A few weeks ago, I purchased a used book, The Life of Galileo by Bertolt Brecht. The softcover book was published in London in 1964 by Methuen & Co Ltd. The cover is a photograph from a scene in the play which shows Galileo (played by Laughton) with his hands clasped behind his head as he sits conversing with a pupil sitting at a telescope.
Until now, I was unaware that Charles Laughton had performed any Brechtian dramas. (Mea culpa) It was interesting to find the book contains Author's Notes on the play which comment on the message, on the best production of the play, and on Laughton's contribution.
There is one paragraph in the Notes titled Laughton's Galileo and I reproduce it here:
"The novelty of Galileo in his day was brought out by Laughton letting him gaze with a stranger's eyes at the world around him, as if it were something requiring an explanation. His laughing observation of the monks in te Collegium Romanum made fossils of them. Here, incidentally, he displayed pleasure in their primitive argumentation.
"A few people raised objections to L. delivering the first-scene speech about the new astronomy with his torso bare; they said the public might be confused by hearing such inrtellectual utterances from a half-naked man. But just that very mixture of spiritual and physical interested L. 'Galileo's physical pleasure', when the boy rubbed his back, was transmuted into intellectual creativeness. Thus L. emphasised that Galileo is once more enjoying his wine when, in Scene 9, he hears that the reactionary Pope lies dying. His relaxed way of walking up and down, and the play of his hands in his breeches pockets when planning new researches, verged on the shocking. Whenever Galileo is in a creative mood, L. displayed a contradictory mixture of aggressiveness and defenseless softness and vulnerability."
Are there two such creative artists today as these two? And, if there were, would they collaborate in translation and production to mount such a play briefly in two cities only? And would the play be about the world and life and man instead of personal problems or family issues? Call me nostalgic, but I don't think so.
House of Fleas: 1940
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