Wednesday, March 14, 2012



G.K. Chesterton

'Father Brown'

Kenneth More

Earth Prime-Time
(Despite not being the first portrayal on television.)

Multiversal Recastaway

From Wikipedia:
Father Brown is a fictional character created by English novelist G. K. Chesterton, who stars in 52 short stories, later compiled in five books. Chesterton based the character on Father John O'Connor (1870–1952), a parish priest in Bradford who was involved in Chesterton's conversion to Catholicism in 1922. The relationship was recorded by O'Connor in his 1937 book "Father Brown on Chesterton".

Father Brown is a short, stumpy Catholic priest, "formerly of Cobhole in Essex, and now working in London," with shapeless clothes and a large umbrella, and uncanny insight into human evil.

He makes his first appearance in the story "The Blue Cross" and continues through the five volumes of short stories, often assisted by the reformed criminal M.Hercule Flambeau. Father Brown also appears in a story "The Donnington Affair" that has a rather curious history. In the October 1914 issue of the obscure magazine "The Premier", Sir Max Pemberton published the first part of the story, inviting a number of detective story writers, including Chesterton, to use their talents to solve the mystery of the murder described. Chesterton and Father Brown's solution followed in the November issue. The story was first reprinted in the "Chesterton Review" (Winter 1981, pp. 1–35) and in the book "Thirteen Detectives".

Unlike the more famous fictional detective Sherlock Holmes, Father Brown's methods tend to be intuitive rather than deductive. He explains his method in 'The Secret of Father Brown':

"You see, I had murdered them all myself.... I had planned out each of the crimes very carefully. I had thought out exactly how a thing like that could be done, and in what style or state of mind a man could really do it. And when I was quite sure that I felt exactly like the murderer myself, of course I knew who he was."

Father Brown's abilities are also considerably shaped by his experience as a priest and confessor. In "The Blue Cross", when asked by Flambeau, who has been masquerading as a priest, how he knew of all sorts of criminal "horrors," he responds: "Has it never struck you that a man who does next to nothing but hear men's real sins is not likely to be wholly unaware of human evil?" He also states a reason why he knew Flambeau was not a priest: "You attacked reason. It's bad theology." And indeed, the stories normally contain a rational explanation of who the murderer was and how Brown worked it out.

Father Brown always emphasises rationality: some stories, such as "The Miracle of Moon Crescent", "The Oracle of the Dog", "The Blast of the Book" and "The Dagger With Wings", poke fun at initially skeptical characters who become convinced of a supernatural explanation for some strange occurrence, while Father Brown easily sees the perfectly ordinary, natural explanation. In fact, he seems to represent an ideal of a devout, yet considerably educated and "civilised" clergyman. This can be traced to the influence of neo-scholastic thought on Chesterton.

Father Brown is characteristically humble, and is usually rather quiet; when he does talk, he almost always says something profound. Although he tends to handle crimes with a steady, realistic approach, he believes in the supernatural as the greatest reason of all.

From the source:
Among the black and breaking groups in that distance was one especially black which did not break--a group of two figures clerically clad. Though they seemed as small as insects, Valentin could see that one of them was much smaller than the other. Though the other had a student's stoop and an inconspicuous manner, he could see that the man was well over six feet high. He shut his teeth and went forward, whirling his stick impatiently. By the time he had substantially diminished the distance and magnified the two black figures as in a vast microscope, he had perceived something else; something which startled him, and yet which he had somehow expected. Whoever was the tall priest, there could be no doubt about the identity of the short one. It was his friend of the Harwich train, the stumpy little cure of Essex whom he had warned about his brown paper parcels.

I chose Father Brown for today because I watched "The Detective" the day before. This 1954 movie starred Alec Guinness as the crime-solving cleric with Peter Finch and the loverly Joan Greenwood who had the sexiest voice I have ever heard.

It made for an interesting follow-up to having seen "John Carter" in the theater, since both characters can be found in the Wold Newton Universe, one of the inspirations for the Toobworld Dynamic.

Kenneth More's portrayal was the second time Father Brown showed up in an English production. But Mervyn Johns played the role in a single episode of a TV series ('Detective') while More provided a full series. That tips the scales in his favor, against the usual rules of Toobworld Central.

There was a German productions of Chesterton's stories, but we can stick that into the German-influenced TV dimension.

And then there was a pilot movie broadcast with Barnard Hughes as an American Father Brown in a modern setting which wasn't received favorably enough to become a series. This can remain in Earth Prime-Time because there were enough changes made to differentiate his character from that of the one played by More.

Every so often, I like to dedicate the ASOTV showcase to one of my friends.  Today's entry is going out to Father Robert Tucker of Litchfield, Connecticut, who once spared a quarter for an old altar boy.....


No comments: