Thursday, February 15, 2007

Screen Play

What I do in computing has to do with"output" - that is, the results, or appearance, of a program. People want to see action - color, motion, dynamic effects - also called "graphics". It's what you are seeing right now on the screen in front of you. Well, OK, this is just boring characters, but as Chestertonians know, it's what the characters say that matters.

Now, today's title might have reminded you of high-tech computer graphics. Or it might have reminded you of a certain football strategy.

But it also possibly reminds you of a Father Brown story. A story which, unless you have read a certain book, you will lose quite a bit in the translation.

I recently acquired that book from Dover, and it really helps. The book is interesting and will give you important - indeed, essential background, if you want to understand the trick of GKC's "The Actor and the Alibi" which can be found in The Secret of Fr. Brown. For just around the corner from the church where Father Brown was stationed is a theatre, and one day Mr. Mundon Mandeville calls him in to assist with a problem actress:
"What is the play?"
asked Father Brown with a touch of curiosity.

"The School for Scandal," said Mandeville. "It may be literature,
but I want plays. My wife likes what she calls classical comedies. A
long sight more classic than comic."

... the mystery occurs ...

Father Brown scrambled to his feet looking very harassed and distressed.
"This is awful," he said. "I'm not sure it isn't the worst business I
ever had. But I've got to go through with it. Would you go and ask Mrs.
Mandeville if I may speak to her in private?"

"Oh, certainly," said Jarvis as he turned towards the door. "But what's
the matter with you?"

"Only being a born fool," said Father Brown, "a very common complaint in
this vale of tears. I was fool enough to forget altogether that the play
was The School for Scandal."
If you want to thoroughly enjoy this Father Brown, you should first enjoy the famous two-century-old comedy by Richard Brinsley Sheridan called The School For Scandal. And you will learn that strange things can happen on the other side of the screen...
Post by Dr. Thursday, thank you Dr. T!


  1. I read "School for Scandal" for my Restoration and 18th Century Comedy class sophomore year of college. Some of my classmates performed the scene in question (among others) for a drama projects. All I could think about during that scene was "The Actor and the Alibi."

  2. I attended a Straford Festival (Canada) production of "The School for Scandal" at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater in 2001. As I was intersted in Father Brown trivia at the time, I put the stop watch on the time the lady was supposedly hiding behind the screen. It was exactly five minutes. Chesterton's murderous lady must have had her running shoes on!

  3. Incidentally, this same "stage alibi" trick is used in the Margaret Rutherford Miss Marple movie "Murder Most Foul."


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