Tarantino’s Django Unchained, which opens in the UK on Friday, has a great tagline to go with its iconic scene: “The ‘D’ is silent; the payback won’t be.” But in common with Quentin’s gift for recycling old songs, scenes from old movies, and even old movie actors, this tagline is recycled from an old dinner party.
Let me explain.
In 1934, Margot Asquith, who was the Countess of Oxford and widow of the British prime minister, hosted a dinner party. Among the guests was the young actress Jean Harlow, the original Blonde Bombshell. Bubbly, brash and informal, the Hollywood starlet insisted on being called Jean, not Miss Harlow, and tried to do the same to Lady Oxford.
Only Lady Oxford, Margot Asquith, wasn’t having any of it.
It wasn’t just a stiff English aristocrat’s obsession with Old World formality. The problem was that Harlow was mispronouncing her host’s first name, loudly and often, as “Mar-gott”, emphasising the ‘t’, instead of as “Mar-go”.
“No dear,” the aristo corrected her at last. “The final ‘t’ in ‘Margot’ is silent. As in ‘Harlow’.”
Tarantino could learn more from Margot Asquith than a tag-line. As a put-down, this is a little more eloquent than “I’m shutting your butt down” (to C4 News). And, wonderfully, it appears not to be apocryphal: http://quoteinvestigator.com/2013/01/13/t-is-silent/.
Asquith got as good as she gave, however. Dorothy Parker, reviewing her books, noted scathingly that “The love affair between Margot Asquith and Margot Asquith will live as one of the prettiest love stories in literature.”
There’s a lovely final twist to the story. David Bowie’s recent single release Where Are We Now? (read my blog on it at http://bit.ly/Vs6C9s) caught journalists off guard; so much so that some of those wheeled on to discuss it hadn’t boned up on the correct pronunciation of his name. Bowie’s son, Duncan Jones, now one of Hollywood’s brightest directors (Moon, Source Code), decided to clear things up.
Under his Twitter handle @ManMadeMoon, he Tweeted: “For those asking, the name is Bowtie… the ‘t’ is silent.”