Man's Best Friend
Actors Robert Lindsay and Claire Benedict read some of the canine literature of writers including Dodie Smith, Frank L Baum, Rudyard Kipling and Emily Dickinson.
Actors Robert Lindsay and Claire Benedict read from Dodie Smith's 101 Dalmatians, Jack London's Call of the Wild and Dorothy Parker's mischievous Verse for a Certain Dog in this selection of poems, prose and music of all kinds celebrating mankind's greatest ally in the animal kingdom - dogs. With music by Gershwin, Elgar, Tom Waits and Bob Dylan. From puppy love to fawning, from fetching a stick to disobedience and the clip of a dog and deer that went viral.
Producer: Paul Frankl
Timings (where shown) are from the start of the programme in hours and minutes
A little Dog that wags his tail [Claire Benedict]
A Popular Personage at Home [Robert Lindsay]
101 Dalmations [Claire Benedict]
The Call of the Wild [Robert Lindsay]
Old Yeller [Claire Benedict]
confessions of a glutton [Robert Lindsay]
Verse for a Certain Dog [Claire Benedict]
Roger the Dog [Robert Lindsay]
Robert William Service
My Dog [Claire Benedict]
The Power of the Dog [Claire Benedict]
Bereavement [Robert Lindsay]
Words and Music:DogsProducer's Notes
Stand steady. You’re about to enter the exuberant universe of canis familiaris, the joyous and life-affirming world of dogs.
In the interests of compliance and impartiality, I have to declare a personal interest: I’d always been ambivalent about dogs. Other people’s dogs kind of annoyed me and the way they bark and slobber and all that, far from endeared me. But a couple of years ago I was persuaded, or tricked, into letting a smallish black dog under my fence. Now I read books on dog anthropology, research dog nutrition, dog-walking routes and doggy welfare. I sit in front of the TV holding a cushion to my chest, watching dog rescue programmes, and I weep.
It’s fair to say that the weight of literature about dogs far outweighs the classical music about them. Musically, I avoided puns: Bach, barcarolles, Liszt’s Vallée d’Obermann, anything by Puccini, instead heading for Gershwin’s Walking the Dog, an Elgar Enigma Variation directly referencing a dog, and other pieces that just summed up the doggy style of life. I was surprised to learn that Chopin’s Minute Waltz is subtitled “Waltz of the Little Dog”. That went straight in! And there’s no end of music in a more popular vein such as Tom Waits’s Rain Dogs which seemed to go well with a brutal evocation of a dog fight in Jack London’s “The Call of the Wild”. There are great poems by Kipling, Hardy, Hughes, Dickinson, Parker. Towards the end of the programme, when things take a darker turn, listen out for Dwell Where the Dogs Dwell, an orchestral song by Heiner Goebbels of devastating impact and lavish beauty. The sequence ends with a moving poem from the New Yorker: the poet explores his relationship with the dogs of his father who has recently died. What will he do with them? Do they grieve?
Thanks to the wonderful Claire Benedict and Robert Lindsay (another dog nut like me) for their brilliant readings.
Oh by the way, that’s my dog on the photo for this programme. And there goes the last vestige, the final pretence, of the journalistic impartiality you might justifiably expect from the BBC. Sorry about that. It’s just that she’s such a good girl.
Producer: Paul Frankl
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