Six Damn Fine Degrees #14: Two for the Road

Welcome to Six Damn Fine Degrees. These instalments will be inspired by the idea of six degrees of separation in the loosest sense. The only rule: it connects – in some way – to the previous instalment. So come join us on our weekly foray into interconnectedness.

In 1951, when she had a small appearance in The Lavender Hill Mob as Chiquita (sadly not having seen the film, I cannot tell whether this means she played an actual banana), Audrey Hepburn wasn’t yet the movie star that she would later become. Roman Holiday was still two years away, then came Sabrina, War and Peace and Funny Face, and in 1961 she made her iconic appearance in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Much has been written and said about what exactly Hepburn’s character in that film, Holly Golightly, is exactly: is she merely selling companionship needy men, or is she selling sex? Truman Capote, who wrote the novella the film was based on, called her an “American geisha”, but he didn’t exactly answer the question.

In any case, for all of Hepburn’s tremendous charms and attraction, she never struck me as particularly sexual in her performances; her characters were largely cute as the cutest of kittens, but also oddly innocent, almost to the point of sexlessness. On screen, she always came off as something of an anti-Marylin Monroe.

So consider my surprise when I found out that she was in a film written by Frederic Raphael, whose other works include Eyes Wide Shut. Yes, Stanley Kubrick’s last film. Yes, the one with the orgy that caused Warner Bros. to digitally alter the respective scenes, Austin Powers-style, to avoid an adults-only NC-17 rating.

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Six Damn Fine Degrees #13: The Lavender Hill Mob

Welcome to Six Damn Fine Degrees. These instalments will be inspired by the idea of six degrees of separation in the loosest sense. The only rule: it connects – in some way – to the previous instalment. So come join us on our weekly foray into interconnectedness.

There’s a moment in 1951’s The Lavender Hill Mob that captures an important truth about the best of the Ealing comedies: our two genial leads, having nearly successfully executed the gold heist of the century, suddenly realise their plans are in trouble. They need to swiftly descend the steps of the Eiffel Tower or evidence of their crime might fall into the wrong hands.

The two men start awkwardly racing down the spiral staircase. As their speed increases, and their need to reach the ground fast overcomes their vertigo they both start laughing. At this tense moment in a heist film, with all their schemes about to awry, two middle-aged men beginlaughing and hollering with giddy abandon.

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Six Damn Fine Degrees #12: A Fish Called Wanda

Welcome to Six Damn Fine Degrees. These instalments will be inspired by the idea of six degrees of separation in the loosest sense. The only rule: it connects – in some way – to the previous instalment. So come join us on our weekly foray into interconnectedness.

One of the ironies of life is that John Cleese, responsible for some of the most (in)famously absurd sketches in Monty Python’s Flying Circus, is more renowned for his work on comparatively unadventurous, straight comedies, two of them being Fawlty Towers and A Fish Called Wanda. And yet, it’s no accident that both are revered: they’re deliciously funny and incredibly mean-spirited, yet brimming with an inimitable charm nonetheless.

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Six Damn Fine Degrees #10: Ed Wood

Welcome to Six Damn Fine Degrees. These instalments will be inspired by the idea of six degrees of separation in the loosest sense. The only rule: it connects – in some way – to the previous instalment. So come join us on our weekly foray into interconnectedness.

Johnny Depp as Edward D. Wood Jr.

If there ever was a prime example of positive thinking gone awry, it has to be Tim Burton’s interpretation of Edward D. Wood Jr.

A filmmaker in the 50’s, an era of highly localized and diversified cinema where there was still a space for worse-than-B grade films, the real Ed Wood’s two best known films are Glen or Glenda and Plan 9 from Outer Space. He is most noted for being voted the worst director of all time, posthumously, in 1980. It is clear he wanted to make extraordinary movies, but lacked everything, from money to quality control to, well, competence. But they do have… personality.

Note: spoilers below…

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Six Damn Fine Degrees #1: Body and Soul – John Garfield.

I read somewhere that everybody on this planet is separated by only six other people. Six degrees of separation between us and everyone else on this planet. The president of the United States, a gondolier in Venice, just fill in the names. It’s not just big names, it’s anyone. How everyone is a new door opening into other worlds. Six degrees of separation between us and everyone else on this planet…

Welcome to our new weekly feature: Six Damn Fine Degrees. These installments will be inspired by the idea of six degrees of separation, in the loosest sense. One contributor writes about the film Six Degrees Of Separation, to which we owe the partial quote above? The next piece might be about Will Smith, who is in it. Or Sydney Poitier, whose son Smith’s character claims to be. Or John Guare, who wrote the original play. Or even Pam Grier, who was snubbed for a Best Actress Oscar, as was Stockard Channing. And it needn’t be just people. It can be plays, music, books, films, video games, anything we, as culture baristas, feel we should write about. The only rule is that it connects – in some way – to the previous installment. We hope our readers will enjoy our forays into interconnectedness. As the man said: it’s a small world, after all.

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