RogerBW's Blog

Blandings Castle and Elsewhere, P. G. Wodehouse 04 January 2023

1935 comedy anthology, containing six stories of Lord Emsworth, and six others.

These stories were of course originally published separately in magazines, between 1924 and 1933, and taking them as a lump shows up the distinction in quality between the Blandings stories, which don't tend to feel samey even if they are, and the Mulliner stories of Hollywood, which tend to re-use the same old tricks in relatively obvious ways.

"The Custody of the Pumpkin" has McAllister the gardener resigning, the perils of a prize pumpkin, and young Freddie getting involved with what's clearly yet another unsuitable young lady. Or is she?

"Lord Emsworth Acts for the Best" has Lord Emsworth's beard, and a misunderstanding with Freddie and a film star.

"Pig-Hoo-o-o-o-ey!" has the Empress of Blandings off her food, and Emsworth's niece breaking off a suitable (but unloving) engagement.

"Company For Gertrude" has Freddie employed as a salesman of sorts for a dog food, while Emsworth has to put up with a droopy and tragic young lady.

"The Go-Getter" continues the romance of the previous story, which is at risk from a Crooning Tenor.

"Lord Emsworth and the Girlfriend" has the Village Fete, and the Fresh Air London children who are busily giving the local lads a run for their money. And Lord Emsworth actually develops a backbone.

"Mr Potter Takes a Rest Cure" is a Bobbie Wickham story: with her mother importuning her to marry the rising politician Clifford Gandle, she contrives for Gandle to believe that fellow-guest J. H. Potter is at risk of suicide, while Potter believes that Gandle is a homicidal maniac. It's rather fun as comedy, but Potter is an innocent victim.

"Monkey Business" has Mulliner talking about a romance put at risk by the prospect of getting married inside a gorilla's cage.

"The Nodder" tells of how a low-ranking yes-man (he doesn't actually get to speak agreement, just to nod) turns and gets the girl. And there are child actors.

'The question you have raised,' he said at length, 'is one that has occupied the minds of thinking men ever since these little excrescences first became popular on the screen. Some argue that mere children could scarcely be so loathsome. Others maintain that a right-minded midget would hardly stoop to some of the things these child stars do. But, then, arising from that, we have to ask ourselves: Are midgets right-minded? The whole thing is very moot.'

"The Juice of an Orange" continues that story, with the deleterious effects of a reducing diet.

"The Rise of Minna Nordstrom" has an aspiring actress manufacturing her big chance. (And even the cops in Hollywood are aspiring actors.)

"The Castaways" has mixed-up couples under the blighting effect of a writing contract.

All good fun, but the Mulliner stories end up looking rather inferior by comparison with Emsworth.

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Previous in series: Leave It to Psmith | Series: Blandings | Next in series: Summer Lightning

  1. Posted by Robert at 01:38am on 05 January 2023

    I really enjoyed “Lord Emsworth and the Girlfriend”. “The Crime Wave at Blandings” had a sort of a similar feel to me as well and it’s kind of interesting how well Lord Emsworth pairs up with children.

    I was surprised I didn’t enjoy the Bobbie Wickham story more. I’d looked forward to it but it didn’t sing and I think your observation that it’s an innocent victim explains part of my issue.

    The ranks of yes-men in “The Nodder” was fun while I read it but I wondered how much of that came from having been reading about the career of the Marx Brothers around the time I picked this up.

  2. Posted by RogerBW at 10:09am on 05 January 2023

    "The Girlfriend" feels in a way as though it ought to be the last Emsworth – after all, having grown a spine once, he could do it again.

    The Hollywood stories are a strange blend of inside knowledge and exaggerated parody, and I have never quite found the right angle from which to appreciate them.

  3. Posted by Robert at 01:35pm on 05 January 2023

    I can recommend Robert Bader’s “Four of the Three Musketeers: The Marx Brothers on Stage” as a solid read on its own if they interest you as people and performers and if you have an interest in Vaudeville as a business and the change from Vaudeville to film. Something about being in that period helped me with the Hollywood stories here. I should go back to Bader’s bibliography and see what sources he was using for that period as there may be something there he got perspective from.

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