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Architecture of Entertainment (1960)

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Cast overview:
John Betjeman ...
Himself
Eileen Elton ...
Dancer
Donald McAlpine ...
Dancer
Phyllida McAlpine ...
Dancer
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poet | See All (1) »

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Short | Documentary

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28 March 1960 (UK)  »

Also Known As:

Journey Into a Lost World  »

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1.33 : 1
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Should have shown more grass, less glass.
17 September 2006 | by See all my reviews

I was never an admirer of the poetry of John Betjeman, although I agree with his famous observation about parents. To a large extent, Betjeman defined a certain aspect of England (and Englishness) that was already fading away during his lifetime. The BBC documentary 'Architecture of Entertainment' gives Betjeman an opportunity to wax rhapsodic on one of his favourite subjects: classic English architecture. Also of interest is the fact that this documentary was directed by Ken Russell, at a point in his life when he was still learning the craft of direction, and wasn't yet indulging his obsessions for naked nuns or chorus girls in gas masks.

Among the architectures which Betjeman visits here are William Burges's Tower House in Kensington, which makes Betjeman nearly swoon with pleasure. He is less favourably disposed to Sir Edwin Lutyen's Folly Farm at Sulhamstead Abbott, Berkshire, which Betjeman dismisses as too modern. Unlike the erstwhile Poet Laureate, I was very impressed with the Folly Farm sequences of this film ... however, this was less down to Sir Edwin Lutyen's architecture than to Gertrude Jekyll's elaborate gardening and landscaping.

Betjeman reserves his most withering scorn for Peter Womersley's Farnley Hey in Huddersfield, which is indeed a nightmare of glass. I kept expecting some movie villain to come bursting through the glass in a shower of bullets. I wonder what Betjeman would have said about the architecture of Lord Richard Rogers.

This television documentary is not for all tastes. If you're a Ken Russell fan, be advised that none of his self-indulgent excesses are on offer here. If you're interested in the architecture and landscaping of a bygone Britain, I recommend 'Architecture of Entertainment'. In terms of achieving its intended purpose, I'll rate it 8 out of 10.


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