searle provided a cover for the television-listing magazine, TV Guide, featuring two of the stars of the series: Elizabeth Montgomery who played Samantha Stephens, the 'witch' in 'bewitched', and Agnes Moorehead who (after years of serious thesping with the likes of Orson Welles and his Mercury Theater Company) won international celebrity as Sam's flamboyant and idiosyncratic mother: the unstoppable, un-top-able, Endora...

Ronald Searle - 'Bewitched' (Sam, Endora and Tabitha)
The caricature of Ms Moorehead is fantastic, although I can't help feeling that Baby Tabitha looks not unlike an infant version of Searle's 'skoolboy', Nigel Molesworth, and the portrait of Ms Montgomery is, I think it's fair to say, a tad less flattering than the way she appeared on the series' animated title sequence...

'Bewitched' (Title sequence)

In addition to the cover, Searle additionally provided a number of illustrations for the interior of this issue of TV Guide, including a likeness of Montgomery's first co-star, Dick York, as Sam's long suffering and perpetually perplexed husband, Darrin Stephens.

Despite playing the straight man in this high-camp comedy, York showed himself to be the master of comic timing in his reactions to Sam's nose-twitching bewitchery and Endora's magical machinations and Searle certainly caught York's almost permanent condition of wincing, brow-furrowing anxiety.

The other cartoons show Searle's inventiveness in getting behind-the-scenes and into the show's premise.

Here he is imagining the team of technical advisors...

Ronald Searle - 'Bewitched' (Technical Advisory Staff)

Here we get a peek into the secrets of the make-up room: the idea of some Macbethian hag being made-up to look like Ms Montgomery is pure genius...

Ronald Searle - 'Bewitched' (Sam in Make-up)

And a glimpse of Sam performing on-set, off-screen magic on director William Asher (at the time Mr Montgomery), the hapless Dick York and an unidentified 'chippie'...

Ronald Searle - 'Bewitched' (Sam and the Frogs)

According to one of my favourite bloggers, Kevin Kidney (who first posted Searle's cartoons back in 2008), Searle was not exactly bewitched by the programme itself, observing: "I know that the canned laughter underscoring those mournful lines in Bewitched is the laughter of lost souls. Who else would applaud so hysterically the words: 'What's for breakfast, Sam?'"

Whether it's out of sentimental nostalgia for my lost youth, I don't know, but I still laugh at Bewitched...

You'll find more of Ronald Searle's art for TV Guide here (the cover on the right shows Robert Vaughn and David McCallum, the stars of The Man from U.N.C.L.E.) on Matt Jones' endlessly diverting Perpetua: Ronald Searle Tribute, where you will also discover a great deal more about the world according to Searle.

Don't forget to visit the excellent exhibition, Ronald Searle - Graphic Master which remains on show until 4 July at The Cartoon Museum, 35 Little Russell Street, London, WC1A 2HH. Opening hours: Tuesday-Saturday, 10:30-17:30; Sunday, 12:00-17:30, Closed Monday.

And may I mention that The Cartoon Museum is hosting a series of talks about the life and work of Ronald Searle that you might enjoy.

Here are details of the first three talks:

Tuesday 30 March: Titles Designed by Ronald Searle by (the aforementioned) artist and animator, Matt Jones

Wednesday 21 April: Ronald Searle at 90
Exhibition curator Anita O’Brien talks about meeting Searle and reveals more background to the exhibition

Wednesday 28 April: Collaborative Visions - The Illustrations of Ronald Searle by - er - well, by Me, actually!

All three talks are at 6:30-7:30 pm

Tickets: £5 (Adults); £4 (Concessions); £3.50 (Friends of the Museum)
To reserve your tickets - telephone: 0207 580 8155 or e-mail:

Details of the full season will be found on The Cartoon Museum website

Oh, yes! And, finally: you can find out pretty much anything you've ever wanted to know about Bewitched (and much that you haven't!) at Bewitched @ Harpies Bizarre.

Images uploaded from my flickr Photostream.

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Saturday, 13 March 2010


The Results!!

This was the picture for which I asked you provide captions and it produced a healthy 'crop' of entries!

Since I've been totally bogged down struggling with the task of writing far less interesting captions for my next book and since (for some inexplicable reason) DAVID WEEKS forgot to enter the competition this time, I invited him to judge competition on my behalf.
He reviewed the entries anonymously and arrived at a decision.

But before the winners, here are the very entertaining and ingenious runners-up...


"I didn't like this green originally but now its growing on me."

"I think I'm ready for the Lord of the Rings Fancy Dress Party now - hope no one else goes as Treebeard."

"Someone's taking this 'go green' nonsense far too seriously!"

"We selected her for originality - all the other blog competition subjects arrived in Calvin Klein underwear for some reason..."

[DW says: I liked this but ultimately felt that to be truly funny you had to be privy to other competitions and that it lacked the direct response to the current competition picture – even so Highly Commended and I nodded as I smiled.]


"I hope the gardener prunes this properly!"

"Does this make my head look bigger?"

"Knew I should have stuck to my usual shampoo."

"When I said I wanted some wine, I meant from the bottle - not to grow my own grapes!"


"When I said I wanted you to MOULD me into becoming another TWIGGY this is NOT what I meant!"

What do you get if you cross Barbara BROCOLLI with Elijah WOOD?

Treebeard’s assertion that the Ent-Wives had completely vanished from Middle-Earth proved to be totally false.

Given her lack of academic results the pupils weren't completely surprised when they found out the head was branching out.


Looking at his reflection, Alan Titchmarsh liked the side effects but wondered if his new shampoo for Oreal - 'Compost Lather and Grow (because you're worth it)' - was a little too organic...


"Does your hair bite, madam?"

"Oh my, Cynthia - your latest hairstyle has me green with envy!"

"This hair used to be Edward G Robinson..."

[I think this needs an explanation, Sharon M, but you'll have to do the honours. Ed.]


"When they said herbal shampoo, I didn't know THIS was what they meant!"

"Wash and go, wash and go... where am I supposed to GO with this?"

"I wonder how many people will guess those branches are actually pinned into my scalp... How else would they stand up like that?"

"That's the last time I let my florist friend help me wash my hair!"

"Does my bum look big in this?"

"And now I can finally get Radio 6!"

Pass me the hair straighteners someone!

[DW says:
Highly Commended.]

Third Place


She doesn't look much now but wait until spring !

Second Place

("With an entry," says David W, "that is reminiscent of
I’m Sorry, I Haven’t a Clue...)

"You idiot! I said I wanted to look like a SEDUCER!"


("Even though," admits David, "I had to look up the meaning of 'ficus'!")


Applying for the job at The Royal Parks’ accounting division Emma showed she had a head for ficus.

Well done to the winners and thanks to everyone for taking part and to David for judging the Best in Show (Herbaceous Border Category)!

Wednesday, 10 March 2010


Move over Tim! Let's have a look at another Burton - two other Burtons in fact - in a rather more conventional Wonderland.

In 1983, Richard and daughter, Kate (by first wife Sybil Williams) appeared together in an American TV version of Alice in Wonderland based on actress Eva Le Gallienne's celebrated Broadway adaptation of 1932, to which - for a time - Walt Disney acquired the film rights. That's Miss La Gallienne, on the right, as the White Queen in the original production.

Of course, the White Knight, is not a true Wonderlander, but an escapee from Looking-glass World, although as far as dramatists and filmmakers are concerned, Lewis Carroll's two books are pretty much interchangeable and invariably amalgamated!

Never mind, we never had many opportunities to enjoy Richard Burton singing (outside his Broadway cast recording of Camelot) so this performance of 'The White Knight's Song' about the "Aged, Aged Man A-sitting on a Gate" is a true rarity.

The music for that production was by Richard Addinsell who composed numerous film scores including Fire Over England, Goodbye Mr Chips, Gaslight, Blithe Spirit, Scrooge, The Prince and the Show Girl and, most famously, Dangerous Moonlight for which he wrote the 'Warsaw Concerto'. He also collaborated with Joyce Grenfell on a number of revues and one-woman shows. The lyrics, of course, are Lewis Carroll's "own invention".

Anyway, this is just an excuse to share another Carrollian rendition that is one of my personal favourites. From Jonathan Miller's haunting black and white BBC 'Wednesday Play' adaptation of Alice in Wonderland, first televised in 1966.

All the characters (including the animals) were portrayed as eccentric Victorians and the cast for a Brit TV show, was phenomenal: Peter Sellers as the King of Hearts, Michael Gough as the March Hare, Peter Cook as the Hatter, Leo McKern as the Duchess, and Michael Redgrave as the Caterpillar among others.

The film was filled with moments of inspired brilliance, of which the most memorable was 'The Lobster Quadrille', filmed along Pett Level on the Sussex coast with popular journalist and TV pundit of the time, Malcolm Muggeridge, as the Gryphon and John Gielgud as the Mock Turtle.

This YouTube clip is taken from the 'menu' of the DVD version, so you'll have to ignore the 'buttons' at the bottom of the screen, but the absurdity and poignancy of these two old men dancing among the rock pools, silhouetted against the wide vista of sunlit sea and heaped-up cloud is, I think, bliss...

You'll find some more pictures and another clip here.

Please note the Richard Burton Alice in Wonderland
advertised above is a Region 1 DVD only.

Sunday, 7 March 2010


One of the interesting things about Tim Burton's take on Lewis Carroll's Alice is the decision to rename Wonderland's monarch, the Queen of Hearts, as the Red Queen (an identity formerly belonging to the far-less violent ruler of Looking-glass World).

In the process she has acquired a new 'look', as can be seen from this comparison of John Tenniel's original illustration in the first edition of the book, Walt Disney's clearly derivative depiction from his 1951 animated feature and Helena Bonham-Carter as she appears in Burton's film...

Queen of Hearts to Red Queen
As a film aficionado, I couldn't help feeling I had seen a similar-looking queen somewhere before...
Iracebeth the Red Queen
The clue was in the name bestowed on the film character, Iracabeth! Where could that have come from but a Humpty Dumpty-type portmanteau-word combining 'irascible' with 'Elizabeth' That's when I realised where I'd previously seen this regal personage - she was none other than Miss Bette Davis as the Virgin Queen in the 1939 film, The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex...

Queen Bette
Don't you think so?

Anyway, it's a good excuse to play you the film's trailer hilariously heavy with hyperbole and laced with Erich Wolfgang Korngold's sumptuous score.

Yep! That's how to tell history!

"Off with their heads!"

Friday, 5 March 2010


For several days, last week, it was a case of "Will you, Won't you, Will you, Won't you, Will you" be able to see Disney's release of Tim Burton's film, Alice in Wonderland, in 3D at an Odeon cinema near you.

The dispute raged over Disney's intention to reduce the time between the film's release and its being issued on DVD from the conventional 17 weeks to a mere 12 weeks. For the cinema chains, who have been investing millions in new projection equipment to screen 3D films, this was unacceptable because films with huge appeal that might play longer in theatres would be threatened by early 'Coming soon on DVD' posters.

Disney, like other studios, are aware that DVD sales fell last year by 10% and want to rejuvenate the home entertainment part of their business (up until now the most lucrative) by getting DVDs of films out into the marketplace while there is still public awareness of titles and in the (probably vain) hope of preventing some of the piracy currently eating into their revenue.

The face-off was dramatic and although finally resolved (on terms that neither party are willing to divulge) it has, ultimately, probably only succeeded in boosting the already considerable hype about the latest Burton movie!

Tim Burton's revisionist take on Britain's seminal children's classic is the latest in a LONG line of interpretations (rarely beautiful, often bizarre, sometimes beastly and frequently bland) that demonstrate just how swiftly and completely Carroll's unorthodox Victorian imagination touched a universal consciousness. Alice, her dream-world, the characters she met there and the conversations she had quickly became - and have remained - part of international popular culture.

The first film version, silent and running for 8 minutes, was made in 1903 - just five years after Carroll's death - by British film pioneer, Cecil Hepworth...

Walt Disney had a long fascination with Carroll's book and one of his earliest (pre-Mickey Mouse) series was 'Alice in Cartoonland', featuring a live-action child in an animated world. None of the familiar Carroll characters appeared but the fact that the pilot for the series was entitled Alice's Wonderland tells you the source of Disney's inspiration.

As soon as the possibility of making animated features became a reality, Disney was itching to put Alice on film and would have done so sooner had he not been pipped to the post in 1933 by Paramount Pictures who produced the first of a long-line of star-laden Alices. Tim Burton - as I hardly need remind you - has a cast led by Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham-Carter, Alan Rickman, Stephen Fry, Anne Hathaway, Matt Lucas, Michael Sheen and Sir Christopher Lee. Back in 1933, Paramount trotted out W C Fields, Gary Cooper, Cary Grant, Edward Everett Horton, Edna May Oliver and a dozen others.

Disney bided his time and, in 1936, made-do with a Carroll-inspired Mickey Mouse short called Thru the Mirror...

Eventually, in 1951, Disney got to take us on that full-length animated expedition he'd been envisaging for two decades.

Here's the trailer...

Walt's excursion into Wonderland wasn't the success he had hoped for: perhaps because it lacked the sentimental, romantic appeal of the studio's established line in Prince-and-Princess fairy-tales and because it outraged purists critics - especially in the UK.

Now, in a more culturally-tolerant era, Disney is back in a Wonderland of sorts in company with Mr Burton, cinema's tirelessly inventive enfant terrible...

So, what are we to make of this film which opens today?

Well, first it has to be said - probably sooner rather than later - that this is not Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland, or a version of it, or a sequel to it. It is a Burtonesque phantasmagoria that trips the dark fantastic in the way only Mr B can do!

The names of many of characters are the same or similar to the well-known denizens of Wonderland and Looking-glass-world, but they are their own selves and the Alice who blunders into their realm is, some of the residents think, the Wrong Alice!

In fact, things are even topsy-turvyier than when Carroll pitched the first Alice down the rabbit-hole 145 years ago, since the place itself turns out to be not Wonderland but Underland!

Once all that is understood, you'll have no trouble with the Queen of Hearts morphing with the Red Queen and being at war with the White Queen or the story's New Alice (aged 19), clad in white armour, riding forth like Joan of Arc to slay the Jabberwocky (sic) with the vorpal sword that the Red Queen has kept locked in the courtyard kennel of the Bandersnatch...

I could go on, but you get the drift and any further revelations can only spoil the surprises!

Wonderlander's Tea-Party
However, you can hear more of my thoughts on the new Alice on BBC Radio 2's Arts Show tonight at around 10:30 pm, when presenter, Claudia Winkleman, will be playing an interview I had with Tim Burton and, afterwards, talking with me about the film

And, if you miss it you can catch the broadcast for the next seven days on BBC iPlayer.

Wednesday, 3 March 2010


Today is, indeed, the 90th birthday of the greatest cartoonist, illustrator and graphic artist of the late 20th century.

Click image to enlarge

RONALD SEARLE is universally remembered for his infamously anarchic educational establishment, St Trinian's, whose young ladies were later immortalised on film under the tutelage of Miss Milicent Fritton (first portrayed by Alastair Sim and, more recently, by Rupert Everett) and who are here seen, in one of the original drawings, turning out to greet an honoured guest on Founder's Day - could it be the artist himself? I think so...

Click image to enlarge

I first encountered Searle not on the hockey-pitch of St Trinian's but through his illustrations to the fairytale worlds of James Thurber's The 13 Clocks and the Wonderful O...

Shortly afterwards, I became acquainted with (right) Searle's graphic contribution to the academic misadventures of Master Nigel Molesworth who - "as any fule kno" - was the Curse of St Custard's.

Despite the fact that Searle's collaborator was a former teacher, Geoffrey Willans, Down with Skool, How to Be Topp and their companion volumes were widely condemned by educationalists in my day (and certainly banned from my skool library) due to their appalling spelling and grammar and, more heinously, their highly subversive content!

Today, changing social mores not withstanding, they remain an hilarious insight into the monstrous minds of small boys!

"The Molesworth-Peason lines Machine.
Runs off a hundred in one minit. (patnt pnding.)"
Click image to enlarge

During my own passage from adolescence to adulthood, I discovered Searle's many collections of cartoons and pen portraits as well as some of his illustrations to an astonishing range of books by authors ranging from Charles Dickens via Christopher Fry to Patrick Campbell.

Searle, I found, had also decorated the lyrics of Tom Lehrer, Flanders and Swann and, in the animated film, Dick Deadeye, the stories and characters of Gilbert and Sullivan.

I also stumbled across (left) his spidery 'embellishments' to a delicious oddity, The Journal of Edwin Carp.

This curiosity was written by the actor Richard Haydn (fondly recalled as Max Dettweiler in The Sound of Music) which inspired this short animated film...

Ronald Searle was an artist of enormous diversity, whose work spans over sixty years of contributions to Lilliput, Punch, Life, Holiday, La Monde and many other publications containing his idiosyncratic observations on life in Britain...

France, where he eventually made his home...

And the USA...

Searle's established brilliance as a caricaturist, led to his designing several memorable movie posters and title sequences for a number of films including Scrooge, Monte Carlo or Bust and Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines...

During WWII, Searle had undergone the harrowing experience of being a Japanese POW in Changi Gaol and having witnessed torture and death at such close range may well have contributed, obliquely, to the comic violence found in the corridors, dorms and labs of St Trinian's and St Custard's. They certainly seem to haunt many of his later, darker cartoons, but the humour always bubbles through especially in his much-loved universe of bizarre birds, preposterous pigs and corpulent, contented cats...

Click image to enlarge

The work of this brilliant artist is currently being celebrated in two major London exhibitions:

Ronald Searle - Graphic Master is on show from 3 March-4 July at The Cartoon Museum, 35 Little Russell Street, London, WC1A 2HH. Opening hours: Tuesday-Saturday, 10:30-17:30; Sunday, 12:00-17:30, Closed Monday.

This glorious exhibition celebrates the creator of Molesworth and Co and the 'Surly gurls' of St Trinian's with some memorable scholaric moments such as this one...

"Ruddy Sports Day!"

The exhibition places Searle's cartoons, caricatures and illustrations within the historical context of graphic art as represented by such predecessors as Gilray, Cruikshank and Rowlandson. It also expands our appreciation of Searle's brilliance as a master of graphic reportage as demonstrated in a wide range of works from scenes of London life (sewer-men, flag-makers, boxers, and auctioneers) made during the 1950s for the News Chronicle and which are an evocative insight into London life in the early days of the 'New Elizabethan Age', through to Searle's globe-trotting observations of other cultures, by turn, brutally harsh and wryly affectionate.

Among the exhibits (many borrowed from the artist and his family and several of them unpublished and seen here for the first time) are plenty of pictures that make you smile, chortle and laugh out loud at the follies and absurdities of human nature, as well as others that will evoke quite different emotions such as Searle's painful and horrific war-time sketches of disease and death in the Burmese jungle and his clinical post-war chronicling of the trial of Adolf Eichmann and an emotional response to the erection of Berlin Wall.

A fabulous, full-colour 160 page catalogue (right) contains - in addition to a superabundance of Searleiness - essays and art-pieces by Steve Bell, Roger Law, Uli Meyer, Arnold Roth, Martin Rowson, Gerald Scarfe, Posy Simmonds and Ralph Steadman. At £14.99 it is a 'snip'.

If you love Ronald Searle - or even if just quite like him - you must not miss this exhibition!

The Cartoon Museum, 35 Little Russell Street, London, WC1A 2HH.
Opening hours: Tuesday-Saturday, 10:30-17:30; Sunday, 12:00-17:30, Closed Monday.

'Palm Springs' from The Cartoon Museum exhibition

There is also a largely-selling exhibition, Happy 90th Birthday Ronald Searle, from 3 March - 3 April at Chris Beetles Gallery.

Among the exhibits that are on loan (rather than for sale) in the Beetles show - which traces Searle's draughtsmanship from Lilliput to his illustrations, a year or two back, for Jeffrey Archer's Cat O'Nine Tales - is our very own Searle original: a classic St Trinian's cartoon showing the long-suffering headmistress and one of the little devils in her charge...

On a blog post of a few years back, you can read more about this picture and about some of Searle's other work.

Chris Beetles Gallery, 8 & 10 Ryder Street, St James's, London, SW1Y 6QB.
Opening hours: 10:00-17:30pm Monday-Saturday. Closed Sunday.

And, after all that, all that remains to be said is....

Many Happy Returns, Mr Searle!

Several of the illustrations in this post have been 'borrowed' from my good friend, artist and animator, Matt Jones' blogs: Perpetua - Ronald Searle Tribute and Ronald Searle Tumblog, which are the places to go to read and see more - a lot more - about the work of this incomparable artist.

And check out Matt's other blogs:
Matt Jones' Sketchbook
Matt's Morgue
Mis-en-scene and others.

Incidentally, Matt will be giving a talk about Searle's work with animation at the Cartoon Museum on Tuesday 30th March. A month later (more or less) on Wednesday 28 April, I will be speaking about Searle's illustrations. There will be a number of other talks during the run of the exhibition and I'll give details as soon as they are available. All talks will begin at 6:30.