Blue pencil

Prior to1968 all theatrical performances in the UK had to be submitted to the Lord Chamberlain's Office for censorship: his officials would use the 'Blue Pencil' (it really was blue) on anything they didn't approve of - usually sexual or lavatorial references. This could include the stage directions - in one sketch in Beyond The Fringe they famously changed 'Enter four outrageous old queens' to 'Enter four aesthetic young men'.

Music-Hall wasn't exempt: solo performances weren't censored but sketches were, and some of the objections look pretty silly today. The Crazy Gang had this exchange deleted:

'BESSIE' (NURSE): That reminds me, you want your castor oil.
'WILLIE' (IN BED): When I've had my castor oil, can I get up?
'BESSIE': Will you be strong enough to get up?
VOICE FROM AUDIENCE: He won't be strong enough to stay in bed.

In a Leon Cortez skech a small boy whispers in his father's ear and is told 'It's over there' - this was cut: in a Nat Mills and Bobbie sketch these lines were objected to: 'You know what we men are, we're born hunters' 'Yes, and you're none too careful what you do with your bows and arrows'.

So it's agreeable to be able to report one occasion when the Lord Chamberlain's Office must have been asleep: this Leon Cortez routine from his 1939 show 'Appy 'Arf 'Our was passed without demur:

'Met a nice girl this morning, she'd been out shopping with her arms all full of parcels. What struck me was the way she was dressed all in the latest fashion - tightly cut jacket - striped skirt, with a hip pocket just like us men. Crossing the road she dropped her handkerchief. I picked it up and said, 'Excuse me, madam, you've dropped your handkerchief'. She said, 'It's very nice of you to pick it up - I've got my arms full of parcels - would you mind putting it in my pocket?' I put it in her pocket, and I've never felt such an ass in all my life.'

Posted: Wed - August 5, 2009 at 08:51 AM by Roger Wilmut          



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Published On: Mar 11, 2016 05:00 PM