Entertaining Mr. Sloane (1970) is a film adaptation of Joe Orton’s play of the same name. I didn’t know anything about Joe Orton before I watched Prick Up Your Ears (1987), a biopic of his life and murder (that film includes two reel librarians and has made my Hall of Shame list). Orton was a controversial figure who wrote controversial plays.
I can see how Entertaining Mr. Sloane was a groundbreaking play. It takes a comedy of manners and twists it through a lens of satire, sex, and pitch-black humor. The main plot involves the opportunistic Mr. Sloane (Peter McEnery) who lodges with an eccentric family, consisting of the aging nymphomaniac Kath (Beryl Reid), her uptight brother Ed (Harry Andrews), and their doddery Dadda (Alan Webb).
But there’s a bit more to the story. So stick with me.
About twenty-one minutes in the film, after Kath has picked up the lodger, her brother Ed returns and demands to know where she picked him up. She lies and says, “In the library.”
Where did she actually pick him up? In the cemetery, where he was lounging on a tombstone with no shirt on (see below).
Ed goes up to talk to the lodger in his bedroom. Sloane — after a run-in with a pitchfork (don’t ask, nothing really makes sense) — is lounging this time on the guest bed, clad only in his undies.
After a bit of chit-chat, Ed muses, “You’re a librarian.”
Sloane’s response. “NO!”
Ed: “No? That’s what she said.”
Sloane mumbles something about having worked at a tobacconist, but who knows if that’s the truth. He’s an opportunistic, manipulative liar. But even HE couldn’t see his way through to make believe he was a librarian. 😉
It’s interesting, however, that even in a film like this which has no reel librarian, the profession is used in a lie. The sister uses the location of the library in a desperate attempt at respectability. Alas, in the case of Mr. Sloane, plausability was not an option.
I suspect Orton also included the mention of the library to wink at his own criminal past — he and his lover amused themselves by stealing library books and defacing them. For this guerilla artistic expression, Orton served 6 months in jail in 1962 — an incident included in the biopic Prick Up Your Ears. And in classic pop culture fashion, the book covers have since become a popular collection for the Islington Local History Centre! Check out the online gallery of these infamous book jackets.
- Joe Orton Gallery (joeorton.org)
- Hall of Shame (reel-librarians.com)
- Mistaken identity (reel-librarians.com)