10-year-old Mickey Braddock played young Corky who is adopted by Uncle Joey the Clown after his parents "The Flying Falcons" are killed in a tragic high-wire accident. Corky quickly finds a role for himself at the Burke and Walsh Circus as water boy to Bimbo, a baby elephant that Corky soon comes to consider as his pet. Corky has a colourful life moving from town to town helping the circus owner Big Tim Champion and the rest of his new travelling family which include Hank Miller, Little Tom, Swifty, Barker and Big Boy. Mickey Braddock was born George Michael Dolenz Jr. but changed his name just before taking the role of Corky to avoid being confused with his actor father, George Dolenz, who was one of the first stars of British Independent Television in ITC's The Count of Monte Cristo, which was showing at the same time. The producers paid Mickey $300.00 per show which was small fry compared to the $30,000 - $42,000 each episode was budgeted, although because he was under age he had to be accompanied by his mother, actress Janelle Dolenz. The series was filmed at Corriganville Ranch in South Carolina after the producers purchased a bankrupt circus for $55,000. Their purchase included all the props they'd ever need including wagons, tents and cages. In addition, they bought a Baby Elephant named Tusko for the starring role of Bimbo.
The series left prime time after two seasons but continued in reruns on Saturday mornings until September 1960. The two main sponsors of the programme were Kellogg and Mars. This led to a few problems in itself as in one episode the cast were seen tucking in to a hearty breakfast of sausage and eggs-Kellogg insisted it be dropped from the reruns and similarly Mars objected to a scene where Mickey was seen eating a cake for a snack. The series was produced by Herbert B. Leonard who also produced the television series Rin Tin Tin (also filmed at Corriganville). He later went on to produce Naked City and Route 66. Noah Beery Jr. who played Uncle Joey the Clown found further fame years later in another TV series as James Garner's father in The Rockford Files. Mickey Braddock later reverted back to his family name and as Mickey Dolenz became internationally known as a lead singer and member of the made-for-TV 1960s group 'The Monkees', who went on to great chart topping success. Later still, he became a successful television producer.
The Cisco Kid has the distinction of being the first television series to be filmed in colour, although few viewers were able to enjoy it in this format until the 1960s. The series starred Duncan Renaldo as Cisco, Leo Carillo as Pancho, and Diablo as the Kid's horse. Cisco was created by US short story writer O. Henry in 1907 as a particularly vicious outlaw and it was only when the character was adapted for radio in 1942 that he was depicted as a Robin Hood figure who assisted the downtrodden against corrupt officialdom. From then on television and films have presented the Kid as a heroic Mexican caballero. The TV series began production in 1949, and was filmed by ZIV Productions at the Ray Corrigan Ranch in Simi Valley in Ventura County, California. Renaldo, a native of Spain, and Carrillo, a native of Los Angeles, were the first regular Hispanic television stars, beating Desi Arnaz of I Love Lucy fame by almost a year. When the series began, Renaldo was already 46 years of age but he still had the edge on his sidekick who was 70. The Cisco Kid was nominated in 1953 for an Emmy Award for children's programming. By 1955 it was the most popular filmed television series among American children. Because the 156 episodes were filmed in colour, the series was in demand until the 1970s.
When Tony Hancock decided to do away with the services of Sid James the BBC offered the actor a series of his own, written by Hancock's scriptwriters, Galton and Simpson. Within a few years, Hancock, his career in steady decline, took his own life -whilst Sid, the master of the dirty laugh, became the star of no less than 19 Carry On films and in the process walked into the hearts of an adoring British public. The character of Sidney Balmoral James in Citizen James was set in the same mould as the growling, fast-talking, quick thinking Cockney gambler of the Hancock series, aided on this occasion by his girlfriend, Liz (Liz Fraser) and sidekick, Bill (Bill Kerr -another former Hancock regular). Although the character had somewhat dubious morals, as the series progressed he became less of a layabout and more of a champion for the underdog, until finally, by the third and final series (scripted by Dick Hills and Sid Green) Sid had a fully developed social conscience with which he championed many a good cause. With this change of character Sydney Tafler as Sid's new assistant, Charlie Davenport, replaced both Kerr and Fraser.
John Sullivan's television scriptwriting debut concerned the exploits of would-be Marxist, Wolfie Smith, and the activities of his four-man revolutionary party, the Tooting Popular Front. Robert Lindsay was cast as the Afghan-coat wearing Che Guevara of London, SW17, after coming to the attention of Sullivan in the National Service sitcom, Get Some In (1975-78), in which he played cockney wide-boy, Jakey Smith. Wolfie was based in part on the Jakey character (even to the extent of having the same surname) and partly on a loud-mouthed drunk that the writer had encountered in a London pub (The Nelson Arms), many years before. Making up Wolfie's band of merry revolutionaries was his Buddhist sidekick, the weedy vegetarian pacifist, Ken, the nervous father of nine, Tucker, and the team's hard man, Speed. Although totally committed to his cause, Wolfie was bogged down by the everyday tedium's of life; lack of money, his own reluctance to work, the misfortunes of his favourite football team (Fulham), a girlfriend Shirley (played by Lindsay's then real-life wife, Cheryl Hall), and her conservative parents Mr and Mrs Johnson (the latter of whom constantly referred to him as Foxie), who eventually became his landlords. The urban guerrilla and his less-than-committed comrades also had to contend with local Mr Big, Harry Fleming, who was the owner of Wolfie's favourite watering hole, The Vigilante. Welsh gangster Ronnie Lynch, one of several changes that the cast went through during the series run, replaced Fenning in the last series. Peter Vaughan vacated his role of Charlie Johnson to be replaced by Tony Steadman (a third actor, Artro Morris had played the character in the pilot) and Cheryl Hall's character did not appear at all in the fourth series. But by that time it had become abundantly clear to Wolfie that his ideals of world liberation would never come to fruition, and his dream of lining his enemies up against a wall for "one last fag, then bop, bop, bop" would never be realised.
Imagine a modern city, scientifically equipped and operated, built on an extinct volcano-500ft. beneath the Pacific Ocean...Imagine underwater rocket sites with launching pads aimed at the world's capital cities...These are the exciting background to ABC's new children's serial City Beneath the Sea, which will take the stars of the Pathfinder series, Gerald Flood and Stewart Guidotti, on new adventures. But instead of setting off for outer space they will embark on an exciting voyage in the atomic submarine Cyana and arrive eventually at Aegiria, a submarine city named after the sea - god Aegir. As science reporter Mark Bannerman and his assistant Peter Blake, Gerald and Stewart visit Cyana to see the tests of revolutionary new underwater electronic equipment. Cyana is dramatically captured by a pirate submarine and taken to Aegiria, the "brainchild" of Professor Ziebrecken (Aubrey Morris), a scientist with dreams of conquering the Earth through the control of "Inner Space." The dark, silent, chilly world 500ft. below - which oceanographers are still trying to discover today - is the scene of Surrey writer John Lucarotti's story. And since the sea is virtually unknown, he has free scope to let his imagination wander. But the fantasy of the City Beneath the Sea doesn't stray too far from fact. Lucarotti's method is to take a known scientific fact and enlarge on it. Adapted from original TV Times article November 1962 by Pat Dasey
Another successful childrens series from the writing/production team of Oliver Postgate and Peter Firmin, The Clangers were a clan of pink, woolly, mouse-like aliens who lived on a small blue moon. They wore suits of body armour to protect themselves from frequent meteor showers and took their name from the sound made when they battened down their dustbin-lid hatches. The Clangers -Major, Mother, Grandmother, Small and Tiny- communicated with eachother with musical whistles and ate Blue String Pudding. Other inhabitants of the their asteroid were the Soup Dragon and the Froglets, and they also enjoyed visits from the Iron Chicken that lived in a nest in space. Although only made as a five minute filler, the Clangers became a firm children's favourite and expressed a clear anti-materialistic theme. In one episode "Treasure", a supply of gold coins landed on the blue moon causing the Clanger family to become avaricious and mutually resentful, each building their own secret hoard. Only when Tiny discovered that the coins were made of chocolate did the Clangers return to their harmonious existence.
Unknown to millions of his adoring fans, Ronnie Barker had made the decision to retire some time in 1985. But before that he was contracted to a series of The Two Ronnies to be filmed in, and for, Australia. During the four months he stayed there, Ronnie B wrote his next, and final sitcom: Clarence. The idea was not original. Ronnie had often returned to characters that he'd played in previous comedy series as one-offs. In this particular case the original had appeared in 1971's Six Dates With Barker. The story, written by Hugh Leonard, was called The Removals Person. Set in 1937 the story centred round a myopic removal man called Fred and his gentle courtship of a ladies maid called Travers, played by Josephine Tewson. For the full series, made over a decade later, Barker renamed the shortsighted Fred but retained all his original mannerisms and characteristics. Tewson returned as Jane Travers. The first episode was a virtual remake of the 1971 episode. Fred/Clarence turns up on Coronation Day, 1937, at the London home of a family preparing to move to Rangoon. It's his job to pack up the furniture and make sure it gets to Southampton in one piece. But it soon becomes apparent to Travers that without her help the short-sighted removal person is unlikely to leave the family with a single piece of furniture intact. As she helps him pack up the two begin to develop a relationship, and by the end of the original episode Fred proposes marriage. In the series the romance begins to develop a little slower, and when Travers inherits a run down cottage, Clarence moves his business (Get A Move On) and the two of them move on from London to the gentle countryside of Oxfordshire. Clarence wants to make an honest woman of her, but Travers thinks it'd be a good idea if they live together first and find out if they are compatible. The rest of the series concerns Clarence's attempts to bed Travers and adjust to country life.
The location for the series was deliberately chosen by Barker so he could be near his home, a mill house that he had purchased in 1981, as he later explained: "I was coming back to my roots. Absolutely. So when I was writing Clarence, I thought, "I'll write it round the corner." I also wanted to write a country thing and the fact that this cockney man didn't know anything about the country. I enjoyed that sort of peasant thing. And he was very naive. I'd enjoyed it when I'd done the original and thought this character had potential." He may have had potential but it was quite clear that it would all have to be realised within that single series, because for Barker there was no going back. "The reason I retired was that the material was getting less good. It wasn't even a block. I'd run out of ideas and I'd done everything I wanted to do. I had no ambition left." Without being a barrelful of belly laughs, Clarence stands as a gentle comedy about two gentle folk. In his career, Ronnie Barker had certainly done better, and many fans were somewhat disappointed with Clarence. But if the series suffers from anything, it's being compared to an amazing back-catalogue of shows that had established Ronnie Barker as one of the greatest sitcom character actors that Britain ever produced.
The aristocratic Kate Swift has been left in trouble and in debt by her wide-boy husband, Duncan; having vanished while under investigation for fraud, he has also left Kate to carry the can. When journalist and key witness Jack Booker implicates her in the crime, Kate is imprisoned for six months. On her release, she is broke, angry, and determined to find her husband. Ready for anything, she forms an unlikely alliance with Booker, an alcoholic, card-carrying coward, and former inmate Gloria O'Grady, a young Australian woman with a special talent for burglary. Wit, instinct, theft and sex become the dubious tools of their trade, as they try to stay out of the red...and out of jail. Joanna Lumley stars as Kate in this pacy, racy comedy drama penned by BAFTA winner Michael Aitkins and produced by Verity Lambert; Ian McNeice, Dennis Waterman, Elizabeth Spriggs, Keith Allen and Celia Imrie are among a host of guest stars. Attracting over ten million viewers at its peak, the series got its first DVD release in August 2010. (Network DVD)
With a long tradition of classic historical dramas to its credit, the BBC must have had high hopes when, in 1982, it commissioned Philip Mackie (the man behind ITV's The Caesars, 1968) to tackle it's third ancient-historical drama series. But following in the footsteps of the sublime I, Claudius (-via the much derided The Borgias), the corporation finally arrived at the ridiculous (according to most TV critics and viewers) with The Cleopatras. It wasn't so much a case of television heaven as near television hell. Those that know their history will be aware that there was more than one Cleopatra, and they were not Egyptian at all-but Greek. As writer Philip Mackie told readers of the Radio Times in the week that the series started on BBC2, "Just before he died, Alexander the Great carved up his empire. His chief staff officer, Ptolemy, said -casually, by my interpretation-'I'll take Egypt.' It turned out to be the richest of the Greek colonies but nobody else wanted Egypt at that time. It was too far from home." The new ruler promptly assumed the divinity of the Pharaoh's for himself, thereafter regarding his blood and that of his successors as the pure water of the Nile. In order to keep it pure-the monarchs of the Ptolemaic dynasty tended to marry the nearest relatives they could find, including their siblings and their own children, legitimate or otherwise. "They murdered each other frequently, too," explained Mackie, "which reduced their supply."
As the years rolled by and they continued to bump each other off, the women began to emerge as the dominant of the species. "They were much tougher than their uncles and brothers and fathers," continued Mackie. The last six queens, around whom the serial was built, were all called Cleopatra and were the toughest of the lot. Before Egypt succumbed to the spreading Roman Empire, the final Cleopatra manifested the deadly strengths of each of her predecessors, plus a few subtle variations of her own. This is the Cleopatra who has intrigued writers from William Shakespeare to George Bernard Shaw and who has attracted like a magnet the leading actresses of every generation, before Elizabeth Taylor and since. "The previous Cleopatra's were content to rule over Egypt, but the last one aspired to be Queen of the World." The Cleopatras appeared to have all the elements going for it that made I, Claudius so successful. And in Philip Mackie, a man who had already won numerous TV awards, not least for his adaptation of The Naked Civil Servant and for series such as The Organisation, they had an established writer of repute, who knew his way round a TV script with his eyes closed. Some less than charitable critics went as far as suggesting that had he adopted this method, he may well have produced better scripts. So where did it all go wrong? Before setting out to write the TV series, Mackie spent four months on research, much of the time immersed in Bouche-Le-Clercq's classic 'Histoire des Lagides.' What grew out of all this was a serial he and producer Guy Slater, referred to as 'horror-comic' in style. This was partly because the casual horror of life under the Cleopatra's seemed to them to demand a deadpan, matter-of-fact approach: anything else, they felt, risked trivialising the events or taking the people too seriously. "The serial isn't exactly tongue-in-cheek." said Mackie. "Wry, perhaps. I've tried to make it accessible without turning it into Coronation Street. All dreadful events have a comic side, but there is no revelling in the grotesque. It's not in me to be flippant. I believe murder is a very serious business, especially for the people who get murdered."
But The Cleopatras, as director of all eight episodes John Frankau pointed out, was a far cry from the costume drams that audiences at that time were used to, and the challenge was to find an overall tone and technique to match the style of writing. In the end, what he and designer Michael Young went for was what was described as a 'moving tapestry', consisting of painted interlocking pillars 20 feet high, flights of stairs and a variety of curtains to divide the space into rooms. Sets appeared to float as if, in Young's words, "painted in a void" and he did not feel the need to create a 'real' horizon beyond or a 'convincing' sky above. Authenticity was sought however, in the actors, and this involved sacrifices described as way beyond the call of duty. Those playing nobles had their heads shaved, including some of the female characters. Also, true to the custom of the time-the Egyptian palace's retinue of handmaidens were bare-hested. The Cleopatras also consumed more gallons of body make-up than the average drama serial. People at the court were painted different colours according to status, and many of them had decorative stencils made round their collarbones and on the backs of their feet. But the Egyptians did not have any body hair, and actors playing servants had to remove all theirs.
At the centre of all this was 31-year old actress Michelle Newland who played the final Cleopatra to whom the story is told in flash-back. Newland also played the last Cleopatra's great-grandmother. Six other actresses played Cleo's but only one, Amanda Boxer went so far to shave her head. Richard Griffiths played the aptly named 'Pot Belly' among whose catalogue of misdeeds were the murder of his sister's son, marriage to that sister and the subsequent dismemberment of the son they had together. Allegedly, Roy Kinnear was originally approached to play that particular role but declined the opportunity. The actors were called upon to give larger than life performances, in keeping with the outrageousness which Slater, Mackie and Frankau were determined to capture. "The Cleopatras," remarked Guy Slater, "didn't take itself seriously. It was a hard-hitting, unsentimental look at a tribe of fairly repellent people. We took dramatic licence to give the necessary verve and gusto. We didn't want the series to have a quiet domestic naturalism to it. No dead hand of realism with palm trees or shots of the Nile. Historically accurate but not reverential." It was a brave approach to take, but it seems as though a misguided one. The series was heavily criticised and much derided at the time and may well have put the final nail in an otherwise golden era of historical BBC costume dramas. But without the benefit of a re-showing and no release as yet on video or DVD, it is hard to evaluate the series by today's standards, and it may well be that the production would find a more appreciative audience today. As such, one wonders if a modern audience would ultimately see The Cleopatras as an historical, or hysterical drama.
Patrick Dromgoole and HTV provided the ITV network with a portfolio of great children's drama from the mid-1970s through to the early 1980s. The Clifton House Mystery, a six part haunted house thriller, made in 1978, followed hot on the heels of an incredibly creative period of work, including Sky (1975), Children Of The Stones (1977) and King Of The Castle (1977). In comparison with the Bob Baker and Dave Martin penned Sky and King Of The Castle, this series, written by well known broadcaster Daniel Farson and Harry Moore, firmly re-establishes the tradition of children's drama set within the confines of a middle-class family whereas the latter two serials had conspicuously used working class male leads. There is therefore a cosiness in the serial that is absent from the Baker/Martin works and consequently it lacks the contemporary edginess and surreal qualities that made both Sky and King Of The Castle so memorable. Even though it doesn't have their boldness, The Clifton House Mystery is a lovely example of children's fantasy drama that was written and produced with commitment and attention. With its tense atmosphere and slightly sensationalist horror, it was miles away from the soapier antics of Grange Hill on the other side. Whilst the serial may seem like a contemporary re-reading of Tom's Midnight Garden and its ilk, it does contain some fairly startling material even for 1978. There is a palpable sense here, possibly something that seasoned director Hugh David brings to the material, of a ghost story being used as a subtext to explore the way children deal with their adolescence as well as a discussion about imagination, intuition and creativity being a polar opposite to rationality and scepticism. Is it also too much of a stretch to see the historical background to the series, the Bristol riots that broke out after the voting Reform Bill failed in the House Of Lords in 1832 and the subsequent refusal of dragoon commander Thomas Brereton to fire on the rioters, both an expression of the adult world the children must eventually navigate as well as a comment on the equally growing discontent with Callaghan's 'Crisis? What crisis?' Labour government of 1978? This reference to real history, the burdens of the past and the present, is one of the strengths of the serial, adding weight to the story, even if it is crammed rather awkwardly into a scene with a librarian, Miss Protheroe, in Episode Five.
The story concerns a concert pianist Timothy Clare (Sebastian Breaks), his wife Sheila (Ingrid Hafner) and daughter Jenny (Amanda Kirby) and two sons Steven (Joshua Le Touzel) and Ben (Robert Morgan) - moving into an old house in the Clifton area of Bristol they have just purchased from the elderly Mrs Betterton; the house having been in her family for generations. Timothy buys a picture of a dragoon on horseback and Steven a tarnished dragoon helmet from a sale of the house's contents. Mrs Betterton's grand-daughter Emily gives Jenny a music box. While exploring the garden, Timothy's two sons notice that the house has an extra window, and deduce that a hidden room may exist. After breaking through an upstairs wall and discovering an ancient dusty bedroom, a long-dead skeleton is found in the four-poster bed. Strange events start to occur, the music box summons the ghost of an old lady; a ghostly face appears under the helmet; Timothy is forced to play the tune of the music box on the piano. The music box, the helmet (and later a sword) all seem to be emblems that symbolise the bridge between the past and the present and between childhood and adulthood. After a disastrous dinner party in which their guests are subjected to blood dripping from the ceiling and various poltergeist activities, the two boys consult a ghost-hunter, Milton Guest (Peter Sallis). Guest is perhaps the living embodiment of the capacity to retain the child's ability to leap beyond logic, to accept that the world isn't built entirely on the rational and the concrete. The gothic impulse of the serial, symbolised by the cobwebbed covered secret room and its dead occupant, allows a safely controlled exploration of teenage sexuality, their own religious or metaphysical doubts that can be traced back in children's literature as far back as the 18th Century. The ghosts, the ghost-hunting and the historical background in the story act as a conduit for the viewing children to realise their own intellectual and emotional development and a sense of their own social responsibility. The history and the antique objects are there to remind them that their own progress is set against other, more morally discriminating eras of history. There's even an attempt at verisimilitude similar to Stephen Volk's Ghostwatch when in the final episode father and son are interviewed by HTV reporter Richard Wyatt (as himself) and the broadcast is interrupted by their ghostly neighbours.
The young actors don't embarrass themselves and play their roles rather well, coming across believably and naturally. It's the adults that can't decide whether to ham it up or not and Sebastian Breaks lacks a bit of personality as Timothy, their father. Ingrid Hafner stays just the right side of hysteria but, similarly to Breaks, she often gives some rather wooden line readings. But these are very minor quibbles and with the arrival of Peter Sallis, enjoying himself thoroughly and imbuing the character of the ghost hunter Milton Guest with an endearing eccentricity, the final episodes really hit their stride. The serial shows an exorcism as the most natural thing in the world despite these scenes being a very rare occurrence in children's TV. The sequence where Guest orders the restless spirits to depart is certainly a highlight, possibly even as good as anything more adult genre dramas attempted, matching perhaps the unease of Sapphire And Steel's first serial featuring many similar themes. It economically but effectively uses the sounds of gunfire, charging horses and screaming crowds with some basic video effects to create immense tension in the scene. It's handsomely produced on a low budget and well directed, maintains the high standard set by HTV and Dromgoole's team for studio bound children's drama, whilst offering us a slightly cosier treatment of the uncanny that, even so, is not without its chilling moments. Review Frank Collins
Imagine the horror of reaching middle age, losing your looks, your husband, your lover, only to be confronted with a terrifying, incomprehensible truth - your youthful self, three times over, is living and loving somewhere else in the country. Joanna May, a wealthy woman in her forties, is still obsessively in love with estranged husband Carl, the director of a nuclear energy corporation. But Carl, consumed by jealousy and bitterness after discovering a brief affair, has used genetic engineering to clone three younger Joanna Mays. Based on a novel by Fay Weldon, The Cloning of Joanna May is a darkly compelling modern-day fairy tale. With performances from a strong cast headed by Patricia Hodge (Miranda) as Joanna May and Emmy award winner Brian Cox as Carl, this highly acclaimed two-part series, originally screened in 1992, is directed by the BAFTA-winning Phillip Saville (Boys from the Blackstuff, Life and Loves of a She-Devil). (Network DVD)
Sergeant Caleb Cluff (Leslie Sands*) who first appeared in an episode of the anthology series Detective (an episode entitled The Drawing broadcast on 6th April, 1964) was a plodding sort of detective, much more at home taking a good walk with his pipe in his mouth, his chestnut walking stick in his hand and his faithful dog, Clive (a half-breed black and tan) by his side. But any no-gooder underestimating the tweed-suited detective would do so at their own cost because Cluff's slow methodology belied a skilfully perceptive insight into human nature and behaviour, particularly in the criminal mind. This slow style of his was often the cause of much frustration from his superior, Inspector Mole (originally played by Eric Barker and later Michael Bates), but no one could argue with Cluff's detection rate and his junior sidekick DC Barker (John Rolfe) certainly benefited from working alongside the bachelor sergeant who lived alone with daily visits from his housekeeper, Annie Croft (Olive Milbourne) in the fictional Yorkshire moorland town of Gunnershaw. The series was created and written by Gil North and ran for two series, Terence Dudley and Alan Seath sharing the production credits. Cluff was fairly described as a sort of 'Maigret of Yorkshire' and in fact Rupert Davies as Maigret introduced the first episode.
*Bradford born Leslie Sands got his first education at the local High School before reading English at Leeds University, where he opened his dual career by taking part in amateur productions and also writing his first play, before the R.A.F claimed him for five years' war service. At the war's end he found himself with Peter Sallis, running the station theatre at Cranwell and made his final decision to risk the professional stage. Within two days of demobilization he had fixed a small part in a production of Antony and Cleopatra, in London's West End, and he followed this with Michael Redgrave's Macbeth. Two years with the Bristol Old Vic polished his classical technique yet further, and he then decided to move to commercial repertory. His reasons were, of course, carefully worked out; on the one hand he could enlarge his professional range, on the other he could get on with some writing. Subsequently he adopted Z-Cars, still in his dual author-actor capacity. He wrote three episodes, appeared in six as Superintendent Miller. But then caution told him to let it go at that. "Miller's a strong character," he says, "a bit too memorable - and I didn't want to become identified with him". (Radio Times, August 27, 1964).