Musicals through the decades

The latest Mach Was challenge is about musicals and ever since I saw that call, all sorts of musicals have been floating around in my head! Even though I am not the world’s greatest musical fan or connoisseur, I really do enjoy a good (movie) musical and I’ve come to the conclusion that I’ve seen quite a few of them over time – enough to be able to pick my favourites for each decade in musical movie history…


The 1930s – The Rogers & Astaire era

I realize that I should probably choose The Wizard of Oz (from 1939) as a favourite musical from the 1930s but I have to confess that I have never seen that movie! I’ve seen many clips & excerpts, I have read about it, but I have never actually watched it. For me, 1930s musicals are synonymous with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers! I have already once before enthused here on blog about this dancing and singing screen couple. I’ve been reviewing their movies again and I think my favourite would have to be Top Hat (1935), although I also really liked Swing Time (1936). The plots for both movies are somewhat contrived but, oh, the dance numbers!

Top Hat is a mistaken-identity movie. It centers around a model (Ginger Rogers) on holiday in London and Paris who mistakes an entertainer (Fred Astaire) for the husband of her friend. The movie features the very famous Fred Astaire in top hat dance…

… and the ‘Cheek to Cheek’ feather-dress-dance (the feathers on Ginger Rogers’ dress were flying around everywhere, if you look closely in the video you can see it – apparently after that, Fred Astaire nicknamed Ginger ‘Feathers’)…


The 1940s – More Fred Astaire!

The 1940s are still about Fred Astaire for me. He reunited with Ginger Rogers in The Barkleys of Broadway (1949), which I really enjoyed (and of all the Astaire/Rogers movies the plot of this one makes the most sense to me), but the movie I liked even more was Easter Parade (1948) with Astaire and Judy Garland. Easter Parade is about nightclub performer Don (Fred Astaire) who hires naive chorus girl Hannah (Judy Garland) to become his new dance partner to make his former partner jealous. He wants to prove he can make any partner a star. Hannah bristles against Don’s attempts to make her just like his old partner and grows into her own kind of performer.

‘Steppin’ Out With My Baby’ may be the most well-known song from that movie…

… and here’s a fun number,  ‘A Couple of Swells’, where Hannah truly is very different from Don’s elegant former partner…

It’s a fun watch! Especially Judy’s acting, and of course Fred’s dancing, stand out here.


The 1950s – The Gene Kelly era

The 1950s had a ton of musicals. I really like another Fred Astaire musical called Funny Face (1957), also starring my darling Audrey Hepburn, and a lovely jazz musical with Danny Kaye called Five Pennies (1959) but, most of all, the 1950s is Gene Kelly’s decade to me! He did An American in Paris (1951) with Leslie Caron, which is a fun musical, but I think my fave 50s musical has got to be Singin’ in the Rain (1952), which Gene Kelly did with Debbie Reynolds.

Singin’ in the Rain is set in the late 1920s when movies went from silent to sound. When two silent movie stars’ latest movie is turned into a musical, a chorus girl is brought in to dub the female movie star’s singing and speaking. Gene Kelly plays the movie star Don Lockwood and Debbie Reynolds plays the chorus girl Kathy Selden. The very iconic title song is maybe the most well-known musical number ever. It never gets old looking at this…

The one I catch myself singing sometimes, just like that, is ‘Good Morning’…

I swear, virtually every number in this musical is legendary, there isn’t a bad song and dance routine in it!


The 1960s – The Julie Andrews era

I liked Hello Dolly (from 1964, with Barbra Streisand) but the mid 1960s is really the Julie Andrews era. She famously starred in My Fair Lady on stage but wasn’t deemed well-known enough for the movie, so the Eliza Doolittle role for the 1964 movie went to Audrey Hepburn instead. In the meantime Julie Andrews made Mary Poppins (yes, we’re still in 1964!) and became very famous for that.  However, my fave 60s musical has got to be The Sound of Music, which was made a year later in 1965.

The Sound of Music is about a young postulant, Maria (Julie Andrews), who is sent to be the governess to the children of naval officer and widower, Captain Von Trapp (Christopher Plummer). It is set in Salzburg (Austria) in 1938 around the time the Nazis gain power there and is based on a true story. It’s awfully corny in many ways, but I do love it; it is well-acted and has real heart. There are some songs there I don’t like very much (like when the Mother Superior sings ‘Climb Every Mountain’ or the ’16 going on 17′ song), but others are absolutely irresistible, like ‘Do-Re-Mi’, ‘Edelweiss’ or ‘My favourite things’ (which incidentally is also the tag-line of this blog)…

There is also this very romantic dance. Normally I wouldn’t be caught dead listening to German/Austrian ‘Volksmusik’, which this is to a certain extent. This scene, however, always makes my heart skip a beat…

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen this movie; I even went to a Sound of Music sing-along once, eight years ago!

It was absolutely silly but a lot of fun.


The 1970s – The rock & pop musical era but I liked fairytales!

This is the time of the rock & pop musicals, like Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) and Jesus Christ Superstar (1970), or Saturday Night Fever (1977) or Grease (1978). All of them fine! But, I was a little girl in the 1970s and just starting to learn about movies and musicals. At the tender age of 7 I fell in love with a kitsch Cinderella movie musical called The Slipper and the Rose (1976) with Richard Chamberlain as the prince and Gemma Craven as Cinderella. I have blogged about The Slipper and the Rose before here and I have shared some fun musical clips from that movie here. It’s probably got a lot to do with nostalgia, but I still love this musical (that virtually nobody knows anymore). Let me share another romantic dance video with you: the prince and Cinderella meet and dance…

… and my father’s favourite song, I always think of him when I see or hear this…


The 1980s – Youth musicals

There was Fame (1980) and Flashdance (1983) and Footloose (1984) and Dirty Dancing (1987), which was all very youth centered and I remember them all being very popular when they came out. I liked them and enjoyed them and fell in love with David Bowie and a teenage Jennifer Connelly in Labyrinth (1986), but the musical I loved most was Yentl (1983), which was not so youth oriented. In my house, the whole family loved that movie, we had the soundtrack on LP and played it continuously.

Set in early 1900s Eastern Europe, Yentl is about a young woman (Barbra Streisand) who dreams of studying Talmud but as a girl is not permitted to do so. After her father dies, she disguises herself as a boy and goes out into the world to find a place where no one knows her, so that she can get the education she so covets. Things get complicated when she falls in love (with Avigdor, played by Mandy Patinkin)…

The song ‘Papa’ from the movie, then and now, always makes me think of my own father. Again, in this movie, all the songs are great, like ‘One of Those Moments’…

… or the final song. ‘A Piece of Sky’…

This is also a musical I have seen many times and it never grows old!


The 1990s – Cartoon musicals

There were musicals like Sister Act (from 1992, which was fun) and Evita (from 1996, just OK) but to me mostly the Disney cartoon musicals stand out in the 1990s, like Beauty and the Beast (1991) and Aladdin (1992). The movie that sticks out most for me is The Lion King (1994). I thought I was all over cartoons by mid mid-20s until I saw The Lion King in the cinema (I only went because some friends wanted to see it). To my surprise, that movie made me cry in the first 15 minutes! For me it isn’t a musical masterpiece like some of the musicals I mentioned in earlier decades are, but I did love it! The ‘Hakuna Matata’ song was cute! At the time everyone also said ‘hakuna matata’ to each other, it was a bit of a hype.

Last year I went to London for a few days with my son and I promised him a stage show. He picked The Lion King, so we went to see that and very much enjoyed it!

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I like that this musical is now linked to my son like that. 🙂


The 2000s – Fairytales & books

Not many musicals spring to mind in this era, but I did really enjoy Moulin Rouge (2001 about a writer and a cabaret star). That movie didn’t have many original songs but it did have great covers of great pop songs which made it a joyous watch. As a Jane Austen fan, I also really loved the Indian answer to Pride and Prejudice, called Bride and Prejudice (2004). In fact, I need to share one clip from that movie. The actor Naveen Andrews (he plays Balraj, the Bingley character, dressed in black), really reminds me of my youngest brother and I could actually picture my brother doing this dance act as well…

I love the way P&P translates to an Indian story and the joy that seeps through in all the songs and dances.

My fave 2000s musical, however, has got to be Enchanted (2007). A young maiden called Giselle (Amy Adams) who lives in a land called Andalasia and is prepared to be wed to Prince Edward (James Marsden), is sent away to cynical New York City by an evil queen (Susan Sarandon), where she falls in love with lawyer, Robert (Patrick Dempsey). It’s a real princess story yet also a spoof on all (animated) Disney princess stories, with even a hint of The Sound of Music spoof thrown in. See if you can spot that reference in this joyous ‘That’s How You Know’ number…

It’s fun and funny for adults and there’s also serious princess stuff there for the little ones. I discovered Amy Adams through this; she plays the princess so brilliantly and is nicely offset by grumpy Patrick Dempsey who slowly thaws (and she learns how to be angry!).


The 2010s- The Hugh Jackman era

So, here we are – the musicals of this present decade! I probably should mention La La Land (2016) here, as it won so very many awards! I felt, however, that that movie was very over-hyped. It was nice enough but the quality of the main actors’ singing and dancing just couldn’t hold a candle to some of the musicals mentioned above. I was underwhelmed. For me, the best musicals of the past 7 odd years have starred Hugh Jackman, so to me this is the Hugh Jackman musical age!

First off, Les Miserables (2012). I have always loved Les Miserables. In the mid 1980s we had a tape at home with all the songs from the London stage musical. I knew all the songs before I even knew the story. I finally saw the musical live in the West End in London in the fall of 2013 which was a dream come true for me! About half a year before that, I saw the 2012 movie musical version with Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway in the cinema. I know several people who didn’t like it, but I absolutely loved it!

Les Miserables is set in 19th century France. It’s the story of Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman) who has served 19 years of imprisonment for stealing a loaf of bread. He breaks parole and after that is hunted for decades by the ruthless policeman Javert (Russel Crowe). He agrees to take care of a factory worker’s (Anne Hathaway) daughter, Cosette (Amanda Seyfried). Once grown, Cosette falls in love with revolutionary Marius (Eddie Redmayne), while Valjean wants to keep Cosette and himself out of the way of Javert.

Jackman was brilliant, as was Hathaway (she deservedly won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for this, I felt) and Eddie Redmayne has this surprising angelic voice. Recently I already shared a clip of Hugh Jackman singing ‘Who am I’, let me share Eddie Redmayne singing ‘Empty Chairs’ here (makes me cry every time!)…

I can’t possibly begin to select songs here to post, I would have to post the whole movie! So, here’s a trailer that gives a nice sampling overview…

I can’t just pick one favourite for this decade, now that the latest Hugh Jackman musical installment is here: The Greatest Showman (2017). I thought it would be a mildly amusing movie to go see, I never expected to love it this much!

The Greatest Showman is a musical inspired by the life of P.T. Barnum (played by Hugh Jackman). Barnum rises from nothing to create the “Greatest Show on Earth,” a spectacle and circus, starring ‘oddities’ like the bearded lady and a dwarf. It is inspired by true events but must certainly not be taken as gospel! It’s basically the fairytale version of Barnum’s life, with a nice message of celebrating difference and inclusion.

I can’t find many clips from the actual movie on YouTube (although you can see the trailer), but I can share a clip of a live performance the cast did of one of the songs…

And the anthem about being OK with who you are and showing yourself as you are, has been nominated for an Oscar for Best Song this year! Here is a clip from the movie, when the Bearded Lady (Keala Settle) sings ‘This Is Me’…

Again, with this movie I love every single song! I have been playing the soundtrack in the car virtually non-stop for all my commutes to work these past few weeks. I’m secretly hoping for the sing-along version to also come to The Netherlands… 😉


So, there you have it, my Mach’ Was musicals through the decades list! I’m sure I’m forgetting a ton of great musicals, so if there are any you feel should not be left unmentioned, feel free to do so in the comments. 🙂

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Tall dark handsome men…

Warning: tall dark handsome men pictures overkill ahead! I may be overcompensating for the depressing times we live in… a girl has got to do something to cheer herself up!

So, I have a very definitive type of man I always fall for. It’s an Oedipus thing – the first man I loved was my dad. He wasn’t particularly tall but he was dark and handsome and smart and caring…

Then I discovered Roman Holiday in my early teens and Gregory Peck…

I adored Peck (and still do), in hindsight he was big time daddy-issue material. Dark and handsome and smart and caring… and tall. I even wrote him a fan letter once! I received a reply about 2 years later with an autographed picture. Apparently a mail bag had been misplaced and found again and I got my reply after all. I have been searching for that autographed picture ever since I discovered not too long ago that it isn’t in the drawer that I thought it would be in…

I also had a soft spot for Richard Chamberlain in those years…

… but I was never as obsessed with him as I was with Gregory Peck.

After Gregory Peck and Richard Chamberlain I fell in love with a real life tall, dark, handsome, smart and caring man (and luckily he fell in love with me) and I’ve very happily hung onto him for the past 25 years

At the end of 1995 I discovered Colin Firth! He walked out of a lake in Pride and Prejudice and straight into my heart…

… and as regular readers here know I still love the man and blog about him!

I’ve had a little flirtation with Pierce Brosnan (even saw him up close and personal two and a half years ago!)…

… and have made a few fan videos with him in them.

I’ve also had a little flirtation with Keanu Reeves (including a fan video I made of an interview he did on Graham Norton and I loved him in that)…

Since 2006 the actor of my heart has been Richard Armitage, of course – the actor I blog about most on here!

And now, since a few weeks, there’s Lucas… No, not this one…

… I was never a huge Lucas North fan (or Spooks fan, for that matter), even if he was portrayed brilliantly by Richard Armitage. No, the Lucas I have discovered is named Lucas Bryant!

I have been watching Hallmark movies and I continue to watch them and Lucas Bryant was in two of them that I actually quite liked. I had seen them before a few months back and I had noticed him then as well. He was instantly on my “oh oh, there you go again!”-radar, but, as I often do when I discover someone new, I try to resist them. If I don’t resist, then I binge-watch and who has the time and energy to binge-watch?

Anyway, I don’t quite remember how, but I happened upon a Syfy channel series called Haven (based on an original story by Stephen King) that aired for 5 seasons but is finished now. And who should be in that but Lucas Bryant, the guy I’ve been trying to ignore?  The series is not quite my kind of thing – supernatural powers that often lead to deaths take over people in a small town. These ‘troubles’ as they are called have to be brought under control by two agents, Audrey Parker (who is somehow weirdly connected to the ‘troubles’) and Nathan Wuornos. His trouble isn’t that dangerous to others, only dangerous to himself: he has lost the sense of touch, he can’t feel anything, and is eventually shocked to find that when Audrey touches him he can feel her! Audrey, in turn, is immune to the ‘troubles’.

I watched a few episodes of Haven and while the stories of these ‘troubles’ didn’t always grab me, the story of Audrey and Nathan did. And so I have been binge-watching and skipping through 5 seasons of Haven episodes (each season has 13 episodes, 5th season has 26).  In the first series it’s still a bit of a baby-Nathan, the actor Lucas Bryant looks so young!

What attracted me in this first series is how Nathan deals with not being able to feel anything. I love how Lucas acts those Nathan moments when he suddenly realizes he can feel a touch from someone for the first time in years. He first feels something when Audrey gives him a brief kiss on the cheek.

He keeps it to himself at first (he confesses it to her later in the series) and especially in one episode he seeks out these touches (skip the first 1 minute and 15 seconds of this following video if you like, it’s not really essential). I like baby-Nathan in those scenes!

But as the series progresses (and also becomes more weird, especially regarding Audrey) he matures and yes, as the lines deepen a bit in his face, he becomes sexier to look at! Here, some pics of Nathan at the end of the series…

I don’t know what it is about him. He’s a bit too GQ handsome (just like Pierce Brosnan was in younger years) but there’s this boyish, almost shy, charm about him and a bit of goofiness and, of course, hidden heartache and then there are the forehead crinkles and the eyes and the hesitant smiles that light up his face… I think what finally tipped me over the edge into new obsession mode was this little love scene in season 4 that makes me grin widely each time; it happens soon after they have finally been able to become intimate in a previous episode. Nathan wants to kiss her, Audrey keeps on talking ‘troubles’ and he makes use of her ‘troubles’ obsession to persuade her to think of other things…

So, after Haven I re-watched those two Hallmark movies and I liked him even better in those than before. There is Tulips in Spring about an interior designer who must halt her work on a big project in order to return home and assist her injured father at her family’s tulip farm in rural Washington state. When she gets there she meets a handsome and kind flower broker (yep, that’s my Lucas)…

And there is Summer Love about a widowed mom who gets a summer internship at a tech company and draws the attention of two very different executives while learning about accounting, app designs and finding love. Lucas plays the accountant and is of course the true love.

Men who look that smooth aren’t normally my thing, they seem vacuous to me, but as he matures Lucas becomes even more mesmerizing to look at. There is just something about him and it’s not just the looks…  I think it’s in the eyes and in the smile, they seem to suggest something more to me. Here are some more pics, the woman in the one picture is his real life wife, an Australian actress and personal trainer called Kirsty Hinchcliffe who also had a small supporting role as a police officer in later episodes of Haven.

Lucas Bryant is Canadian-American, born in 1978, he and his wife have a daughter born in 2008 (all according to Wikipedia). He is still quite unknown, I think, and there is yet more to research and more roles to find… I’m not sure if he’s more than a temporary infatuation (I may be projecting a wish onto him that he can stop the troubled person who is sitting in the White House now) but I guess time will tell. In the meantime, I am having fun and can happily distract myself when the need arises. 🙂

30 Day Movie Challenge – Day 6

Day 6 – The first movie you ever saw in a cinema

The first movie I remember seeing in the cinema was towards the end of the 1970s when I was living in Jerusalem and my mother took me (and possibly some of my siblings as well but I don’t really remember that) to see the Cinderella movie musical The Slipper and the Rose starring Richard Chamberlain and Gemma Craven. I must have been around 7 or 8 at the time.

I posted about this movie once before while reminiscing about Richard Chamberlain (go to that post if you want to see some more delightful clips). Seeing this movie sparked a love for Cinderella stories that I am still susceptible to today and an admiration for Richard Chamberlain.

I could have written about this movie in yesterday’s category as well (‘A movie that reminds you of someone’) as I always have to think of my parents when I see this. My mom loved this movie as I did (I think she had a crush on Richard Chamberlain too) and my dad’s nostrils would quiver with pleasure when he watched the “Protocoligorically Correct” song. I even still have the accompanying hard cover children’s book, worn for having been read so often, with beautiful full colour images of the movie that my mom gave me as a present around that time.

Richard Chamberlain is so charming as the prince, I can watch him forever in this! Michael Hordern is a wonderul scatterbrained King, Kenneth More is a lovely, pompous Lord Chamberlain and Annette Crosbie is the bubbly, ever so rushed and overworked Fairy Godmother. Cinderella (Gemma Craven) is admittedly almost too sweet but that doesn’t hinder the fun! She’s the pink princess any 8 year old would love (except my daughter who unlike me never liked princesses).

OK, yes, the film is very sugary, I do realize that, and I can understand that many people would find that a bit much to bear. But there are also some nicely fleshed out characters that make me laugh every time (I mean, come on, I defy anyone to not enjoy that silly king and the pompous Lord Chamberlain) and the cleverly rhymed and fun songs (despite two or so very sappy ones) make this movie such a joy to watch! I think it is mostly a forgotten film now and I find that to be such a shame…

(30 Day Movie Challenge – the full list of questions)

 

Fluff(y chests)

Life is busy at the moment – very busy with two work projects that are fun but are eating up a lot of energy and then there’s also family life that keeps me occupied. Added to that I’ve been having many restless nights ever since my dad died, some with horrible nightmares, although I am happy to say those are lessening now. Anyway, all of that leaves me a little drained and tired and I can’t make myself write long and thoughtful posts on here… So, I’ll stick to fluff for now.

What kind of fluff, do you ask?  Well, fluffy chests, I guess! Although the one is way more fluffy than the other…

I’ve been downloading and rewatching all sorts of Richard Chamberlain stuff that I hadn’t seen or thought about in forever! And I’m having a ball also reading up on him a bit online. And then I came across this picture that I remembered loving some, oh, 25 years ago or more! I think I may even still have it in an old “Films and moviestars” scrapbook I have…

Richard Chamberlain beach

It wasn’t neceessarily just the bare chest and strong arms that I loved. It had more to do with the casual posture and the expression in the face. And such a handsome face!

Something in that Richard Chamberlain picture reminds me of this Richard Armitage picture…

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I have never enjoyed those bare-chested-men calenders. I mean, I can appreciate a nice looking body but those pictures don’t do much for me. These two do! I think it may have to do with the emotion of the faces combined with a strong yet somehow vulnerable image of the body. Maybe it’s the almost childlike sitting on your knees thing – I don’t really know what it is, but these two images do something to me…. perfect fluff for a late Thursday afternoon. 🙂

Oh, and while we’re talking fluff – this one just now springs to mind as well (Pierce Brosnan in ‘Laws of Attraction’)…

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“This is very frivolous, Esther!” my dad would say. And I would laughingly and wholeheartedly agree. 🙂

Richard and Richard

So, I have been a bit out of it of late and there is a bit of catching up to do. What did I miss in Armitage-land the past few weeks?

The day of my father’s funeral The Crucible download became available – I think that’s the only Richard-thing that made it through the fog of the past few weeks. That night I started the download, went to bed and voilà, the next morning there it was, all downloaded and ready (I’m one of the lucky ones with a problem-free download, I realize now)! A few days later, by way of trying to get my mind set on other things, I watched some bits of The Crucible here and there – still so very powerful even on the small screen! I couldn’t take it all in on top of everything else, so I left it at that… the fog is clearing a bit, so I hope to watch it all again in its entirety soon!

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Other than that I now see that more has been going on in Armitage-land. There was “Nipple-gate” (is there really such harm in admiring the physical attributes of Mr. Armitage next to his acting talent?), what looks like the end of Hannibal filming, start up for filming Pilgrimage and announcement of further cast members (does anyone have any clue where in the Belgian Ardennes region the filming will take place?), the burial of Richard III (yes, I know that’s a different Richard, but there’s a link…) and yesterday Andy Serkis beating RA in the Empire awards acting category (maybe Richard didn’t win because I didn’t vote more than once?).

With all the talk of this Richard, honesty dictates me to say that the past week or so another, older Richard has re-captured my attention… he was possibly my first crush ever! I am speaking of Richard Chamberlain. I know, the mind boggles but I find that I still find him quite appealing. Let me explain how he popped up again after many many years…

In order to get my mind on more cheerful things my daughter and I went to see the new Cinderella film by Kenneth Branagh a week ago. In hindsight not the most cheerful choice as 3 (yes three!) parents die in this adaptation! Sigh… but it was still cheerful and happy enough and it made me think of my all-time favorite Cinderella film. I don’t think that film was very widely known; it was called “The Slipper and the Rose” starring… Richard Chamberlain! When I was about 7 years old I went to the cinema with my mother (and possibly some siblings and maybe even my father, I can’t remember) to see this film. Very saccharine in parts but also a lot of fun! Especially all the scenes at court with a scatterbrained King, a pompous Lord Chamberlain, and the scenes when the prince wants to be two people:

or dances on his ancestor’s graves:

And I do so enjoy the romance of that first dance the prince and Cinderella share:

We watched “The Slipper and the Rose” several times since then as a family, it must have been on German TV as we didn’t own a video recorder at the time. My father, not a movie lover by any means, simply adored the “Protocoligorically correct” song. It’s a very definite highlight of the film and I can still see him watching it with his nostrils quivering, as was his way when he was utterly amused!

So, yeah… Richard Chamberlain… I also remember loving him in The Thorn Birds and in Shogun that we watched as a family as well (yes, even my dad!). He was The Count of Monte Cristo, The Man in the Iron Mask and he was in The Four Musketeers. He even played Raoul Wallenberg, which I have seen once but never since. I really liked him in my early teens, I know my mother loved him (in hindsight he may have been ‘her’ Richard, just like Armitage is ‘mine’) and I know my dad liked watching the things he’d done. And when I researched Richard Chamberlain the other day I realized that he’s only 2 months younger than my dad, his 81st birthday is tomorrow! Wow.

So, for me watching some of Chamberlain’s work again, brings back fond memories of my dad. He links to my dad… just as Richard Armitage does in an Oedipus complex kind of way!