Cover image for Love is where it falls : the story of a passionate friendship
Love is where it falls : the story of a passionate friendship
Callow, Simon, 1949-
Personal Author:
First Fromm International edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Fromm International, 1999.
Physical Description:
259 pages : portrait ; 20 cm
General Note:
"First published in Great Britain by Nick Hern Books ... 1999"--T.p. verso.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PN2598.C17 A3 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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"This extraordinary memoir brilliantly evokes one of the most formidable and influential figures in recent British cultural history, Peggy Ramsay?Those of us who loved her will be astonished by the vivid accuracy of Simon Callow's portrait; but even those ignorant of her existence will surely be touched, fascinated and challenged."-Christopher Hampton, The Sunday Times

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Many will recognize Callow most recently from his role in the Academy-Award winning film Shakespeare in Love and from his role in Four Weddings and a Funeral. Few know that in addition to being a prolific and talented film and stage actor, Callow is also a marvelous writer. Already having authored a masterful biography of Orson Welles (Orson Welles: The Road to Xanadu, 1995), Callow approaches the genre of autobiography in this touching and poignant work. The story is a breathtaking real-life fairy tale of love, anguish, life, and death. When Callow met Peggy Ramsay, the celebrated agent, they made an instant soul-deep connection, which was inexplicable to all. Considering that Callow's love affair with the suave Egyptian-Turkish filmmaker Aziz Yehia was well underway and considering Ramsay's age (she was at least 70 when they met), a love affair was extremely unlikely. However, passion runs a mysterious course, and Ramsay and Callow's relationship was certainly that: passionate and mysterious. Eccentric gifts, furiously penned letters, midnight picnics, and intense jealousy were all part of this intimate friendship-turned-love-affair. Their unusual relationship is captured brilliantly in Callow's exquisite style, and his inclusion of personal anecdotes and reflections with actual letters is both engaging and fun. It is a poignant, gut-wrenching, and intimate story of a remarkable relationship that Callow tells without being overly sentimental. A magnificent memoir. --Michael Spinella

Library Journal Review

The rarified world of the British theater is effectively evoked in veteran actor Callow's memoir of the legendary literary agent Margaret Ramsay. Based on a collection of love letters, the book hinges on an unorthodox m‚nage … trois (of sorts) among Ramsay, Callow, and his Egyptian boyfriend and relies somewhat on prurient appeal. The unlikely association between Callow, a young aspirant, and Ramsay, a seasoned professional who represented playwrights such as Joe Orton, spanned a 40-year age gap and blossomed into more than just a prot‚g‚-mentor relationship. Ramsay is a real character hereÄvivacious and vibrant, irascible but with a generous spirit. This is a sensitive, loving portrait, but as a biography it is a little unsatisfying, paraphrasing correspondence that is occasionally pompous and overly personal. We are given an emotionalized snapshot of the protagonists, who pontificate on Art, Life, and Love but never glean any real insight into those grand themes. Callow's sincerity, however, is tangible. Recommended where interest warrants.ÄJayne Plymale, Univ. of Georgia, Athens (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



Chapter One Somewhere in a safe in a room in a solicitor's office in London is a small urn, containing the ashes of a remarkable woman: Peggy Ramsay, the most famous play agent of her time. It is nearly seven years since she died, and I have still not summoned up the courage to do what she asked me to do: to take her ashes to the cemetery of San Michele in Venice and scatter them there. Why can I not do this simple thing for her? * * * It was a sunny summer's morning in 1980 when for the first time I ascended the spindly staircase, festooned with posters of theatrical triumphs past, that led to Margaret Ramsay Ltd, in Goodwin's Court, off St Martin's Lane, in the centre of the West End of London. I had come to collect a copy of a play in which I had acted a couple of years before, in the theatre, and which I now hoped to persuade the BBC to do on television. Straight ahead of me, at the top of three flights of stairs, was the door with the agency's name on it, under several layers of murky varnish. The last thing I expected or wanted to do was to talk to Peggy Ramsay herself, but when I opened the door, there she unmistakably was, sitting at a desk -- or rather on one -- as she flicked through a script, almost hitting the pages in her impatience to make them turn quicker. Her skirt was drifting up round the middle of her thighs to reveal knee-high stockings. Hearing me enter, she looked up with an expression which seemed to mingle surprise, amusement and challenge, as if she'd been expecting me but had rather doubted I'd have the courage to come. It was a curiously sexy look.     `Hello,' I said, `I'm --'     `I know exactly who you are, dear,' she said. `Tell me,' she continued, as if resuming a conversation rather than beginning one, `do you think Ayckbourn will ever write a really GOOD play?'     `It's an interesting question,' I replied nervously, slightly inhibited by the fact that I was at that moment appearing in a play by the author under discussion, and that he was by far the most successful client of the woman asking the question. `You'd better come in,' she said, calling over her shoulder for `tea and kike ' to one of the young women in the office, as she ushered me into what was evidently her private office. Adjusting and readjusting her skirt -- a flowery item, beige, silk and diaphanous -- she kicked off her shoes and seated herself at her desk, while I settled down on the sofa.     `Ah, that sofa ...' she murmured, mysteriously, with many a nod and a smile, as she absent-mindedly combed her fine golden hair. The room had an air of glamorous chaos about it, half work-place, half boudoir. There were shelves and shelves of scripts right up to the ceiling, their authors' names boldly inscribed in red down the spine: in one quick glance I saw Adamov, Bond, Churchill, Hampton, Hare, Rudkin. There were books, in great tottering piles; awards, both framed and in statuette form; posters (all of Orton, Nichols in Flemish, Mortimer on Broadway); plants everywhere, trailing unchecked; discarded knee-high stockings, scarves, hairbrushes, make-up bags, mirrors and hats: huge, wide-brimmed, ribbon-toting hats, four or five of them, draped over the furniture. The air was headily fragrant, confirming the room's overpoweringly feminine aura.     In the midst of it all was Peggy, clearly the source of both the glamour and the chaos. She was now answering the telephone in a startlingly salty manner. `Well, you'll just have to tell them to fuck off, dear,' she was saying to one caller, `I shall tell Merrick that we must HAVE a million' to another. `But your play's no GOOD, dear ,' she cried, to a third, informing me in an entirely audible aside `It's Bolt; I'm telling him his play's no good,' then informing him, `I've got Simon Callow here and I'm telling him your play's no good .' Whatever his response was, it made her chuckle richly. `Well it isn't, dear, is it?' There were more calls, all rapidly despatched; to my astonishment, she seemed to think that talking to me and, even more surprising, listening to me, was more important than the day-to-day business of running the most successful play agency in the country, perhaps the world. She dismissed that in a phrase. `The word agent ,' she said, `is the most disgusting word in the English language.'     Names flew about the room, resonant, legendary, as the conversation got under way. She was on, not first but -- so much more intimate -- last -name terms with them all: Lean, Ionesco, Miller; nor was she confined to the living, or those whom she might have known personally: Proust, Cocteau, Rilke, were all swept up in the torrent of allusion and anecdote. It was immediately evident that she judged her clients, and herself, by direct comparison with the great dead. This gave the conversation uncommon breadth; but it was the least of what made the meeting extraordinary.     The overwhelming impression was of the airy, fiery presence of the woman herself. She was never still, not for a second, but there was nothing restless about her. She seemed rather to be performing a moto perpetuo , choreographed by some innovative genius into the physical representation of a dancing mind. Her long-fingered hands fluttered, her hair flew out of control, her slight frame drew itself up and up as if she were preparing for a high dive, then would suddenly flop down till she was almost horizontal in her chair, arms stretched out, legs shockingly wide apart, nether regions barely concealed by whichever small part of her transparent skirt was theoretically supposed to be covering her. Sometimes, to make a point, she would reach for a book or a script, wrap her fist round the arm of her spectacles, then whisk them off, thrusting her face flush up against the page. When she'd read what it was she was looking for, she'd unceremoniously throw the book or script down and shove her spectacles back onto her face. Even this alarming procedure was somehow gracefully effected.     The incessancy of movement was complemented by a voice as beautiful and expressive as any actress might hope to possess: perfectly modulated, feathery light and caressing, then suddenly rough and emphatic, but never when you expected it. Harsh things were said beautifully, beautiful things harshly; four-letter words were deployed like jewels. `I always thought,' she said, liltingly, `how touching it was that when Ken and Joe couldn't find anyone else to fuck, they would fuck each other .' Her vowels bore the very slightest trace of her native South Africa, which added a touch of the exotic, more a colour than a sound. Conversational life was made even more exciting with the appearance of an occasional hole in the fabric of her talk. A word would suddenly elude her, and she would search furiously for it. The oddity was that while hundreds of unerringly chosen words in several languages, evidence of the widest possible literary culture, would flow past with seamless elegance, there would be a sudden hiatus: `so I put the book on the -- the -- what do you call that thing?' `What thing, Peggy? What sort of thing?' `You know perfectly well: the thing you use when you want to put other things on it.' `Dumb waiter? Sideboard?' `Ya cha-cha-cha,' she would cry, dismissively. `Trolley, Peggy?' A look of withering contempt. And then, in desperation, one would say, `Table?' `Table. Exactly .' And we were off again. This could apply equally to proper names; again, hardly the ones you'd expect, after disquisitions on Jean-Jacques Bertrand and Montherlant, laced with citations of large slices of Franz Werfel, all perfectly attributed. `I first met Schneider because he'd done the American première of Waiting for Godot and he wanted to meet ... he wanted to meet ...' (triumphantly) ` whoever it was that wrote it .'     She had a characteristic method of phrasing which bore some resemblance to Queen Victoria's epistolary manner. Words were swooped on and singled out for special attention. Her style was essentially musical: a long legato line in the main body of the sentence, and then the crucial words drawn out in a deeper tone, accompanied by noddings of the head and downward floating motions of the hands: `the important thing in life is to do whatever you want but then ... always ... to pick up ... THE BILL.' The phrase would then hang in the air for silent moments while you both contemplated its majestic truthfulness.     Life, and its handmaiden, Art, were her topics, even on this first impromptu meeting. She fiercely announced their paradoxical twin demands: on the one hand, discipline, industry, and solitude; on the other, a life lived to the hilt, mentally, physically, above all emotionally. Between these two poles, in either art or life, there was, as far as she was concerned, nothing whatever of the slightest value. Marriage, friendship, parties, pastimes: all fruitless and destructive, she insisted. Independence, from people or from things, was the essential: `expect nothing, and everything becomes a bonus .' Whereupon, ever-surprising, she suddenly informed me, having discovered that I had had my start in the theatre in the Box Office, `of course, the Box Office is the only truly romantic part of the theatre.' And she meant it: she described the excitement of doing a deal, the thrill of watching the money come in; she had, she told me, a kind of Midas touch, and loved playing the Stock Exchange, for which she showed some talent. Clearly though, this was a holiday from the serious business of reminding authors of their sacred obligations, to Art and to Life.     Every word that came out of her mouth that day was completely unexpected, as unforeseen as our meeting. My jaw hung open most of the time, when, that is, I wasn't roaring with laughter, or suddenly moved almost to tears to find someone who spoke so unashamedly and with such hard-edged unsentimental eloquence about art, its power and its demands. It was my own view entirely, as was her view of life itself. Agony or ecstasy, I, at the age of 30, thought, and to hell with the bits in between; and so did she at what I later discovered to be 70, though the evidence of my eyes would have rejected that figure, had I been told it, as preposterous. At this first meeting we spurred each other on higher and higher with great thoughts and terrible truths until we finally fell silent, having completely exhausted ourselves. I got up to go and we shook hands, oddly, awkwardly. She sat at her desk, combing her hair and repairing her lipstick as I left the office. Going back through the reception area to pick up the script which I dimly remembered had been the occasion of my being there at all, I caught the eyes of the secretaries and blushed. It was as if Peggy and I had been making love. Copyright © 1999 Simon Callow. All rights reserved.