Alexander Waugh

Flapping About

Bright Young People: The Rise and Fall of a Generation, 1918–1940


Chatto & Windus 322pp £20 order from our bookshop

The commercial success of Bright Young Things, Stephen Fry’s film version of Evelyn Waugh’s Vile Bodies, was impaired by its title, which gave, to those unfamiliar with English colloquial irony, the false impression that it was all about wonderful people. Hollywood moguls had previously rejected the working title, Vile Bodies, on the basis that it might suggest (to those ignorant of Paul’s letter to the Philippians or of Evelyn Waugh) some kind of horror movie. In a televised debate at the time of the film’s release I accused Stephen Fry of feebleness in giving in to Hollywood pressure, and as he was defending himself in a pleasant haze of Scotch whisky and bonhomie, a twenty-foot poster of Evelyn Waugh, which had been erected as a backdrop behind him, came crashing down upon his head.

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