The Feral Beast: How Mailer went into pictures

Clawing its way to gold
Click to follow
The Independent Online

Woody Allen once quipped that Norman Mailer "left his ego to Harvard". Now, an opportunity has arisen to acquire a more simpatico part of his legacy. A bundle of sketches drawn by the American novelist for the film adaptation of The Naked and the Dead has come up for auction. Though the estimate of £20,000-£30,000 may seem a bit steep for what appear to be a few cack-handed scrawls, the story behind them is rather poignant. Mailer had sold the film rights to Charles Laughton for a then unheard-of sum of $250,000, and the two started working together. They spent a week holed up at Laughton's penthouse at the St Moritz Hotel in New York, and most of the sketches are on St Moritz headed paper. But at about that time, Laughton's film The Night of the Hunter had been released, and was being widely panned by the public and the critics. Though now frequently listed as one of the greatest films of all time, Laughton was so disheartened that he pulled out of the Mailer project, and never directed again. Cruel world!

Up and away

How many ministers would you expect to attend an air show? One or two, perhaps, but 16? That's the number who trotted down the M3 last week to the Farnborough Air Show in Hampshire, the biennial shindig for aviation high-flyers. David Cameron led the way, becoming the first prime minister to open the show, and William Hague enjoyed a tour by trade body ADS, before an arduous "luncheon at its chalet". Of course, the UK aerospace industry is doing rather well, coming top in Europe, as a government spokesman is keen to point out. But can that be the only reason they all went?

Nailed it!

Duncan Fallowell has scooped the respected PEN Ackerley Prize for literary autobiography, for his book, How to Disappear: A Memoir for Misfits. He saw off competition from Brian Sewell and Sherard Cowper-Coles. The prize was founded in memory of J R Ackerley, the brilliantly eccentric literary editor of The Listener, who dedicated himself with almost Eric-Gill-style ardour to his German Shepherd, Queenie. At last week's party to celebrate, Fallowell was handed a cheque for £2,500. When I ask what he plans to do with it, he says part of it will go towards lasering his left thumb. "The nail has gone funny," he says. "I've tried painting on stuff, but that doesn't work. There's a brand new technique for discolouration or infection in the nail – they laser the base to clear any problems and it grows through normally after that. It's £350 per digit. That leaves me £2,150 for Bollinger." Cheers!

Long wait for Electric elite

Yet more bad news for the Notting Hill elite. Following my recent revelation that a fire had ripped through the historic Electric Cinema in Portobello Road, owned by Nick Jones, husband of Desert Island Discs presenter Kirsty Young, news reaches me that the restoration is taking longer than expected. The cinema, brasserie and private members' club has been closed since 9 June. Managers had been hoping for a September relaunch, but my man with the palette knife says their "most optimistic hope" is now as late as November. How will Mariella and pals keep themselves amused?

Question time

As we report today, Lord Green is under pressure to reveal quite how much he knew about money laundering at HSBC when we was chief exec. But some parliamentarians also want to know just how dedicated he's been to the Upper House, since he was made a peer in 2010. Labour peer Lord Foulkes tabled a question asking how many times he has answered questions. Green duly responded, saying that he'd answered 72 questions. Good show, but why does his response appear in Hansard as coming from his colleague Baroness Wilcox? Surely just an administrative blunder.

Olly bad show

Olly Grender became a pin-up of the last election, sort of, by virtue of bagging the post of Lib Dem talking head during Newsnight's month-long coverage. Now the Lib Dems' former head of communications is an adviser to No 10, on a salary of £80,000, according to written ministerial statements released last week. It's by no means the biggest salary – the PM's annual bill for special advisers is shown to have increased by £600,000 from two years previously. But I do hope those Buller boys are taking her seriously: her name is down as Oily Grender.

A-Muse-ing idea

Devon-bred band Muse were back in their home town of Teignmouth to carry the Olympic torch. Now, a publicity-savvy councillor has asked the rock trio to take control of the council. Councillor Jeremy Christophers thinks it could help "drive the green agenda forward", as their new album, The 2nd Law, is partly about fossil fuels. In the past, the band were less than flattering about their home town, but now they seem quite fond of it. Apparently, they've agreed. The catch is, it's only for a day.

Shady business

We have tried, dear readers, to keep this space free of any references to that spank-buster everyone seems to be reading. But the moment a publishing phenomenon turns into a national joke comes when oven-makers start telling you now's a good time to buy one their cookers – in grey. "With the current Grey euphoria, what better time to speak about the Rangemaster Royal Pearl, the perfect shade of grey for your kitchen!" trills the email. "Let me know if you feel inspired and would like more information." Last week, a Lake District hotelier swapped all Gideon Bibles for the book, and even the White Horse Bookshop in Marlborough has made a few collars sweaty by dedicating an entire window display to it. Still, you'll have noticed that I haven't mentioned its title once.

Last dance

It's another victory for the Beast. Following my observation that the Royal Ballet had effectively snubbed its principal dancer, Tamara Rojo, by not giving her a classy send-off as she goes to head up rivals English National Ballet, it is welcoming her back. Rojo and Sergei Polunin have been invited to perform three "farewell performances" of Frederick Ashton's Marguerite and Armand in February, a ballet they performed to great acclaim last year. When Darcey Bussell left the Royal Ballet, her last dance was broadcast on BBC2, and she received an eight-minute standing ovation. Now that everyone has kissed and made up, here's hoping Tamara gets a big hand next year.

Carry on up the high street

When metropolitan Mary Portas launched a scheme to regenerate struggling provincial towns, tension was perhaps inevitable. Sure enough, Liskeard in Cornwall, one of 12 "Portas Pilots" given £100,000 in May to boost their high streets, has descended into civil war. Councillors and the town clerk walked out of an extraordinary general meeting after tantrums over voting rights. One witness likened it to a Carry On movie, aggravated by the presence of a film crew from Portas's documentary makers. "I strongly object to cameras here," said resident Ron Waxman. "We're not film stars."