Jeeves and Wooster
3.3: Cyril and the Broadway Musical
aka Introduction on Broadway
Well, that’s a relief. After a couple of middling episodes, the third season bounces back, and that’s despite Bertie continuing his transatlantic trip. Clive Exton once again plunders Carry On, Jeeves, but this time blends it with a tale from The Inimitable Jeeves for the brightest spots, as Cyril Basington-Basington (a sublimely drippy Nicholas Hewetson) pursues his stage career against Aunt Agatha’s wishes.
The Corky plotline is more standard-issue in genesis, such that Bertie wishes to help out Bruce “Corky” Corcoran (Greg Charles, another less than convincing New Yorker) and puts Jeeves on the case, who blows it in quite startling manner. If his suggestions here had developed any currency, he would never have gained that reputation of a miracle worker.
Corky wishes to marry Muriel Singer (Dena Davis), whose enthusiasm for getting others to do her dirty work suggests she isn’t quite on the up-and-up anyway. Impeding his plans, as is often the case, is the fear that a relative, his Uncle (Bill Bailey, not that one), won’t approve. Jeeves’ eccentric scheme entails Muriel penning The Children’s Book of American Birds and dropping in copious references to Uncle Worple’’s own books, American Birds and More American Birds, such that he will take an instant liking to her and approve the union. Jeeves offers to ghost write while Bertie foots the bill.
The effect on Worple is rather too stunning; the next time Bertie runs into Muriel, she has become Worple’s wife. The gold digger. It’s really one of the most tragic, disastrous turns of events in a Wodehouse story, and it wouldn’t have been any wonder had Corky chosen to throw himself off the nearest bridge in response. Instead, to add insult to injury, he takes a commission to paint a portrait of their mewling new born (they certainly didn’t waste any time).
Bertie: I think you want to stand a bit further back from it.
Worple: I do, I do.
The resulting work fails to meet with Worple’s approval, needless to say. Jeeves at least comes up trumps in this respect, however, ensuring it catches the eye of the art critic for The New York Chronicle. Jeeves comments that it is “Typical of his early work” and relays that “’Still Life with Eggplant’ is the title of the piece” (“At first glance, there’s almost a hint of a human face” observes the critic). He thus secures $18,000 and exclusive access to Corky’s catalogue, which is some recompense for a broken heart and ruined life (Jeeves merely takes a percentage for acting as his agent).
Worple: This entire edifice you see around you, built on jute.
Bertie: Really? Pretty useful stuff, then.
Bertie’s suitably hopeless throughout, with a particularly amusing first meeting with Worple – one almost wonders if the Coen Brothers weren’t inspired by the scene for the first meeting between The Dude and Jeffrey Lebowski – in which he knows just enough about jute to sustain a conversation, but not nearly enough to avoid being thrown off the premises. Bertie professes his main line of business is sack races and that it’s “now the start of the sack-racing season“; first-rate inventiveness on Exton’s part, as it’s absent from the short story. Wooster’s almost as cloth-headed posing for his portrait (“Won’t it come out blurred?“)
Bertie: No, I played Brutus at school once and I was the one everybody stabbed.
Bertie’s also the first choice of his pal George (David Crean) for a walk-on role in the production of Ask Dad!, which he wisely declines; the memory of a previous performance is still vivid in his memory. The newly-arrived Cyril very willingly fills in, and before long, he’s even suggesting line changes (he only has one: “Excuse me, ladies, the house is on fire“).
The play goes on tour, attempting to secure a Broadway boost, and Bertie joins it; it’s his turn for a montage sequence, in which he tries shooting, various cowboy antics, goes fishing (“The trout look exactly like Oofy Prosser“) and grows a moustache. However, he grows weary after the umpteenth performance (during which time, Muriel has got hitched and pregnant, this all being an addition to the original and allowing Muriel to burgeon).
Sidney: Fish face. You’ve got a face like a fish. A haddock. I wouldn’t have a face like that if you gave me a million dollars.
It looks like there’ll be little chance of prising Cyril away from the company. That is, until Jeeves bribes the returning Sidney Blumenfield to insult Cyril (Anataol Yusef of Boardwalk Empire plays Sidney, and Billy J Mitchell also returns as his father, who is funding the gig). As an indication of Sidney’s charms, he is fond of announcing “My pop’s richer than you” to strangers. Cyril responds with threats on both the boy and his father, which means he’s out on his ear… and Bertie is reluctantly roped in.
Of course, Bertie makes a hash of things. Struck with stage fright, he eventually shouts “Fire!“, leading to panicked evacuation and the fire brigade letting loose a hose on Agatha and Sidney – slapstick ahoy! Scarcely credibly, these events lead to “Excellent advanced reservations and publicity that couldn’t be bought“.
Bertie: Well, what do you think?
Jeeves: I only hope the poor creature died a peaceful death, sir.
It’s a particularly strong episode for Bertie-Jeeves tensions, with the moustache business from Jeeves and the Hard-Boiled Egg (adapted for the previous episode) carried over, along with Jeeves casting aspersions on Bertie’s new coat. He also gives another of Bertie’s misbegotten hats to the liftman:
Jeeves: (in response to Bertie’s soup strainer) Very striking, sir.
Bertie: Very Ronald Coleman, I thought.
Jeeves: It was Lord Kitchener who sprang to mind on first sight, sir.
Bertie: Blast it, Keeves, I shall do what I like with my own upper lip.
Bertie, naturally, attempts to assert his authority (“I don’t care if it’s the cause of the staggers on race courses, I will not have you editing my upper lip“) amid Jeeves undermining it; when Bertie discovers a fresh razor in the bathroom, Jeeves explains “I did not think it was performing its task with the required efficacy“.
The episode also includes the first piano-led interlude since… the last episode, in which Jeeves – very unlikely, this – attempts a falsetto while Bertie accompanies tinkles the ivories. Finishing off the proceedings, with Wooster newly whiskerless, is a very apt summation of the relationship between Bertie and his valet:
Bertie: I only kept it to show who’s master.
Jeeves: Oh, I trust there was never any doubt about that.
The Artistic Career of Corky (Carry On, Jeeves, Chapter 2)
Jeeves and the Chump Cyril (The Inimitable Jeeves, Chapter 5)
Aunt Agatha (1.1, 1.2, 1.3, 2.3, 3.3)
Liftman Coneybear (3.1, 3.2, 3.3)
Mr Blumenfield (1.2, 3.3)
Sidney Blumenfield (1.2, 3.3)