December 1, 2022

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When celebrity fights become public

The Golden Globes hosted Ricky Jervis, in which he happily denounced some of Hollywood’s most iconic figures, making them a TV staple. It’s every producer’s secret dream that their ceremony or event would include such a moment, no matter how publicly or cheerful they were at the time. After all, celebrity fights are the definition of water coolers, as the Rock-Smith case demonstrated.

Half a century ago, British viewers witnessed a terrible moment that is still remembered to this day. Controversial director Ken Russell had directed historical drama The Devils – a scandal at the time and still not available uncensored today – and was booked to speak about the film on a BBC talk show. Opposite him was the evening film critic Alexander Walker, who was not only a devoted moralist but a perennial critic of Russell, who dismissed The Devils as “the masturbating fantasies of a Roman Catholic schoolboy”.

When Russell Walker went on air, the conversation between them intensified. Russell defended his film and his right to the film, but Walker refused to back down from his belief that it was saucy and vulgar, calling it ‘very saucy’.

Finally, in a seemingly impromptu theatrical moment, the director grabbed a copy of The Evening Standard with the review and used it to hit Walker in the head while insulting him. Russell remained unrepentant about his acting for the rest of his life – some were better known about him than his films – and when asked once if he had any regrets, he replied, “Yes, I wish I’d slapped him with one sooner.” “An iron rod compared to a roll of newspaper.

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