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LONDON LIF A COMMENTARY. (By Harrison Owen.) London. March 30. 1 Readers with a penchant for literary indiscretions are likely to be disappointed with Lieut.-Col. C. A'Court Reping ton's "After the War-1919 to 1921," published this week.. The same writer's "Diary -of the War," issued in 1920, was just as full of indiscretions as Mrs. Asquith's autobiography and was just as l eagerly read cad as adversely commented I upon. While admitting that Colonel Rep irgto's war diary was shallow, indis creet and often in questionable taste, I must also acknowledge that it was pos sessed of liveliness and piquancy, quali ties which are absent from his new book. The gentleman, who, during the war, seemed to spend most of his time dining out, attending dances, gossiping, listen ing to scandal and making copious notes of all he saw and heard, has looked upon post-war society, not with the eyes of a flnneur, but almost with the disap proving gaze of a social reformer. With him a war-time flippancy which was often strangely out of place has been succeeded by a peace-time pomposity which makes this 5-page volume rather heavy reading. The success of his previous volume seems to have caused the writer to imagine that any otheter dicta of his must be of extraordinary interest, and so he supplies pages and pages of com monplace views and impressions, unre lieved by either literary charm or the spice of wit Of humour. The gallant Colonel, who has always had a good conceit of himself, reveals not a trace. He is able to assure us solemniy that his own war:.diary will "live-" and .to write: "I harve riot had a 'single letter 'to deny.any ,statement 'made in it re lating to the war. If my contemporaries cannot :refute. me, how can .history-. do so? A few old eats have squabbled :pri vately." -low ungrateful.- when "0 years I hence. they will mostly <be dead: leaving no memory- except in my pages, and on a mouldy and neglected crave in .sonie obscure churchyard. *Waverley' went through six editions in nine months.., I swent through 10 in four months, -and larger' editions.- at two guineas a? set of each two,volumes. I wonder if that has ever been done icetter." It is typi- 1 cal of the Colonel to: compare his sales with those of ,Sir. Walter Scott. It is just.posible that- heu might not I have been able' to emerge so' success fully -if the author chosen for purposes of comuarison with 'himself had been Mrs. Elinor Glyn. who, it may be sug ested." is more of a rival' of his' in the book market than the author of "Waver ly." Since the war Colonel Repington lias visited Greece, Italy. Germany and the United Stqtcs, where he attended the Washington Conference. baut so little of the conversation of notable people. is recorded in his book that one is tempted to assume that the great have got into the habit of keeping silent when Colonel 'Iepington (doubtless with his diary concealed about his person) ap pears upon the scene. He even1 tells us that the volatile Mr. H. G. Wells: who was one of his fellow-passengers going to America, iB "most retiring and keeps in the background," which cer tainly could not be said of the nove list when he is in congenial company and 'no diarists are present. In America the Colonel found great men extra ordinarily inaccessible: "It was worse than Lhassa. It seemed to me that nothing in continental Europe compared with the exclusiveness of a sealed-pat tern democracy of the eighteenth century type. Kings. Presidents Chancellors and Foreign ,Ministers elsewhere I had found to be paragons of accessibility. It' ,amused me hugely." Of a dance which he attended at the Ritz in Paris, the Colonel writes: 'The ladies had few clothes, and none on their backs. We thought the whole proceedings undignified,. indecent and vulgar. We felt sick of this sort of thing which belongs to a dead past . The modern post-war public dance is the most blatantly vulgar and insolently in deeeht performance imaginable. The most suggestive stage dancing is prim in com parison." This seems strange coming from the man who wrote of similar events during. the war with so much. gusto. But the diarist,. in his post-war e of mind, tells us: "One can bear almost anything except lack of-taste.. The war' seems to have killed of everyone except the vulgarians." Well well! . A Racnaearse SLambles. Having witnessed the Grand National 8teeplechase 'at Aintree last year, when: only one horse got round the - pourse without falling, -and having a fewi days been present at this year's Grand: Na tional-in which out of a field of 32 horses 29 fell, and only five finished-I find myself forced to agree with those who for several years have been urging; that the world's greatest steeplechase is' an unnecessarily cruel event Certainly this year's race promised .td be 'an in spiring spectacle when the. big field charged like a troop of cavalry at the! first fence, but very soon.it became inerd ly a sereis of accidents, the horses goiifg down like ninepins, some singly. others. in bunches. The favourite; 'SouthampI ton, fell at. the first: fence '(as did ain other favourite, Poethlyn. two years agb)' and by the time the field had left three' fences behind seven horses were down. Four horses came down togither at onBE: jump, one -breaking its neck, and an other having a hind foot conimpletely torn off. It was left kicking and writh ing for nearly a. quarter of an hon- be fore an end was put to its agony. In
like the Grand National, and attempting to follow the "fortunes of horses in. which one is interested, one is apt to pat' little attention to falls save to-note ,which horses .have been put out of the " race:, but 1, in common with thousands .:of others, including a large number of. .people who didnot see the race itself. have been impressed by the Pathe: film of.the Grand National. which. viewed in' a calmer frame, of mind than is possibl~ to. most people When on a racecourse;: buings'home to one very vividly not only the suffering caused to some of ' the horses, but the clumsy horsemanship dis played by many of the .riders. This pic ture. I think, has been largely respon-: sible for the renewed outcry demanding the abolition of the Grand National. Of: course. nothing of the kind is likely to be done. but- the authorities may be -forced either to render the obstacles less difficult or make the conditions of entry mbre difficult: I have seen many steeple chases in Australia, but none which of fers so many opportunities- for disaster. Year by.yearsthe fences at Aintree have been built up, until it is doubtful'if any but the very best steeplechasers (aided by a large. measure- of luck) have any thing like a reasonable chance of com pleting the course. The race, of course, is intended to test the powers of the best steeplechasers, but a number of horses which emphatically are riot in the first class go to .the post every year. in viting disaster not only for themselves but for other and finer : nimals. In such crowded fields, only the best riders -should be allowed mounts, but some of the horsemen who took part in the race. both last year and this year were more conspicuous for pluck than for skill. Very little seems to be done in the way of easing the animals as they approach a difficult obstacle; one horse after an' other crashed at a fence at which it had been ridden at full speed, and no fewer than seven falls were brought about by "crossing," which goes on at Aintrei in a way which certainly would not be permitted at Flemington or other important Australian racecourses. There are 16 fences on the Aintree Grand National course.. of four and a half miles: two of these are jumped 6ace each. while 14 have to be twice nego tiated. All the fences are of thorn and some,. I should judge, are well over. 6ft in height. They are permanent strue tures and cannot be "brushed" through At Beecher's Brook~ where many of the animals came to grief, there is a thl?k ferte 4ft. 10in. high, with a rail' 2ft in front of it' and an 8ft. brook on the other side. The obstacles, of course, are not impossible to first-class horses and riders, but they obviously are to animals and horsemen of the class to which many I- have seen competing in the last two Grand Nationals belong. The adoption of a -suggestion made by Lord Derby. that entry to the race should be made very high and a large propor lion returned to the owner of any horse who completes the course without fall ing. would probably go far toward elim initing the obviously unfit The average .iatigoer -would probably be content with less sensiationahlism and a better race. Girman Films and Others.. As I forecasteid I these columns some months ago. the. British Cinemnatograph Exhibitors' Association has decided to remove the ban it imposed on German films late in 1918, and which it resolved at the time it would not lift for five years. The success of a number of big German spectacular films in the United States led to the re-opening 'of the quea
tion a few months back, and the fact that several film 'companies here are known to have a number of fine German films (secured at low prices, owing to the rate of--exchange being so advan :'tageous to .British purchasers) lying in their vaults doubtless hastened the re moval of the. ban. 'But. even though the prohibitoin has been lifted by the asso ciation, exhibitors are showing no undue haste to "release" German films. The attitude of concert audiences toward ex enemy musicians (severaliof whom, in eluding Dr. Strauss and Kreisler. the violinist, have been given excellent re 9eptions) can scarcely be taken as an indication that ex-enemy.. films 'will be received with- similar favour. German producers with an eye on foreign mar kets have been shrewd enough to. de. vote themselves chiefly to costume drama, for a square lead can be fairly effective ly concealed beneath a flowing wig. Three big spectacular films recently shown in Berlin have been built round English historical characters-Anne Boleyn, Lady Hamilton and Mary Tudor.' A film critic who has seen these pictures tells me that they are all very beautiful produc tions, but each has been used as a ve bicle for insidious anti-British propa ganda. A German. film, "Dr. Calagari." which I saw privatel- a few weeks ago, certainly does not suffer from this de fect, and..artistically, is a very remark able production. Futurist scenery, and effects have been used very cleverly for illustrating a fantastic story carried on in a series of weird episodes such as might have been invented by Poe. Whether the British. public is desirous of witnessing German films remains to be seen. but it certainly is becoming tired' of the American product, while English producers are at present show ing very little .activity:. I should imag ine that the chance for good' Australian films in England has never been better than .it is at present. I was recently present' at the private screening of one ("The' Blue Mountains Mystery") based on an unimportant novel of my own, and on all sides I heard expressions of admiration, not for' the actual work of production, of which, I, am afraid film makers in the Commonwealth have yet much to learn, but for the wohderful Australian light' (which' several experts assured me was superior to that of Cali fornia) 'and the magnificent scenic pos sibilities adumbrated in several episodes enicted on and near Sydney harbour. Owing . to' crudities in production. this -filin' has hbad to be sent to the United States; where it will be sub-edited and the. whole of the sub-titles' re-written before it is released to .British exhibi .tors. Working in- a country' with so many natural advantages, it 'seems a pity that 'Australian film-ma4ers- do not set to work to master -the.niceties of pro duction, so .that pictures could be. sent to this country ready for immediate ex hibition. Another Australian film, based on "Steele .Rudd's" "On' Our Selection" has been in London for some time, but British exhibitors have shown no de sire to handle it. In this case a -little more attention to film-craft might have brought about a very different attitude. "The Seftimnental Bloke," based- on Mr. C. J. Dennis's well-known. verses, was a much more satisfactory production, and required very little .sub-editing 'to render it suitable for the English mar ket. The "block booking" system de layed its exhibition for 18 months, but during the last few weeks it has. been shown at- various picture theatres in London,' and has been. well received..