18 November 2015

The (British) Face of God

Monty Python and the Holy Grail is one of my favourite comedy films. It conveys some sense of mediæval life. ('He's not covered in [muck] like the rest of us.' '...married to a girl whose father owns the biggest tracts of open land in Britain'.) And it also has the kind of surreal humour that I love. ('You've got two empty halves of coconut and you're bangin' 'em together.')

However, my interest today is in some of the work by Terry Gilliam, the genius of Monty Python's animation. Gilliam was born in Minnesota and grew up in California. Gilliam, however, had been living in Britain for about a decade by then. In one scene, God appears to King Arthur in the form of a Gilliam animation. What is interesting is the choice of face to represent God the Father.

Some of my readers might recognise that face, which is that of a major celebrity of his own day.

It is, of course, the great cricket W.G. Grace. Grace might be recognised by quite a few in the Anglosphere, but he would pass largely unrecognised to the audiences of Canada and the United States. I doubt very much that Gilliam had much interest in who the face of God would be. The face itself was what counted. But, honestly, if there was a God of Cricket, he might be W.G. Grace. But I did wonder what North American might have filled the role best. I might give it to the poet and newspaper editor William Cullen Bryant, although I couldn't find a photograph that really matched the head-on angle that Grace offers.

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