Saturday, 28 May 2011

60s Classics - The Power Game

The Plane Makers was a British Television series made by ATV for ITV between 1963 and 1965.

The series focused on the power struggles between the Trades Union and the management on the shop floor of an (fictional) aircraft factory, Scott Furlong Ltd, as well as the political in-fighting between the management themselves. Patrick Wymark proved particularly popular as the anit-heroic managing director John Wilder, who was almost a proto-type J.R Ewing in that he became a central character that the other characters and viewers "loved to hate". Wilder's nemesis in the boardroom was David Corbett (Alan Dobie), though he was supported by his long-suffering wife Pamela (Barbara Murray, with Ann Firbank standing in for a few episodes when Murray was unavailable), his Sales Director and confidant Don Henderson (Jack Watling) and ever-reliable secretary Miss Lingard (Norma Ronald). Their task was to manufacture and sell aircraft the Sovereign to an international market.

Lew Grade, head of ATV, reportedly found the series boring because of its factory setting. Believing that the majority of viewers would have had enough of factories after their days' work, he decided the Wilder character should be spun off into a new series. At the end of the final Plane Makers series in 1965, Scott Furlong collapsed, and Wilder's future was uncertain. He swiftly returned later that same year in The Power Game, having collected a Knighthood. Bored of being a gentleman of leisure, Wilder uses his influence with a merchant bank to become joint managing director of an established building firm, Bligh Construction. The first two series of The Power Game in 1965-6 chronicled his attempts to keep control in the face of opposition from the company's elderly founder Caswell Bligh (Clifford Evans), a stern, old-school patriarch who resents what he sees as Wilder's imposition on a family firm, and Bligh's ambitious but inexperienced son Kenneth (Peter Barkworth), who would prefer to be sole managing director, and free of his father's influence. Both Henderson and Miss Lingard were back in harness.

Wilder's private life came more to the fore in The Power Game, he has a long-running affair with a civil servant, Susan Weldon (Rosemary Leach), but is aghast when his wife Pamela also plays the field, with engineering expert Frank Hagadan (George Sewell).

The third and final series in 1969 saw Wilder free from Bligh's - but not from Bligh himself - and working for the British government as a 'roving' Foreign Office Ambassador for Trade.

Patrick Wymark died suddenly in 1970 and it was decided not to continue with the series without its most notorious and memorable character.

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