Character actor Michael Shannon has been nominated for his second Oscar for his role in the 2016 thriller Nocturnal Animals. "No Small Parts" takes a look at some of the other characters he's played in the past.
Three loyal friends confound the Establishment at a British public school
Stalky & Co. is a faithful adaptation of Rudyard Kipling's book of the same name (less one chapter and the afterstory chapter). Kipling was telling tales based on his own public school experiences as a boy (he is 'Beetle' in the book), and he did an excellent job of capturing the tenor of life in 'the Coll,' a school that catered to boys who would go on to govern and defend the British Empire in the Civil Service, Foreign Service and the military.
Partly shot on location at an actual British 'public school' (which in America would be called a private school), the series chronicles the actions and activities of the denizens of Study No. 5 in Mr. Prout's 'house' (residence hall) as they chart their own courses, running somewhat against the grain of the Establishment. The inseparable threesome are:
Stalky, son of an officer serving in the Indian Army. The leader of the band, he's skilled in the arts of war and capable of unorthodox thought and action. Good at sports, he nonetheless disdains them in favor of the pursuit of fun with his pals;
M'Turk, scion of a family that owns 5,000 acres "... of Irish bog," to quote Stalky. Devoted to the writings of John Ruskin, he has a highly developed sense of honor and a smouldering hatred of bullies, prefects and unsportsmanlike conduct;
and 'Beetle,' the wit of the gang, a writer of scurillous poems and songs with literary leanings and the skill to make good on them. Eventually editor of the school paper, he's not above putting his skill as a compositor to less orthodox uses, among other gags Study No. 5 pulls in defense of the honour of their House and to settle scores with various students and teachers of the school.
Their friends include the Padre, the school chaplain; Colonel Dabney, a retired officer who served in India at the same time Stalky's father had command of a regiment of Sikh cavalry; and 'Foxy,' otherwise Sergeant Fox, a retired infantry sergeant and the school's resident cop. Their undying enemy is Mr. King, Latin teacher and Master of another house, whose hatred is returned by the trio with interest. (There is something of Mr. King in J.K. Rowling's Professor Snape, in my opinion.) The only adult at the school who truly understands them and their interpersonal dynamic is 'the Head,' the school's Headmaster, apparently patterned on the head of Kipling's own coll. He talks to them like men while yet understanding that they are boys, and feels that in the end they all will make their marks on the world.
The ways these three find to achieve their goals, sometimes within the rules and sometimes without, in the several self-contained episodes are a delight to anyone who ever lived in that sort of environment or wishes they had. The mini-series recaptures the flavor of a long-gone age admirably. Kipling fans will adore it, and those who've not read Kipling will be inspired to do so by this series. I impatiently await its release on DVD. If you can find it, by all means watch it.
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