Two opening lines, the first by O’Hara, the second by MacNeice:
‘Lana Turner has collapsed!’
‘I see from the paper that Florrie Forde is dead – ’
‘In MacNeice’s opening line’, John Wilkinson writes, ‘is heard the unmistakeable tone of the old bore at breakfast dismissively shaking The Times; there follows a patronising portrait of a popular singer and her audience “from slum and suburb”, progressively sentimentalized as wartime is invoked, before crashing gears into full-blown nostalgia with the final stanza celebrating an innocent “older England”. True Florrie Forde was no Billie Holiday, but O’Hara’s genuinely democratic spirit, embracing the humblest of bit-part B-movie players, could never have entertained this tone of patrician dismissive appreciation of artiste and audience.’
I remember a thread on the poem’s discussion board about how very different that democratic openness Wilkinson praises in O’Hara would have looked coming from a Brideshead generation old Etonian (no slum child our Frank), whatever the hell he was having for lunch or however many Ghanaian poets he’d read that day.