Jugglers and Acrobats
|Registered:||23rd March 1964|
|Board of Trade Certificate number:||BR/E29297|
|Produced for:||United Artists Corporation|
|Production Company:||Harold Baim Productions Limited|
This film was made to accompany the cinema distribution of the first Beatles film "A Hard Days Night". It shows some of last jugglers and acrobats from the Variety Circuit. As in all Harold Baim films there is a gentle script which tells us some facts and figures; it also acknowledges that this is a record of a form of popular entertainment which is dying out.
|Featuring||Paul Fox and Anne
Vic Templar and Della Sweetman
The Four Robertis
and the Martin Granger Puppets
|Eastmancolor Photography||Dennis Ayling|
|Special Effects||Maurice Arnold|
|Art Director||Denys Pavitt|
|Assistant Director||Hector Elwes|
|Story told by||Murray Kash|
|Produced by:||Harold Baim|
|Directed by||Frank Gilpin|
Treading the trampoline, twisting, turning, tumbling on the traipse, the puppet, without a mistake, goes through its routine.
Strings and string pulling make sure that all goes well; it's all in the manipulation.
How different from puppets are the Juggles and Acrobats who practise year after year to reach a pitch of perfection and proficiency. Winston Foxwell teaches his son Paul the rudiments of the craft. It's hard work for both of them. The boy just doesn't seem to catch on at all. Much to the dismay and disgust of his father. Young Foxwell, or 'Fox' as he is professionally known, has to learn that if at first you don't succeed then in this particular business it really is a case of try, try again. The concentration demanded is head breaking. Dad's patience becomes exhausted. Without the watchful eye of his old man, he may do a little better. He does a little more than better.
Equilibrists are acrobats as they are more popularly known also have a tough schooling to go through before they dare take the risk of appearing in public. Here are The Four Robertis in training. Mistakes must happen and the must be put right. He is some weight to get around the neck. It's no-go. Once more with correct balance and OK. Two together. O-O that's asking too much. And it was. Stance and balance; nerves as steady as rocks, and a sixth sense in case a snap decision has to be made so that in the event of a miscalculation nobody breaks an arm or a leg.
An ace in clubs, that's Bobby Daniels. He shows how he practises with one club until he has the feel of it. Passing it from one hand to the other and eventually it becomes second nature to him. After one comes two; familiarity in this case breeds attempt and the familiarity can only come with the practise day after day of the same team. It's easy on the eye when Bobby Daniels is working out; a confidence and simple way in which he handles the clubs calls for admiration. Now we can see exactly how a twist of the wrist sends them onto orbit. A slow motion camera picks up every move. One becomes almost mesmerised by the hypnotic motion. It's one way traffic as they go up and down in a single flowing movement. Constant daily practice insures that when the spotlight is on him everything is well turned and according to plan.
Veronica Martell uses balls instead of clubs and again in slow motion we can see that the same method of manipulation is used. It's interesting to note that the frill on the front of her dress moves in exactly the same way, but that is not part of her act. The use of her thumbs is the secret that [prevents the balls from falling] out of her hands. Timing and a constant eye on the ball are the two most important things.
Unique is the art of the uni-cyclist who gains his knowledge by riding up and down a corridor with his hands touching the walls on each side. That way he reaches perfection; or very nearly. Turning is tricky; good, not so good, aww never mind. It's just a question of keeping calm, swinging the saddle back into position and keep on going.
A few times around the dining room doesn't do any harm either? Vic Templar is given a helping hand by his partner Della Sweetman; and it looks as if he needs it. You know it makes you think; there are so many splendid bicycles and yet a man isn't contented and prefers to ride on one wheel or two disconnected ones. It is one way of earning a living. There's no doubt that will be all right on the night. In a small flat the would-be uni-cyclist might have to work this way and develop bow-legs at the same time.
Seals do it, chimps do it, even poodles on the stage do it, but no human being on Earth has reached the fantastic speeds in juggling of Veronica Martell. Try to imagine the years of practise and application that has gone into the making of her act in order to reach the peak of velocity she has attained. On the floor in the air on her forearms they fly around with bewildering precision. Well caught. There are names for the designs described by the throw Cascading, Showering, and Double Showering amongst others. With dexterity extraordinary and a deft movement of her head balance is achieved. She is an adroit and accomplished artist.
Provided you know how to pull strings, puppets can me made to do almost anything, even spinning plates. So can Peggy Bourne; after one she spins two, and after two, three. It's intriguing as to why all these performers have their particular speciality. The feather she is wearing is for ornamentation only. She does not finish by throwing it up in the air. Two hoops complete the skilful cycle and we leave her with her hands full.
Hello again to Vic Templar and Della Sweetman, this time under different circumstances. Gone is the corridor and the round and round the dining room bit. This time they really show us how. Three coins in the fountain or three clubs on the floor it's all the same to Vic has he whirls round on one wheel he's going to pick them up. Go on, we knew you could do it all the time. Not enough to balance himself precariously on one wheel, he has to make it even more difficult by juggling clubs at the same time. Della does not mind washing-up but she dislikes drying so has invented this idea for getting the crockery dry - and sometimes broken. She is what is called ambidextrous. They wind up by throwing clubs at each other. The one who misses gets a black-eye first loses.
Remember this effortless master of the art of club manipulation. Bobby Daniels is one of the smoothest operators in the game. Juggling was done in Egypt and Greece well over four thousand years ago. The art is handed down from father to son even to this day. Daniels started at the age of fifteen, played the London Palladium for ten months, travelled the world and if you laid his clubs end to end and multiplied them by the number of times he had thrown them into the air - who would want to know the answer anyway?
Practise made perfect by The Four Robertis. Dutch by birth it would be reasonable to call them The Flying Dutchmen. Almost as soon as they could walk they joined their family circus; learned ballet, trapeze work, acrobatics and horse riding. They settled for acrobatics.
Carrying on the family tradition and early training they received, they know that in one flip one misjudgement the slightest piece of mistiming could result in a very serious accident for one or even all of them. It is certainly not as easy as it looks. During the early day's sprains, dislocated joints, pulled muscles and even broken bones were the trials and tribulations they had to endure before they became artistically able acrobats.
The Trio Bostons defy any to say there is a faster act than theirs. They usually juggle with tins of spinach, which I suppose they open and eat before they go on stage. That accounts for the extraordinary jet-propulsion they are able to inject into their performance. Their speed has one compensation; that is that they can do their act and get home from the theatre early.
Veronica has a head start with head gear. She started at the tender age of eleven. Once whilst appearing at the China Theatre in Stockholm she was offered a long term engagement by Ringling and Barnum and Bailey Circus. She toured the whole of America and the Far East, wound up in Cecil B Demilles 'Greatest Show On Earth' came back to England and has had a full date book of theatrical engagements ever since; and no wonder!
Winston Foxwell, master manipulator, taught his son Paul. Paul's finest trick was to marry Anne. They are a family who live, eat and sleep the Art of Juggling, which Winston Foxwell describes as "the propelling of one of more solid objects through the air so skilfully that none of the fall to the ground". I'd say easier said than done. This boy is really something; only twenty-one now but one day he'll be the greatest, of that there is no doubt. Apart from the clubs, Anne seldom throws anything else at Paul. He's far too quick. Five clubs. This takes some doing. Dad takes over to show how funny he thinks he is; funny enough, he's clever; with one ambition; to make his son Paul better than he ever was and put him on the pinnacle of Juggling fame. I shouldn't like to face him if he was me. One good turn deserves another. The clubs turn two and a half times before reaching the palm of the hand.
Jugglers and Acrobats are unfortunately becoming harder to find. There are those who strive hard to keep the ancient art alive. Today they must be superb operators and as they take their bow I for one hope they will never entirely disappear from the scene. It's unlikely to happen as long as there are people who like to entertain others they will survive.
Jugglers and Acrobats; We salute you.
Jugglers and Acrobats
RCA Sound Recording
A Harold Baim Production