The greatest film never made

Jodorowsky's "Dune" is brought back to life

"Alejandro Jodorowsky's Dune: an Exhibition of a Film of a Book that Never Was" has just opened at the Drawing Room Gallery in east London (ends 25 October). Taking the cult Chilean film-maker's unsuccessful 1976 attempt at an adaptation of Frank Herbert's science-fiction novel as its departure point, the show assembles apocalyptic works by the likes of Vidya Gastaldon and Matthew Day Jackson to explore what the curator calls "a parallel cinematic world".

Jodorowsky's Dune has a decent claim to being the greatest film never made. That it aimed to pool the talents of Pink Floyd, Orson Welles, Mick Jagger and visual artists including H R Geiger (who later worked on Ridley Scott's Alien), Moebius and Chris Foss would be good enough. That Jodorowsky wanted to cast Salvador Dalí as "Emperor of the Universe", only for Dalí to insist on being paid $100,000 an hour so that he could "earn more than Greta Garbo", tips the balance even further in its favour.

But what about Tarkovsky's never-started film of Hamlet? Or Darren Aronofsky's proposed take on Batman? Or Nick Cave's time-travelling Gladiator sequel? Feel free to suggest your own additions to the canon in the comment box below.

Then take a look at Toby Litt's encomium on science fiction from this week's issue.

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How Dame Vera Lynn was told to “posh her accent up”

Radio 2’s 100th-birthday tribute reveals how Lynn was forced to change her voice.

“I remember seeing her near an elephant, and this elephant rolled over a bit and she had to get out of the way . . .” Vic Knibb, the vice-chairman of the veterans’ group the Burma Star Association, was one of the thousands of British soldiers serving in the Far East during the Second World War who came across Vera Lynn in the jungle, singing from the back of a Jeep, accompanied by an out-of-tune piano.

Speaking in Radio 2’s celebration of the singer’s 100th birthday, Vera Lynn: the Sweetheart of the United Kingdom (Sunday 19 March, 8pm), Knibb and others recalled what it meant to them that Lynn travelled so far to perform for the so-called Forgotten Army in Burma. Unlike other entertainers, who stayed in Europe or visited only military hospitals in the UK, she deliberately went where few others did – where she felt she was needed by “the boys”.

The programme, which featured a rare interview with Lynn herself, was dominated by clips of her recordings from the Thirties and Forties. We heard frequent extracts from “The White Cliffs of Dover”, “We’ll Meet Again” and “A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square”. The contrast between these two voices, separated by more than six decades, was the most arresting thing this otherwise pedestrian documentary had to offer. The now gravelly-voiced centenarian sang, in her youth, with a smooth, effortless-sounding tone and crystal-clear diction. But how did the cockney daughter of a plumber from East Ham end up singing with received pronunciation?

The answer, as ever in Britain, is class. Lynn had no formal musical training, and as she had been performing in working men’s clubs from the age of seven, she was considered closer to a musical-hall crooner than a “proper” singer. But with her small vocal range and flawless self-taught technique, she chose her own songs to suit her voice. The BBC, for which she made her hugely popular radio show Sincerely Yours, requested that she take elocution lessons to “posh her accent up” and even at one point took her show off air for 18 months. “Every­body’s Sweetheart” wasn’t immune from snobbishness, it seems. 

Caroline Crampton is assistant editor of the New Statesman. She writes a weekly podcast column.

This article first appeared in the 23 March 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Trump's permanent revolution