Thursday, February 23, 2012

"We and They" by Rudyard Kipling

On October 10th, 1977 Alec Guinness gave a rare interview on Michael Parkinson's BBC show. He reminisced about his life in show business and his fascination with animals. He even donned a cap and in a small boys voice read the following poem by Rudyard Kipling. I recently ran across the video of that performance as a bonus feature with the film "Kind Hearts and Coronets." I have not been able to find a clip of it on You Tube. But I'm still looking! In its absence I have posted a clip from the 1948 David Lean Production of "Oliver Twist", in which Mr. Guinness appears as Fagin. In this short clip he evokes all the necessary emotions imaginable; from kindness to greed and suspicion.

Alec Guinness has often been described as the actor who has no face. You can literally see him in several movies in a row and not recognize him. He is also Colonel Nicholson in Pierre Boulle's "The Bridge Over the River Kwai", as well as Obi-Wan in the iconic "Star Wars" films. Talk about versatility!

The Parkinson's interview was a bit over an hour long, and when it was through, it simply wasn't enough. And to cap off the interview, during which he had impersonated various animals which he had used as inspiration for several parts in his films, he donned a cap and glasses, reading, in a child's voice, this wonderful poem by Rudyard Kipling.

"A Friend of the Family"
From "Debits and Credits"(1919-1923)

Father and Mother, and Me,
Sister and Auntie say
All the people like us are We,
And every one else is They.
And They live over the sea,
While We live over the way,
But-would you believe it? --They look upon We
As only a sort of They!

We eat pork and beef
With cow-horn-handled knives.
They who gobble Their rice off a leaf,
Are horrified out of Their lives;
While they who live up a tree,
And feast on grubs and clay,
(Isn't it scandalous? ) look upon We
As a simply disgusting They!

We shoot birds with a gun.
They stick lions with spears.
Their full-dress is un-.
We dress up to Our ears.
They like Their friends for tea.
We like Our friends to stay;
And, after all that, They look upon We
As an utterly ignorant They!

We eat kitcheny food.
We have doors that latch.
They drink milk or blood,
Under an open thatch.
We have Doctors to fee.
They have Wizards to pay.
And (impudent heathen!) They look upon We
As a quite impossible They!

All good people agree,
And all good people say,
All nice people, like Us, are We
And every one else is They:
But if you cross over the sea,
Instead of over the way,
You may end by (think of it!) looking on We
As only a sort of They!

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