Orson Welles/Mrs Buckley
Here, under protest, is ... Orson Wells caught on tape giving one of the Great Performances of all time:
TV commercials for Mrs. Buckley's frozen foods, in England, circa 1970. I first heard it, courtesy of recording engineer Frank Wolfe,
in the early 70s. It had been circulating in "engineer circles," probably since the recording engineer on the "sessions" bootlegged a tape.
It is, in my opinion (and the opinions of many others), one of the great Human Documents of the 20th century.
It should be played as a postscript to Citizen Cain in Art-House theaters as patrons file out during the credits.
(It no doubt has been, somewhere, in the last 40+ years.)
I suppose you should listen to the audio first, then read the transcript. Or listen and read along. Or just listen ... but not while drinking milk.
Bear in mind, though, that this was not a joke or a comedy record being recorded.
Part One: Peas
Orson Welles: "We know a remote farm in Lincolnshire, where Mrs. Buckley lives. Every July, peas grow there." Do you really mean that?
Director 1: Uh, yes, so in other words, I--I--I'd start half a second later. Welles: Don't you think you really want to say "July" over the snow? Isn't that the fun of it?
D 1: It's--if--if you can (laughs) if you can make it almost when that shot disappears, it'll make more--
Welles: I think it's so nice that--that you see a snow-covered field and say "every July peas grow there". "We know a remote farm in Lincolnshire, where Mrs. Buckley lives. Every July, peas grow there." We aren't even in the fields, you see? (pause) We're talking about them growing and she's picked them. (clears throat) What?
D 1: ...in July.
Welles: I don't understand you, then. When must--what must be over for "July"?
D 1: Uh, when we get out of that snowy field--
Welles: Well, I was out! We were onto a can of peas, a big dish of peas when I said "in July".
D 1: Oh, I'm sorry, Orson.
Welles: Yes, always. I'm always--past that!
D 1: You are?
Welles: Yes! Wh--that's about where I say "in July".
Director 2: Can you emphasize a bit "in"? "In July."
Welles: Why? That doesn't make any sense. Sorry. There's no known way of saying an English sentence in which you begin a sentence with "in" and emphasize it. Get me a jury and show me how you can say "in July" and I'll... go down on you. That's just idiotic, if you'll forgive me by saying so.
D 2: (indistinct chatter)
Welles: That's just stupid. "In July"? I'd love to know how you emphasize "in" in "in July"... Impossible! Meaningless!
D 1: I think all they were thinking about was that they didn't want to--
Welles: He isn't thinking.
D 1: Orson, can we just do one last time--
D 1: ...and it was my fault. I should--I said "in July". If you could leave "every July"--
Welles: You didn't say it. He said it.
D 1: ...I said "every July".
Welles: Your friend. "Every July"?
D 1: ...so after this shot...
Welles: No, you don't really mean "every July"?
D 1: ...it is, but it's...
Welles: But that's--that's bad copy. It's in July. Of course it's every July! There's too much directing around here.
Part Two: Fish Fingers
Welles: Norway. Fish finger, nor, Findus, Norway. "We know a certain fjord in Norway, near where the cod gather in great shoals. There, Jan Stan--, Stangdilan," shit!
D 1: A fraction more on the--on that shoals thing, 'cause you rolled it round very nicely.
Welles: Yeah, roll it round and I have no more time. You don't know what I'm up against. Because it's full of--of--of things that are only correct because they're grammatical, but they're tough on the ear. You see, this is a very wearying one, it's unpleasant to read. Unrewarding. "Because Findus freeze the cod at sea and then add a crumb, crisp..." ooh, "crumb, crisp coating."
D 1: (indistinct chatter)
Welles: Ah, that's tough. "Crumb, crisp coating."
D 2: (indistinct chatter)
Welles: I think, no, because of the way it's written, you need to break it up because it's not--it's not as conversationally written. What?
D 1: Take "crumb" out.
D 2: (sounds like) That's the word.
Welles: Take "crumb" out. Good.
Part Three: Beef Burgers
Welles: Here under protest is "beef burgers." "We know a little place in the American Far West, where Charlie Briggs chops up the finest prairie-fed beef and tastes..." This is a lot of shit, you know that? You want one more?
D 2: I do, actually...
Welles: More on "buck beef"?
D 1: You--you missed the first "beef", actually completely.
Welles: What do you mean, missed it?
D 1: You--you're emphasizing "prairie-fed"--
Welles: But you can't emphasize "beef", that's like he's wanting me to emphasize "in" before "July". Come on, fellas, you're losing your heads! I wouldn't direct any living actor like this in Shakespeare! Will you do this, it's impossible!
D 1: Orson, you did six last year, and by far and away the best, and I know the--the reason--
Welles: The right reading for this is the one I'm giving it!
D 1: For the moment.
Welles: I’ve spent... twenty times more for you people than any other commercial I've ever made. You are such pests! Now, what is it you want?
D 1: Now, I think--
Welles: In your depths of your ignorance, what is it you want? Whatever it is you want, I can't deliver it because I just don't see it.
D 1: That was absolutely fine, it really was.
Welles: Here, you-- (crumples script, stands up)No money is worth this... (stomps out of studio)