BROADCAST: 17 Jan 1956[1]

Script by Spike Milligan and Eric Sykes


GREENSLADE: This is the BBC Home Service – or if you're French; 'Zis is ze Be Be Ce 'ome servis.
GRAMS: Excerpt of French accordion music. Fade behind.
SECOMBE: Hear that French type music listeners? (Laughs) Hm hm hm. It gives you a clue as to what country tonight's play is set. Have any of you guessed?
SECOMBE: Try again Eccles.
ECCLES: Ah hum.
SECOMBE: Now here is another subtle musical clue.
GRAMS: Recordings in quick succession: Offenbach’s “Can-can;” [2] “La Marseillaise;” [3] & tatty saxophone version of “Sur les Toits de Paris.” [4]
SECOMBE: It is difficult, I know. But from time to time we will give you further clues. Now Mister Greenslade, continue.
GREENSLADE: Mesdames et messieurs, presenting 'Tales of Montmartre'.[5] One, two, three…
FX: Pistol shot.
ORCHESTRA: Spirited version of Offenbach’s “Can-can” – cat calls and whoops from cast.
SEAGOON: (Slightly distant) It was Paris in 1880. My name is...
MILLIGAN: One moment. Get on this chair.
FX: Shoes clambering on chairs.
SEAGOON: (Effort) Huh. (On mic) Merki. My name is Toulouse-Lautrec – Neddie Toulouse-Lautrec of Leeds. My story is of a great love – Fifi; but more of her later. Much more.
ECCLES: Fine, fine.

GRAMS: Background city sounds; distant traffic; bells of Montmartre.
SEAGOON: It was a bleak Parisian evening when I entered a small art shop and haberdashery.
FX: Door opens. Shop bell rings. Door closes.
CRUN: Ah! Bone sewer.
SEAGOON: Bone idle, Monsieur la patron. I want to buy a twenty foot easel.
CRUN: Twenty foot! Whatever for?
SEAGOON: I want people to think I'm tall.
CRUN: But if you stand by a twenty foot easel it'll make you look even shorter.
SEAGOON: That's just it, I'm not going to stand by it. I'll stand somewhere else. (Laughs) Ha ha ha. I'm not a fool you know.
CRUN: If you're not going to stand near it, why buy it?
SEAGOON: I've got to buy it so as to have something tall not stand by. (Laughs) Ha ha! It's no good not standing by something tall that's not there is it, ehi? (Laughs) Ha ha ha… Ahem. [6]
CRUN: Supposing someone comes in unexpectedly when you're standing near it?
SEAGOON: Then I shall deny every word of it and stand on a ladder.
CRUN: I see. (Calls) Madam Bannister! Have you got that easel?
BANNISTER: (Distant) Oui, oui buddy. (Approaching) Oh dear, dear. Here – twenty foot high. Shall I wrap it up for you buddy?
SEAGOON: No, just strap it on my back and put my hat on top. (Leaving) I'll show them how tall I can look. (Laughs) Ha ha!
FX: Door opens. Shop bell rings.
SEAGOON: (Calls) Bonsoir.
FX: Door closes. Bell rings.
GRAMS: “Moulin Rouge” theme – Mantovani Orchestra version. Continue under. [7]

FX: Jangling of keys. Keys into lock..  
SEAGOON: (Singing over) … lips are near

but where is your heart?[8]

FX: Door opens.

SEAGOON: Ahhh, home at last. So saying, I set up my twenty foot easel and started to paint. (Hums to self)
MORIARTY: Good evening in French.
SEAGOON: Needle nardle noo! Who are you?
MORIARTY: I am Count Fred Moriarty.
SEAGOON: Then why are you disguised as Major Bloodnok?
MORIARTY: He couldn't come. It's the dreaded lurgi you know.
SEAGOON: The dreaded lurgi, a likely story – or a lurgi story.[9] (Laughs) Hm hm hm. You come in here a complete stranger and ...
MORIARTY: Correction, correction! – an incomplete stranger.
SEAGOON: Explain.
MORIARTY: I have a wooden leg.
FX: Sudden sawing of wooden beam.
MORIARTY: Stop sawing my leg through I tell you! Stop ...
GRAMS: Sound of enormous redwood falling.
GRAMS: Crash of tree to ground.
MORIARTY: Ohi! Sapristi nabolas.[10]
SEAGOON: Yes! – that's cut you down to my size. Now, explain what you were doing in mon studio.
MORIARTY: Well as I said, mon name is Count Fred Moriartee. Ah, you don’t mind if I speak French now?
SEAGOON: Of course.
MORIARTY: J’en acabbaga iouyie, oú j’a arabbia aayie. (Cod French)
SEAGOON: Hold it! Hold it – I'll get a bucket.
MORIARTY: Sapristi nabolas! – you make a joke of me? Insult! We must fight a duel. Three paces and fire.
FX: Two rapid pistol shots.
MORIARTY: Thank you. Honour is satisfied. Now to business.
SEAGOON: Business? What is your business?
MORIARTY: I monsieur – I monsieur am a collector.
SEAGOON: What do you collect?
MORIARTY: Firewood. I pay two francs a bundle.
SEAGOON: Two francs?
FX: Sudden sawing of wooden beam.
MORIARTY: Stop sawing my wooden leg!  You insult me? – we must fight another duel. Three paces.
FX: Two quick pistols shots.
MORIARTY: Thank you – honour is satisfied. Monsieur Lautrec, I can do business with you.
SEAGOON: Me? I am but a poor old painter.
MORIARTY: So I see by your poor old paintings.
SEAGOON: You insult me! – we must fight a duel. On guard!
MORIARTY: On guard.
FX: Rattle of swords.
SEAGOON: Thank you – honour is satisfied.
SEAGOON: Now, what do you want?
MORIARTY: That painting on that twenty foot easel. Ten francs?
SEAGOON: (aside) Ten francs! He's made an offer. I've sold my first painting.
MORIARTY: Correction – you've sold your first easel.
SEAGOON: That twenty foot easel is not for sale.
MORIARTY: (aside) Sapristi, sapristi! Curses, dear listeners. That great easel sawn up, would made fifty bundles of French type firewood. I must have it! I'll think of a plan. (Going off) Oww, ze plan. I'll think of a plan…
FX: Knock on door.
SEAGOON: Pardon me.
FX: Door opens.
GAUGUIN: Oh good evening. Is your mother in, sonny?
SEAGOON: Sonny? I'm Toulouse-Lautrec.
GAUGUIN: Oh? and where are you going to lose him?
SEAGOON: Have a care sir! I'm not a man to be laughed at.
GAUGUIN: (Giggling) Really? I heard your record and I just couldn't stop! [11]
SEAGOON: What, what, what, what, what, what, what, what what?
GAUGUIN: What a Brouhaha!
SEAGOON: Who are you?
GAUGUIN: Gauguin – Monsieur Paul Gauguin. [12]
SEAGOON: (Awestruck) Gauguin? Mon Dieu! – (in French-type French.)
GAUGUIN: You've heard of me?
SEAGOON: Oh yes. I've read all of your paintings from cover to cover. Entré!
GAUGUIN: Thank you, little squodged-out nurk.
SEAGOON: (Narrating) Gauguin dismounted. He appeared to be a fastidious man – before entering he wiped his feet on a Van Gogh, rolled himself a Renoir and lit it with a Botticelli.[13]
GAUGUIN: (Approaching) Nice little studio. Fourteenth floor isn't it?
SEAGOON: Yes – it's the highest basement in Paris. Now wait here and I'll go and make a pot of wine for us.
GAUGUIN: Oh, that's very kind of you.
SEAGOON: (going off) Just come along with me perhaps…
MORIARTY: (Close) So, this man Gauguin was a painter, ehi? Now if I could get him to paint a portrait of the twenty foot easel, then I could take the actual easel for firewood leaving the painting in its place and Neddie would never know the difference. (Aloud) Ahem. (Calls out) Monsieur?
MORIARTY: I want you to paint a portrait of a twenty foot easel.
GAUGUIN: I shall have to have a model.
MORIARTY: You can have my poor old grandmother. Meantime – paint that easel!
GAUGUIN: Not so fast, lopsided frog eater.
GAUGUIN: You can't order me to paint. If you want a painting you must commission me.
MORIARTY: Right. Sew these pips on your shoulders. Now get on with it, Captain…
GAUGUIN: Stand to attention when you're talking to me.
MORIARTY: (Clicks heels) Merci.
GAUGUIN: Now before I start painting, here is Max Geldray to play a melody divine. Shall we dance Neddie?
SEAGOON: I'd love too.
GAUGUIN: Come along now...

MAX GELDRAY -  "Jeepers Creepers". [14]

GREENSLADE: That was Max Geldray playing his harmonica. (I wonder what excuse he'll give this week.) And now – “Tales of Montmartre” part the derx. Enter Fiefie, or if you're French – Fifi.
GRAMS: “Moulin Rouge” theme – Mantovani Orchestra excerpt.
SEAGOON: Gauguin stayed with me and for weeks worked on a painting. He never let me see it. At night he kept it covered with a layer of black paint.
GAUGUIN: Neddie, answer the door.
SEAGOON: What door?
FX: Knocking on door.
GAUGUIN: That door Neddie.
FX: Door opens.
FIFI: [15] (Approaching) Toulouse, darling Toulouse. Ohhh, darlinggg.
SEAGOON: (clears throat) Ahem. Good evening.
FIFI: Here is a ladder – kiss me.
GRAMS: Long kiss. Champagne cork popping.
SEAGOON: (Sexual hysteria) AAAAAAAAARRGGHH! (Tarzan-like whooping) Aha – AA-aa-AA-aa-AA-aa-AA-aa-AA-aa!
(sings) Be my looooove… [16](Indian war-whoops) OO-oo-OO-oo-OO-oo-OO-oo-OO-oo-OO-oo, la-LA-la-LA-la-LA-la-LA-la… (Fade into distance.)

GRAMS: Sound of enormously heavy object crashing down through eight floors. Masonry collapsing, walls crashing in.
(Slight pause)

SEAGOON: Who are you?
FIFI: Don't try and fight it darlinggg.
FIFI: Zis is bigger than both of us – look!
SEAGOON: Gad! – a photo of the Eiffel Tower.
FIFI: Yes. I was born on top of it.
SEAGOON: You've come down in the world.
FIFI: Come darling, kiss me. Time is so short, and so are you. I am Fifi, I've come to help you. I am a model.
SEAGOON: Oh. (clears throat) Ahem. Well you can disrobe behind those screens.
FIFI: (Narrates) For three weeks I posed for Toulouse. Ohhh, how I posed.
SEAGOON: That's enough for today Fifi. The light’s failing, and my eyes are hurting.
FIFI: But Toulouse, when are you going to start painting me?
SEAGOON: I say! That's a golly good idea. Yes, well – I'm hopeless at nudes. (Laughs) Ha ha ha! Ahem. (Narrates) And so we got married.
FX: Door opens.
GAUGUIN: Neddie, have you got a spare sackbut?[17] Mine’s gone out and I… What? Oooooooh!
FIFI: (Alluring) Helloooo.
SEAGOON: Ohh, you two haven't met before have you? Well, this is Fifi my wife and Fifi, this is my trusted friend…
GRAMS: Single whoosh. Immediate passionate kiss. (Extend under.)
GAUGUIN: Ohhh, how delightful…
SEAGOON: This is – um... Fifi? Ah, Fifi? (clears throat) Ahem. Fifi, this is um…
FX: Door opens. Door closes. Telephone rings. Hand piece picked up.
FIFI: Darling... (Close) Hello?
SEAGOON: (On phone) I just wanted to say his name is Paul Gauguin.
FIFI: Thank you.
FX: Hand piece down.
GAUGUIN: Who was that dear?
FX: Door opens.
SEAGOON: (panting) Me!
GAUGUIN: Neddie, naughty Neddie! You never told me about your jolly little wife.
SEAGOON: Well, I knew you were busy.
GAUGUIN: (chuckles) Neddie, we three are going to be jolly happy together. Aren't we dearest?
FIFI: Yes. Let's go away, together.
GAUGUIN: Yes, let's. (Self fade.) Oh darling, I find you... (Both continue to chatter behind)
SEAGOON: I'm so happy you and Paul are going to get along together. At first I thought you might fight. (Laughs) Ha ha ha! Well, let's celebrate shall we? I'll make dinner. Now I'll just light the stove. Where are those – um... (Calls) Fifi? Oh Fifi? (Clears throat) Ahem. Darling? (Whistles) Just a minute! (Calls) Woohoo! Fifi? I say…
FX: Door opens. Door closes. Telephone rings. Handpiece picked up.
FIFI: ‘Ello? ‘Ello?
SEAGOON: (On phone) Darling? – where are the matches?
FIFI: On the cupboard.
SEAGOON: Thank you.
FX: Hand piece down..
FIFI: Oh, how happy we three were together.
SEAGOON: Yes. I didn't see much of Fifi. For that matter I didn't see much of Paul, so… (laughs) ha ha, that evened things up. Then one French evening…
GRAMS: “Moulin Rouge” theme – as before.
FIFI: (Crying) Oh, oh! Oh, ho ho oh! Oh, mon coeur! (Sobs)
SEAGOON: Here, let me take that heavy gramophone.
GRAMS: Needle across record. Music stops.
FIFI: (Sobbing) C'est triste! Que terrible!
SEAGOON: Don't stop darling – tell me all.
FIFI: (Distraught) Défense de cracher, défense de fumer, Boulevard Saint Germain d’ici Radio Francaise aux Champs-Élysées.
La plume de ma tante quelle ridi toujour, toujour la tristesse, toujour pour jadis toujours, côté de la mer sur le Pont d'Avignon, Pére Auguste.[18]
SEAGOON: Gad! – if I could only speak French.
FIFI: (Crying) Ohhhh
SEAGOON: There, there, there. Please don't – don’t cry. You're making your moustache all droopy.
FIFI: It's Paul.You must speak to him.
SEAGOON: Certainly. Hello Paul. I see Arsenal took another bashing! [19]
FIFI: No. Paul didn't come home to me last night.
SEAGOON: He can't do that to a wife of mine!
FIFI: He has been unfaithful to us.
SEAGOON: I'll thrash him within a hundred miles of my life.
FX: Noise of key turning in lock.
SEAGOON: Shh! Listen…

FIFI: It's Paullll.
FX: Door opens.
SEAGOON: You swine Gauguin! Take that…
GRAMS: Scuffling, crockery breaking, furniture overturned, distant cavalry bugle, cannons, cavalry charge, drumming of hooves, fade under.
FIFI: Oh, how they fought. They were still at it when I came back from the pictures. I could not see who was winning, but I knew it was one of them.
SEAGOON: (Effort) Huh! Ah, there. (panting) Now you swine, what have you got to say for yourself?
ECCLES: Yugoslavia.
ECCLES: I've been thinking about that music you played at the beginning and I say this story takes place in Yugoslavia.
SEAGOON: Oh no! Try again. Now get out Eccles.
FX: Door closes.
FIFI: Oh darling, darling look – you have cut yourself fighting. Let me kiss away those broken bones.
FX: Lengthy kiss.
FIFI: There, is that better?
ECCLES: Fine, fine, fine.
SEAGOON: Get out Eccles!
ECCLES: Get out Eccles!
SEAGOON: Get out!
ECCLES: Get out!
FX: Door closes.
FIFI: Oh now darling we are alone.
ECCLES: Yeah darling.
FX: Pounding on door.
SEAGOON: (Distant) Let me in Eccles!
ECCLES: Let me in Eccles!
SEAGOON: Shut up!
ECCLES: Shut up!
FX: Door opens.
SEAGOON: (Close) Now, get out you little idiot.
FX: Door closes.
SEAGOON: (panting) I'm sorry about that interruption, darling.
ECCLES: That's ok, darling.
SEAGOON: (yells) GET OUT! [20]
FIFI: Toulouse, Toulouse – who was that woman?
SEAGOON: Woman? That was a man.
GRAMS: Horse whinnying. Hooves galloping in the distance.
FX: Door closes.
SEAGOON: Mad, impulsive girl.[21] Ah well – she's obviously gone for a breath of fresh air and a brioche.
FX: Door opens.
SEAGOON: Ah darling, you're back. You look much better after your little walk. (Passionate kissing.)
BLOODNOK: Thank you. Now to business. My name is Major Dennis Bloodnok.
SEAGOON: Then why are you disguised as a steak and kidney pudding?
BLOODNOK: It's lunch time. How many live here?
SEAGOON: Let me see, there's my wife, Paul Gauguin...
BLOODNOK: So your wife is Paul Gauguin? Well everyone to his own tastes I always say.
SEAGOON: What do you want here you ragged bum?
BLOODNOK: Ragged bum? A duel sir! Four paces…
FX: Two pistol shots.
BLOODNOK: Right! Honour is satisfied.
FX: Door opens.
FIFI: (Approaching) Toulouse darling, what is all the noise a...
BLOODNOK: (Fascinated) Ohohohoho…
SEAGOON: This is Fifi my wife. Fifi, this is Major...
BLOODNOK: Ohohohoho…
GRAMS: Single whoosh. Passionate kisses. (Continue under.)
BLOODNOK: Oh you little beauty! You lovely little naughty thing. You're a lucky man sir I say. I think I'll take my pack off for a few moments…
SEAGOON: Excuse me!
BLOODNOK: How dare you talk while I'm kissing your wife – who do you think you are?!
SEAGOON: I am Toulouse -Lautrec, the famous French impressionist.
BLOODNOK: Alright, do Al Jolson.
ELLINGTON: Maamee! [22]
BLOODNOK: Splendid. Shall we dance?
SEAGOON: I'd love to.
BLOODNOK: (Self fade) Ohhhh.


GREENSLADE: That was the Ray Ellington Quartet. The BBC are not responsible for the loss of valuables. And now “Tales of Montmartre”, part the troys.
ORCHESTRA: Late night Parisian jazz link. (The ‘Can-can’ – slow, on wah-wah trumpet with jazz combo.)
MORIARTY: (Narrating) That girl Fifi was a menace. Paul Gauguin was very slow in painting the portrait of the easel, so I sent Bloodnok to offer Neddie a slightly higher price for the twenty foot easel.
BLOODNOK: (fading in) Yes, I offer you ninety five francs in French currency.
SEAGOON: In French currency? That means I could stay in this country to spend it.
FX: Thump on table.
BLOODNOK: Here's a hundred franc note.
SEAGOON: I've no change. Have you nothing smaller?
BLOODNOK: I have a bus ticket.
SEAGOON: Not enough.
BLOODNOK: Two bus tickets, and an empty matchbox.
SEAGOON: I accept!
BLOODNOK: Thank you.
FX: Cash register. Coin in till.
SEAGOON: Wait! How do I know these bus tickets are genuine?
BLOODNOK: Great boiling buckets of bringe! – I used them myself only this morning. Look, here's a photograph of me being thrown off the bus.
SEAGOON: Proof enough! I'm sorry I doubted you. Now here's the twenty foot easel, all wrapped up in brown type paper.
FX: Paper rustling.
BLOODNOK: (Self fade) Oh! Moriarty, I've got it! Ohhh…
GRAMS: Pair of boots running into distance.
MORIARTY: Six o'clock. Sapristi nabolas! I told that fool Bloodnok to meet me here outside Monsieur Crun's shop.
GRAMS: Pair of running boots approaching.
BLOODNOK: (Approaching) Ahh, Moriarty! Moriarty I've got it!
MORIARTY: I knew you'd get it one day. You must see a vet at once.
BLOODNOK: (Naughty Moriarty!) Look, I've got the easel.
MORIARTY: Ohhh, eeoieegh! Good!
BLOODNOK: I managed to get it for only a hundred and fifty francs.
FX: Cash register. Coin in till.
BLOODNOK: Thank you. Now, what about the commission?
MORIARTY: Here it is – two francs in unused socks.
BLOODNOK: What!? You've deceived me! We must fight a duel. Three paces and then fire.
FX: Two pistol shots.
BLOODNOK: Honour is satisfied. Now then, I'll come in the shop and see how much you're going to sell it for.
MORIARTY: Oh, sapristi no! No, no, no! I must do it alone.
BLOODNOK: Ooh no! – you're not going to get rid of old dirty Dennis quite so easily. Oh no, I'm going to...
MORIARTY: Police!!
BLOODNOK: (Terror – self fade) AAAAAAAARGH…

GRAMS: Pair of boots running into distance.
MORIARTY: Ha ha ha! Got rid of him.
FX: Door opening. Shop bell. Door closes.
CRUN: Count Morinarty, mon ami.
MORIARTY: Ah, Monsieur Crun. Monsieur Crun – look! I have here a twenty foot easel to sell for firewood.
CRUN: Oh, good, good.
MORIARTY: Now to business.
FX: Paper rustling. (Continue under)
MORIARTY: I'll unwrap the easel and show you how much of it there is – and it's solid wood except for the peg holes, and they're solid air. There!
CRUN: Wait a minute. This, isn't a twenty foot easel – it's a painting of the easel.
MORIARTY: Oh ie oo ie oo ie oo… in French. I've been swindled!

CRUN: (Aside) This painting is signed by Paul Gauguin. (Aloud) I'll er… give you er… a thousand francs for this.
MORIARTY: What! (aside) If a painting of the twenty foot easel is worth a thousand francs, then the original easel must be worth a fortune! I must get it. (Aloud) Ho ho! Wait here.

GRAMS: Single whoosh.
FX: Door slams.
MORIARTY: (Approaching) Cabby! Cabby! – in French. Ici!
BLUEBOTTLE: I heard your French type call mon cap-i-tan. Enter French Bottle-Bleu. Voyla! – cracks whip.
FX: Slapstick.
BLUEBOTTLE: Ohhh, mon ear-'ole. I'm always doin' that.
MORIARTY: Silence. Drive me to the studio of Toulouse-Lautrec and step on it.
BLUEBOTTLE: Step on what, Captain?
MORIARTY: Go fast! – hurry!
BLUEBOTTLE: I haven't got a horse. Oh I know, I will pull the carriage myself. Gets in shaft, puts on harness.
MORIARTY: Sapristi cardboard harness, hurry man!
BLUEBOTTLE: You go on ahead, and I'll catch you up.
MORIARTY: Do you know the address?
BLUEBOTTLE: No, I'll follow you.
MORIARTY: Sapristi, I don't know the address.
BLUEBOTTLE: Well, then you'd better follow me.
BLUEBOTTLE: Takes coconut shells and starts up. Gid up!
FX: Coconut shell hooves. Short burst.
MORIARTY: Stop, stop! This is the place, and here is something for you.
BLUEBOTTLE: Ohh, ta. What is it? It is a nice...
GRAMS: Explosion.
BLUEBOTTLE: You rotten swine, you! [24]
GRAMS: “Moulin Rouge” theme – as before.
FIFI: (Intimate) Oh, Paul.
GAUGUIN: Darling, how lovely you are... (Continue conversation in background)
SEAGOON: (Close) Dear listeners, this had been going on for some time. (Aloud) Gauguin, I'm going to come to the point. What's the matter Fifi – don't you love me any longer?
GAUGUIN: If you were longer, she'd love you much more.
SEAGOON: Swine! (Close) Then I hit on a plan. To try to draw her attention, I set fire to myself. It moved her – she fried an egg on me. To keep me going, they chopped up the twenty foot easel and threw that on me.
FX: Door opens.
MORIARTY: (Approaching) Ah Neddie, Neddie… Stop! Fools, you've burnt the easel. Oh ruined... (Double take) Oh ohhhh…
FIFI: (Enchanted) Ohhhh, kiss me.
GRAMS: Single whoosh.
MORIARTY: Ohhhh! Ho ho ho, my little beauty. I love you. (Fast pecks)
FIFI: I bet you say that to all the girls.
MORIARTY: Well, it's no good saying it to all the boys.
GAUGUIN: You swine! We must fight a duel. Three paces...
FX: Single pistol shot.
MORIARTY: Ohhhh! in French.
GAUGUIN: Got him! And now Fifi, let's go.
SEAGOON: So you're… you're both leaving me – leaving me penniless.
GAUGUIN: Not quite. You can keep my paintings.
SEAGOON: What good are they?
GAUGUIN: Nothing now. They'll be worth a fortune after I'm dead.
SEAGOON: After you're dead?
FX: Single pistol shot.
SEAGOON: I'm rich! (Laughs) Ha ha! Now Fifi, we can be happy.
FIFI: No, there’s someone else.
FX: Door opens.
BLUEBOTTLE: (Approaching) Are you ready Fifi, my little love?
SEAGOON: You rotten swine Bluebottle!
ORCHESTRA: End theme.
GREENSLADE: That was the goon show, a BBC recorded program featuring Peter Sellers,[25] Harry Secombe, Spike Milligan and Charlotte Mitchell, with the Ray Ellington Quartet and Max Geldray. The orchestra was conducted by Wally Stott, script by Spike Milligan and Eric Sykes, announcer Wallace Greenslade, the program produced by Peter Eton.
ORCHESTRA: Playout - "Crazy Rhythm”



[1] With this script, Spike – back on track after three tepid shows (and with the help of Eric Sykes,) begins a period of creative success almost unparalleled in British comedy history. The remainder of series six contains some of the most popular, and entertaining writing in all the Goon Show series – scripts like “The Jet Propelled Guided NAAFI’, ‘The House of Teeth’, ‘The Treasure in the Lake’, ‘The Great Tuscan Salami Scandal’ and Tales of Old Dartmoor’ – which firmly established his name as a great British comic identity.

It seems to have been no accident that Sykes was brought on board to get Spike into his groove again, after his hectic private life had interrupted his creative flow mid series. There seems to have been no other reason for him to have selected the 1952 John Huston film ‘Moulin Rouge’ as a source for a script except for the fact that the hit single “Where is Your Heart?” had been a hit for Mantovani and His Orchestra in the UK in 1953, three years previously, so all the signs point to a disinterested third party making a sensible suggestion to get Milligan over a particularly bad spot. That Milligan was churning out over two dozen scripts per series is still one of the greatest feats of comic genius in British history. His recent dry spell was rare, and one of only a couple that would affect the quality of his writing over the years.

Moulin Rouge’ by John Huston, is based on the Pierre La Mure novel of the same name, which loosely wove together elements of the life of the artist Henri Toulouse-Lautrec-Monfa (1864-1901) into a biography of his artistry, his personality and his life. Crippled at an early age and affected by severe genetic abnormalities, Henri Toulouse-Lautrec became a painter and lithographer at the height of the French Impressionistic movement, and drawn by desperation and loneliness to the fleshpots of the colourful 18th Arrondissemente began sketching the courtesans and dancers who frequented the environs of the newly opened ‘Red Mill’ (the Moulin Rouge) near Montmartre in Paris. The film deals creatively with his relationship to many of the famous identities of the stage, dancers like la Goulue and Jane Avril and weaves around them a world of art, artistry, beggary, exploitation, social violence and rejection which was characteristic themes not only of Huston’s work, but also of post war European cinema.

Sykes – I think it is his hand I see, sensibly reduces the story to quick-sketch, amalgamating the women into one identity and introducing an external conflict regarding burning easels, seems to have outlined a script that enabled Milligan to add in comic details without having to overstrain himself on plotting problems. It is one of the few scripts in which Bluebottle ends up the victor, and it instigates one or two tendencies that Spike was to utilise later. For example, Bluebottle is blown up for no reason at all. He is just given an exploding device. It is expected that he will die, and instead of constructing a plot to explain this fact, the cast just give him an unnamed device that kills him. Milligan was becoming aware that his characters had fates – fates which the unreasoning audience enjoyed seeing played out week after week, unconcerned about how it would happen. Gradually, (as he said later) the characters were taking over the show.

[2] Le ‘Can-can’ was a form of the ‘gallop’, a fast dance which ended the quadrille. Developed principally in Paris in the 1830’s  it became synonymous with the ballrooms of Montparnasse, growing in decadence and bravura and incorporating high leg kicks, leaps and the splits. The composer Jacques Offenbach (1918-1880), the Prussian born doyen of Parisian operetta, wrote this piece of music for the ballet of his operetta “Orphée aux enfers” (1858) after which it became a huge sensation.


[3]La Marseillaise” is the national anthem of France, and was written by Claude Joseph Rouget de Lisle in 1792.


[4]Sur les Toits des Paris” (“On the Roofs of Paris”) is from the 1930 French-German film of the same name. The film, an international sensation on its release, is a witty exploration of love and human foibles, told primarily through music, and captures the flamboyant atmosphere of Paris with sophisticated visuals and groundbreaking use of the new technology of movie sound. This song was written by René Nazelles and Raoul Moretti.


[5] Montmartre, a hill in North Paris dominated by the Sacré-Cœur Basilica, is part of the 18th Arrondissement and the centre of Paris’ Right Bank, known for its artists, Bohemian lifestyle and nightlife.


[6] Under the laughter you can hear Secombe blow a raspberry.


[7]Where is Your Heart” (Moulin Rouge – 1952; Engvick/Auric.) In the film the song was sung by Zsa Zsa Gabor’s character, lip-synching to a recording of the noted black American soprano Muriel Smith.

Annunzio Paolo Mantovani, (1905-1980) the Anglo-Italian conductor and entertainer, was Britain’s  most successful recording artist before the Beatles. Recording popular music for Decca until the mid 50’s he had developed a style of orchestration called ‘cascading strings’ which filled the melody lines of his pieces with shimmering resonance, particularly suited to the new fangled hi-fi stereo systems which were then appearing in many family homes. The lush harmonies, and incandescent orchestrations he used were largely the work of Ronnie Binge.


[8] Secombe misremembers the first line he sings – actually the third line of the first verse of “Where is Your Heart” (originally titled ‘It’s April Again’.) The lyrics of the first verse are in full:

                              Whenever we kiss

                              I worry and wonder

                              Your lips may be near

                              but where is your heart?


[9] The Milliganesque disease ‘Lurgi’ had been invented by Spike for “Lurgi Strikes Britain” (7/5th) and had made regular appearances in both the 5th and the 6th series. By the seventh series had tired of it, for it appears there only three times, then disappears entirely until a solitary reference in the 10th series –

SEAGOON: Is he ill?

GRYTPYPE: No, but for a fee it could be arranged. For one hundred pounds he will contract lurgi.

It is reasonable to assume that during the tenth series, tired ol’ Milligan was making wry comments on his decade of penning catch-phrases for the Goons and living off the proceeds.


[10] An expression used frequently by Moriarty in the 5th and 6th series, ‘sapristi’ is a mild expletive based on the word ‘sacristi’, while ‘nabolas’ appears to be a Milliganism, though possibly based on the Hindi phrase “don’t speak.” In the 7th series it appears eight times, in the 8th series six times and is used only occasionally after that.


[11] Secombe’s recent recording of ‘On With the Motley’ had entered the billboard charts the previous November at number 16, staying there for about 3 weeks. By the beginning of January it was gradually slipping, displaced by the extraordinary advent of American rock, with Bill Haley and his Comets’ recording of ‘Rock Around the Clock’ taking the charts by storm.


[12] Eugène Henri Paul Gauguin (1848-1903) was a leading post-impressionist painter, who developed a style characterised by symbolism and primitivism, redefining the use of pastoral subjects in art. He led a wandering existence, living for a time in Peru, Panama, Martinique, Denmark and French Polynesia. His friendships with other French impressionists (like Van Gogh, Pissarro and Cézanne) was tempered by his gradual reaction against their styles, and the last decade of his life was characterised by his own independent development away from what he thought was their imitative approach and lack of real symbolic meaning. That he knew Toulouse-Lautrec is extremely doubtful.


[13] Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890), Dutch post-impressionist. Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919), one of the leaders of the original impressionist movement. Alessandro di Mariano di Vanni Filipepi (Botticelli; 1445-1510) a Florentine painter of the early Renaissance. All three painters were represented at the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square.


[14] A popular jazz standard from 1938 written by Warren and Mercer for the film “Going Places”.  The number was played in the film by Louis Armstrong to soothe a troubled horse called ‘Jeepers Creepers.’


[15] Charlotte Mitchell (1926- ), English actress and poet. She reputedly dated Peter Sellers for a short while and appears in two Goon Shows – this episode and ‘Ye Bandit of Sherwood Forest (14/5th). “It was a masculine world,’ she said to Sellers’ biographer, “and they laughed to keep themselves going… It was hysteria really. Full of ad-libs and they put everything into the warm up. I distinctly remember thinking, if I’m alive by the end I’ll be lucky. I was scared but I was able to cope with what they were doing because all I did was fall about laughing – and this is what they liked.” ( ‘The Life and Death of Peter Sellers’ Roger Lewis. 1994 - p172.)


[16] For a second, Secombe sings a snatch of the Sammy Cahn/Nicholas Brodszky hit “Be My Love” (1949).


[17] A sackbut is actually a type of renaissance trombone. Spike’s use of it here is part of his continuing joke about tobacco substitutes. See ‘The Raid of the International Christmas Pudding’ (17/6th) reference #4.

[18] French sayings gleaned from textbooks, guidebooks, songs and railway stations. Literally; “Do not spit. Do not smoke. Boulevard Saint-Germain by French Radio in the Champs Élysées. The pen of my aunt how ridiculous always, always sad, always formerly always, sea coast on the bridge of Avignon, Father Auguste.”


[19] Arsenal had indeed just taken a bashing from Tottenham Hotspur the day prior to the recording (which occurred on Sunday the 15th January.) Arsenal went down 0 – 1 at home.


[20] This scene is a demonstration of Spike’s awareness of the “4th wall” in broadcasting. In theatre, the writer  assumes that the players cannot see the audience. This is termed the “4th wall”. In broadcasting, the audience only hears the actors and has to make assumptions about their actions based on their speech, their vocal distance from the microphone and ‘noises off’ – or ‘FX’. Milligan cottoned on early that this was an area which held much untapped comic potential; that is breaking down the 4th wall of broadcasting, contradicting FX with vocal presence and challenging the assumptions of the audience. It is partly the reason behind why he was obsessive with GRAMS and EFFECTS.


[21] Does Spike mean to imply she was a nymphomaniac? The relationship between British comedy and women has always been a difficult one. During the post war period the British comedy scene was overflowing with men; solo geniuses like Hancock, duos like Morecombe and Wise, trios like the Goons, but almost no women comics at all. When women were given parts in comedy shows their characters tended to be ‘whores or housewives’ – ‘frumps or fornicators’, ‘nymphs or nymphomaniacs.’ Certainly the Monty Python team were guilty of this stereotypical writing twenty years later, and freely admitted it. In Spike’s case it is very clear that he found the subject of sex uncomfortable. Liz Cowley (his clandestine lover for many years) said “He was diabolically clean and I think the act of sex was perhaps a bit dirty. He was constantly trying to put me back into the mould of innocence and Doris-Day-ism.”


[22] For the second week in a row Bloodnok brings up Al Jolson. Ellington then quotes a line from the song ‘My Mammy’ (Donaldson/Young/Lewis – 1918) made famous by Jolson in his 1927 film ‘The Jazz Singer.’  


[23] From ‘The Desert Song’ by Sigmund Romberg, Oscar Hammerstein II, Otto Harbach and Frank Mandal. Opening on Broadway in 1926 it became one of the defining musicals of its age, synthesising middle eastern culture with the dissipated, vapid, world-weariness of the 20’s into a romantic frame that also spawned such timeless film classics as Rudolph Valentino’s ‘The Sheik’ (1921) and ‘The Son of the Sheik’ (1926) and gave rise to a whole genre of literature contrasting the dissolute western infidel with the self-confident, passionate, Muslim Arab. Even as late as 1945 in the novel ‘Brideshead Revisited’, Evelyn Waugh had sent the dissolute Sebastian Flyte to Morocco, finding solace in the soaking heat, the shadowy alleyways, the lost youth and the gin.

The tantalising world of Saharan Africa was to occasionally reappear in the Goon Show, ‘Under Two Floorboards’ (18/5th), ‘The Nasty Affair at the Burami Oasis’ (1/7th),  and most notably in ‘The Sahara Desert Statue’ (1/9th) arguably some of Spikes best scripts. Ellington’s performance here is interrupted by Milligan doing an impression of Eccles.

[24] One of the first times that Bluebottle is ‘deaded’ gratuitously. We don’t know what it was that killed him. We are not told a reason for his immolation – he is killed, the audience laughs, and that is that. It is the Goon Show process stripped to its barest essentials – that fate is unavoidable no matter what the plot.

[25] We cannot leave this script without reference to Sellers’ portrayal of Toulouse-Lautrec in the film “Revenge of the Pink Panther” (Blake Edwards – 1978). A masterpiece of sheer off-the-wall humour and carefully crafted satire, it remains one of Peters funniest moments on film. His rendition of “Thank heavens for little girls” is comic gold.