Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Christine Keeler and the Profumo Affair

Nothing But…. by Christine Keeler


Published 1983   chapter 1


I was on my way to stardom. I started rehearsals; I wasn’t to be a dancer yet but a topless showgirl. A few days later I made my debut in silver shoes, a glittery G-string and an enormous head-dress of feathers and sequins, carrying a lantern. I loved it. I loved working there at first, it was fun to work with so many girls, we gossiped and giggled, and at last I felt as if I belonged somewhere. And I learned a lot listening to all the talk from the girls who had been around a lot longer than me.

Nightclubs were expected to provide glamour, literally for ‘the tired businessman’ in those days. Between shows we were invited to sit and talk with the customers… Luckily my stepfather had taught me to speak well…




The Trial of Stephen Ward by Ludovic Kennedy  
published 1964


In her photographs she had seemed quite tall, but in effect, and despite the tarty high-heeled shoes, she was tiny, a real little doll of a girl, and here of course was half the attraction. She walked superbly on long slender legs, her carriage was remarkable; one was struck too by the mass of copper hair that reached to her shoulders and framed within it, the small oval face with the high cheekbones and hint of Red Indian blood…

And then there was her voice, which in itself was enough to kill any romantic notions that anyone might have of her…. It was the voice of any little shopgirl, lacking style and distinction…




observations: Poor Christine Keeler, thinking she spoke so nicely, but not up to Mr Kennedy’s standards. The two main women in the Profumo affair couldn’t have been more different – Mandy Rice-Davies featured in Monday’s entry – and of course it was Keeler who ended up in prison after the case, whereas Rice-Davies floated on the surface and went on to live an eventful life, but one that was surely happier than Keeler’s.

Two earlier entries explain more about the case, and should be read with this one.

Keeler was so beautiful at the time of the trial – so young and so lovely and so unlucky. Not as unlucky as Stephen Ward, who committed suicide rather than face prison for crimes that he plainly was not guilty of – as Kennedy’s book makes plain.

Keeler’s book is of interest only because of who she was, and you don’t feel it adds much to the discussion. Kennedy’s book is clever and witty and insightful, though it is very much of its time: he has an unthinking snobbishness and elitism of his own – while busy identifying similar traits in others – and a line of sexism that presumably was absolutely normal. He is horrified by the overt miscarriage of justice in the case, the Establishment covering up for itself, the travesty of the judicial report. But he also says casually that it was ‘not unusual’ for women to lie in sex cases, and quotes approvingly a judge who says that perjury by women is commonplace. (Men, apparently, never perjure themselves to get at another person. The judge says so.)

Links on the blog: Earlier this year the blog featured Rupert Davenport-Hines’s An English Affair: a new, and very interesting, book on Profumo, looking at the aspects of English life that he felt produced the scandal. Damon Runyon discusses the clothes of New York showgirls in this entry.

4 comments:

  1. Moira - Such interesting perspectives on this whole thing. And it's so very interesting to consider all of the assumptions that were made about the various parties involved. Just goes to show what happens when you assume...

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    1. It's so intriguing, isn't it - and quite sad too, and there was an awful lot of miscommunication. I was very struck by poor Keeler thinking she spoke nicely, and the commentator saying the opposite.

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  2. Great photo Moira in relation to an ever fascinating affair.

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  3. Thanks Sarah - I'm fascinated by Keeler. She was 21 at the time of the court case, but looked much older and more sophisticated I think.

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