Hello everyone and welcome to my review and overview of the Morse episode, The Wolvercote Tongue. This was one of my first posts so it is not as comprehensive as my later posts. But, I am returning every so often to add more information to this post.
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Originally aired in the UK on 25th December 1987
Book published in 11th July 1991 as ‘The jewel That Was Ours’.
Colin Dexter can be spotted at 32m17s sitting in the pub behind Morse and Lewis. The episode writer Julian Mitchell is the chap to Colin Dexter’s right.
Directed by Alastair Reid.
Screenplay by Julian Mitchell.
Jag Rating (out of ten)
Interestingly the Wolvercote Tongue is based on another piece in the Ashmolean Museum, The Alfred Jewel. To find our more about the Alfred Jewel click HERE.
A group of Americans are on an exclusive holiday in England and as part of their trip they stop in the historical city of Oxford. For one of the Americans, Laura Poindexter, this is more than just a holiday. It is her intention to loan a rare piece of jewelry known as The Wolvercote Tongue to the Ashmolean Museum on Oxford.
The Wolvercote Tongue in the background with the buckle in the foreground.
However, before the loan transaction can be carried out the tongue is stolen and Mrs Laura Poindexter has been found dead in her hotel room. Mrs Poindexter’s apparently died of a heart attack but Morse is certain that things are not that simple. When Morse’s main suspect Eddie Poindexter, Laura’s husband, goes missing Morse’s suspicions grow exponentially.
Well, here we are with the first episode of the second series and what a cracking start to the series it is. This episode includes one of my all time favourite Morse scenes.
I love that moment at the end of the scene where Morse and Lewis both laugh.
Julian Mitchell is once again on writing duty and does a splendid job. This is Julian Mitchell’s third screen writing duties for Inspector Morse and we are only onto the fourth episode. The director, Alastair Reid, does a good solid job of what is his second directorial (and his last) job as director of Inspector Morse. He also directed the first episode, The Dead of Jericho.
This episode, of course, includes the British national treasure, Simon Callow who plays Theodore Kemp. I wish he had had more screen time. I also believe that Kenneth Cranham who plays Cedric Downes is a good actor and it would be nice to see him turning up in a future episode of Lewis or even Endeavour. However, he did appear in another John Thaw series, Kavanagh QC.
One feels that the Morse and Lewis relationship is becoming stronger and healthily symbiotic. There is some lovely interaction between Morse and Lewis in this episode: when they are sitting on Morse’s couch; talking to Cedric Downes at the train station; in the pub; and when they Morse is talking to the Dr. Swain. (see above clip). Not forgetting when they are on the bridge and Lewis is explaining why he is doing a double shift; his wife is decorating and he doesn’t want to be part of that domestic scene.
As always in Morse episodes there are little gems of humour. Those little bright, sparkling pieces of humour are one factor as to why Morse was a wonderful series. The ‘gem’ of this episode is where Morse and Lewis are interviewing Sheila Williams in the hotel manager’s office. Lewis has offered a drink to Sheila and turns to Morse to ask him if he would like a drink.
Lewis doesn’t just do a double take it is almost a triple take. Lewis is speechless and the look on his face is priceless. Wonderful scene, absolutely wonderful.
My only criticism of the episode is the killing of the lovely Lucy Downes. I understand how angry Cedric was. I understand his feelings of being made a cuckold. But, killing her in the middle of London? In a phone booth? Seems irrational. It is possible that he had a mental breakdown but he had the wherewithal to take the locker key from her bag. It is a small criticism and in no way distracts from what is a great episode.
Our first piece of music is a sixteenth century composition by John Dowland (1563–1626). Though the music was definitely written by Dowland it is uncertain if he wrote the lyrics, ‘Flow, my tears‘. The piece is played during the banquet scene attended by the Americans, Sheila Williams and Cedric Downes.
Flow, my tears, fall from your springs!
Exiled for ever, let me mourn;
Where night’s black bird her sad infamy sings,
There let me live forlorn.
Down vain lights, shine you no more!
No nights are dark enough for those
That in despair their last fortunes deplore.
Light doth but shame disclose.
Never may my woes be relieved,
Since pity is fled;
And tears and sighs and groans my weary days, my weary days
Of all joys have deprived.
From the highest spire of contentment
My fortune is thrown;
And fear and grief and pain for my deserts, for my deserts
Are my hopes, since hope is gone.
Hark! you shadows that in darkness dwell,
Learn to contemn light
Happy, happy they that in hell
Feel not the world’s despite.
The next piece of music is played in Morse’s car as Sergeant Lewis falls asleep. The piece is by Hector Berlioz (1803-1869) and is titled ‘Les Troyens, (“The Trojans”) H133, Act III, Allegro Moderato. I’m afraid I couldn’t find a YouTube recording of the piece.
The last piece of music is being played by the piano player in the Randolph Hotel as the Americans sit around having a drink. The piano piece is from “Love’s Old Sweet Song”: it’s sung in the Irish tenors’ clip at 2:47 to the verses beginning with “Just a song at twilight, when the lights are low”. Thanks to A.B. one of my blog readers for identifying this piece.
If you enjoy all the music from the Morse series I have collected all the pieces I have identified thus far and have created playlists on YouTube.
In the forty-eighth minute we are in the house of Theodore Kemp and Lewis is talking to his wife, Marion. On the wall are three paintings. The first two are directly below;
While I was watching the episode I saw these two paintings and thought, the styles are fairly obvious. The one on the right is impressionist or post impressionist and looks very like the work of Matisse, possibly even Cezanne. The one on the left is a believe a Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema but I can’t find a name for the painting.
and I cannot identify that either. I apologise that I am unable to identify the above paintings but I am going to continue looking for answers.
Up next we have a another painting that looks familiar. The camera does only linger for a few seconds and and only on part of the painting.
It is the painting on the bottom left. It looks like a Turner but isn’t. I am beginning to think that the prop department found the above four paintings at a car boot sale or theatre prop store and they are unknown works by unknown painters. Unknown painters who are imitating famous artists and genres.
Morse and Lewis are at the river when a body has been found in the river. Lewis and Morse are discussing suspects and Morse in particular thinks the killer maybe Sheila Williams;
Lewis: “You think a woman could have done that to him?”
Morse: “Hell hath no fury, Lewis.”
The phrase we all use today is, ‘Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned’. However this is paraphrasing the actual quote from a William Congreve (1670–1729) play, ‘The Mourning Bride‘, which reads in full “Heav’n has no rage like love to hatred turn’d / Nor Hell a fury, like a woman scorn’d.”
This is not an actual quote form any piece of literature as far as I am aware. However, I thought I would mention it anyway. Lewis and Morse are discussing the case in Morse’s house and Morse theorises that maybe Laura Poindexter’s death was a “crime passionnel“. Translated from the French as a crime of passion.
We are still in Morse’s house with Lewis and Morse sitting on the couch. Lewis says that Morse has sex on the brain.
“It is when he thinks he’s past love, it is then he meets his last love” It is from the musical Maid of the Mountain, 1932. From a song called I believe ‘A Bachelor Gay’. Lyrics by Harry Graham. Music by Harold Fraser-Simpson. This song is quoted in the later Morse episode, ‘Sins of the Father’.
The last verse is;
At seventeen he falls in love quite madly with eyes of china blue
At twenty four, he falls in love once more, but with eyes of a different hue
At thirty four he’s flirting oh so sadly with two or three or more
And then when he thinks he’s past love, ah tis then he meets his last love
And he loves her as he’s never done before
And he loves her as he’s never loved before.
Morse and Lewis have wrapped up the case and are standing at the Trout Inn. Morse says that it was, “Love’s old sweet song all the time.”
Love’s Old Sweet Song is a Victorian parlour song published in 1884 by composerJames Lynam Molloy and lyricist G. Clifton Bingham. It has of course been recorded numerous time. Here below is the Irish Tenor’s version of the song;
The Trout pub is used three times in the episode; firstly when Morse and Lewis are standing on Godstow Bridge; secondly, when Morse is interveiwing Eddie Poindexter and his daughter Fiona; and thirdly when the divers are looking for the Wolvercote tongue.
Didcot Railway Centre is used when Lewis and Morse talk to Howard Brown, a railway enthusiast.
The Randolph Hotel of course plays a big part in the episode.
The beautiful Ashmolean Museum is where Theodore Kemp works and where the Wolvercote Tongue would have been displayed.
Cedric Downes is walking with the American tourists. This is New College.
Above is where the American tourists and Cedric Downes are walking.
TIME – 32m 13s
PUB – Randolph Hotel Bar, Beaumont St, Oxford, OX1 2LN. http://www.macdonaldhotels.co.uk/our-hotels/macdonald-randolph-hotel/eat-drink/
INFO – The bar of the Randolph Hotel is now famously called The Morse Bar.
TIME – 1hr 13m 25s
PUB – Thanks to Neil McLean for identifying this pub. It is the The Crown at Bray, High St, Bray, Maidenhead SL6 2AH
PUB TODAY –
Here are some behind the scenes photos. A big thank you to Roy Slater for allowing me to use these photos.
Simon Callow as Theodore Kemp (Born June 15th 1949 – )
Kenneth Cranham as Cedric Downes (Born December 12th 1944 – )
Roberta Taylor as Sheila Williams (Born February 26th 1948 – )
Robert Arden as Eddie Poindexter (Born December 11th 1922 – Died March 25th 2004)
Christine Norden as Laura Poindexter (Born 28th December 1924 Died 21st December 1988)
Bill Reimbold as Howard Brown (Born 15th July 1916 – Died ?)
Helena Stevens (Also known as Ruth Dunlap) as Shirley Brown (Born 1922 – Died 25th Feb’ 2009)
John Bloomfield as Phil Aldritch (Born 1942 – Died ?)
Mildred Shay as Janet Roscoe (Born 1911 – Died 2005)
Jane Bertish as Marion Kemp (Born 7th August 1951 – )
Christine Kavanagh as Lucy Downes (Born March 24th 1957 – )
Cherith Mellor as Fiona Hall (Born ?)
Nicholas Bell as Dr. Swain (Born 15th August 1958 – )
Tim Faulkner as Hotel Manager (Born 12th August 1957 – )
Maureen Morris as the Nurse (Born 17th Sept’ 1941 – )
Hope you have enjoyed the post.