The Wolvercote Tongue. An Overview: Music, Art, Literary References, Locations etc.

wolvercotetongue

Originally aired in the UK on 25th December 1987

Book published in 11th July 1991 as ‘The jewel That Was Ours’.

Colin Dexter can be spotted at 32m17s sitting in the pub behind Morse and Lewis. The episode writer Julian Mitchell is the chap to Colin Dexter’s right.

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Directed by Alastair Reid

Screenplay by Julian Mitchell.

Jag Rating (out of ten)

Interestingly the Wolvercote Tongue is based on another piece in the Ashmolean Museum, The Alfred Jewel. To find our more about the Alfred Jewel click HERE.

Synopsis.

A group of Americans are on an exclusive holiday in England and as part of their trip they stop in the historical city of Oxford. For one of the Americans, Laura Poindexter, this is more than just a holiday. It is her intention to loan a rare piece of jewelry known as The Wolvercote Tongue to the Ashmolean Museum on Oxford.

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The Wolvercote Tongue in the background with the buckle in the foreground.

However, before the loan transaction can be carried out the tongue is stolen and Mrs Laura Poindexter has been found dead in her hotel room. Mrs Poindexter’s apparently died of a heart attack but Morse is certain that things are not that simple. When Morse’s main suspect Eddie Poindexter, Laura’s husband, goes missing Morse’s suspicions grow exponentially.  

Review.

Well, here we are with the first episode of the second series and what a cracking start to the series it is. This episode includes one of my all time favourite Morse scenes.

I love that moment at the end of the scene where Morse and Lewis both laugh.

Julian Mitchell is once again on writing duty and does a splendid job. This is Julian Mitchell’s third screen writing duties for Inspector Morse and we are only onto the fourth episode. The director, Alastair Reid, does a good solid job of what is his second directorial (and his last) job as director of Inspector Morse. He also directed the first episode, The Dead of Jericho.

This episode, of course, includes the British national treasure, Simon Callow who plays Theodore Kemp. I wish he had had more screen time. I also believe that Kenneth Cranham who plays Cedric Downes is a good actor and it would be nice to see him turning up in a future episode of Lewis or even Endeavour. However, he did appear in another John Thaw series, Kavanagh QC.

One feels that the Morse and Lewis relationship is becoming stronger and healthily symbiotic. There is some lovely interaction between Morse and Lewis in this episode: when they are sitting on Morse’s couch; talking to Cedric Downes at the train station; in the pub; and when they Morse is talking to the Dr. Swain. (see above clip). Not forgetting when they are on the bridge and Lewis is explaining why he is doing a double shift; his wife is decorating and he doesn’t want to be part of that domestic scene.

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As always in Morse episodes there are little gems of humour. Those little bright, sparkling pieces of humour are one factor as to why Morse was a wonderful series. The ‘gem’ of this episode is where Morse and Lewis are interviewing Sheila Williams in the hotel manager’s office. Lewis has offered a drink to Sheila and turns to Morse to ask him if he would like a drink.

Lewis doesn’t just do a double take it is almost a triple take. Lewis is speechless and the look on his face is priceless. Wonderful scene, absolutely wonderful.

My only criticism of the episode is the killing of the lovely Lucy Downes. I understand how angry Cedric was. I understand his feelings of being made a cuckold. But, killing her in the middle of London? In a phone booth? Seems irrational. It is possible that he had a mental breakdown but he had the wherewithal to take the locker key from her bag. It is a small criticism and in no way distracts from what is a great episode.

CAST:

Simon Callow as Theodore Kemp (Born June 15th 1949 –    )

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Kenneth Cranham as Cedric Downes (Born December 12th 1944 –      )

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Roberta Taylor as Sheila Williams (Born February 26th 1948 –      )

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Robert Arden as Eddie Poindexter (Born December 11th 1922 – Died March 25th 2004)

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Christine Norden as Laura Poindexter (Born 28th December 1924 Died 21st December 1988)

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Bill Reimbold as Howard Brown (Born 15th July 1916 – Died ?)

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Helena Stevens (Also known as Ruth Dunlap) as Shirley Brown (Born 1922 – Died 25th Feb’ 2009)

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John Bloomfield as Phil Aldritch (Born 1942 – Died ?)

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Mildred Shay as Janet Roscoe (Born 1911 – Died 2005)

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Jane Bertish as Marion Kemp (Born 7th August 1951 –   )

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Christine Kavanagh as Lucy Downes (Born March 24th 1957 –  )

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Cherith Mellor as Fiona Hall (Born ?)

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Nicholas Bell as Dr. Swain (Born 15th August 1958 –    )

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Tim Faulkner as Hotel Manager (Born 12th August 1957 –    )

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Maureen Morris as the Nurse (Born 17th Sept’ 1941 –     )

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Music:

00h28m20s

Our first piece of music is a sixteenth century composition by John Dowland (1563–1626). Though the music was definitely written by Dowland it is uncertain if he wrote the lyrics, ‘Flow, my tears‘. The piece is played during the banquet scene attended by the Americans, Sheila Williams and Cedric Downes.

Flow, my tears, fall from your springs!
Exiled for ever, let me mourn;
Where night’s black bird her sad infamy sings,
There let me live forlorn.

Down vain lights, shine you no more!
No nights are dark enough for those
That in despair their last fortunes deplore.
Light doth but shame disclose.

Never may my woes be relieved,
Since pity is fled;
And tears and sighs and groans my weary days, my weary days
Of all joys have deprived.

From the highest spire of contentment
My fortune is thrown;
And fear and grief and pain for my deserts, for my deserts
Are my hopes, since hope is gone.

Hark! you shadows that in darkness dwell,
Learn to contemn light
Happy, happy they that in hell
Feel not the world’s despite.

01h06m05s.

The next piece of music is played in Morse’s car as Sergeant Lewis falls asleep. The piece is by Hector Berlioz (1803-1869) and is titled ‘Les Troyens, (“The Trojans”) H133, Act III, Allegro Moderato. I’m afraid I couldn’t find a YouTube recording of the piece.

01h35m40s

The last piece of music is being played by the piano player in the Randolph Hotel as the Americans sit around having a drink. The piano piece is from “Love’s Old Sweet Song”: it’s sung in the Irish tenors’ clip at 2:47 to the verses beginning with “Just a song at twilight, when the lights are low”. Thanks to A.B. one of my blog readers for identifying this piece.

If you enjoy all the music from the Morse series I have collected all the pieces I have identified thus far and have created playlists on YouTube. On how to access these playlists please read the relevant post by clicking here.

Literary References

00h44m54s

Morse and Lewis are at the river when a body has been found in the river. Lewis and Morse are discussing suspects and Morse in particular thinks the killer maybe Sheila Williams;

Lewis: “You think a woman could have done that to him?”

Morse: “Hell hath no fury, Lewis.”

The phrase we all use today is, ‘Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned’. However this is paraphrasing the actual quote from a William Congreve (1670–1729) play, ‘The Mourning Bride‘, which reads in full “Heav’n has no rage like love to hatred turn’d / Nor Hell a fury, like a woman scorn’d.”

00h54m05s

This is not an actual quote form any piece of literature as far as I am aware. However, I thought I would mention it anyway. Lewis and Morse are discussing the case in Morse’s house and Morse theorises that maybe Laura Poindexter’s death was a “crime passionnel“. Translated from the French as a crime of passion.

00h54m31s

We are still in Morse’s house with Lewis and Morse sitting on the couch. Lewis says that Morse has sex on the brain.

It is when he thinks he’s past love, it is then he meets his last love” It is from the musical Maid of the Mountain, 1932. From a song called I believe ‘A Bachelor Gay’. Lyrics by Harry Graham. Music by Harold Fraser-Simpson. This song is quoted in the later Morse episode, ‘Sins of the Father’.

The last verse is;

At seventeen he falls in love quite madly with eyes of china blue
At twenty four, he falls in love once more, but with eyes of a different hue
At thirty four he’s flirting oh so sadly with two or three or more
And then when he thinks he’s past love, ah tis then he meets his last love
And he loves her as he’s never done before
And he loves her as he’s never loved before.

01h37m28s

Morse and Lewis have wrapped up the case and are standing at the Trout Inn. Morse says that it was, “Love’s old sweet song all the time.”

Love’s Old Sweet Song is a Victorian parlour song published in 1884 by composerJames Lynam Molloy and lyricist G. Clifton Bingham. It has of course been recorded numerous time. Here below is the Irish Tenor’s version of the song;

Locations.

The Trout pub is used three times in the episode; firstly when Morse and Lewis are standing on Godstow Bridge; secondly, when Morse is interveiwing Eddie Poindexter and his daughter Fiona; and thirdly when the divers are looking for the Wolvercote tongue.

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http://www.thetroutoxford.co.uk/home/

Didcot Railway Centre is used when Lewis and Morse talk to Howard Brown, a railway enthusiast.

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http://www.didcotrailwaycentre.org.uk/

The Randolph Hotel of course plays a big part in the episode.

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The beautiful Ashmolean Museum is where Theodore Kemp works and where the Wolvercote Tongue would have been displayed.

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http://www.ashmolean.org/

Hope you have enjoyed the post.

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16 comments

  1. Chris, Thoroughly Delightful. Thank You Very Kindly.
    I Had Written An in- Depth Soeply Which Went The Way Of Cyberspace Graveyards.

    So, I Will End With Deep gratitude For Such Kind Efforts.

    May I enquire What Illness Your Mum Has?

    Wish You A Very pleasaNt Remainder Of The Weekend.

    All The Best,

    Maureen

    Like

  2. Thanks Maureen. I’m glad you like the blog. My mum has arthritis in her legs and has problems with her spine. She also had a couple of minor heart-attacks. She also may have developed dementia but we are awaiting the results of a CT scan and next month she has an appointment for a psychiatric assessment.
    Hope you are well Maureen. Take care.

    Like

  3. I Am a big Morse fan and am really enjoying your blog. I had a chance to stay at the Randolph last May which was a very interesting experience. The hotel was going through some renovations due to a fire which broke out earlier this April, so it was difficult to fully recognize from the Episode scenes.

    Keep up the good work.
    Regards, Omar

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Omar. So happy to read that you are enjoying my blog. I am very jealous that you visited not just Oxford but the Randolph recently. I haven’t been to Oxford for a long time. Take care.

      Like

  4. I seem to have come late to your blog but am enjoying it. I love this episode, but it is marred somewhat by the awful American accents — perhaps not that noticeable to English ears but extremely distracting for this American. Not as bad, admittedly, as the American accent used by the book author in The Wench Is Dead — which, in addition to being unforgivably bad, also makes her seem completely dim-witted (perhaps this is the producers’ view of Americans?).

    Anyway, I’ve been making my way through the entire series this spring so will continue to refer back here. All the best.

    Like

    • Hi Tom. It’s never too late to arrive at my blog as I have many new posts to publish. I understand you’re feelings regrading the accents as we Brits feel the same way when hearing other nationalities attempting a British accent. I hope you enjoy the rest of my blog.

      Like

    • Interesting comment re awful American accents: Mildred Shay for example is/was an American so I’m sure she was authentic. Haven’t checked all the others. I’ve lived in the US for over 30 years and the accents don’t ring particularly “awful” for me, but then I’m on the west coast so maybe our mileage differs 🙂

      Like

  5. Hi Chris,

    I’m really enjoying your blog. Please keep up the great work!

    I was in Oxford earlier this week and had Afternoon Tea at The Randolph, plus of course a drink in The Morse Bar. I also did the Morse Walking Tour, which was fantastic!

    I’m now re-watching all the films, in order and loving them even more.

    Like

  6. The only American that offended me was the terribly annoying performance of Mildred Shay, which I think was wonderfully captured, but fear may be a common occurrence of Americans abroad. I must admit that after reading up on her, she must have known the part inside and out – what a wild life she led!
    It may be the case that someone has added the piece of music you were missing to youtube only just recently.
    Is this what you were searching for? Cheers.

    Like

  7. What I don’t understand about the episode is the fact that Lucy assists her husband to dispose of the clothes. Why if she was caught red handed with the murder victim in a moment of passion?

    Like

    • Hi Simon. That has never made sense to me either or the fact that he kills her in the middle of London. Why wouldn’t he have killed her after accidently killing Theodore Kemp. There was no need to kill her though I suppose it was written as a crime of passion.

      Like

  8. I found on Youtube a video from the 1932 film The Maid of the Mountains where Harry Welchman sings
    At seventeen he falls in love quite madly with eyes of tender blue
    At twentyfour, he gets it rather badly with eyes of a different hue
    At thirtyfive we find him flirting sadly with two or three or more
    When he fancies that he’s past love, it is then he meets his last love
    And he loves her as he’s never loved before

    Nice website. I often end up here after having seen a Morse episode.

    Like

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