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Piano-centric feature films

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Suggestions please, for feature films in which the piano is a main topic. 

Off the top of my head I can think of:

Mephisto Waltz (campy quasi-voodoo horror, good fun but makes very little sense)

Jane Campion's "The Piano", good but doesn't really invite repeat viewings

Scott Hicks' "Shine" - Geoffrey Rush winning his Oscar in a frankly overrated and muddled biopic of David "who?" Helfgott

Vier Minuten - German film that tries to cram in a bit too much story and character, but excellent lead performances

The Page Turner - ludicrous French revenge drama which is basically The Hand That Rocks The Cradle but with a piano. 

I haven't seen Immortal Beloved, is it particularly piano-tastic?

I don't think The Fabulous Baker Boys counts. 

32 Short Films About Glenn Gould is an art-documentary rather than a feature film (I haven't seen it though, and will remedy this some time soon)

I am sure there are some obvious ones that I am either forgetting or that I am ignorant of. 

Just looking for some inspiration to practice my piano

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 Wild Cyclist 16 Nov 2020
In reply to Blue Straggler:

Rocket Man

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In reply to Blue Straggler:

Polanski's "The Pianist" doesn't have that much piano in it iirc. 

I haven't seen Haneke's "The Piano Teacher" but will assume that one is less piano and more "unwise relationship drama"

Google just borked up something I've never heard of, from Richard Dreyfuss' lost years, "The Competition". Sounds dreadful! 


How about The Legend of 1900? Probably a good call? 

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In reply to Wild Cyclist:

> Rocket Man

I did enjoy the early piano scenes with Elton as a child. 

But I don't feel that it was that piano-centric a film. Ditto Behind the Candelabra. 

Honourable mention, perhaps! A decent call nonetheless, thanks  

This one sounds insane  

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grand_Piano_(film)

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 Eric9Points 16 Nov 2020
In reply to Blue Straggler:

The Piano.

You're welcome.

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 Welsh Kate 16 Nov 2020
In reply to Blue Straggler:

Brief Encounter. Ok, it's not a movie about a piano, but without Rach 2 it's nothing. The whole movie is structured round the concerto.

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In reply to Blue Straggler:

I seem to remember a fair amount of piano in Ken Russell’s Lisztomania starring Roger Daltry as Frank Liszt

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 kevin stephens 16 Nov 2020
In reply to Blue Straggler:

Green Book is very good, based on a true story of a black pianist’s concert tour in the Deep South 

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In reply to Welsh Kate:

> Brief Encounter. Ok, it's not a movie about a piano, but without Rach 2 it's nothing. The whole movie is structured round the concerto.

I realise this will be an extremely minority opinion, but I think Rach 2 was lucky to be included. It's an excellent example of over-heated romanticism, which contrasts tellingly with the quintessential Englishness - but I still think the dialogue would stand on its own.

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 freeflyer 16 Nov 2020
In reply to Blue Straggler:

In his Own Sweet Way: film about Dave Brubeck. Worth a bit of background research - he was nearly thrown out of school because he couldn't sight read!

Majorly scraping the barrel, but:

Pretty Woman: The piano solo (actually played by Gere) gets the girl.
Green Card: Depardieu is a pianist, and also gets the girl (but the musical hero is the drummer Larry Wright age 15 who plays the awesome intro).

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 Welsh Kate 16 Nov 2020
In reply to Andy Clarke:

> I realise this will be an extremely minority opinion, but I think Rach 2 was lucky to be included. It's an excellent example of over-heated romanticism, which contrasts tellingly with the quintessential Englishness - but I still think the dialogue would stand on its own.

Surely that's the whole point - that over-heated romanticism and passion which cannot be allowed to defeat the quintessential stiff upper lipness. The music and the dialogue represent the contradictions of passion and control.

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In reply to Blue Straggler:

Not a feature film, but I think The Music Box, featuring Stan and Ollie, is still worth a mention.

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 freeflyer 16 Nov 2020
In reply to Andy Clarke:

> an excellent example of over-heated romanticism

only an Englishman could write that

A wet cabbage is better than a dry samovar.

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 Tom V 16 Nov 2020
In reply to Blue Straggler:

Casablanca.

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 felt 16 Nov 2020
In reply to Blue Straggler:

Does that Laurel and Hardy one count? Or is it just a sketch? I can't remember as I saw it decades ago. To branch out, there's a fabulous film where the double bass is the star, maybe a Russian film; musician gets his clothes stolen out swimming and has to hide for the whole film behind his double bass. Again, saw it in the 70s, so doubtless have got crucial details wrong.

> 32 Short Films About Glenn Gould is an art-documentary rather than a feature film (I haven't seen it though, and will remedy this some time soon)

I caught a Glenn Gould film the other day in which he disses late Mozart. My god is the guy articulate. Funny too.   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JauII1jCG6Q&

The Piano has got to be one of the most irritating films ever made, and not only for the music.

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In reply to Welsh Kate:

> Surely that's the whole point - that over-heated romanticism and passion which cannot be allowed to defeat the quintessential stiff upper lipness. The music and the dialogue represent the contradictions of passion and control.

Without wishing to labour the point too much, I think this tension is skilfully captured in Coward's dialogue, based on his original play. But really I just get grumpy about Rachmaninov. I trust all true fans will be aware of the link between the film and popular beat combo The Murder Capital.

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 freeflyer 16 Nov 2020
In reply to Blue Straggler:

The Sting: the sound track features Marvin Hamlisch playing Scott Joplin ragtime.

However the must-have Joplin recordings are by Joshua Rifkin.

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 Tom V 16 Nov 2020
In reply to Andy Clarke:

I think the Rachmaninov suits the film  very well indeed; it might have been have been perfect if they had included a few excerpts from the adagio at the end with Trevor singing about how much he didn't want to be all by himself.

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In reply to Blue Straggler:

I think there's a film called "impromptu" about chopin and liszt. But I've definitely never seen it, if indeed it actually exists.

[now that's what I call a well researched post]

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 freeflyer 16 Nov 2020
In reply to Blue Straggler:

The Cat Concerto (Tom and Jerry). Not feature-length, but it did win an Academy Award.

Still on cartoons, there's 101 Dalmations, in which Roger Radcliffe is a pianist. Not hugely inspiring though, pianistically...

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In reply to Jon Stewart:

> I think there's a film called "impromptu" about chopin and liszt. But I've definitely never seen it, if indeed it actually exists.

> [now that's what I call a well researched post]

I think you might be right, and I think it stars a young Hugh Grant 

Post edited at 20:04
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In reply to freeflyer:

> The Cat Concerto (Tom and Jerry). Not feature-length, but it did win an Academy Award.

I deliberately omitted this from the OP as I wanted to see how soon it would come up. It is brilliant although like a lot of Tom and Jerry cartoons it does show Jerry to be a totally smarmy obnoxious interloper who deserves to be poisoned (I was always sympathetic to Tom even as a child) 

Post edited at 20:06
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 deepsoup 16 Nov 2020
In reply to Blue Straggler:

Main topic is pushing it a bit to say the least, but I'm going to suggest Truly, Madly, Deeply anyway just because I love it.  Maybe you could play a bit of Bach and hum the cello part.

The part of Nina was almost specifically written to allow Juliet Stevenson to show off, and give her a part where she dances, plays the piano and has a fair bit of dialogue in Spanish.  I've enjoyed seeing her on the telly again as Sara Pascoe's mum.

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 ripper 16 Nov 2020
In reply to Blue Straggler:

Must be several decent biopics - off the top of my head I can only recall the Ray Charles one with Jamie Fox, and I know I've seen one about Scott Joplin. And maybe Amadeus?

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 John2 16 Nov 2020
In reply to Blue Straggler:

Elvira Madigan (Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 21).

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 waitout 16 Nov 2020
In reply to Blue Straggler:

> 32 Short Films About Glenn Gould is an art-documentary rather than a feature film (I haven't seen it though, and will remedy this some time soon)

One of my favourite films. Not too arty, just short films and interviews, covers his non-piano works too. I must have watched it 20 times since the 90's. Funny and poignant. The interviews with his piano tuner have stayed with me 25 years.

Most Marx Brothers films have fabulous scenes of Chico playing.

Amadeus? 

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 mack 16 Nov 2020
In reply to Blue Straggler:

The only three off the top of my head that I really enjoyed are: Shine, Immortal Beloved, Amadeus. All three are excellent films, and do have some great piano scores, but I don't think will be Piano-centric enough for you.

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In reply to Blue Straggler:

> I deliberately omitted this from the OP as I wanted to see how soon it would come up. It is brilliant although like a lot of Tom and Jerry cartoons it does show Jerry to be a totally smarmy obnoxious interloper who deserves to be poisoned (I was always sympathetic to Tom even as a child) 

Who Framed Roger Rabbit

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JSIw0nD5GT0&

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In reply to Andy Clarke:

Rach 2 apart, Brief Encounter is masterpiece. A superb story/tight script and exquisitely shot and edited.

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 graeme jackson 16 Nov 2020
In reply to Blue Straggler:

Tom hanks plays a 'foot keyboard' in BIG.  tiny part of the movie but seems to be the clip they show most often. 

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In reply to Blue Straggler:

Definitely Shine - features Rachmaninov 3 and Geoffrey Rush won an Oscar for his performance. 

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In reply to Blue Straggler:

Immortal Beloved was quite piano-tastic (or should that be pianistic?) ... about the best thing about it. Oldman did quite well, but strangely enough didn't really pull it off for me. It wasn't a bad film, but my memory of it is of a rather predictable, well-meaning cliché that didn't really go very far. I studied Beethoven's life in great depth in my early twenties, and much of this didn't ring very true for me.

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In reply to wert:

> Definitely Shine - features Rachmaninov 3 and Geoffrey Rush won an Oscar for his performance. 

Agreed. I thought Shine was very good.

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 waitout 16 Nov 2020
In reply to Blue Straggler:

Testimony about Shostakovich has piano stuff by default amongst the bulk of the film which is political drama.

Shine is quaint these days in hindsight, but in the early 90's optimism it was a feel good flick by then local actors about a local enigma, as much comment on where mental health and celebrity issues were at in Australia in those times as about virtuosity. 

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In reply to Tom V:

> I think the Rachmaninov suits the film  very well indeed; it might have been have been perfect if they had included a few excerpts from the adagio at the end with Trevor singing about how much he didn't want to be all by himself.

I've never listened to the Previn opera - I wonder if he also quotes from the excitable Russian show off?

Post edited at 23:31
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In reply to wert:

> Definitely Shine - features Rachmaninov 3 and Geoffrey Rush won an Oscar for his performance. 

It's a great performance but I have mixed feelings about the film. The portrayal of Helfgott's relationship with his father was sufficiently controversial that Helfgott's sister wrote a book repudiating it.

In addition the claims of the director that the film is more about Helfgott's rehabilitation than about a stratospheric playing ability (which understandably Helfgott did not possess after years of illness), are somewhat undermined by the film's efforts to inflate his ability throughout via artistic license. Helfgott played Liszt, not Rachmaninoff, which in any case would not have been an unusual choice at all for a final year soloist at the RCM.

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In reply to ripper:

> Must be several decent biopics - off the top of my head I can only recall the Ray Charles one with Jamie Fox, and I know I've seen one about Scott Joplin. And maybe Amadeus?

What Happened Miss Simone?

One of the most engaging and meaningful films I've ever seen (but I am really interested in Nina Simone and her music).

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In reply to deepsoup:

> The part of Nina was almost specifically written to allow Juliet Stevenson to show off, and give her a part where she dances, plays the piano and has a fair bit of dialogue in Spanish.  I've enjoyed seeing her on the telly again as Sara Pascoe's mum.

So brilliant! 

(We're talking about this:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episodes/p08tjqzd/out-of-her-mind )

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 ripper 17 Nov 2020
In reply to Jon Stewart:

> (but I am really interested in Nina Simone and her music).

Off topic, but I recall a fantastic clip of a TV chat show interview in her later years, when the interviewer asked her about a reported incident when she'd got into hot water for confronting a promoter, or somesuch, who'd tried to withhold a significant chunk of cash she was owed.

"And is it true you pulled a knife on him?!" asks the incredulous host

"No!" says Nina

"It wasn't a knife, it was a gun! I wanted to shoot him!"

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 deepsoup 17 Nov 2020
In reply to Jon Stewart:

> So brilliant!
> (We're talking about this: https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episodes/p08tjqzd/out-of-her-mind )

The sit-com is divisive I think, I loved it but it took a wee while to get into it and I can see how others might hate it.  Juliet Stevenson not so much - even people who hate the show would have to admit she's brilliant in it.

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In reply to planetmarshall:

> Who Framed Roger Rabbit

I recently re-watched the film and that was the scene I’d most been looking forward to! The scene and the film as a whole, both slightly disappointed me. I had hoped that viewing it as an adult would make it even better than when I was 13-14, as I would understand references and in-jokes and some of the more subtle adult humour etc but it was a bit dull 

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 hang_about 17 Nov 2020
In reply to Blue Straggler:

Sparky's magic piano. Odd stuff.....

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 Myfyr Tomos 17 Nov 2020
In reply to Andy Clarke:

In the style of Rachmaninov, how about the 1941 wartime film "Dangerous Moonlight". It's the story of a Polish airman/concert pianist (Stefan Radecki) who escapes Warsaw and joins the RAF. Luscious music runs through the whole film, ending in an almost complete performance of "The Warsaw Concerto". Music by Richard Addinsell, arranged by Roy Douglas. Spike Milligan was not a fan...

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In reply to Myfyr Tomos:

I like the sound of this. I’ve just been watching a few 1940s films. 

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In reply to Blue Straggler:

How could I forget the one that I would recommend if this were someone else’s OP?!

The 5000 Fingers of Dr T! Delirious Technicolor surreal child-oriented musical, the only feature film that Dr Seuss directly worked on, and it looks like he had some help from a moonlighting Salvador Dali. The entire film is a child’s nightmare after falling asleep in piano practice, and he dreams that his evil piano teacher has kidnapped 500 boys in order to make them play the biggest piano in the world, whilst extorting tuition fees from their parents. 

There’s not a whole lot of piano playing in it (and what there is, is not that showy) but it’s just ace 

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In reply to Blue Straggler:

> I recently re-watched the film and that was the scene I’d most been looking forward to! The scene and the film as a whole, both slightly disappointed me. I had hoped that viewing it as an adult would make it even better than when I was 13-14, as I would understand references and in-jokes and some of the more subtle adult humour etc but it was a bit dull 

Nah, it's a great film - and a great scene I love the "barely even visible" shots of Daffy duck playing the piano with a boxing glove, a hammer and his fists. It reminds me of the exploding fragments of spaceships in some of the old Star Trek films that were composed partly of teapots.

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 jcw 18 Nov 2020
In reply to Blue Straggler:

The Competition

Here is an extract from my Climbing Diary when Roger, Dee and I flew out to join the others already in Delhi for our Kishtwar Himalaya expedition

19-20 August 1981.  Since the panic about my ticket, everything has run as smoothly as could be expected.  Air India seems understanding and plied us with food and drink on the flight. And there was quite a presentable film, for me at any rate, The Competition, a silly story in which this girl beats her boy friend in a piano competition by substituting the Prokofieff third piano concerto for her programmed Mozart one. But it was the first time I had heard the Prokofieff and its fantastic finale has since become my climbing switch on. When I did Kangaroo Wall on my return I realized why. It is just like that final pitch, a cat like creep up to the headwall, and then a wild pump through the overhangs above, with the jugs somehow coming to hand just faster than the rock breaks off and leading in breathless exhilaration through an apparently impossible piece of rock hanging right over space. Just what climbing is about and the kind of music needed to forget the worries and fears of departure into the unknown.

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In reply to jcw:

Nice. Have you seen the silly film since then? I assume it is the one I alluded to earlier - Richard Dreyfuss and Amy Irving?

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 Offwidth 18 Nov 2020
In reply to Blue Straggler:

I've got another: One of the themes in Last Night (1989): the end of the world gives a pianist a chance for his first public concert...quite moving given the chaos elsewhere. Good cast for a good black comedy.

Even more laterally: Chaplin's His Musical Career (1914)

Post edited at 14:26
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 jcw 18 Nov 2020
In reply to Blue Straggler:

Sorry, I missed that supplementary: I'd been looking for the title. Almost certainly the same. No I've never seem it again it was only your thread that brought it to mind. By the way my favourite recording us by Argerich, wild! I did buy the score  to look at, but no way. I can't even see how you're supposed to that final passage. 

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In reply to Offwidth:

> I've got another: One of the themes in Last Night (1989): the end of the world gives a pianist a chance for his first public concert...quite moving given the chaos elsewhere. Good cast for a good black comedy.

I don't think I know this "Last Night"; I have seen Don McKellar's 1998 one a long time ago but I don't think this scene/theme is that from that one is it? I know many films share the title. Care to share any further details of the 1989 one?

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In reply to jcw:

> Sorry, I missed that supplementary: I'd been looking for the title. Almost certainly the same.

I should apologise! I think I had mentioned elsewhere and not on this thread at all! (in any case you'd have no need to "apologise" )

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 cb294 18 Nov 2020
In reply to Blue Straggler:

For a documentary, I would recommend Pianomania. The trailer is here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m6fDuUw6yXE&

It follows a guy from Steinway (Stefan Knüpfer) setting up pianos for performances and recordings by Lang Lang, Alfred Brendel, and Pierre Laurent Aimard.

The recording of the Art of Fugue by PLA is one of my absolute favourite CDs! It is amazing how he can make the same piano sound more harpsichord or more organ like.

CB

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In reply to Blue Straggler:

Thanks for all the answers

Post edited at 08:03
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 Tom V 20 Nov 2020
In reply to Blue Straggler:

Not sure about your reading habits but I am currently working my way through all William Boyd's novels and one of his most recent might appeal to you since pianos feature in it a fair bit. It's called "Love is Blind".

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 tlouth7 20 Nov 2020
In reply to Blue Straggler:

> How could I forget the one that I would recommend if this were someone else’s OP?!

> The 5000 Fingers of Dr T!

This is what I was going to suggest! I watched it as a child at a film festival and it is still the oddest thing I have ever seen. The escape up the endless ladder, the man in the gong, wonderful.

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 Offwidth 20 Nov 2020
In reply to Blue Straggler:

I'll be sure to go back to RT links in future given the combination of my typing and declining eyesight will otherwise lead to further confusion.

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In reply to tlouth7:

> This is what I was going to suggest! I watched it as a child at a film festival and it is still the oddest thing I have ever seen. The escape up the endless ladder, the man in the gong, wonderful.

the kidnapped semi-permanently-hypnotised mother who has to rest and sleep in a cage called a “lock me tight”. The roller skating conjoined twin assassins joined at the beard. The dungeon full of lost boys who dare to play instruments other than the piano (and the elevator ride to that dungeon). And best of all, Dr Terwilliker’s “getting dressed” song 

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In reply to Offwidth:

> I'll be sure to go back to RT links in future given the combination of my typing and declining eyesight will otherwise lead to further confusion.

What's the film though? Your 1989 "Last Night"? Sounds OK. 

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 Offwidth 21 Nov 2020
In reply to Blue Straggler:

The McKellar movie with two numbers transposed in typing. It was more than OK in my view.

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