Just a Gigolo

Peter Deane’s The Victors is a grim short fable about an ex-officer who can’t find a place in the post-war world. He drifts from one undignified dead-end temporary job to another, and sinks into despair. The unappreciated soldier was a common theme in the twenties – in Galsworthy’s 1920 story The Man Who Kept his Form, in Warwick Deeping’s best-selling Sorrell and Son (1925), or, less pessimistically, in Dornford Yates’s Anthony Lyveden (1921) and so on. Deane treats the topic strongly, and the book grips, though you know it’s heading towards a grim and predictable end.

In one section Deane gives a glimpse of depths to which Michael, the book’s hero, will not sink.

Good had got a job at a dance club, and he might have got Michael in too if Michael would have gone. I don’t see Michael in it. Good lifted his shoulders. “One was a gentleman once,” he said, “but one must live.”

Good was tall and fairly decent looking, I believe, and danced extraordinarily well. He had discovered that anyone who could dance decently was sure of a living and a few good meals. I had heard of it being done, but I had never come across it actually before. Good hired himself out by the night… he and one or two others. I don’t imagine he liked it a bit at first, but I suppose he got used to it, and he had been broken in…

The image of a dance hall being just about the lowest that a gentleman can sinkl seems to crop up quite a bit in the twenties – Ivor Novello’s Roddy ends up dancing in a very seedy cafe in Hitchcock’s 1927 film Downhill, for instance. The theme was found in other countries, too. In Austria Julius Brammer and Leonello Casucci wrote “Schöne Gigolo“, a song so popular that Irving Caesar provided English lyrics, moving the action from Vienna to Paris:

Was in a Paris cafe that first I found him
He was a Frenchman, a hero of the war
But war was over
And here’s how peace had crowned him
A few cheap medals to wear and nothing more
Now every night in the same cafe he shows up
And as he strolls by ladies hear him say
If you admire me, hire me
A gigolo who knew a better day

Just a gigolo, everywhere I go
People know the part I’m playing
Paid for every dance
Selling each romance
Every night some heart betraying
There will come a day
Youth will pass away
Then what will they say about me
When the end comes I know
They’ll say just a gigolo
As life goes on without me

You don’t hear much about gigolos these days. Have they all turned into rent boys?

One Comment

  1. Posted May 4, 2007 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

    Peter Deane was a pseudonym for Pamela Hinkson (Jacket on my site)


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