Two films Friday night: Tralala Land, a preppy ramble contra elevator music, set to elevator music (Slate/Observer/Vice); then Aleksey Batalov and Rolan Bykov’s extraordinary 1959 version of “The Greatcoat” (in which story Gogol showed Russians how to write) – similar percentage of jazz, but with proper dancing (staggering), a professional score, drinking, smoking, crime, heartfelt singing… No organ grinders, though:
English: click the subtitle icon and select from the gear icon.
Grigorovich touches on the fate of the Petersburg organ-grinders during winter, which was marginally better than that of the livestock left to freeze to death in Haymarket Square in order to save on their pre-sale bed & breakfast. The following anecdote hints at what must have been a dreadful experience (translation corrections welcome). It’s from the the recollections of Boris Sadovskoy, one of the most curious literary figures in the run-up to the October Revolution, which is saying quite something, and posh but not preppy:
Many organ-grinders roamed Lower [Petersburg],1 playing Italian arias and the inevitable Kamarinskaya.2 During the winter of 1897, a couple of organ-grinders strayed into the shared courtyard. One turned the handle of the box while the other beat the tambourine dashingly and whistled like a nightingale. The latter was a cheerful, tough lad in a fashionable, fur jacket. In spring they played again, haggard, grim, in rags. The boy somehow whistled Kamarinskaya and stretched out to my window a ragged cap with a pitiful, pleading smile. He could barely stand from weakness. They visited the courtyard along with a classic Petrushka. From behind the screen, to the sounds of the barrel organ, jumped in turn his bride, the soldier, the apothecary, and the devil.
По Нижнему бродило много шарманщиков. Игрались итальянские арии и неизбежный камаринский. Зимой 1897 г. два шарманщика зашли на удельный двор. Один вертел ручку ящика, другой лихо бил в бубен и свистал как соловей. Это был веселый крепкий парень в щегольском полушубке. Весной они играли опять, испитые, угрюмые, в лохмотьях. Парень кое-как просвистал камаринского, протянул к моему окну рваный картуз с жалкой умоляющей улыбкой. Он еле стоял от слабости. Заходил к нам на двор и классический Петрушка. Из-за ширм, под звуки шарманки, выскакивали поочередно невеста, солдат, аптекарь и черт.
“The Overcoat” the world has been awaiting for the last 40 years is Yuri Norstein’s:
I’m confident there won’t be any barrel organs in that either. But, as you know, nostalgia ain’t what it used to be.
Anecnotes [ + ]
|1.||↑||Nieder-/Ober-? Can’t find anyone else who classifies Petersburg geography this way. Class – lowlife? Then why the capitalisation?|
|2.||↑||Early and quickly ubiquitous nationalist ditty-dance by Glinka – a kind of Russian Birdie Song. The least dull version features Donald Byrne and Bobby Fischer:|
- Donald for Dalai Lama, or Pope, or Caliph, or something
A Trump Taj Mahal Casino multitrack jukebox, to help make religion rather better than it has been, again.
- So where does Silvio Berlusconi stand on organ-grinders?
Unfortunately Alan Friedman’s excellent authorised bio, My Way, leaves us none the wiser.
- The secret life of organ-grinders
Speculation in French revolutionary fiduciary currency, the murder of the great British ballad-singer, & a revised date (1802) for the start of the supposedly post-Napoleonic emigration of Italian puppeteers & organ-grinders
- A sensational 1810 Parisian fire scene on top of an 1840s Russian barrel organ
But who are the three noseless Austrian ladies?
- Transvestite barrel organ dancers in 1930s Whitechapel and the 1860s London West End
With acrobats, clowns, and Doris and Thisbe, goddesses of wind.