||ALBERT AND VICTORIA
Sitcom about a Victorian family.
12 episodes of 30 minute duration. Yorkshire Television 1970-71.
Alfred Marks starring comedy vehicle produced by Yorkshire Television and set, as the title suggests, in the late 19th century when Queen Victoria and her consort Prince Albert were the figureheads on the British throne. It was a period when middle class values were of the utmost importance, where men were men, women knew their place and children were seen but not heard.
Albert Hackett was the ultra-conservative head of his household ruling over his family with an affectionate yet iron fist that upheld strict moral values. The works of Oscar Wilde and Aubrey Beardsley were strictly forbidden in the Hackett home which was comprised of Albert, his wife Victoria, their children and servants. It was a standard domestic sitcom with the flavour of Upstairs Downstairs thrown in and drew a contrast to the less austere age of the swinging 1960s which had just come to an end and the more liberated 1970s which lay ahead.
Zena Walker starred as Victoria in the first series but proved to be unavailable for series two the following year and she was replaced by Barbara Murray (familiar to viewers of the 1965-69 ITV drama The Power Game). But after filming just two episodes Murray suffered a miscarriage and had to withdraw from the series to be replaced by a third Victoria; Frances Bennett (who had appeared in the 1962-65 BBC series Compact as Gussie).
Alfred Marks had become a popular face on British television since the 1950s as the large balding star with the distinguished moustache and deep baritone voice first roared onto the nations screens as the purple faced ex-regimental Sergeant Major Ronald "Tibby" Brittain in Alfred Marks Time. Born in Holborn, London in 1921 his parents, Max Marks and Gabrielle Solomon, were Russian refugees who came to settle in the East End. As a boy young Mark's won favour with his school friends by impersonating their teachers and frequently gave one-boy shows on the landing of the tenement building where he lived. At the age of nine he made his first stage appearance as an amateur in a concert party put on by his local chapter of the Boys Brigade. Although bitten by the stage bug very early, it would be some 20 years before he eventually turned pro. Meanwhile he found work as an engineer's assistant and then as an auctioneer in Petticoat Lane.
When the Second World War broke out he volunteered for the Royal Air Force although in five years he never once went up in an plane. After demob he found work at the famous Windmill Theatre in Piccadilly, but unlike many of his contemporaries his work was behind the curtains as a scene-shifter, not on stage as a comedian. However, by studying the succession of young comics who both 'succeeded' and 'died' at the Windmill, Marks was able to cobble together an act which he used as his professional debut at the Empire Theatre, Kilburn in 1946. That same year he made his debut on BBC radio as one of the newcomers in a discovery series called Beginners Please.
At the time Miss Paddie O'Neil, five years Alfred's junior, was the compere of 'Navy Mixture', the radio series for men and women in the Royal Navy. The two met when they were booked together to appear in a summer show called Montmartre played at Brighton and in September 1952, fell in love and soon married. They co-starred as a team in their own television series Don't Look Now (1950), supported by a young Ian Carmichael and later Marks became one of the comedy panel of 'My Wildest Dream' (1956), sitting beside Tommy Trinder and Terry-Thomas. In 1955 with television becoming the fast growing entertainment medium Marks was approached by impresario Jack Hylton who wanted to build a series around him.
Alfred Marks Time, with its bellowed intro, began on 16th February 1956 being broadcast every four weeks, and presented a parade of surprise guest stars, all of whom appeared unbilled. These included Peter Sellers, Hughie Green and Kenneth Connor as well as an appearance by Paddie O'Neil. Marks had first met Sellers on the set of a 1951 film, 'Penny Points to Paradise', in which he topped an almost all-Goon cast of Harry Secombe, Sellers and Spike Milligan. The film has never seen on television, is considered lost, although Marks is supposed to have bought the last remaining print in order to suppress it!
Character roles in television drama included appearances in the series 'Lovejoy', 'The Children's Ward', 'Minder', 'The Sweeney', 'The Persuaders' and the comedy tell-a-joke show 'Jokers Wild.' He also appeared on the children's storytelling series Jackanory 5 times. He was appointed OBE in 1976, which delighted his parents and reminded Marks of the true advice once given to him by Bud Flanagan: "Remember, Alfie, an East End boy has to try twice as hard." Alfred Marks passed away on 1st July, 1996.
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