Johnnie Byrne is a member of the British Parliament. In his 40s, he's feeling frustrated with his life and his personal as well as professional problems tower up over him. His desires to ... See full summary »
Johnnie Byrne is a member of the British Parliament. In his 40s, he's feeling frustrated with his life and his personal as well as professional problems tower up over him. His desires to win the next election are endangered by his constant looking for love and he is faced with the choice of giving up a career in politics or giving up the woman he loves. Written by
There is a film I am very fond of called "The Professionals". It has he men like Burt Lancaster, Lee Marvin, Robert Ryan and Woody Strode running around an American landscape in pursuit of Claudia Cardinale and Jack Palance who has her (lucky man!) Where DOES one get work like that?
Being myself in what you could call "The Rico situation", there is an exchange at the end of the film "The Professionals", between the characters Grant (Ralph Bellemy) and Rico (Lee Marvin) about a "broken contract" I am fond of quoting.
JW Grant: You bastard!
Rico: Yes sir. In my case, an accident of birth. But you, you're a self-made man. ...
So the book and film of "No Love for Johnnie". For a book penned in the late 1950s it came as a shock because the lead character Johnnie Roderick Byrne is such a self made man. Nothing at all to like about him. In my mind I have been calling Byrne the so called hero. But on reflection after just re-reading the book and seeing the movie again, I think there was a hero in both film and book. This man played such a small part in both "if you blinked" you would have missed him. But I think he was the moral centre that Fienburgh wanted to bring to Johnnie Byrne's world.
Like the "Flashman" character in that series of books, Johnnie Byrne is bad boy making good. Due respect to George MacDonald Fraser but one "Flashman" book would have been enough. The fact that the hero of "Tom Brown's Schooldays" dies unremarked on some foreign battlefield whilst the cowardly school bully lies, cheats and whores his way to fame and fortune is a great plot line. Clever as the subsequent books were, they are only variations on a wonderful original theme.
Wilfred Fienburgh's book came before the "Flashman" books but does more in those few pages to ridicule the "Rake's Progress" than any other number of books. The whole book leads up to the following speech made to Johnnie Byrne at the end of the book by the fictional Prime Minister, Reginald Stevens just before he gives Johnnie his "five pieces of silver" - or a small calibre job.
Stevens tells Johnnie Byrne about the President Of The Board Of Trade who has just exited "He's has gone away to die. He is going home to his garden in the north. Oh blast it, he's going to lay out new borders for spring and he'll never see them grow. About four times in a lifetime, Byrne, one meets a good man. And he was one. He was just good. I never heard him say a malicious word about anyone. A really good man in politics stands out like a mountain peak. It's not that there are fewer good men here than elsewhere. In this place we are a pretty fair microcosm of society, but the good man stands out. I suppose we are measured in our private attitude by our public utterances. We preach a high morality, but we are ordinary blokes after all. So to the cynical and the experienced we fail to live by our words. Then there comes one who does. Quietly, without ostentation, his whole life is a mirror of his precepts. And that makes him greater by comparison with the rest of us."
I consider Mr Fienburgh's hero Johnnie Byrne had no redeeming features at all and this speech about a good man means nothing to him except as another opportunity to progress. It is apt that the current TV trailer for cricket on Channel Four has cricketer Geofrrey Boycott recounting the habit Freddie Trueman had of saying to a batsman who didn't have the good grace to get himself out following a brilliant Trueman ball delivery. "That ball was wasted on thee, lad!". On 1st July 2006, I am sorry to note Fred Trueman has recently died.
"Trueman" or good man, Steven's speech was wasted on Johnnie Byrne. Byrne goes on to grab the small promotion to Assistant Postmaster General, dumps his wife and feels smug and really contented at the end of the novel.
Byrne bumped into the dying President Of the Board of Trade as he entered the Prime Minister's office but far from seeing a terminally ill man, Byrne's only concern about the man's tragic appearance is was what it meant for him(Byrne). Was he about to get "fired"?
In the film version, Peter Finch deserved both that Bafta and Berlin Silver Bear award just for the scene where the camera cuts back to him as Geoffrey Keen's Stevens is making this speech. Watching "Johnnie Byrne" trying to remember what the facial expression for concern looked like. Byrne realises his facial muscle memory has had so little use of sympathetic expressions, he could no longer manage them. Finch's Byrne settled instead for the look of a man suffering from indigestion. It was very dark and almost funny.
Oh and can I thank whoever, for the correction I urged on the film's details. I am pleased Mr Fienburgh's first name has finally been corrected to "Wilfred". Due to his death before even his novel was accepted for publication, I do not think Mr Fienburgh's full intention for the book was realised with the film version - too much missed out in the screenplay - but it was a worthy effort.
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