Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Towers of London

This was the name of a company started in 1946 by Harry Alan Towers, producer of cheap films, horror movies and soft-porn, and his mother. In 1961 he had appeared before a US grand jury on five counts of violating the White Slave Traffic Act; it was alleged that he had transported his mistress to New York for the purpose of prostitution, though she told the FBI that he was actually a Soviet agent "providing the Russians with information in order to complmise certain prominent individuals". Anyway, he jumped bail and returned to England to continue his productive, successful, and (the word must be used here) colourful career.

He recently died aged 88, still working on a film of Moll Flanders for which he had co-written the screenplay with Ken Russell; it stars Lucinda Rhodes-Flaherty in the title role, supported by Steven Berkoff and Barry Humphries in drag. This I wouldn't mind seeing, as well as some of his early TV movies, which included one with Basil Rathbone as Scrooge and one with Marius Goring as The Scarlet Pimpernel, but I am not particularly sorry that I missed the five which starred Christopher Lee as Fu Manchu.

For all the sleaze which often surrounded him, he was able to attract big name actors. His company sold various syndicated radio shows around the world, including The Lives of Harry Lime with Orson Welles, Horatio Hornblower with Michael Redgrave, and a series of Sherlock Holmes stories featuring John Gielgud as Holmes, Ralph Richardson as Watson and Welles as Moriarty. It is pleasant to imagine these three great men jostling each other round the microphone.

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