Recorded this back on February 3 in 2020 with my buddy Jackson Lynch – saved it until now to post! Happy 8th of January. This is the Frazier and Patterson version off the John Work Recordings from 1942 from Fisk University in Nashville, TN.Nora Brown
With a new restoration of Davies’ masterful debut in theaters, we catch up with the director.
What do you think about the film thirty years later?
Terence Davies: I was very touched someone in America wanted to release it. It was a lovely surprise. I can’t believe it, thirty years have gone by. My God. [Laughs.] Where has it gone? I never watch it, you see, because I made it. It’s just very odd. I just think, to be honest with you, what do people see in it? [Laughs.] I culled my family history together and made it into a cinematic narrative. I never thought it would go beyond England–I just didn’t. The fact people can respond to it in other countries is still a bit of a wonder for me I’m afraid.
Do you have any theories about why audiences and critics respond to your work so positively?
God, not at all! Absolutely not. I don’t know what they see in it. It’s people beating each other up and then singing. It’s not foot-tapping, is it? I’m proud that I celebrated what that culture was like in the 1950s, and it was rich even though we had no money. We were living in Liverpool slums, but the richness of life seemed wonderful. You know, people getting together, people sing together. They don’t do that now. But it was so life-affirming. That’s what I loved about it.
Will you talk more about the intimacy of your characters singing together?
That was just direct autobiography. The sort of ritual was—and life was very ritualistic in that period because people did certain things on certain days—you went to the pub on Saturday, you came back, you brought some beer back, you had a dance, played some records, and had a sing-song. People knew the group songs and the individual songs. One of my neighbors always used to sing “Ghost Riders in the Sky”! [Laughs.] They were quite extraordinary and you can’t forget those things because they seem so rich–even now they seem so rich. And it was a sort of given, a wonderful feeling of… camaraderie doesn’t really describe it, but a feeling of being one with each other.
How did everyone know these pop and traditional songs?
Some of the songs mum sang when she was a young woman. But also what happened in those days when you bought 78s you had the lyrics on the back of the sleeve and that’s how you learned. Sometimes, if you couldn’t get the record, you would listen to the songs and write it down and then you would learn, but that was common and it was just part of the culture of our period. Pop songs in those days were meant to be sung by other people and you must remember that the Great American Songbook was the poetry for ordinary people. In 1956 Cole Porter was still alive. So when someone like Stephen Sondheim dies, the book will close on that Great American Songbook because there’s no one to fulfill his place anymore. There’s no one of that caliber and stature. These were songs that people loved but they also were the poetry for ordinary people. One of my brothers, who is now dead, I always think of him when I hear “Send in the Clowns.” He was just an ordinary working class man but he loved that and it is a great song. I mean it is a truly great song. That became part of the fabric of how you felt about the world and yourself. But that wasn’t conscious, none of that was conscious, it was felt. It was visceral and it was felt.
What was your experience screening the film at the 26th New York Film Festival?
Unfortunately, they got the reels mixed up. It’s not a linear narrative so to get the reels in the wrong order made it incomprehensible. [Laughs.] I don’t think it was deliberate but that’s what happened. I was terrified. That was the first time I’d been to America and when I was growing up that was very much the land of magic, and it really was! Steamers would bring back records from America and one of my sister’s friends brought back a copy of Sammy Davis Jr. singing “That Old Black Magic.” The record went around the whole street because it was the only American record we actually had.
How did you decide to make the narrative non-linear?
When I was growing up my family would talk about my father because he was very, very violent. I heard the stories piecemeal, if you like. When I was writing it I just knew I had to follow that strain of the way in which those stories were told. I didn’t realize it was non-linear because I had only made a trilogy, which was my apprentice work and I was still very much a learning. Like everything else, I wrote it as I felt it. One of the great influences has been and always will be “Four Quartets” by T.S. Eliot, which is also about the nature of memory.
Memory isn’t linear–it’s cyclical. And I felt rather than knew it and I just followed that. We shot it and when we were putting it together on the cutter that was the template: what prompts another memory? It’s like dropping a pebble in a pond and all the ripples are memories. They’re all different so it’s just a question really of trying to be true to how memory works. I didn’t know that I was doing that at the time. It’s only in hindsight that I knew that but it was something that I felt rather than knew.
How did you achieve the film’s rich brown hue?
Humphry’s Laboratory would take the silver oxide out of the film and then you could alter it with filters when you shoot it. I wasn’t the first to use it. Michael Radford did for “1984,” but the bias there was for blues, reds and deep greys. I didn’t want that look, I wanted it to be on the spectrum of brown and that can go from anything to pink to really dark brown. So we just did some tests and warmed up the image with coral filters just to give it that warmth. That’s how I remember our house being. In fact, when we were constructing the set they found this wallpaper and it was little roses against a sort of grey background. That was exactly the paper we had our parlor, which was incredible to walk in a room to see what it was like when I was a kid. But that was how we achieved the look. The BFI did a new digital restoration and they did a wonderful job. There were only two places where I asked if they could make it a little darker or lighter. It really looks lovely, if I do say so myself.
Are you working on any upcoming projects?
Yes, I am! I’ve written two scripts and trying to get money for them. One is about Siegfried Sassoon, who was one of the great World War I poets from England. Another one based on a lovely American novel called “Mother of Sorrows” by Richard McCann. We’re hoping to have those made in the next two years.
You’re you’re going to make two films in two years?
I hope so. Fingers crossed!
Part 1 of a 4 part series about British folk music. Originally aired on BBC2 on June 13 1983. This episode focuses on The Watersons.
Part 2 of a 4 part series about British folk music. Originally aired on BBC2 on June 14 1983. This episode focuses on Alison MacMorland and Peta Webb
Part 3 of a 4 part series about British folk music. Originally aired on BBC2 on June 15 1983. This episode focuses on Martin Carthy and Ewan MacColl.
Part 4 of a 4 part series about British folk music. Originally aired on BBC2 on June 16 1983. This episode focuses on Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger.
We’ve seen a force that would shatter our nation rather than share it,
would destroy our country if it meant delaying democracy.
And this effort very nearly succeeded.
But while democracy can be periodically delayed,
it can never be permanently defeated.
In this truth, in this faith, we trust.
For while we have our eyes on the future,
history has its eyes on us.
“The Hill We Climb”
Mr. President, Dr. Biden, Madam Vice President, Mr. Emhoff, Americans and the world, when day comes we ask ourselves where can we find light in this never-ending shade? The loss we carry asea we must wade. We’ve braved the belly of the beast. We’ve learned that quiet isn’t always peace. In the norms and notions of what just is isn’t always justice. And yet, the dawn is ours before we knew it. Somehow we do it. Somehow we’ve weathered and witnessed a nation that isn’t broken, but simply unfinished. We, the successors of a country and a time where a skinny black girl descended from slaves and raised by a single mother can dream of becoming president only to find herself reciting for one.
And yes, we are far from polished, far from pristine, but that doesn’t mean we are striving to form a union that is perfect. We are striving to forge our union with purpose. To compose a country committed to all cultures, colors, characters, and conditions of man. And so we lift our gazes not to what stands between us, but what stands before us. We close the divide because we know to put our future first, we must first put our differences aside. We lay down our arms so we can reach out our arms to one another. We seek harm to none and harmony for all. Let the globe, if nothing else, say this is true. That even as we grieved, we grew. That even as we hurt, we hoped. That even as we tired, we tried that will forever be tied together victorious. Not because we will never again know defeat, but because we will never again sow division.
Scripture tells us to envision that everyone shall sit under their own vine and fig tree and no one shall make them afraid. If we’re to live up to her own time, then victory won’t lie in the blade, but in all the bridges we’ve made. That is the promise to glade, the hill we climb if only we dare. It’s because being American is more than a pride we inherit. It’s the past we step into and how we repair it. We’ve seen a forest that would shatter our nation rather than share it. Would destroy our country if it meant delaying democracy. This effort very nearly succeeded.
But while democracy can be periodically delayed, it can never be permanently defeated. In this truth, in this faith we trust for while we have our eyes on the future, history has its eyes on us. This is the era of just redemption. We feared it at its inception. We did not feel prepared to be the heirs of such a terrifying hour, but within it, we found the power to author a new chapter, to offer hope and laughter to ourselves so while once we asked, how could we possibly prevail over catastrophe? Now we assert, how could catastrophe possibly prevail over us?
We will not march back to what was, but move to what shall be a country that is bruised, but whole, benevolent, but bold, fierce, and free. We will not be turned around or interrupted by intimidation because we know our inaction and inertia will be the inheritance of the next generation. Our blunders become their burdens. But one thing is certain, if we merge mercy with might and might with right, then love becomes our legacy and change our children’s birthright.
So let us leave behind a country better than one we were left with. Every breath from my bronze-pounded chest we will raise this wounded world into a wondrous one. We will rise from the gold-limbed hills of the West. We will rise from the wind-swept Northeast where our forefathers first realized revolution. We will rise from the Lake Rim cities of the Midwestern states. We will rise from the sun-baked South. We will rebuild, reconcile and recover in every known nook of our nation, in every corner called our country our people diverse and beautiful will emerge battered and beautiful. When day comes, we step out of the shade aflame and unafraid. The new dawn blooms as we free it. For there is always light. If only we’re brave enough to see it. If only we’re brave enough to be it.
Trump’s quote from Dec 8, 2020 in media update on Operation Warp Speed