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Sapper - Meet Bulldog Drummond

A fascinating insight into the character written by the author himself

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    MEET Bull-dog Drummond. Now it is not an easy thing for an author to analyse a creation of his own brain. One way or the other he is bound to be biased. Either he loathes the character with a deadly loathing or else he is guilty of favouritism. But I will try here to steer a course between the two. To start with, then—his birth, which is where characters in fiction generally differ from us poor mortals. They are born grown up. Drummond's birthplace was a town called Nairn, in Scotland, just after the war. And the actual scene of the happy—or unhappy —event was the golf-course. I was playing with a person—I don't as a general rule call people persons, but this man deserves it—I was playing with a person who sniffed. Not a mild sniff, but a devastator. The sort of sniff that, when one is young, makes mother say, "Go out into the passage, darling, and blow down." The only thing that was worse than this man's sniff was when he didn't. I waited for it in an agony: my hands shook, my knees trembled: I had wind shots off the tee, I hit the ball a hundred yards on the green. But the climax was reached at the twelfth hole, where he produced a nasal explosion that brought the secretary out of the club-house. That achieved, he hit the ball off the toe of his club at right angles. It got a caddy in the pit of the tummy and rebounded into the tee-box. And then, believe it or not, this crawling monstrosity, this vile and loathsome reptile, claimed the hole. He said it was my caddy, and that it was a rule of golf.

    On my return to the club-house I put the case before some fellow members. Quite dispassionately: not at all angrily, I assure you. I merely said, "What do you think would happen if I half killed that man with my heavy niblick: then while he was still conscious placed his lower limbs under the sharp end of a steam-roller: and finally burned the remains in a gorse fire?"

    Now you must admit that I was very moderate in my demands. No one could accuse me of being vindictive. And yet, to my surprise, they seemed to think there might be a spot of bother over it. They promised to put up a statue to me on the links, they even promised to look after my wife and child. But they very much feared the law of the land was not yet sufficiently enlightened for such an obvious act of justice. And then and there was born in my mind the idea of Bull-dog Drummond. If an effete legislation prevented me from immersing creatures of that sort in boiling oil, Drummond should do it for me. So much for his actual birth: his adolescence was rapid. And no one did more to accelerate his growth than that utterly charming man and magnificent actor—the late Sir Gerald du Maurier.

    I forget in what paper I saw the review of Bull-dog Drummond, but to that reviewer, should he by any chance be listening, I tender my warmest thanks. He said, "How nice it would be to see Mr. Gerald du Maurier [as he then was] in the role of the strong and ugly hero." Mr. du Maurier, with his usual sense of fun, said that he thought he could do the ugly side of it. And so, full of hope, I wrote the play, and took it to London.

    Rum thing about my trade, you know. You start off thinking you've written a world beater: you finish up regarding it as a menace to the public, and a probable cause of civil riot. It was much the same with the first copy of that play. I read it with much gusto to Sir Gerald at his house in Hampstead, and for a very long space after I had finished there was silence. I stole a look at him. He was standing in that characteristic attitude of his, his hands on his hips, staring out of the window over London. At last he turned, and it seemed to me that he looked a little stunned and dazed. And finally he spoke.

    "Darned good!" he said. "Darned good! Have a glass of port." "Glad you like it," I said, endeavouring to keep the triumph out of my voice. "My dear old boy/' he answered, "that line is magnificent." "Which line?" I stuttered. "The one where the butler says, 'Dinner is served.' Er—have another glass of port, and then we'll get down to it." I did, and we did, and Bull-dog Drummond grew up.

    I have mentioned this little episode for two reasons. One, to throw a sidelight on a man who was beloved alike both on and off the stage; and second, because I think of all the people who have since played the part on the films Sir Gerald du Maurier is the name that is most associated in the mind of the public with Bull-dog Drummond. He took the character and made it live. Not, as he was the first to admit, that he was ideally suited to it physically. In fact, at one time he almost threw the part up, so strongly did he feel on that point. Luckily, he was dissuaded, and with his incomparable art he overcame the difficulty with the greatest ease.

    And so, as I have said, Bull-dog Drummond grew up, and having done so committed the most terrible mistake of his life. He got married. Much against my wishes, he got married to the very first girl he; met. And the complications this has caused are quite dreadful. I asked him whether he wouldn't divorce her, but he flatly refused. I assured him I would see it was kept out of the papers, and would myself announce it to the public in the nicest possible  way, but he was adamant. I suggested measles, mumps, or a motor-car accident. He became quite angry. And then he very nearly settled the matter by doing his best to get drowned himself. That was when he was in the hands of Mr. Jack Buchanan.

    He was engaged in his Third Round with Carl Petersen, and I had chaperoned him on board Marchese Marconi's yacht, the Electro,, which was lying off Weymouth. It was a cold grey Sunday, and the sea looked wetter than usual. So I gave him into Mr. Buchanan's charge, and was preparing to retire below when he became very irate.
    "Why," he demanded, "should you who have written this fool stuff go and drown your sorrows in drink, and then expect Mr. Buchanan to jump overboard and drown his in sea water? Why don't you do it yourself?"

    "But," I pointed out brightly, "Mr. Buchanan will take great care of you. True, he may have to do it three or four times, but you'll get used to it after a while. And think how proud you and he will feel when you've rescued the poor Professor from a watery grave."

     "That's all very fine and large," he grunted, "but don't you realize, you mutton-headed chump, that the poor Professor, as you call him, can't swim?"

    It was a fact, which shows some of the joys of those that go on to the screen in films. In any event, I fear it had a lasting effect on him. He was a changed man, so far as his matrimonial affairs were concerned, when Mr. Buchanan handed him back to me. He seems to have seen less and less of Phyllis in recent years; in fact, he invents quite ridiculous excuses to my mind for getting rid of the lady. One he sent her over for a week to Le Touquet, he and Peter Darrell, with Algy the idiot in dance, ran amok on Romney Marsh. And now worse, far worse, has happened.

    A few years ago I entrusted him to Mr. Ronald Colman in America. He returned to England quite unscathed, so far as I could see, but I think that was largely because Phyllis had gone over with hir It must have been, in view of what I now For a few months ago I again sent him on a visit to Mr. Colman, and most shocking tales have to my ears. I could hardly credit them, but now his shame is out for all to see. He is showing tendencies of becoming a bigamist. Hollywood must have turned his head. Let us hope, however, that it is merely an idle flirtation. I shall certainly send him for a prolonged visit to Bournemouth, where Phyllis is staying with a maiden aunt, confound the fellow, [ That ought to larn him.

    Well, if I have been a little flippant, it is because Drummond would hate to be taken too seriously.! He aims at being a typical Englishman, who lives! clean, loves sport, and fights hard. I don't think] he's ever done anything dirty; I can assure you never will. But he's over forty now, and even if! does not—like the immortal Sherlock Holmes— settle down on the South Downs and keep bees, it is high time he became a little more domestic. Possibly a little Drummond. And since Irma is still alive thirsting for revenge—who knows what will happen then?

Text © 1935 Sapper/Allen & Unwin    Layout © 2004 R.D. Collins

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