Where Eagles Dare

Where Eagles Dare is a 1968 film starring Richard Burton, Clint Eastwood, and Mary Ure, based on the 1967 novel by Alistair MacLean, who also wrote the screenplay. It is also the title of a late pamphlet by Dobson.

Dobson’s Where Eagles Dare was written at the prompting of Marigold Chew, who hoped that by scribbling away at length the pamphleteer could overcome his preposterous obsession with the film. Students of Dobson’s dotage will recall that he took to wearing a snowsuit and cobbled together a walkie-talkie system out of paper cups and string. For weeks on end his only communication with Marigold Chew was to stretch the string to its full extent, so that for example he was in the pantry when Marigold Chew was in the front garden, or vice versa, and to declaim “Broadsword to Danny Boy… Broadsword to Danny Boy” into his paper cup.

Dobson’s mania was given further fuel by the coincidental fact that, for many years, Marigold Chew’s party piece had been an exquisitely accurate impersonation of Michael Hordern. Her voice was of course somewhat higher pitched than that of the actor, but she used a Japanese funnel to lower it, and caught his distracted mannerisms perfectly.

As weeks turned to months, and Dobson’s foolishness showed no sign of abating – he had, for example, taken to referring to their house as the Schloss Adler – Marigold Chew became desperate. She consulted a local bird counting person who arranged for a multitude of wrens to flock around the house, thinking to simulate the conditions in The Tragedy of King Richard the third. Containing, His treacherous Plots against his brother Clarence: the pittiefull murther of his innocent nephewes: his tyrannicall vsurpation: with the whole course of his detested life, and most deserued death, where “the world is grown so bad, that wrens make prey where eagles dare not perch”.

This only served to encourage Dobson, and so, at her wit’s end, Marigold Chew reasoned that the writing of a pamphlet might be the answer. It was characteristic of Dobson that his many fads and enthusiasms sputtered out once he had written about them. And so it proved, once again. But what are we to make of his Where Eagles Dare today? It is impossible to say, for not a single copy has ever been tracked down. Indeed, some think it never existed in the first place, and is a mere chimera, although a chimera of a particularly Dobsonian kidney.

One small footnote. There is an amusing note in Marigold Chew’s diary, from the same period, where she writes: “The Great Escape is showing at the local Excelsior. I have sent Dobson to a remote seaside resort for the duration of its run. One cannot be too careful.”

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