Culture

Pick of the Pops: ‘With Her Head Tucked Underneath Her Arm’

‘With Her Head Tucked Underneath Her Arm’
Cyril Smith
(1934)


This year’s offering in our now traditional (est. 2015) song for All Hallows’ Eve comes from Cyril Smith.

Not the late, unlamented Sir Cyril Smith, of course; this is the Scottish actor, whose full name was Cyril Edward Bruce-Smith and who appeared – according to IMDb – in over a hundred films, from When London Burned (1914) to She Knows, Y’Know (1962). He also gave us his Merlin in the ITC television series The Adventures of Sir Lancelot (1956-57), and – most splendid of all – he recorded this classic song, about the ghost of Anne Boleyn stalking the Tower of London

It’s probably best known in Stanley Holloway’s interpretation, but that ain’t a patch on Cyril Smith’s 1934 original. Nor indeed is Smith’s later re-recording with Rudy Vallee and His Connecticut Yankees in 1937 anywhere near as good – it’s cleaner and more professional, but it misses the ragged weirdness of this version.

So here’s a rare example of a ghost story that gives proper consideration to the practical problems of the spirit world:

Along the draughty corridors for miles and miles she goes.
She often catches cold, poor thing, it’s cold there when it blows.
And it’s awfully awkward for the Queen to have to blow her nose
With her head tucked underneath her arm.

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