A. French Film Pianist!?

Originally published as Albert Makepeace Entertainer.

By Alan French

The following was originally published on The Hemel Hempstead Movie Makers website. I hope you find it interesting:-   


Albert Makepeace is a bitter sweet memory. I enjoyed portraying him, but the memory is tinged with some sadness. But do not despond, this write up is not morbid. In fact, it has a happy ending.   

Once upon a time, in a land called Gadebridge Hall. We thought rightly or wrongly, it was time to make another advert about our organisation. The Super 8 gauge film was to be entertaining, and specially designed to show prior to; and even during; the interval of any film show that we were to present. The story line was that an audience was watching a film. Up would come the interval. Out would come a pianist who would do his thing. Whilst playing the piano, a person garbed in a smart cinema employee’s uniform, would come out; stand in front of the film screen; whilst holding a tray containing refreshments. Instead of the audience politely queueing, they would rudely rush and fight to get at the tray’s contents. In the process, the poor man ended up on the floor, with his uniform in disarray. At this point the word INTERVAL would appear on the screen, together with information in smaller print saying that the show was being presented by the Hemel Hempstead Cine Society, as we were then known, and that all enquiries should be made to the members at the back of the hall.   A script was formulated by Brian Harris. It featured a pianist named Albert Makepeace. There would be small comic adverts placed on the piano top, informing the beholders of Albert Makepeace’s musical services. Tom Lowrence was to be cast as the downtrodden cinema employee, and I was to be Albert Makepeace. The club, plus anyone who wanted to be in the film, portrayed the audience. Brian, I believe was producer or director. Mike Quinlan was cameraman.    But all was not well. My father died at the preceding weekend. The part of the pianist was then offered quickly to David Harrington. Oddly enough, the name Albert Makepeace, did not appear on the joke placards, placed upon the piano. So it is open to debate what the pianist’s name was.     I was able to attend the second filming session. Although I acted as a member of the audience, I was also recorded playing the piano. Due to the fact that at the time, a certain Italian song was being utilised for an advert for Cornetto ice cream cones, I played a deliberately out of tune version of O SOLE MIO. This was dubbed onto the soundtrack, in the post production stage.

But if the piano character was Albert Makepeace, it was not the last time that we called upon his services.   Audrey Batchelor had, a few years before, dreamed up the idea for a cheese and wine film show, which in turn, would raise money for charity. Although I admit that I was apprehensive at first, the idea became a success and ran for approximately ten years.The first one was held at a church hall in Bennetts End. After that, the event was held at Potten End Village Hall, usually in December. The presentation was of a high standard. Just after the interval, in which we consumed excellent food and drink, there were things that would raise money for the chosen charity. Apart from a raffle, there might be for an example, an auction.  

For three years running, I was required, during the proceedings, to play the piano, at this event. I can recall, that on at least one of these occasions, I had to accompany a silent film. This was very amusing, as some people present were members of Sons Of The Desert aka S.O.D.S. This is the name for the Laurel and Hardy fan club. The silent film that I remember, featured Laurel and Hardy. It was amusing to see those who were S.O.D. members, donning fezzes. This was mandatory if you belonged to S.O.D.S. I remembered the name Albert Makepeace from the script of INTERVAL. And so for those three years running, I donned a false moustache, and performed under that name. In fact, Brian Harris, produced a placard which read approximately as follows:-     

Playing the pianoforte,  

 Albert Makepeace,

Teacher to Lady Falsebottom and other genteel ladies of upbringing,  

 Appearing in Summer season at the Apsley Institute in Swan Lake on Ice.  

However, at what may have been the last performance of Albert Makepeace, I decided to reveal that he was a pearly king or prince. (The pearly movement was started up by Harry Croft, who is buried in Finchley Cemetery. The movement still raises money for charity. I regret that his unusual, but marvellous tombstone has been damaged by vandals and has had to be replaced with something else.)  

In 1973, my mother patiently sewed buttons on a suit, which made its debut during a cockney finale in a Hemel Town Toppers’ show  staged at Warners End Community Centre, titled, A ST. PATRICK’S VARIETY NIGHT. The suit gained instant attention and commenced the start of it acquiring sentimental value. I have worn it during some rock ‘n’ roll performances and Liberace impersonations. It was with me on my last night during the Lucas Art Festival at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre. I wore it at Hulme Hall in Port Sunlight Village, where Ringo is reputed to have made his public debut with The Beatles. It has been in numerous stage shows, and on one appropriate occasion, I ate the traditional cockney pie and mash whilst wearing it. I even once, caught Hughie Green admiring it. Yet my mother hated sewing buttons. I therefore felt that in the wake of her death, it would be appropriate to wear the suit and raise money for charity, at our cheese and wine show. This I did by asking the audience to guess how many buttons were on the outfit   A few years later, the cheese and wine shows ceased.

As for Albert Makepeace? Well, maybe he should embark on a royal tour as a pearly king, encompassing the drinking establishments of Holloway Road.  Although there is a rumour he has been seen performing for The Duke Of York and The Prince Of Wales, as well as other leading pubs in the country. However, if he did appear wearing a pearly king suit, I would object. Because if you think that I am going to count all those buttons again, you can have another think coming!  

Alan French / Albert Makepeace. 2009.  


Useless local history post script:

In another blog, I refer to a cinema pianist named Geeorge Motherwell. According to CiINEMAS IN HERTFORDSHIRE by Allen Eylles with Keith Skone, George would visit The Sebright Arms and acquired his bottles of beer. Then upon arriving at the  Princess Cinema, would proceed to the orchestra pit where there was the piano. Then the bottle tops were eased off and two of the bottles would be placed atop of the piano. He commenced playing ten minutes prior to the show starting. In the middle of the first house, he had a break for a few minutes. He has been chronicled as having a limited repertoire, but kept pace with the films. Eat your heart out Albert Makepeace!  

copyright Alan French.

This page was added on 07/12/2010.

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