Friday, 30 May 2014

An Ode to Valery Hobson (Mrs Profumo).

An Ode to Valery Hobson (Mrs Profumo).
By Chris Burke.

Valerie Hobson (later Mrs Profumo) was the unexpected and sweet reward for watching the glorious Ealing film “Kind Hearts and Coronets” last night.
Valerie Hobson 1949

I have had a few months exploring Sir Alec Guinness the writer and they have proved delicious in a literary way. Sue (the other Councillor Burke and soul mate) and I had met in her City Ward at the warm and interesting Ermine Library awaiting the candidate at the start of the recent local and Euro elections. As we were half an hour early we both picked up some books for a random read.  I spotted a book by Alec Guinness (I had no idea that he was a writer) whom I loved as an actor called delightfully "My Name Escapes Me".  Although the Ermine Library (it’s near the Roman Ermine Street) is a busy part of the equally busy urban Ermine Estate it is also, as you might expect, a perfect place to quietly read a book. I was entranced by the style, wit and references to an age I remembered and my parents often spoke of. I thought that I would download it to my Kindle Fire but there was no kindle version. I remembered then that I had in my wallet that most precious thing: A Lincolnshire Library Card and so borrowed this wonderful book.
I subsequently bought a copy and sent it to my favourite 92 year old former form teacher, coincidentally named, Mr Edward McGuinness in Liverpool.  I have also bought Blessings in Disguise, Sir Alec's general autobiography which is sitting on the shelf waiting to be read and he called it "A book of casual reminiscences" along with another later book of reflections "A Positively Final Appearance" which I am just completing.  So, why "Kind Hearts and Coronets”? Last night reading page 223 of "A Positively Final Appearance" (Paperback edition) appears the words "On the Tuesday the Profumos had invited me to see the film "Primary Colours” so we arranged to have a light meal at The Connaught before the showing."

The Connaught 

 That was all very agreeable but I thought Valery looked rather tired. Jack was fascinating about visiting Hiroshima shortly after the bomb had devastated it and was particularly interesting about the impossible lives the kamikaze pilots were forced to lead after the Japanese surrender. (I never knew, for instance, that once they had undertaken to be kamikazes they had to attend their own funeral ceremony and were from then on officially dead, with no status; their wives could remarry.)
Jack Profumo 1960
Primary Colours I thought well-acted – particularly by Travolta and the always appealing Adrian Lester – but too wordy and sometimes confusing. Emma Thompson was excellent as always; she could take the first prize in any face slapping competition. Jack seemed indifferent to the film and Valerie nodded off once or twice.  They drove me back to my hotel and I kissed her goodnight. It struck me she might be quite anxious to get to bed so I didn’t offer a nightcap. In the morning she telephoned leaving a message but I had already left for home. Merula and I were shocked and deeply saddened to hear that she had died in the early hours of Friday morning, three days later.”(13th November 1998).
Jack in 1960

With Alec in 1952

Alec described her as a great beauty "of moral and physical courage, a demon behind the wheel of a fast car and the proud holder of a pilot’s licence". She was a very good oil painter and a strong supporter of charitable causes particularly Downs Syndrome.  She stood by her husband Jack who was at the centre of an international scandal of course then and for the rest of their lives. Last night she was the elegant, patrician and gorgeous Edith D'Ascoyne in 1949 playing opposite Dennis Price and Alec. It’s got to be one of the best films of its period and genre.