“Either he’s flogging seats for My Fair Lady, or he’s an AEU bloke going to King Street.”
Two bobbies discuss a skulking figure, his face concealed by a broad-brimmed fedora. By the mid-1950s more members of the AEU – Amalgamated Engineering Union – belonged to the Communist Party – headquarters in King Street – than those of any other union. Bentley ties together black market demand for tickets for the opening of My Fair Lady at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane on the 30 April, and the threat of communist-inspired labour unrest. The cartoons and illustrations of Nicolas Bentley (1907-1978) were part of the warp and weft of English popular culture in the 1950s and 60s. Never savage, though often waspishly accurate and exuding an urbane air of amusement at the foibles of his fellows, Bentley’s work was familiar to the public from a wide variety of publications. Between 1952 and 1954 he drew regular cartoons for the weekly Time and Tide, and after that for the daily News Chronicle. Between 1958 and 1962 he drew topical cartoons for the Daily Mail under the title “Watch My Line.” He also drew many portraits, in black and white line, of famous people, for various papers, including over sixty for the Sunday Telegraph, which began publication in February 1961.
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Sheet size: 192 140 mm. Pen and black ink on wove paper. Stamped on verso for publication in the Daily Mail, 29 April 1958, and with pencil reproduction instructions recto.