Monday, 6 August 2018

Noms de guerre

It is good to see Jonathan Calder posting about The Magnet again. Since much of it was shot on location (it must have been one of the first British post-war feature films to do so) in Wallasey where I spent most of my teenage years, I have some affection for it. Besides, I used to fancy Barbara Murray rotten. James Robertson Justice appears under a pseudonym (Seamus Mor Na Feasag) and I believe I may have been one of the first to draw the inference that he did so because of a clash with his candidacy in the general election of that time.

In truth, there are many reasons why people in show business appear under different names. A common one is to avoid legal action if one is under exclusive contract under ones own name to another organisation. I seem to recall Carol Vorderman using this device when she moonlighted on BBC when still appearing on ITV. It was especially common among jazzmen in the US in the heyday of the great recording companies - not to mention the artistes who covered pop hits for bargain basement labels here.

Another reason is to avoid typecasting. Clare Woodgate needed to break away from her persona as a schoolgirl in the sitcom 2point4 Children so reinvented herself as Georgina Cates. An earlier example is that of Hillary Brooke who achieved success on screen as an elegant Englishwoman but to do so needed to sever connections with her modelling and brief film career as Beatrice Peterson (or her married name Schute) from New York.

The political angle occurred to me because at the time that I floated it, Welsh Labour were particular antsy about anything which might give additional coverage to their opponents. I recall their trying to suppress a TV interview with a local councillor about a matter totally separate from national politics, purely because said councillor was standing for Plaid in an upcoming Welsh general election. But, as Jonathan Calder points out, there was probably no legal bar.

Perhaps JRJ did the gig as a favour to the producer or director and for reasons of modesty or to avoid trouble with the unions, chose to appear under a Gaelic pseudonym.

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