Shown below is my full collection of drawings related to television.
Quick navigation to a specific portrait:
Perhaps more thought provoking than ever, “Walkabout” premiered at the Cannes film festival in 1971 but performed poorly at the local box office, drawing a mixed response from critics. Noted for its cinematography and interspersed with numerous images of Australian plant and animal life, along with its varied landscapes, the movie is now widely considered a cult classic.
Fresh from her success in “The Railway Children,” it marked Jenny Agutter’s cinematic move into adulthood, in addition to providing a stark reminder to many actresses of what distinguishes ‘appropriate nudity’ from ‘salicious tittilation.’
In the film, and under the pretense of having a picnic, a geologist (John Meillon) takes his teenage daughter (Jenny Agutter) and 6-year-old son (Lucien John) into the Australian outback and attempts to shoot them. When he fails, he turns the gun on himself, and the two city-bred children must contend with harsh wilderness alone. They are saved by a chance encounter with an Aborigine boy (David Gulpilil) who shows them how to survive, and in the process underscores the disharmony between nature and modern life.
Suitably enhanced by a wonderful score from John Barry, Nicholas Roeg’s directorial masterpiece deservedly endures.
The classic children’s television created by husband and wife team Gerry and Sylvia Anderson – from the 1950s to the mid 70’ – has attracted an international fan base spanning three generations. But series like Thunderbirds, Stingray and Captain Scarlet did more than redefine the potential of puppet-based shows; they created a merchandising empire with a legacy as strong as the productions from which it sprang.
Like millions of a certain age, Anderson’s pioneering work is indelibly stamped upon my childhood, and it was with interest that I recently became aware of the new “Thunderbirds 1965” project. For fans who prefer their heroes with strings attached, the prospect of three new episodes featuring the original marionettes was enticing news indeed.
A bronze statue of the late comedy legend Ronnie Barker can be located in Aylesbury where he began his acting career more than 60 years ago.
Aylesbury Vale District council commissioned sculptor Martin Jennings to design the statue as part of its Waterside development project and it now takes pride of place in the new public space outside the Aylesbury Waterside Theatre entrance in Exchange Street. The work was officially unveiled by Ronnie’s widow, Joy in early 2012, in a ceremony attended by some of her husband’s former colleagues, including long-time comedy partner Ronnie Corbett and ‘Open All Hours’ co-star David Jason. Mr. Jennings had depicted the comic writer and performer in his role as prison inmate Norman Stanley Fletcher, from the classic 1970’s series ‘Porridge’, sitting on a stone bench looking up at the new theatre. The bitter irony of this connection would not have been lost on a man who did not see his own son, a fugitive on the run from the police, for the last year of his life.
He had his ups and downs, but Ray Barrett, the Brisbane born actor was hardly ever out of work in a profession known for its unpredictable employment prospects. From radio as a teenager to roles as a cranky old fellow, Barrett was almost a fixture on Australian and British screen and television.
It was impossible to warm to his on-screen characters, being as essentially slippery as his perennially brycleemed hair, but they were always compelling. His pockmarked skin – a legacy of teenage acne – did nothing to impede his career but little to endear him to television viewers. When he joined the cast of Britain’s first hospital soap opera, “Emergency – Ward 10,” as casualty officer, Dr Don Nolan, he misdiagnosed a malingering old woman with abdominal problems, and was content enough to voice his opinions on the “antediluvian” institution that paid his salary.
I vaguely recall his leading role in “The Troubleshooters” as a tough, resourceful and intelligent Australian field man for an oil company, which ran from 1965 to 1972, and which established him on British television. Unfortunately, the show’s archive is meagre and memories fade, but there are those who will still remember his tough, uncompromising performance as Peter Thornton, a role written specifically for him after the creator John Elliott had spotted Barrett in a bar behaving with typical Australian forthrightness.
Alexandra Bastedo had been living with the omnipresent threat of breast cancer for seventeen years by the time of her premature death, at the age of 67 in January 2014.
Although she had continued to work periodically in television productions, films and the theatre, most of her energy had been channelled into running her animal sanctuary, a project dear to her heart. Her husband of many years, Patrick Garland – who served two terms as artistic director at the Chichester Festival Theatre – had been ill for some considerable time, and passed away ten months before his wife. Bastedo was ill herself at the time of his death, yet friends and colleagues felt she was rallying. Sadly, it was not to be.
For men of a certain age – and that invariably means my age – it was hard to reconcile her health problems with that beautiful creature who transfixed us every week in the cult 60’s television series “The Champions.” But then, that’s life.
Tom Burke & Holliday Grainger
Three adaptations of J.K. Rowling’s “Strike” novels have been broadcast to date, but sadly it may be some time before further episodes of the British television crime drama series appear on our screens. Holliday Grainger has stated that it could be some time before another series is broadcast, stating “I think they’ve always been quite clear that they’d never want to write one without basing it on the book. It is all about Jo’s writing, and the characters are all about what Jo’s written. So, you’ve got to wait.”
In the final scene of “Career of Evil,” Tom Burke – Comoran Strike – nearly ruins his secretary cum business partner Robin Ellacott’s wedding. Nevertheless, she exits the church smiling , seemingly more happy than imaginable that her rift with her employer has only been temporary. Her new husband – decidedly less than enamoured with his bride’s line of work – is less than pleased to see the private eye.
The marriage will fail of course, irrespective of the frisson between the sleuthing pair, Poor Robin’s got the investigative bug, and she’s not about to give it up for anyone…………..
John Cleese is currently paying £600,000 a year until 2016 to his third wife in addition to a one off cash payment of £8 million plus assets which include an apartment in New York, a £2 million home in London and half a beach house in California. He is still working of course but at the age of 72 is technically retired yet the woman herself is still earning as a successful therapist. When he met her in 1990 she was living in a third-floor council flat with two sons from a previous marriage. Camelot clearly exists in different guises.
Unbelievably he married for a fourth time this year and his nuptials provoked widespread comment from journalists, friends and the general public alike. In reviewing his motives I have been reminded once again of how genetically stupid, insignificant yet extraordinarily fortunate I am to be in the position in which I find myself.
Peter Cook & Dudley Moore
Whilst I might personally consign the pair’s three largely improvised and provocatively obscene spoken-word “Derek & Clive” albums to the waste skip – more so for being essentially unfunny rather than the liberal use of the C-word throughout – there’s no denying in my mind that Peter Cook and Dudley Moore were geniuses in their chosen entertainment fields. Peter would no doubt have chastised me for not using the precise plural “genii,” whilst Dudley would have instantly composed a song around the word. They were that razor sharp.
As a writer and satirist Peter had few equals, whilst Dudley was a phenomenal jazz pianist and no mean slouch as a composer. If all they represent to you are grainy black and white clips on “Not Only…But Also,” then you need to undertake some serious re-evaluation of the pair.
Harry H Corbett
Here’s Harry H Corbett at a BAFTA Awards ceremony in the mid-60’s, all tuxudoed and every inch the class act his alto-ego Harold Steptoe always wanted to be.
From 1962 to 1974, ‘Steptoe & Son’ drew weekly audiences of 20 million plus. Wilfred Brambell, who was the wily, dirty-minded, jealous old rag-and-bone man, and Corbett, who played the unmarried, hapless son trapped by his own forlorn dreams, were among the best-known stars on TV.
For such a renowned Shakespearean actor, the long running series ultimately represented an artistic cul-de-sac, but in the final analysis a ‘once in a lifetime dead end’. The combination of humour and pathos in equal measure, was as thought provoking as it was rib tickling, and Corbett was the lynchpin, the glue that held it all together.
As one who generally observes television rather than actually watching it, there occasionally surfaces a programme that, from the perspective of quality writing, innovative direction, and insightful characterisation, demands my attention. ‘Life on Mars’ was one such series and ‘Sherlock’, a contemporary adaptation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s detective stories, is thankfully another.
The exemplary use of feature length timing (one hour twenty seven mins), without the needless distraction of advertising slots, has enabled writers Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss, to hone their skills in crafting first rate television ‘high art.’
Credit must also go respectively, to Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman for their portrayal of Holmes and Watson respectively.
For a 19th century literary creation, it’s been one hell of a shot in the arm….
Envy, from the Latin invidia, is an emotion which “occurs when a person lacks another’s superior quality, achievement, or possession and either desires it or wishes that the other lacked it”.The philosopher Bertrand Russell said that envy was one of the most potent causes of unhappiness, for not only is the envious person rendered unhappy by the emotion, but may even motivate measures to deprive others of perceived advantages. Unrestrained envy can destroy excellence, whilst admiration is a countervailing emotion, and one that should be nurtured.
There was undoubtedly envy within the corridors of power at the BBC over Simon Dee’s meteoric rise to fame as a prime time chat show host. He had been a pirate DJ on Radio Caroline only a few years earlier and yet by 1968, was the most famous face on British television. For younger readers, simply imagine a national television personality five times bigger than Graham Norton and you’ll get the idea.
As the presenter of the BBC’s ‘Dee Time’, the famously suave broadcaster drew audiences of up to 18 million for his interviews with guests including Sammy Davis Jnr and John Lennon.With his sculpted fringe, penchant for cravats and smooth repartee, Dee became the epitome of the Swinging Sixties, pushing back cultural boundaries and rubbing shoulders with the stars of the day, from The Beatles to Charlton Heston. As the embodiment of 60’s grooviness, he was once said by Liz Hurley to have been the inspiration for the film character Austin Powers.
He was part of the national consciousness, and yet by Christmas 1970 could be found signing on at his local labour exchange. Within months, he would be driving a London bus, forever facing that inevitable question – “Didn’t you used to be Simon Dee?”. What happened to him serves only to remind us how ephemeral fame can be. What followed afterwards was ‘something else.’
In 1996, the actress Angie Dickinson did the unthinkable. Like her British counterpart, the footballer Danny Blanchflower in 1961, she walked off the television program ‘This Is Your Life’, leaving its host, Ralph Edwards, and a collection of Dickinson’s family, celebrity and hometown friends stranded on the set.
When asked why she had refused to allow the assembled crowd to honor her, she replied, ‘All these people are supposed to come around and rave about you. I think they should have organized it the other way around, so I could have talked about their importance’.
Dickinson may well have been uncomfortable with the near sychophantic tone of the show, but she is also the custodian of Hollywood secrets, involving everyone from leading stars to high ranking Hollywood moguls and US Presidents. Devoid of editorial control, one may surmise that she instinctively perceived no other course of action available to her.
Having recently celebrated his 90th birthday in November 2017, Sir Ken Dodd could have been forgiven for hanging up his tickling stick and enjoying retirement after a record-breaking comedy career. After all, he’d been exercising our Chuckle Muscles for more than 60 years whilst still travelling 100,000 miles a year dazzling packed audiences with thousands of gags in each marathon one-man show.
But no – Doddy was planning a return to the road again, armed with a philosophy that kept him young. “A man retires to stop doing what he doesn’t want to do and start doing what he does want to do. I’m doing what I want to do! I see men retire and within a couple of years they’re dribbling out of the side of their mouths. In fact the veteran says he still feels like a kid on stage. “Your back tells you you’re not, but you can be young at heart at 80, 90 or even 100.”
Still putting in five and a half hour stints on stage to the very end, I last caught up with him in 2009. We bought the tickle sticks, I told my youngest daughter that she would love him and she did. Ready for bed by 10.30 pm, she nearly died when he brought out his lunchbox and announced he needed a sarnie at the half way stage to keep his energy levels up. Her face was a picture!!
When a relative of mine interviewed him for hospital radio in 1990, he was happy to talk backstage for over two hours and then generously gave him a lift home from Bournemouth to Southampton in his Mercedes. At one stage, my cousin asked him for a few jokes indigenous to Bournemouth. After thirty minutes of rapid delivery, he asked if that would do.
A comic genius – if you missed him, then I’m sad for you.
Hugh Bonneville has been acting for more than twenty years now, popping up as lovable buffoons in the romantic comedy “Notting Hill” (1999) – the first time I saw him onscreen – and the period adaptation “Mansfield Park,” but it’s “Downton Abbey” that’s really made him a household name.
“I feel like a very lucky actor to be in a show that people love and continues to grow around the world,” he says. “It’s something I love doing, and the people involved are a fantastic team. I said to our producer not so long ago, that it’s extraordinary to think that five years on, we’re not punching each other!”
Series six has already been commissioned, but Bonneville is aware that it can’t run indefinitely. “It’s a unique show, in that it feels so big in scale, but it comes down to one person’s imagination;” [writer and producer] Julian Fellowes.
“It’s really him, and he’ll know when it’s time to tie-up all the loose ends and put it to bed.”
I won’t regret the passing of the series, however enjoyable it may have been. My life is at risk each sunday evening if I mess up recording the programme properly. I live with an unforgiving family!!!
I first became aware of Jim Carter when he starred as Philip Marlowe’s father in BBC’s 1986 adaptation of “The Singing Detective.”
Since then, despite his obvious distractions – a passionate love for cricket and skiffle music – his career has gone from strength to strength.
Film appearances have included ‘Brassed Off,’ ‘Shakespeare in Love,’ ‘Heartlands,’ ‘Bright Young Things’, ‘Bridget Jones: Edge of Reason,’ ‘Ella Enchanted,’ ‘The Thief Lord,’ ’102 Dalmatians,’ ‘Keep the Aspidistra Flying’, ‘Richard III,’ ‘The Madness of King George, ‘‘Black Beauty,’ ‘Blame It on the Bellboy,’ ‘A Private Function’ and ‘Flash Gordon.’
Amongst his varied television work, he has appeared in ‘Lipstick on Your Collar’, ‘Tube Tales,’ ‘Blue Murder’, ‘The Scarlet Pimpernel,’ ‘Midsomer Murders,’ ‘Trial and Retribution’, ‘Hornblower,’ ‘Dalziel and Pascoe,’ ‘Ain’t Misbehavin’, ‘A Year in Provence,’ ‘A Dangerous Man,’ ‘Precious Bane,’ ‘Lost Empires’ and ‘The Way We Live Now,’
My portrait is of Carter in his most widely known role as Mr Carson, the head butler in “Downton Abbey”.
It comes as no surprise that Michelle Dockery is a woman of many talents, currently motoring as a triple threat actress, singer and dancer who used to spend hours as a child in the living room dancing away in her tap shoes with her sisters.
She sang at Ronnie Scott’s in 2009, an experience the actress found unnerving, whilst admitting that performing live is more than a mere flirtation.
“I’ve always said that I’d love to play a singer, as I’m fascinated by musicians and their vulnerabilities. Acting is my comfort zone, but singing is very exposing. I feel very vulnerable when I sing.”
Now busy amassing a large vinyl collection, the actress told M&S Style and Living in 2014 that she was lending her ear to “some Joni Mitchell, Oasis and the Doors, old standards like Frank Sinatra and Nina Simone, and then what I listened to as a teen. At school, everyone was into Take That and even though I secretly liked them and had a massive crush on Mark Owen, I started getting into Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin.”
It’s quite a departure from ‘Downton Abbey’ and her alto-ego Lady Mary, the marble cold sister she plays to such perfection in the long running series.
As a 16-year-old actress, Yorkshire-born Joanne Froggatt, was pitched headlong into the spotlight as Coronation Street’s troubled teen mum Zoe Tattersall, whose colourful career on the Weatherfield cobbles involved selling her baby, bedding squeaky butcher Ashley and joining a religious cult.
‘I just wasn’t ready for being recognised everywhere I went,’ she says. ‘Coronation Street was my first job, Zoe was a controversial character and I wasn’t used to everyone looking at me. It happened wherever I went in Manchester. It was a scary experience, I found it quite disturbing at that age. But I’m glad I went through it because now with Downton I can really enjoy it.’
There’s regular income and security for ‘soap stalwarts,’ but several actresses – Sarah Lancashire and Suranne Jones spring to mind – have professional aspirations that extend beyond the mind numbing repetition of a single characterisation. Joanne Froggatt belongs to this group, and after several high profile performances in various productions, is now set for a career that will extend long into her middle years.
Dan Steven’s exit from the “Downton Abbey” series led to a barrage of complaints on social media. The actor’s character, Matthew Crawley, the heir to the Downton estate, would suffer an untimely death in a car crash that had viewers choking on their mince pies at the end of the 2012 Christmas special.
“Downton Abbey, you have ruined my Christmas Day”; “I don’t even want to discuss what happened”; “I am 100% done with this show. I cannot breathe.” were obvious examples of the public outrage so prevalent in the twenty four hours that followed the original transmission. Stevens, 31, was later forced to apologise and said, “What emerged is that it’s an unwritten rule that you’re not supposed to die on British television on Christmas Day.”
Ultimately, the actor would move onto pastures anew, whilst I would be left to chuckle at just how funny people can be……
I first saw Elizabeth McGovern on the big screen when she was only twenty, acting in Robert Redford’s directorial debut “Ordinary People” (1981).
Since then, she has achieved worldwide fame as Cora, Countess of Grantham in the British drama series ‘Downton Abbey,’ – a role which has brought her both Emmy and Golden Globe Award nominations – as well as appearing opposite Robert De Niro in ‘Once Upon A Time In America’ (1984).
As if her film and television work were not enough, McGovern remains probably the only star whose portrait I have drawn to date, who may be transferred eventually to another section of my website. In 2008 she began fronting the band Sadie and the Hotheads at The Castle pub venue in Portobello Road, London. The album ‘How not to lose things,’ featuring songs she developed with The Nelson Brothers, who are now part of the band, followed soon afterwards. A follow up would be issued in February 2015.
The actress has also admitted to an added benefit of her busy schedule of daytime filming and night-time singing. Offering advice to women everywhere about personal contentment, she has been reported as saying – “don’t get hooked into a relationship with yourself and the mirror, because that’s not a route to happiness. It certainly wouldn’t be for me.”
Critics have reacted favourably to Peter Capaldi’s first series as ‘Doctor Who.’
Writing in The Telegraph, Michael Hogan was suitably effusive:
“This has been a cracking series, with the show back to its darkly compelling best and Capaldi – clever, complex and unpredictably otherworldly – making the role truly his own.”
Accustomed to more youthful looking ‘Doctors’, my youngest daughter is nevertheless slowly coming to terms with the new Time Lord. Yet as I explained to her, in my youth, they were always pensioners anyway. It’s what you get used to!!!
Jenna Louise Coleman
It’s all coming together rather nicely for Jenna Louise Coleman, yet the actress, when pressed, remains wary about her career. in the not too distant past, she was unable to book an audition for anything. She worked in a bar and attempted to get into Rada, but froze in her admission interview, forgot all her lines and was turned away. “I’d always wanted to be an actress,” she admits. “I was like: ‘What if I’ve been wrong all along?’”
Coleman did manage to get one part though, and in her own words – the “tiniest, tiniest thing” in the 2011 tights-and-fights action film ‘Captain America: The First Avenger.’ But that was enough. It led to a bigger role in the BBC4 adaptation of John Braine’s novel ‘Room at the Top,’ which led to Julian Fellowes casting her in ‘Titanic,’ which led to Stephen Poliakoff choosing her for ‘Dancing on the Edge,’ which aired on BBC2 in 2013. Today, she’s the Doctor’s perfect companion, globetrotting and space hopping. Like I said, it’s all coming together nicely…….
Dedication to one’s craft may, on occasions, be at the expense of personal vanity. On location for her next movie ‘Guardians Of The Galaxy’, Karen Gillan, best known to millions as Amy Pond in the long running ‘Doctor Who’ series, unveiled her new bald look. Her character, Nebula, a villainous pirate who spends much of her time trying to wipe out entire civilizations, in the 2014 Marvel flick, would have approved.
Appearing at a film convention in the summer of 2013, she told her audience: “It’s liberating. I think everyone here should shave their heads.” Unfortunately, others were less pleased; the film’s director James Gunn being subjected to a barrage of abuse on his Twitter account. Asking fans to stop sending angry messages, he pleaded: “If you are sending me hate messages about making @KarenGillan2 shave her head, you might consider the overall state of your life.” Someone had to say it so I’m grateful to Mr Gunn for saving me the need, for the whole world of social media is already displaying acutely sinister undertones………………
Five weeks into the BBC’s new flagship early evening Saturday television show, fledgling producer Verity Lambert played her trump card. Convinced of her belief in writer Terry Nation’s creation, she introduced children to the Daleks and ‘Doctor Who’ blasted off into the stratosphere.
Like millions, I watched from behind the sofa, totally transfixed each week as the Doctor and his companions explored the universe in the TARDIS, a sentient time-travelling space ship with the exterior appearance of a blue British police box, a common sight in Britain in 1963 when the series first aired.
For William Hartnell, already a veteran of stage and screen work for more than three decades, December 21, 1963 was a defining moment, the point where personal reservations evaporated, and hitherto unforeseen national fame would beckon.
Regularly acclaimed as the nation’s favourite Time Lord, former Doctor Who star David Tennant is riding the crest of an acting wave. His TV performances are diverse and visually arresting, whilst his stage work has won plaudits throughout Britain.
And yet, there’s also David Tennant, the star of adverts, the man paid handsomely to push Virgin Media’s Tivo Box. It keeps his profile high whilst reinforcing his screen personality – comedic talents put to excellent use during his six year run as The Doctor. But does he really need to compromise his thespian credibility by bantering with Branson? Both his admirers and detractors think not……….
Psychologists claim that a large number of people are living in two separate worlds, captured in their own lies, shame and guilt that eventually power them into behavior which is way too different from their daily lifestyle. Roughly two thirds of men and half of women have an adulterous event at some point in their life, with the obvious stresses and strains associated with such duality. For the lucky few, the sheer absurdity of what they believe they are seeking will be become apparent before it’s too late. For the many, there is just a constant restlessness that will eventually affect their mental and physical well being.
Patrick Troughton, the second Doctor Who (1966-69), led a hidden double-life, having left his original family behind in the mid-‘50s to start a second with another woman – a scandalous situation at the time which, remarkably, he kept from his own mother for over two decades, right up to her death in 1979.
There would be a price to pay – there always is in life. Overwork and stress resulted in a heart condition, and the actor would be dead at the age of sixty seven.
David Duchovny & Gillian Anderson
It’s been 25 years since The X-Files premiered, and there’s been two movies and more than 200 episodes. Without a doubt, this has been more than a respectable run, and it’s looking like the 2018 batch of episodes have shaken off the cobwebs and are getting back to what made The X-Files a hit in the first place. David Duchovny & Gillian Anderson have said that’s why they came back.
So is this really it? Well, whilst Anderson says she’s finished with Scully, and it’s true that Fox has not committed to additional seasons beyond the 11th, series creator Chris Carter insists that he has not crafted the last episode as a series finale. “There are a lot more X-Files stories to tell,” he says. “Whether we get to tell them is a question mark.”
So there you go – it’s all “up in the air” as they say. Perhaps only the extraterrestrials really know……………………………
Corporal Jones fought in the Battle of Omdurman in the Sudan, facing the “Fuzzy Wuzzies” under the command of General Kitchener. In the spring of 1941, Operation Sea Lion was indefinitely postponed. After all, German air supremacy in the skies above Southern England would have meant nothing with Jonesy still on the ground.
If he were only around today, the threat of terrorism in Britain would be non-existent. You see, a little touch of bayonet warfare (“the cold steel” ) and the confident assertion that “they don’t like it up ‘em!”, would have been enough. There are simply some individuals you don’t mess with.
Of course, there are those who maintain that Jones was simply a fictional character played by the actor Clive Dunn, in a much loved television series. Yet there are millions who know better, for the dithering butcher represented all that is great in Britain – stoicism, bravery and nationalistic pride. He exists in all those persons committed to the doctrine of liberty, freedom of speech and the right to live in a manner of our choosing.
Actress Marta Dusseldorp is undoubtedly one of the busiest and most popular actors in Australia. Sharing her star power across three current television series – “A Place to Call Home,” “Janet King” and “Jack Irish” she juggles her characters like a great parent raising her children whilst recognizing the power and uniqueness of each.
An AACTA Awards winner (Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts Awards— apparently the Australian counterpart to the US Oscars and Emmys), she continues to juggle an extremely hectic shooting schedule with her family life.
I’ve personally watched all her series. Worn down by the sheer predictability of English television dramas, there’s always something refreshingly different to Australian scriptwriting; that imperceptible “je ne sais quoi” quality that makes the viewer actually care about all the central characters.
They don’t get it right all the time downunder – “Neighbours” being the trashiest example imaginable – but there is invariably much to savour in Australian drama. Dusseldorp’s stock is rising worldwide and all through the overseas backdoor of early afternoon scheduling.
‘Look at you: thirty-five, over the hump. What have you achieved? What have you achieved? Two abandoned plays, three lay downs in Whitehall, two marches and a punch-up with the Empire loyalists. This is your life – a slim volume indeed. What happened to you? What went wrong? What went wrong?
What happened to all your dreams when you were sixteen? No, you lost your chance, me old son, you’ve contributed nothing to this life. A waste of time you being here at all. No plaque for you in Westminster Abbey. The best you can expect is a few daffodils in a jam jar, a rough hewn headstone with the inscription: “He came and he went and in between – nothing.” No one will even notice that you’re not here; after about a year afterwards, somebody might say down the pub, “‘Ere, where’s old Hancock? I haven’t seen him around here lately.” “Oh he’s dead, you know. Right, 301, then George, off we go.
A right raison d’etre that is; no one will ever know I existed; nothing to leave behind me, nothing to pass on, nobody to mourn me. That’s the bitterest blow of all’.”
Playing Jon Snow in “Game of Thrones” has made Kit Harington a star.
The American fantasy drama television series created by David Benioff and D. B. Weiss is an adaptation of “A Song of Ice and Fire,” George R. R. Martin’s series of fantasy novels, the first of which is “A Game of Thrones.” Filmed in Belfast and elsewhere in the United Kingdom, Canada, Croatia, Iceland, Malta, Morocco, Spain, and the United States, the series is now drawing to a close and will conclude sometime in the next two years.
It’s not “my thing” – all bonking and beheading as far as I could see when I caught a solitary episode on one occasion – but that doesn’t matter for there are millions who love the programme including my wife and daughters. In the meantime, I get to do other things whilst it’s on, like drawing Mr Harington whilst half watching an old ‘black and white movie’ on “Talking Pictures.”
Vive la différence!!!
The late Ian Hendry is one of the UK’s lost screen stars, only really remembered now by archive film and television anoraks.
Several of his contemporaries at the Central School of Speech and Drama, like Dame Judi Dench and Vanessa Redgrave in particular, have enjoyed long and illustrious careers, whilst his own ‘star’ would flounder in character parts, after a strong initial start. But since we all turn to dust in the end, perhaps there will eventually be some restored parity to his relative position in the pantheon of film greats – it would be the very least this talented and enigmatic actor deserves.
Made by Franco-London Films and filmed in black and white on location in the Canary Islands in 1964, ‘The Advenures of Robinson Crusoe’ soon established itself in the UK as a vital part of children’s early evening broadcasting.
Playing the role of Robinson Crusoe was 23 year-old blonde-haired Austrian born actor Robert Hoffman. Following the series Hoffman went on to have a distiguished career mainly in German language films, although he did enjoy stardom in the UK once more in 1980 when he appeared alongside Gregory Peck, Roger Moore, Patrick MacNee, Trevor Howard and David Niven in the movie ‘The Sea Wolves’ before appearing ,briefly, in the US series ‘Dallas.’
Hattie Jacques found fame as Tony Hancock’s secretary Greselda Pugh in the BBC radio series “Hancock’s Half Hour,” (1954-59) before playing Eric Sykes sister in “Sykes And A…” (1960-65) and “Sykes” (1972-79).
Today, due in no small part to their endless re-screenings, she is probably best remembered for her many “Carry On” film roles, particularly as Matron opposite Kenneth Williams.
Her marriage to John Le Mesurier was emotionally volatile, and the 2011 BBC drama about her affair with John Schofield – if the testimonies of close friends are to be believed – is a serious distortion of events. Nevertheless, her actions did lead to the destruction of the family unit, and there was a disturbing prescience to her husband’s words when he told his wife that her lover would “leave her for the first thin, pretty thing that came along.” An Italian slimline alternative did indeed materialise, and poor Hattie would be be reduced to the role of a downtrodden emotional doormat as Schofield periodically returned to her bed over the next few years. Habitually lacking in self esteem and suitably crushed, her weight would balloon further, her heart literally giving out at the premature age of fifty eight.
A loving mother and unceasingly aware of the professional debt she owed to her public, she was and remains a true British comedy great.
In the UK, it is estimated that around 350,000 people are suffering from a gambling addiction. In recent years, the number of people experiencing problems with gambling has increased due to economic troubles associated with the global recession and an increase in the number of gambling outlets. It is now easier than ever before to place a bet, with a huge number of online shops and games sites enabling people to indulge themselves twenty four hours a day. Every year, a staggering £7 billion+ is spent on gambling.
Such opportunities were not as plentiful in the 50’s and 60’s but Sid James was nevertheless an inveterate gambler and a largely unsuccessful one, losing tens of thousands of pounds over his lifetime. His addiction was such that, in a prior agreement with his agent, Michael Sullivan and unbeknownst to his wife Valerie, a portion of his monthly salary was set aside for gambling. It wasn’t therefore, just a love of the camera that maintained his unrelenting work schedule for years; the need to generate speculative income would contribute to his first heart attack in 1967 and ultimately kill him nine years later.
David Janssen (March 27, 1931 – February 13, 1980) was an American film and television actor who is best known for his starring role as Dr. Richard Kimble in the television series ‘The Fugitive’ (1963–1967). He also had starring roles in the 1950s hit detective series ‘Richard Diamond, Private Detective’ (1957–60), and as Harry Orwell in Harry O during the mid 70’s. In 1996 TV Guide ranked him number 36 on its 50 Greatest TV Stars of All Time list yet many visitors to my site will have absolutely no idea who he is. As one gets older, the fickleness of fame becomes more apparent for when I was a child here was a man who, for a number of years, was possibly the most watched actor on television.
Disenchanted with life as an electrician, David Jason turned his attention to acting and soon, through a natural talent for making people laugh, found himself working with the leading lights of British comedy in the ’60s and ’70s – Eric Idle, Michael Palin, Bob Monkhouse and Ronnie Barker. Barker would become a mentor to David, leading to hugely successful stints in ‘Porridge’ and ‘Open All Hours.’
It wasn’t until 1981, kitted out with a sheepskin jacket, a flat cap, and a clapped-out Reliant Regal, that David found the part that would capture the nation’s hearts: the beloved Derek ‘Del Boy’ Trotter in ‘Only Fools and Horses.’ Never a one-trick pony, he had an award-winning spell as TV’s favourite detective ‘Jack Frost,’ took a country jaunt as Pop Larkin in the ‘Darling Buds of May,’ and even voiced a crime-fighting cartoon rodent in the much-loved children’s show ‘Danger Mouse.’
But life hasn’t all been so easy. Missing out on a key role in ‘Dad’s Army’ was a early professional setback, and he almost lost his life drowning in a freak diving accident. Along the way, he lost some of his nearest and dearest.
Born in 1940, he grew up amidst the austerity of post-war Britain, a formative period that imbued many an individual with sound values and a philosophical perspective on life. Researching his background, it came as no surprise to find that some people can’t stand him, a fact I feel sure he can accept with a shrug of his shoulders.
There’s something about small screen fame, that sense of familiarity for actors which comes from appearing weekly in the nation’s front room. It can sustain a career for years and then, when it’s all over, it hardly seems possible that they’re gone. Importuned by a certain generation of fans for autographs and photos together, they remain a product of their time, fondly remembered by some yet distinctly unknown to successive generations. Such is fame.
As a child of the 60’s, I used to watch re-runs of the ITC series “The adventures of William Tell,” and each week, there was Jennifer Jayne portraying the role of Hedda Tell, the hero’s wife. A striking looking woman – more so with auburn hair than the blonde locks she sported in this long running series – she had a very attractive lower lip that hinted at a semi permanent pout.
I remember her well from several films and television appearances, especially her role opposite Norman Wisdom in “On The Beat.” (1962.) Yorkshire born, she died at the age of 74, yet another regrettable piece of information I came across during my research. Married to Peter Mullins for nearly fifty years- the art director and production designer on Where Eagles Dare (1968), Alfie (1966) and The Adventures of Robin Hood (1955) – she’d have happily taken another decade of life. I’m sorry she missed out.
Morticia is described as a vamp; she is slim, with extremely pale skin and long flowing straight black hair. She commonly wears black gothic dresses to match her hair, tightly form fitting, with a hobble skirt. She easily allures her husband Gomez by speaking French (or any other foreign language for that matter) and is musically inclined, often to be seen strumming a Japanese shamisen.
Carolyn Jones was Morticia, a strikingly unusual looking woman, a true blonde who developed her defining look by dying her hair brunette and undergoing cosmetic nasal surgery. Top and tailed with an hourglass dancer’s physique, she was a captivating creature on screen, an actress capable of wide ranging emotions and barely restrained sexuality. She wasn’t cheesecake, and therefore captivated me as a young man.
There’s been rather too much press attention paid to Ruth Jones’ weight, a near pathological media obsession that has somewhat detracted from her talents as an actress and scriptwriter.
In any event, she’s a favourite of mine – the cuddly size twenty four as comedic legend Hatti Jacques in the 2011 BBC drama or the new svelte twelve now gracing her christmas specials and chat show appearances – it’s all the same to me. Her “Tesco” advertisements also lighten my incessant irritation with commercial breaks.
Jones was appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the 2014 New Year Honours list for services to entertainment, and the tail end of 2016 brought forth the announcement that a sixth series of “Stella” had been commissioned, a sure sign of her enduring appeal with viewers. It’s all rather rosy in the professional garden for the fifty year old.
Despite my admiration for Suranne Jones’s acting ability, she never portrays characters I can come to care about; indeed during the penultimate scene of “Doctor Foster series 2” on the edge of a motorway, I was somewhat hoping a strong gust of wind would carry the two protagonists into the path of an oncoming lorry. That alone would have put an end to any prospects of a third series which rather alarmingly, I now hear is in development.
The most disturbing character in the series was not actually Gemma or Simon (both equally “off the scale”) but James, their son’s teacher, played by Prasanna Puwanarajah. In a position to observe the “mind games” being conducted by the warmongering pair at Simon’s wedding reception, all he can muster at the end of an eventful evening is an unsettling form of juvenile interest in seeing her again. Any sane individual would have run a mile.
Ultimately, it is perhaps better to simply write the series off as an excitable thriller with a downbeat ending, rather than assess it as an exploration of family dynamics. The greatest disservice we could do to “Doctor Foster” is to take it seriously.
Lighten up Suranne before the curse of typecasting takes a hold.
She’s back on our screens every week in the new series of “Our Girl,” and very good in it she is, but for me the real interest in Michelle Keegan was her recent appearance on “Who Do You Think You Are?” and the discovery about her great grandmother on her mother’s side Leonor Orfila, who was born in Gibraltar and lived there throughout her childhood. Shunned by her parents after marrying Wiltshire man Charles Stuart for love, rather than following family tradition and picking a Roman Catholic lad, Charles and Leonor would build a happy family life together, having three children. But in 1940, a year after war broke out, Gibraltar became a military base, meaning all 16,000 women, children and elderly people who lived there were evacuated by boat to locations such as Madeira, Jamaica and London. Leonor would be separated from her husband for four years during World War II.
Hitler had aided the fascists throughout the Spanish Civil War. When hostilities erupted, he immediately sent in powerful air and armored units to assist General Francisco Franco and his Nationalist forces. Once Franco had seized power in 1939, Spain opted for neutrality, but the omnipresent British fear remained that he would cut a deal with Germany allowing its forces unhindered access into the Rock.
My own late father was among the civilian population evacuated en masse from the Rock in 1940 in order to increase the strength of this military fortress with more British Armed Forces personnel. His tortuous Journey to Tottenham Court Road in London was via Tangier and Southern Ireland. He would not return to Gib until 1945.
Fresh from her BAFTA winning role in ‘Last tango in Halifax’, Sarah Lancashire is now benefitting from a bespoke tailored series, also written by Sally Wainright.
‘Happy Valley’ is a dark, multi-layered thriller revolving around the personal and professional life of Catherine, a dedicated, experienced, hard-working policewoman.
Filmed in Calderdale, West Yorkshire, the picturesque rolling hills and sleepy villages provide a perfect counterpoint to the central character’s inner turmoil, as she revisits the emotional trauma of her daughter’s suicide, whilst seeking to solve a kidnapping case.
Edging towards 50, she’s come a long way from the days of Racquel, since the ‘Street’ was never going to contain a dramatic actress of her standing…..
Women love to hate other women, and much to my constant amusement, no woman appears more hated by fellow females than Nigella Lawson. These female commentators, and a throng of others, have taken exception to Nigella’s camp presentational style, and her penchant for finger licking in the kitchen. Mind you, given a near empty bowl with chocolate residue, don’t we all?
She’s rich in her own right, and seemingly comfortable with her “curves.” Fat’s the adjective I’ve overheard bandied about in female conversations, although I suspect there’s envy involved as she’s blessed with the most gorgeous skin and looks a decade younger than her 56 years. Furthermore, the notoriety she’s gained from her TV cookery programmes and her accompanying books, have made her one of that rare coterie of stars who are recognised merely by their first name.
All that unsisterly sniping now makes perfect sense to me. Here’s to the green eyed monster…….
Diversification is the order of the day where Adrian Lester’s acting career is concerned.
There have been awards – an Olivier, a Time Out – Shakesperian theatrical adaptions, a hit US sitcom, hard hitting police dramas, guest appearances in Hollywood blockbusters, and then of course ‘Hustle’, the BBC Tv series (2004-2012), in which he played big-time con artist Michael “Mickey Bricks” Stone.
An Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2013 New Year Honours list for services to drama, and a 2013 honorary degree from the University of Warwick, Lester’s on a role.
He was tailor made for the testosterone agenda, an unprincipled DCI flourishing in the era of booze, fags and the great smell of Brut, screaming Ford Cortinas and clandestine wife-swapping parties.
Ably assisted by a scorching soundtrack, Matthew Graham’s epic series ‘Life on Mars’, introduced us to the character of Gene Hunt, a defining moment in Philip Glennister’s career. Envisaging the period of industrial strife, the three day week and power cuts, he says: ‘We wanted guys punching each other in the street with no recompense. We wanted men who could carry guns without having to fill out a form and who could drive really big gas-guzzling cars without any guilt’. But the moment DCI Hunt walked in, and slammed Tyler against a filing cabinet shouting ‘I’m Gene Hunt. Your DCI. It’s 1973. Nearly dinner time. And I’m having ‘(h)oops’ , the long shadow was cast and one the actor will do well to escape.
Keeley Hawes suffers from depression, which began when she was a teenager. The actress has admitted that she has not found a cure for her ‘chemical imbalance,’ nor does she think she will ever be completely free from its grip.
‘I started suffering with depression when I was 17,’ she revealed in an interview.‘[Therapy] hasn’t worked for me. I’ve got a chemical imbalance that has to be managed. And then it’s fine.’ ‘It’s not something that’s cured and then goes away and you move on. You are always aware, even if it’s only on a bad morning here and there, that it can escalate quickly,’ the former model told Red magazine. She added: ‘Life’s too short for that. I wouldn’t let it happen again. I wouldn’t let it overtake me.’
I have great sympathy for individuals who endure this form of illness. Even in my worst moments, I can still see how relative everything is to the most tragic events I read about in newspapers. An innate self deprecating sense of humour also helps greatly. Yet depression is more than simply feeling unhappy or fed up for a few days; after all, we all go through spells of feeling down, but when you’re depressed you feel persistently sad for weeks or months, rather than just a few days.
Some people still think that depression is trivial and not a genuine health condition. They’re wrong. Depression is a real illness with real symptoms, and it’s not a sign of weakness or something you can “snap out of” by “pulling yourself together”. The encouraging news is that with the right treatment and support, most people can make a full recovery. Some however, like Keeley Hawes, must live and deal with it.
It’s a face made for television – those rather delicate boned features, penetrating eyes and outwardly mobile forehead – yet John Simm is nothing, if not an enigma.
His CV boasts some of the biggest ratings winners in television history and yet his reaction to the price of fame suggests a man ill at ease with one of life’s basic maxims – ‘Be careful what you wish for, you may just get it’.
Beautiful, talented and gregarious, there was a time when it looked like Sue Lloyd was on the cusp of international stardom with roles in films such as ‘The Ipcress File,’ ‘Revenge Of The Pink Panther,’ ‘The Stud,’ and ‘The Bitch,’ as well as starring roles in several high profile television action series.
It never quite happened, yet her eternal good humour suggested a woman ‘at one’ with herself and that infinitesimally thin line between public recognition and stardom. Ultimately, she would model in her early years, act before a camera for a quarter of a century, and develop her passion for art in her late 40’s.
There is a Joanna Lumley for everyone – the beautiful angelic Joanna, hot sexy Joanna, kick-ass “Purdey” Joanna, heroic single mum Joanna, comic genius Joanna, crusading Gurkha-saver Joanna and the definitive Lady Penelope from Thunderbirds that sadly never was. The much loved tv and film personality has been all these and more. An OBE, she has won three BAFTA’s and a British Comedy Award yet has also been an unmarried mother during the 1960s when such a position was considered socially unacceptable.
It had been a grand life and Patrick Macnee knew it. He’d readily admitted that ‘retirement’s the most wonderful thing. I get to enjoy all the things I never stopped to notice on the way up. After an extraordinary life it’s time to enjoy my retirement.’
There had been voiceover work in recent times – he narrated all the ‘inside’ documentaries for the 007 double disc DVD remastered series – but insisted he did not miss acting. At the age of 93, Macnee’s memory came and went, as well it might at his age, but he had a fulltime care attendant to make sure he was comfortable. Accustomeed to the best hotels and first-class living since 1960, he hadn’t been on any form of public transport since then.
It had been a life divorced from reality, rather like his fictional alto-ego John Steed, yet there was something about his urbane sophistication that made it difficult to begrudge him such a privileged existence. Whether doffing his hat to the ladies, or handling assassins with his umbrella, the man had style, a quality conspicuously lacking in the modern era. When news of his death came through in June 2015, many probably believed he had died years earlier.
It’s the briefest of appearances but coming as it does, so early on, she makes an impression that resonates, nay sizzles. Investigating a phony bookshop that operates as a front for a pornography ring, the private eye seeks refuge from torrential rain in a legitimate book store across the street . There he meets a young woman with an understated alluring vibe, complete with combed back hair and spectacles. It’s all there beautifully in place but Philip Marlowe can’t see it until she exudes that librarian vibe by admitting “You begin to interest me…vaguely.” She gives him the information he needs and as he begins to leave, she says, “It’s coming down pretty hard out there,” that certain inflection in her voice betraying a disinterest in the weather. Convincing him to stay, she flips the sign, lowers the shade, takes off her glasses and teases her hair down. “Looks like we’re closed for the rest of the afternoon.”
It’s fornication 1946 style, and Humphrey Bogart can barely believe his luck. The woman is Dorothy Malone, a future Oscar winner yet perennial support player in Hollywood. Blonde or brunette, she was one hell of a vision. All you had to do was look, re-look and look yet again.
The first time I saw Zena Marshall on the big screen was in her role as the Italian Countess in ‘Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines or How I Flew from London to Paris in 25 hours 11 minutes’ in 1965. Already a ten year veteran of numerous films and telelvision appearances, she was by then edging towards retirement in order to concentrate on her domestic life.
Zena Marshall’s main claim to fame rests on her portrayal of the Eurasian double agent, Miss Taro, in the first ever Bond film, ‘Dr. No’ (1962). Her character was, incidentally, the first woman consciously seduced by Bond, prior to his encounter with Ursula Andress in the part of Honey Rider. More importantly, she remains the sole Bond villainess to survive.
‘The Man from UNCLE’, NBC’s top rated series from the 60’s, is due for a makeover in the directorial hands of Guy Ritchie.
As the heroic Russian agent Ilya Kuryakin, David McCallum charmed 60’s television audiences all over the world with his stoic charm and groovy blonde mop top. Now in his 81st year, he has little need to brace the icy winds of his seventh decade in movies.
Today, in 2014, Scottish actor David McCallum is more successful than ever, and even more popular than James Bond. The veteran actor is one of the main stars of the phenomenally successful detective series ‘NCIS,’ which is watched by 22 million viewers every week in the USA, but despite its continued success, he was shocked to be recently voted above Judi Dench, Benedict Cumberbatch and Daniel Craig in a list of America’s favourite British actors.
It’s been one hell of a journey…………..
A powerful theatre actress who made an effortless transition to screen, Helen McCrory has been associated with both the Harry Potter and James Bond franchises. A grafter who has made her own luck, she is aware that “Acting isn’t something that’s just in you. As with anything in life, you have to learn it, and work at it, and improve yourself all the time.”
She may be diminutive, but every fibre of McCrory’s 5ft 3in frame packs an indomitable punch. More than anything, I find myself increasingly in accord with most of her public utterances. Interviewed in 2015 to promote her role as the evil Madame Le Nôtre in “A Little Chaos,” a romantic drama centred on the court of Louis XIV, McCrory was moved to say:
“As I get older, I get much more involved in the world around me. I really, really want every single f—ing self-service till to be ripped out of the shops and people put back in. I want people to be fined for cancelling NHS appointments. I want the children I meet to be less interested in staring at a computer screen, and more interested in talking to me.”
Jane Merrow’s early acting career was near stratospheric to say the least. Within four years of leaving The Royal academy of Dramatic arts, she starred alongside Bill Travers in the BBC’s prestigious eleven part serial of “Lorna Doone.”
Columbia Pictures had previously produced a cinematic version in technicolour twelve years earlier, starring Richard Green and Barbara Hale who would later find small screen success in “The adventures of Robin Hood” and “Perry Mason” respectively. In 2000, the BBC would commission another production of the fabled story for a Xmas Day transmission. Set in 17th century Exmoor, the story’s central theme involves a romance between Lorna Doone and John Ridd, the daughter and son of two long-feuding Scottish families.
This 1963 adaptation had the mark of quality stamped all over it, not least for the script writing skills of Constance Cox, who would herself hit a career high four years later with her work on the BBC’s dramatisation of John Galsworthy’s “The Forsythe Saga.” Even Sunday early evening church services were brought forward so that congregations could be home in time for this landmark series. The production survives in the Beeb’s archives, and is available on DVD. No such fortune is bestowed upon “Lorna Doone,” unless world service overseas copies come to light. How sad for all the surviving participants but particularly Jane Merrow, effectively the loss of a series that would establish her acting credentials in the UK. She would be more fortunate with much of her other television work.
“Bewitched,” the magical supernatural situation comedy starring Elizabeth Montgomery, ran on ABC from 1964 to 1972 and has remained in syndication ever since. In the series, Montgomery portrayed the part of the nose-twitching witch Samantha, a blonde bombshell who could manipulate her husband at will.
Also starring Dick York (1964-69), Dick Sargent (1969-72), Agnes Moorehead, and a bevy of memorable supporting and recurring players, the delightful series was nominated for 22 Emmys (winning three times) and was ranked in the Top 10 in the Nielsen ratings during three of its eight seasons. The show has been available for several years via DVD season sets, and a complete series DVD box edition.
Today, more than twenty years after her sudden death from colorectal cancer at the age of 62, her private life is under close scrutiny following the publication of Herbie Pilato’s biography “Twitch upon a star,” which details the darker aspects of her life. Four husbands and numerous affairs, she may well have enchanted every man she ever met, but was seemingly drawn to troubled men, not nice guys. The Hollywood beauty also appeared to have a “father complex,” picking partners who abused her physically and mentally.
Picking over the bones of her life will tarnish the collective consciousness of millions of a certain age, who retain warm memories of the show and their childhood innocence. There’ll be no twitch of her nose to banish such revelations. More’s the pity……………
Morecambe and Wise
The frustrated song and dance man listened intently before laughing on cue when his longstanding showbusiness partner made it perfectly clear to Michael Parkinson, on his top rated chat show, how he felt about American audiences ; “I like them. I like them because they’re over there.” Whatever his loyalty to Eric and that sentiment ran deeply, little Ern, the one with the short fat hairy legs, didn’t feel the same way. In his mind the Hollywood dream never left him yet for Eric the position was clear. It had taken them years to reach the top of their profession in Britain, why would they want to start from scratch again? As Robert Sellers and James Hogg suggest in their 2012 biography of Ernie Wise, “You can visualize Ernie blending in at showbiz parties in L.A. or New York, sipping cocktails, while Eric waits at the airport in a raincoat waiting to get back to england and fish and chips.”
Matters might have stayed that way but as Eric, feeling decidely unwell onstage at the Batley Variety Club, cut short their normal performance to drive himself back to his hotel, Ernie was to watch the next six months unfold like a proverbial nightmare as everything he had worked for came grinding to a halt. Born Ernest Wiseman, he was forty three and suddenly completely unsure of what the future held for him.
He was compulsive saturday evening viewing in my household – not with me you understand, but my wife and youngest daughter – and we had to buy the DVD box sets.
“Merlin” was broadcast on the BBC between 2008 and 2012, and was loosely based on the Arthurian legends of the young wizard and his relationship with King Arthur, whilst incorporating some radical departures from the more traditional versions. For the young Colin Morgan, the series would make him a star whilst providing a springboard for hopefully even greater things…………………..
An enticing presence, all misty eyes and pale beauty, Barbara Murray was the young Rank starlet who made a smooth and successful transition from decorative roles in films, to become a television and theatrical draw for two decades.
I used to love her characterisations onscreen – that sense of ‘regality,’ a palpable air of boredom in her domestic interraction with any male partner incapable of providing her with the affluent lifestyle she believed to be her divine right – yes, you’d find her attractive, interesting, amusing, but by God, you wouldn’t marry her.
Her looks seemed to strengthen in middle age, and there was a delicious mischievousness in her grand voice which ensured there was always more to the characters she played than just elegance and sophistication.
Barry Nelson died just nine days shy of his ninetieth birthday in 2007. His appearance on my website will draw many a nonplussed expression from visitors, yet he was a durable star on film and television for four decades.
A genial all American type of guy, he starred in some of the more successful Broadway comedies of the ’50s and ’60s, achieving a permanent place in the minds of trivia buffs as the first actor to portray James Bond in a 1954 adaptation of Ian Fleming’s novel ‘Casino Royale’ on the television anthology series Climax! If nothing else, his place in 007 history could be the difference between victory or defeat in your next pub quiz!!
I was in love with Julie Newmar before I was even interested in girls!
Impossibly gorgeous, curvaceous in a true hourglass fashion and statuesque to boot, her appearances as catwoman in the hit Tv series “Batman,” seemed the perfect advertisement for crime. I could just about take the cape crusader’s weekly proselytizing, but there was a distinct hollow ring to it when handing over his feline adversary to the authorities. Personally, I would have robbed the Bank of England for her.
Today at 81, she still carries the hallmarks of a lithe dancer, an exacting profession in which she first learned her craft.
James Norton’s portrayal of Tommy Lee Royce in the BBC’s “Happy Valley” series in 2014 brought him plaudits, awards and death threats, the first two a clear testimony to his acting skills, and the third a sad indictment on the trolls who pollute social media.
James also plays the lead character, Sidney Chambers, in “Granchester,” whilst his Hollywood credentials were launched with a role in the BBC’s 2016 “War and Peace,” and have continued to grow with a lead role in 2017’s “Flatliners.”
However, it is his latest role as banker Alex Godman in “McMafia,” a disaffected member of the Russian mafia, which has provided a sartorial signpost to a future role. Watching him in his tuxedo and imagining the fruits of a year’s slog in a gymnasium, I give you the next 007 for 2021. Remember – you read it here first.
I was never going to pull apart ITV’s first big drama of 2018 “Next of Kin” because umpteen critics had already beaten me to the punch. It had been on in my household because my wife likes her weekly dramas. I’d only condescended to look up from time to time from whatever else I was doing because I liked its leading lady. She’d caught my eye twelve years ago opposite Russel Crowe in “A Good Year” because she’s a strikingly attractive and interesting actress.
Among Archie Panjabi’s many dramatic gifts is her ability to communicate unspoken worry. It can be a flash of her eyes, a tautening of her lower lip, an imperceptible adjustment of her posture. It is a gift that is particularly apposite for some of her roles, thus ensuring her thespian credentials survive a plethora of plot holes.
Congenital heart defects are problems that develop before birth. They can occur in the heart’s chambers, valves or blood vessels. A baby may be born with only one defect or with several defects. Of the dozens of heart defects, some are mild and may need little or no medical treatment even through adulthood. Other types of congenital heart defects are life-threatening, either immediately to the newborn or over time.
For the actress Sarah Parish and her husband James Murray, the ultimate nightmare would arrive with the birth of their daughter Ella Jayne in 2008. The new born would spend four months in the PICU unit at Southampton after she was born five weeks premature with a congenital heart defect and a hole in her heart. I can barely think about this scenario without breaking out in a cold sweat. If our sense of self preservation is innate, then the arrival of a child changes everything, bringing with it a new perspective on life, and one’s priorities.
Sadly, the child would die eight months later on January 3, 2009. Looking back on this period Parish says: “Having a baby is supposed to be the happiest, best time of your life but for me it was the worst. In a maternity hospital you see people coming in with balloons and cards while you are in the middle of a hideous nightmare.”
In the history of movies, Jesus Christ has led a somewhat chequered life. Whilst no other character has inspired as many celluloid portrayals, some of these incarnations have been execrable – ‘The Greatest Story ever told’ and ‘Ultrachrist’ spring readily to mind – whilst others, like ‘Nativity Story,’ have been simply mediocre. As for Mel Gibson’s much lauded 2004 production ‘The Passion of Christ,’ I had to ask myself whether I really needed to endure two hours of gratuitous violence to be reminded of man’s inhumanity to man.
For many religious devotees, Franco Zeffireli’s 1977 6 part television miniseries is still widely regarded as the definitive portrayal of Christ’s life. Incredibly, the man with the piercing blue eyes who would secure televisual immortality for his leading role, was originally considered for the part of Judas.
Instructed by his director to refrain from blinking – a considerable undertaking for many an individual – Robert Powell was able to convey both an air of messianic spirituality, and an uncanny physicality that closely mirrored our perception of the Son of God.
Jessica Raine’s role as a drunk, sex-crazed army wife is – to put it mildly – something of a shock to viewers who remember her as squeaky clean nurse Jenny Lee from “Call the Midwife.”
In “The Last Post,” she plays Alison Laithwaite who feels confined and frustrated by her life in 1965 Aden, the prosperous eye of Yemen. Ostensibly established to defend the Gulf oil-fields, the post ’56 Suez base in Aden was not the place to be in the swingin’ 60’s. Devoting most of its energies to protecting itself from unrest in the colony and tribal dissidence in the Protectorate – conditions inspired partly by the very existence of the base – army personnel and their wives lived life on the edge. By the end of 1967 it was all over. The British forces had suffered some 60 killed and 700 wounded in the hardest anti-terrorist campaigning possible, and another piece of the Empire was gone.
Dame Diana Rigg
In early 2013, Dame Diana Rigg came out in support of chivalry, declaring that women who objected to traditional courtesies such as men opening doors for them were “stupid”.
“If a man holds a door open for me, or pulls back a chair so that this old bag can sit down, I’m delighted,” she said. “If they put an arm around a woman and say, ‘You look good today’, they can find themselves in court. Women who carp about that are stupid. They find it belittling, but it’s just good manners.”
Naturally, this didn’t go down too well with everyone. The Guardian threw a minor fit, accusing Rigg of “laying into other women”. Columnist Suzanne Moore said the 74-year-old was a “Gosh, I’m so successful, I don’t need feminism” type. The BBC quoted a source that said that extending simple courtesies to women might indeed be “benevolent sexism” and “potentially harmful”.
Rigg has been sniffy about the Sisterhood for decades, declaring in the Sixties: “I find the whole feminist thing very boring. They are so much on the defensive that they dare not love a man because they feel assaulted by being dependent.”
Yes readers, it’s time to look at feminism, surely one of those taboo subjects like sex and politics that should be avoided at all costs. Unfortunately, I never read the rulebook.
There’s something rather refreshing about Danny Cohen, the BBC’s Director of Television. Going ‘back to the floor’ to reconnect with rank and file staff by working as a ‘runner’ on ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ – a frantic Saturday night live show at the best of times – is indicative of a man with a desire to keep in touch with all aspects of the corporation\‘s ‘hierarchical structure.’ Announcing in the fall of 2013 that he would send his fellow senior managers to take up in junior roles on other shows in order to gain direct experience of the production process, received a mixed response from the public. Another example of a top director hanging onto a fat cat salary perhaps, but criticism of his designer stubble as indicative of a man averse to the daily drudgery of shaving, is a step too far.
I’m prepared to ‘cut some slack’ for any senior director with an illustrious career to date, seemingly prepared to undertake the unglamourous role of ‘runner’, which in many cases amounts to that of a ‘general dogsbody.’ What I cannot forgive him for is the decision he took to cancel ‘Zen’, the British television series produced by Left Bank Pictures starring Rufus Sewell and Caterina Murino, and based on the Aurelio Zen detective novels by Michael Dibdin. Filmed on location in Italy, the series, which comprised three 90-minute films, was broadcast in the United Kingdom on Sunday evenings from 2 January 2011 and for me personally, was compulsive viewing. By compulsive, I define as any programme that holds my total concentration whereas by nature, television merely serves as a backdrop to my many other interests.
Justifying the decision he took, Cohen was right when he referred to an overabundance of male crime-fighters on TV, but omitted to state that ‘Zen’ ranked amongst the very best of the genre. For that reason alone, he should be docked two points.
Martin Shaw & Lee Ingleby
The character of Inspector George Gently, one of the unsung heroes of detective fiction, polices the North East of 60’s Britain in the long running BBC Tv series. Ably assisted and sometimes hampered by John Bacchus, his decidedly ambitious, hot headed, and undisciplined sidekick, the pair handle a weekly maelstrom of murders and mayhem, always prevailing despite the inherent class system and obstacles they encounter along the way.
In the modern era where we constantly read about stress-related illnesses in the Police force – a staggering 800 officers across England and Wales were were reportedly off work at the beginning of 2014 – it is worth reminding ourselves that in Gently’s day, there was one officer for every 640 people. The figure now stands at 375.
The series to date has spanned the period 1964-69 – Wilson’s ‘white heat’ technological revolution, the flower power generation, the Dagenham industrial revolution for women – with Gently, ever the stoic widower, operating ‘on the outside’, whilst Bacchus dabbles with marriage, fatherhood, the Masons, free love and rebellion.
Corruption within the force, the never ending stench of nicotine smoke, even gunshot wounds, cannot divert the pair from their primary objective as the tide of public opinion slowly turns against them.
“The show must go on,” they say.
It’s an honourable creed for the showbusiness fraternity, but occasionally, something has to give. In March 2016, Sheridan Smith pulled out of two performances of “Funny Girl” after her father was reportedly diagnosed with cancer.
London’s Menier Chocolate Factory said it would “take each day as it comes” and would “never ask nor expect an artist to perform in this situation.” However, the star tweeted that she was facing intense pressure to return to the boards as soon as possible, compelling theatre bosses to respond after the star had interacted with fans on social media, writing “You have no idea what I’m getting pressured into. They don’t give a f*** about my dad!”
After being criticised by fans left upset that she had dropped out of the first London performance, the actress revealed her father’s diagnosis on Twitter before promising to personally reimburse those affected.
A difficult call, and one can understand patrons’ disappointment. Perhaps more interesting was the speed with which the star deleted her disparaging tweet; yet another reminder of the dangers of social media where millions post comments before allowing their brain sufficient time to engage. In her case allowances could be made, as her feelings for her father were clearly genuine.
It could all have been so different. In the early 60’s, Nichele Nichols toured the United States, Canada and Europe as a singer with the Duke Ellington and Lionel Hampton bands, proving beyond doubt, her first rate jazz credentials.
However, a romantic involvement with producer Gene Roddenbury would lead to her most famous role as communications officer Lieutenant Uhura aboard the USS Enterprise in the popular ‘Star Trek’ television series (1966-1969), as well as the succeeding motion pictures, where her character was eventually promoted in Starfleet to the rank of commander.
Nicholls’ ‘Star Trek’ character, one of the first African American female characters on American television not portrayed as a servant, was groundbreaking in U.S society at the time. When Nichols was considering leaving the series, no less a political luminary than the Civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. would both personally praise her work on the show and ask her to remain on-board.
Leonard Nimoy’s 1975 autobiography was called ‘I am not Spock’. The book title, which the actor later admitted was “a big mistake”, had offended millions of fans of ‘Star Trek’ the long syndicated science fiction television series. So readily identifiable with his role as the Vulcan, long term fanatics had assumed that it was an attack on the character. and Star Trek in general, and did not read the book to find out what was really meant. These devotees of the series are classified in two ways.
Trekkies are fans who devote their entire interest time to Star Trek, whilst Trekkers are very keen fans who manages to balance other interests in their life as well.
I am neither a Trekkie nor a Trekker, but the recent films, and in particular, the revival of the original characters played by a younger generation of actors, has without doubt been an unqualified success. I’ve made that cinematic trip on two occasions in recent years, to revel in Kirk and Co’s embryonic days, and the experience has undoubtedly been more than mere nostalgia.
As for Spock and Uhura – well who would have thought?
William Shatner readily admits that his personal life suffered due to the sacrifices he made whilst working on the daily grind of various network TV shows. Referring specifically to ‘Star Trek,’ which ran on NBC for three seasons, from 1966-69:
“I was gone a great deal of the time. … I did what I could. I needed to be on the set,” he recalls. You’ve heard actors over the years talk about the number of hours they have to put in on the series and how exhausting it is, and how tired they are on the weekends, with lines to learn, and publicity to do, and finally you find that your whole year is used up. What have you done? Well, you’ve fulfilled yourself, both career-wise and emotionally, and certainly you’ve made a living, so you’re able to provide for your family. All of those things are asked of everybody’s life.”
It’s been a near perfect career so far – a decade of growing acclaim in the theatre, a seamless transfer to quality TV drama in 1996 with “Our Friends in the North,” alongside Christopher Ecclestone, Gina McKee and Daniel Craig – who remains a close friend. Then the big move into films, working on interesting projects with great people, achieving critical acclaim without the level of fame that Craig has now acquired, and which makes everyday life difficult.
Little wonder therefore, that Mark Strong is a professionally contented man. A compelling actor, he’s blessed with a great face, a set of features capable of conveying the widest range of emotions from acute sensitivity to the rumbling undercurrents of sadistic violence. I’d like to think I’ve conveyed these attributes in my portrait of him………………….
John Thaw, a heavy smoker since the age of 12, was diagnosed with cancer of the oesophagus in June 2001 and died seven weeks after his 60th birthday on February 21, 2002.
He had, reportedly, never admitted he was dying. Four days before his death, according to his widow’s autobiography, he had spent the morning choosing the colours and extras for his new Jaguar car, and discussing whether he should sign up for another year with Carlton. Later on, following a meeting with a palliative care specialist who was utterly honest with him, he turned to his wife Sheila Hancock and said: ‘Well, that all sounded very positive, didn’t it, kid?’
Esophageal cancer is a particularly cruel form of the disease. The available treatments are especially painful, and the prognosis is often very poor – a maximum life expectancy of only five years amongst the very fittest. Thaw knew the score – what he may well have underestimated was the profound love and affection in which he was held by his family, friends, colleagues and the viewing public at large.
Back on the BBC for a second series, Eleanor Tomlinson -aka Demelza -has been rather forthright recently in interviews to promote “Poldark.”
“Aidan’s a beautiful man – absolutely gorgeous – but I think he would like to be recognised for his performance.
And I would like to stop being asked about his chest.”
The first series pulled in viewing figures of over 8 million each week. It’s therefore safe to say that she’ll keep dying her blonde hair red for a while longer, whatever the artistic frustrations involved.
As for the female audience – here’s to more scything scenes.
Aidan Turner, who plays the eponymous Captain Ross ‘Poldark’ in the BBC period drama, is apparently very flattered to have garnered a legion of diehard fans.
According to the star, baby oil, eyeliner, and hours at the gym have apparently contributed to the creation of television’s newest sex symbol, although the 31-year-old Irishman has insisted that frequent scenes featuring his half-naked body were “certainly not gratuitous.” Interviewed at the time the series premiered, the actor was candid enough to admit that “I just didn’t see Poldark having a beer belly or being out of shape, given his lifestyle.”
Apparently, he wants to get fat, and grow a beard for his next role. Yeah, right!
One of the inevitable consequences of getting old – apart from the dreaded SAGA mailings – is sitting in coffee houses with a complimentary newspaper, scanning the obituary column and discovering that another familiar face from one’s childhood has passed away. “Brace yourself,” my wife is always quick to forewarn me, “You’re bound to come across someone you remember.”
And so it came to pass in December 2015 that I read about Anthony Valentine, a man whose thespian leanings emerged at the age of ten, before going on to enjoy a 50-year career on stage and screen that included credits as an actor, director and writer. Valentine worked consistently throughout the decades on TV dramas such as Coronation Street, Minder, Lovejoy and The Knockwould but is best remembered for his roles as Major Mohn in ‘Colditz,’ the ruthless killer Toby Meres in in ‘Callan,’ and the gentleman jewel thief in ‘Raffles.’
Benedict Cumberbatch is not the only one in his family with an avid fan base. The “Sherlock” and “Hobbit” star recently admitted to The Daily Mirror that strangers sometimes come up to him to shower praise on…his mom.
Mother just so happens to be the British actress Wanda Ventham, who became something of a sex symbol in her home country in the ’70s after playing Colonel Virginia Lake in the sci-fi series “UFO” from 1970 to 1973. She met actor Timothy Carlton (Cumberbatch) around this time -they worked together on the series “A Family at War” – and they wed in 1976. She gave birth to her now-famous son that same year.
“I’ve been trapped with men in elevators who say to me, ‘Oh… I really used to like your mum. She’s really hot,’” Cumberbatch told the Daily Mirror. “I don’t know what to say. If I say, ‘No, she’s not’, that is really insulting to my mother, and if I say she is, it seems very wrong. She is smokin’, I guess.”
When Dame Eileen Atkins admitted in 2014 that theatrical work had personally brought in the princely sum of £13,000 in annual earnings, it was a stark reminder of how many thespians actually subsidise the art of ‘live performance.’ Advertisement voice-overs and of course, movies, make the financial difference. In view of this fact, when a play is castigated by the critics, it must make many amongst the cast question the wisdom behind it all.
Marc Warren knows this feeling. His West End performance in “Cool Hand Luke” in 2011 received a lukewarm response from critics whilst the play itself was slated. The tale of a defiant prisoner on a Florida chain-gang drew heavily upon its source material – the 1965 novel – yet the whole production paled in comparison to the 1966 movie starring Paul Newman. Warren himself, handled his banjo and harmonica duties competently, whilst drawing effusive praise for the infamous scene where he downs fifty boiled eggs with both panache and more than a little sleight of hand.
A former member of the National Youth Theatre, Marc Warren has tasted enough success in his career to date, to slough off the occasional setback. In his role as Danny Blue in the long running BBC Tv series “Hustle”, he was the sometimes careless yet brilliant con artist with a great “grift sense.” Destined to become the best con artist in the world — something his character is all too ready to believe, his ego being the greatest weakness he has yet to overcome – Warren was the lynchpin, and the series was all the weaker for his absence throughout the last three seasons.
Full marks to the BBC drama department for yanking us out of our comfort zone, the predictability of a yet another “mid-life crisis romp” suddenly blown apart by the sheer unexpected horror of a brutal rape scene. Millions of viewers unfamiliar with the novel “Apple Tree Yard” would have been jolted from their Sunday night lethargy in the most visually discomforting manner possible. Thereafter of course, it was all rather predictable fare, and most unworthy of any repeat viewing. I’m only surprised there’s been no PR backlash from the Secret Escapes British travel company. The actress Emily Watson’s character Yvonne Carmichael, a goody-two-shoes scientist who embarks on an affair with a mysterious stranger she meets in the Houses of Parliament, seemed content with back street sex. No wining and dining in country hotels. Dear me, just think of those falling profit margins.
“Batman,” the wonderfully camp action series from the 60’s, finally received the remastered treatment from Warner Home Video in 2014. Released in high definition, the standard DVD and blue ray box set editions boast over three hours of new featurettes, and an episode guide detailing the plots and guest stars. The extras add an anecdotal flavour to the proceedings in addition to a sense of fun, yet the biggest thrill in either version are the beautiful new transfers.
Now available with added sheen and sparkle, the skies over Gotham City might become even brighter once again in 2016, with Adam West and Burt Ward promising a return to their career-high roles of Batman and Robin, as part of an upcoming animated project.
“Holy encore Batman!”
Yes indeed Boy Wonder, and all in good time for your 50th televisual anniversary.
Like millions of men, I loved Joanne Whalley as nurse Mills in the BBC adaptation of Dennis Potter’s “The Singing Detective” (1986). There she was each week as the ultimate little sweetie, firing our fantasies as she patrolled the hospital wards whilst simultaneously strutting her stuff as a nightclub vamp in the character Marlowe’s wildest hallucinations. It was the culmination of a concerted period of small screen success, and by the end of the decade, the arresting dark-haired stunner was knocking on Hollywood’s front door.
What followed would be all rather underwhelming, yet the unconventional dreamboat would continue turning in first rate characterisations on screen. Professionally, all that would elude her were $5m pay days and tinseltown typecasting. No doubt, she’s enjoyed a more interesting career for it.
It’s a fine line to tread being a public personality who is irreverent, iconoclastic even, without being hurtful or offensive. One could therefore only applaud Terry Wogan, who would fulfill that role on Britain’s radio and television for nearly half a century after he came over from RTE Ireland in the late 1960s to join the BBC. Presenting ‘Late Night Extra’ and then ‘The Terry Wogan Show’ on BBC Radio 1, he was essentially someone my parents listened to. Being a devotee of Johnny Walker’s informative style and Kenny Everett’s innate zaniness, to my teenage mind Wogan belonged to another generation but over the years his self effacing geniality won me over. My portrait dates from 1972 after his move to Radio 2 and his early morning exhortations to housewives everywhere to “fight the flab. For his male listeners, there was “Wogan’s Winner,” his daily racing tip therefore ensuring no-one felt left out.
For more than fifty years, his career never faltered culminating in a knighthood for services to broadcasting and children in need. If it all looked effortless, then it’s because he made it look that way. Whether debunking ‘The Eurovision Song Contest’ or discussing the inanities of life, he brought a sense of togetherness for all his beloved TOGs (Terry’s Old Geezers) and for millions of workers, the drudgery of early morning rises will never be the same again.
He was worth a reported £20 million at the time of his death but the Inland Revenue never saw a penny of it, having long since gifted assets into various trust arrangements. Clearly, his early career in banking had stood him in good stead.
A comedian who found fame for her portrayal of ‘everyday’ women, Victoria Wood was undoubtedly a national treasure. Her beloved status was built on a form of ‘every-woman’ observational comedy, delivered in a dry, droll Lancastrian accent and fizzing with wit.
Her premature passing, at the age of sixty two, robbed her native Britain of arguably its most successful female stand-up ever. At the height of its popularity, ‘Dinnerladies’, a sitcom created, written and co-produced by Wood and set entirely in a factory canteen in Manchester, was one of the most watched TV shows in the UK, drawing a peak of more than 15 million viewers during its two series run between 1998 and 2000.