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The Day of Syn

Another one from Saturday: Doctor Syn, the Vicar of Dymchurch. The smuggler. Also pirate.

Dymchurch is a real village, but Doctor Syn was the fictional protagonist of a series of books by Russell Thorndike (lesser known brother to Shakespearean actress Sybil Thorndike).

There have been three film adaptations, and you may well have seen the third: Disney’s 1963 The Scarecrow of Romney Marsh. Patrick McGoohan did a fine job with it. It was filmed on location all around the area, which makes it especially fun for us to watch.

It was unavailable in DVD for years and years except as a rough bootleg, then Disney came out with a commemorative boxed set. In one of life’s small weirdnesses, mine came in the mail the day I left the US for England, for good.

We sat down to watch it, and Uncle Walt’s monologue starts out something like “the Scarecrow was a real man and folks ’round Romney Marsh still tell stories…” and Uncle B shot me the look.

Some years ago, I got the books as audio books to listen to on my long commute. The seven books were written between 1915 and 1944. They were astonishingly bloodthirsty. Our grandparents had to be less uptight than we give them credit for, if they could stomach a hero who was a man of God by day and a sadistic murderer in his spare time.

Like the transmogrification of pirates into children’s literature.


Comment from Anonymous
Time: June 30, 2021, 8:11 pm

Did anyone have Donald Rumsfeld in the Pool?

Comment from dissent555
Time: June 30, 2021, 8:14 pm

Oh fiddlesticks, I forgot I had to enter my sig.

And yes I DO remember the Disney film. Feel like I should rewatch it now.

Comment from durnedyankee
Time: June 30, 2021, 9:05 pm

They finally caught Dr Syn you know, and they sent him to this nice little village just over in Wales, and referred to him as Number Six.

Catchy theme song for the Scarecrow bit.

And based on some of the books I recall reading as a youngster – un-Bowdlerized, our grandparents accepted all kinds of things as part of human nature. Sex, drugs, mass slaughter, no rock and roll though…

Find an un-Bowderlized version of 1001 Arabian Nights. You won’t have to go much past the introduction to discover why the Caliph was polishing off his wives.
If you were to make that into a movie you’d have to have Bob Guccione produce and direct it rather than old Uncle Walt.

Comment from Jeff Weimer
Time: June 30, 2021, 10:12 pm

They were definitely less prudish than we imagine if they produced…well, *us*.

Comment from Mrs. Peel
Time: July 1, 2021, 3:43 pm

There’s a line in Downton Abbey where the Dowager Countess sniffs, “Dear, *we* were the Georgians.” (History buff bonus – I LMAO while my husband was just confused. Same for when the DC made a snarky comment about Lord Byron.)

Comment from Anonymous
Time: July 2, 2021, 6:51 pm

@Mrs. Peel…the DC had all the best lines.

Another of my fav references is when Sybil made a slighting reference about her aunt.

The Dowager Duchess turns to Sybil and says to not forget she “loaded the guns at Lucknow.”

I can’t wait for Fellowes’ “The Gilded Age”

Comment from blake
Time: July 7, 2021, 4:59 am

I wonder if that “the look” is similar to the expression on my face when I’m sitting in “The Conjuring” and reading “based on true events”.

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