Popular reprint #2. “Whispering Grass” – Windsor Davies & Don Estelle.

(As excavated from the comments box at Popular – where it makes slightly more sense in context, but it seemed a shame not to share.)

Re: It Ain’t Half Hot Mum: I’m trying and failing to Form A Position on Melvyn Hayes, but he’s proving rather slippery to pin down.

As a 13-year old who was growing uncomfortably aware that his Fancying GURLS phase of a year earlier was just that, a Phase, the growing prominence of that stock mid-1970s comic character, The Mincing Poof, was… not entirely helpful, shall we say. For in the absence of any other readily available role models, The Mincing Poof was all we had, and she weren’t doing us no favours neither.

But then, that’s the perspective of a closeted and increasingly terrified 13 year old. For if I had been ten years older, more secure in my identity, and acclimatised to the sub-culture, then I might well have regarded Messrs Hayes, Inman and Grayson with a good deal more fondness. After all, as Harvey “Torch Song Trilogy” Fierstein once said of the “sissy boys” of 1930s Hollywood: any representation is better than no representation.

And in any case, all three characters were allowed to maintain quite a substantial degree of dignity, self-knowledge and self-acceptance. They certainly weren’t portrayed as pathetic, self-loathing victims, forever trying and failing to ensnare the hapless heteros. Instead, each was able, in a certain sense, to claim his space. There was mockery, but there was also affection.

Compare and contrast with the out and out minstrel-show vileness of Dick Emery’s “Honky Tonks”, Duncan “Chase Me!” Norvelle, any number of sitcom cameos… and even, I’m sorry to say, some of the more questionable Monty Python representations (Graham Chapman, you should have known better).

Anyway, yes, “Whispering Grass”. I loved the show (as did all my classmates) and I got the joke. Can’t say much more than that.

But better than Dad’s Army? Ooh no, wouldn’t go that far. Better than latter day teetering-into-self-parody Dad’s Army maybe, but those earlier series were in a class of their own.

These army-nostalgia sitcoms were a little sub-genre of their own, weren’t they? And here’s another one: Get Some In, which covered the National Service period of the 1950s. I seem to remember that “POOF-ARSE!” was one of its favourite terms of abuse. Dark days, dark days!

(P.S. A vignette to share with the group. My father, a sentimental man, once burst into tears while watching The Good Life. My step-mother, an unsentimental woman, asked him what on earth was the matter. His stricken reply: “It’s just that Felicity Kendal is SO NICE, and I wish I was married to HER, not YOU.”)

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