Here is a puzzler for you, and if you’d asked me this question a month ago, I’d have had not the faintest inkling, and would have been more than astounded by the answer.

To whom did Marlon Brando (1924-2004) refer, when he informed a reporter: if my friend had been a woman, we would have been happily married ever after. He also kept the same person’s ashes in his bedroom and had nightly conversations with them. Also, when high on hashish, Brando said that the same man was the one great love of his life.

That’s right, Mr or Mrs 1950s TV Mastermind, it was Wally Cox (1924-1973) and before the rest of you say who he, I would add, think of Hiram Holliday, and when that still draws a blank, try Paul Gallico. At last we are on safe ground because the American Gallico (1896-1976) not only penned The Adventures of Hiram Holliday (1939) he also wrote the 1941 The Snow Goose and the even more famous The Poseidon Adventure (1969, filmed in 1972). Prolific Gallico wrote 41 novels in all, many of which were filmed (including a novel about a cat called Thomasina, whose film adaptation I saw with a bulging mouthful of Quality Street, when holidaying aged 13 in Cardiff in 1964). Nonetheless the great man was attractively modest about his talents.

‘I’m a rotten novelist. I’m not even literary. I just like to tell stories.’

That aside, the reason why I’d have been astounded to hear that Marlon had a passion for Wally, was that between 1960 and 1961, being a 10 year old telly freak, I watched the BBC’s broadcasting of the Hiram Holliday stories, which were the full 5 years’ worth of the original US show (1956-1961) compressed into a single viewing season, as the BBC no doubt believing them to be high art, put them on 5 nights a week, the first time they’d ever done so with a US show. To be accurate, I watched Hiram’s/Wally’s adventures perhaps a total of a dozen times and even as a young boy was not very impressed. Hiram was a weedy bespectacled American proof-reader who was a sentimental variation on Superman, as he had James Bond style secret powers which allowed him to go around the world with his querulous stooge/straight man pal, Joel (Ainslie Pryor, 1921-1958) sorting out its problems by dint of clandestine muscle and artless ingenuity. He even got involved in the Nazi peace pact of the Austrian Anschluss (recall the novel came out in 1939) so there really were no limits for the innocent moon-faced little man of mystery.

In real life Cox married 3 times and fathered 2 children, and all those wives pooh poohed the slander that Wally’s and Brando’s love was anything but platonic. He was also a serious DIY man, wired his own house and even kept a kind of fully fitted workshop in his studio dressing room. He was a military veteran to boot. All of which is to emphasise the obvious, that appearances aren’t everything, and to add that Marlon and Wally roomed together in NY from 1948 onwards when they were both 24 and aspiring actors.

I’m sure you’ve already guessed that the way I came across this extraordinary knowledge was via the internet, prompted initially by a fit of random and you might say idle nostalgia. A few weeks ago I remembered my Hiram Holliday viewing of almost 60 years ago, and the programme as I recalled it seemed so whimsical and so wet behind the ears, I imagined it must have been scripted by some D list recovering alcoholic who had once showed some promise and nearly made Hollywood (qv the Coen Bros’s excellent 1991 movie about failed scriptwriters, starring John Turturro, Barton Fink). After googling Hiram H, I was boggled to learn that it was based on one of Gallico’s novels and even more boggled to learn that the sentimental kids’ film The Three Lives of Thomasina starring Patrick McGoohan and Finlay Currie, had been based on yet another Gallico novel.

All this is leading to a fresh faced and wide-eyed revelation on the part of someone born 1950, that the internet really is astonishing in the way it generously even selflessly takes you all round not just the houses but the shacks, shebeens, Doge’s palaces and even the Viking Valhallas, and allows you to discover secrets, surprises and ironic Wonders of the World with an ironically capital W.

To wit:

The slurred psychopath and man of honour, Don Vito Corleone, doting on Hiram Holliday

Stanley Kowalski the explosive Polak, tenderly talking to Wally’s ashes

Mark Antony the treacherous assassin, happy for ever with Hiram

Fletcher Christian, another man of honour, who was just as enchanted by the Veteran

Paul and his ugly savagery in Last Tango in Paris, also adoring his ideal Wally

Colonel Kurtz from Apocalypse Now and from Joseph Conrad, finding love here and nowhere else

(The next post will be on or before Wednesday October 2nd )

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