Books become films every day of the week; more rarely does someone feel inspired to write a book after seeing a film.
Peter Conradi’s Hot Dogs And Cocktails tells the story of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth’s visit to North America in the summer of 1939 and specifically the couple of days they spent at President Roosevelt’s country retreat at Hyde Park on Hudson. In the film of that name, Bill Murray played FDR with a characteristic twinkle in his eye, and the story was fleshed out with a did-they-or-didn’t-they illicit romance with his distant cousin, played by Laura Linney.
For reasons of professional integrity Conradi can’t play quite so fast and loose with events, but his is an entertaining tale even so. Against all expectations the King and Queen charmed a continent, impressed the Roosevelts and contributed more to the ‘special relationship’ (then struggling somewhat) than any amount of careful diplomacy could have done.
The climax of the film, and indeed the book, arrives at a picnic on the Sunday, at which hot dogs are served. Will the King eat one without a knife and fork? Indeed he does, and asks for seconds.
Conradi’s book is a bit of a shaggy dog story — nothing much happens for 200 pages, then it’s all over in a trice — but the curious innocence of the times is delightfully evoked. (See the film too: it’s better than everyone says.)
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