Wednesday, 31 August 2011

The Happiest Days of your Life (1950)

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Thanks to a slip-up at the Ministry of Education, the girls of St. Swithin's School are billeted with the boys of Nutbourne College, and their warring head teachers have to join forces to conceal this from parents and inspectors.
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Although Frank Launder and Sidney Gilliat already had a strong track record in light comedy, the hugely successful The Happiest Days of Your Life (d. Launder, 1950) saw them move decisively in the direction of broad farce.

Based on a play by John Dighton (co-writer of Ealing comedies Kind Hearts and Coronets, d. Robert Hamer, 1949, and The Man in the White Suit, d. Alexander Mackendrick, 1951), it exploits the chaos caused by the Blitz during World War II, where entire schools were shipped to different locations, often at a moment's notice.

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Here, a mix-up at the Ministry of Education causes St Swithin's School for Girls to be sent to the boys-only Nutbourne College, with predictably disastrous results - especially when a simultaneous inspection from two different groups leads to an elaborate cover-up, with classrooms and sports fields switching from male to female at the blow of a whistle.

Alastair Sim was always at his best playing put-upon authority figures, and his headmaster Wetherby Pond is one of his greatest creations. Though essentially a kindly man, the one thing that truly matters to him is order and discipline achieved by mutual respect and, ideally, a complete absence of the opposite sex above the level of domestic staff.

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By contrast, his opposite number Miss Muriel Whitchurch (Margaret Rutherford) has no respect for anyone, least of all mere men. A feminist before her time, she has no truck with convention or protocol and is quite comfortable taking over Pond's office, living quarters and indeed his entire school. If it seems like perfect casting, that's because the part was specifically written for her - she first played it on stage at London's Apollo Theatre in 1948.

But both Sim and Rutherford are decisively upstaged by Joyce Grenfell - no mean feat considering both the competition and a character so incidental to the main plot that she isn't even mentioned in the attached synopsis. As the gawky, love-lorn Miss Gossage ("call me Sausage"), little more than an overgrown schoolgirl herself, she effortlessly steals every scene she's in, whether over-enthusiastically banging gongs, idly writing her name in the dust or staging impromptu lacrosse matches at a second's notice.

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Sim, Grenfell and several supporting actors would return in similar roles in Launder and Gilliat's unofficial sequel The Belles of St Trinian's (d. Launder, 1954), an even more anarchic - and considerably sillier - school farce.

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Published by


Volume 17, No.195, April 1950, page 49


Uninhibited and energetically handled farce about a girls' school billeted by mistake on a boys' school. Alastair Sim and Margaret Rutherford in excellent form as the respective principals. Occasionally slapdash, but frequently amusing.

The Monthly Film Bulletin was published by the British Film Institute between 1934 and 1991. Initially aimed at distributors and exhibitors as well as filmgoers, it carried reviews and details of all UK film releases. In 1991, the Bulletin was absorbed by Sight and Sound magazine.

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Remembering Richard Beckinsale (1947-1979)

Richard Arthur Beckinsale (6 July 1947 – 19 March 1979) was best known for his roles as Lennie Godber in the classic BBC Sitcom Porridge and Alan Moore in the classic ITV sitcom Rising Damp.

Richard Beckinsale was born in Carlton, Nottinghamshire, to a quarter-Burmese father, Arthur John Beckinsale, and an English mother, Maggie Barlow. He left Alderman White Secondary Modern School at 15 with ambitions to become an actor, so while working in numerous manual jobs he enrolled at a Nottingham adult drama class. As a consequence, he won a place at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, turning professional in 1968. He then moved to Crewe to begin in repertory theatre, like most newly-graduated actors at the time, and then made his television debut in 1969 as a police officer in Coronation Street, in which he had to arrest classic character Ena Sharples.

Richard Beckinsale acquired his first starring role in 1970 as Geoffrey in the sitcom The Lovers, opposite fellow newcomer Paula Wilcox. The show was a success without being a runaway triumph, and did enough to put both lead performers in the public eye. It also, like many sitcoms of the time, spawned a film version.

There followed a purple patch when he was appearing in two of British TV's most successful sitcoms at the same time. On ITV, he was playing naive medical student Alan Moore in Rising Damp (voted ITV's best-ever sitcom in the Britain's Best Sitcom survey of 2004) while also starring in Porridge. Shortly after his 30th birthday, Beckinsale was surprised by Eamonn Andrews with the famed 'big red book' for an appearance on This Is Your Life.

Beckinsale quit Rising Damp in 1977, the same year that Porridge was brought to a natural end after his character of Godber was released from his prison sentence in the final episode. He subsequently starred alongside Barker in Going Straight, a spin-off of Porridge in which the two criminal characters are seen on the outside rebuilding their lives.

At the beginning of 1979, Beckinsale made a film version of Porridge. It was to be his last and only completed work of the year.

With filming completed on the film version of Porridge, Richard Beckinsale started work on a sitcom for the BBC called Bloomers, and also prepared to start work on the film Bloody Kids. According to his Bloomers co-star Anna Calder-Marshall, during the recording of the first episode, Becksinsale told her he had suffered some kind of black-out, and had also had some dizzy spells. This concerned him enough to make an appointment to see a doctor, but the doctor could not find anything wrong apart from an overactive stomach lining, and slightly high cholesterol. As filming on the show progressed, Beckinsale appeared increasingly tired, and "greyer and greyer", according to co-star David Swift, and towards the end of filming he was complaining of pains in his arms. On what was to be his last day of filming on the show, he gave Anna Calder-Marshall a lift home after filming. To her surprise, he began to talk about his fear of dying, and of being alone in the house. A week before he died, Beckinsale complained to his wife Judy Loe of feeling unwell and said he was unable to take her to hospital. At the time, they both put it down to nerves; she was due to have an operation to increase the couple's chances of having another child. The day before he died, he and his five-year-old daughter Kate visited Loe in hospital. Upon leaving the hospital, Beckinsale dropped his daughter off with relatives to spend the night. He then attended a farewell party for The Two Ronnies, who were about to leave for Australia. Afterward, he returned to his house in Sunningdale, Berkshire. At some point that day, he had also called his eldest daughter Samantha, and made plans to spend some time with her the following weekend. After arriving home late on the evening of Sunday 18 March, he telephoned friends. During the conversation he repeated that he had been feeling unwell, and also said that he had some pain in his chest and arms. He seemed in good humour though, and made a joke out of it.

When he did not show up for rehearsal for the sixth and final episode of Bloomers the next morning, a member of the production team called his house, and the phone was answered by family friend Rosana Bradley, who had been staying at the house to help take care of Kate, but who had not been there the previous night. She said Beckinsale was still sleeping, and she left the phone to go and wake him up. When she returned, she said that she was unable to wake him, and was advised to call a doctor. Shortly after, it was confirmed that he had died during the night, of what appeared to be a massive heart attack. This was confirmed during a post-mortem, which also revealed that he had a congenital heart defect

Beckinsale had expressed worries about his cholesterol to friend Stephen Frears over dinner just days earlier, but he seemed healthy and fit and had no cardiac problems in his medical records. According to Frears, Beckinsale's high cholesterol may have been a factor in his early death.

Porridge co-star Ronnie Barker commented on Beckinsale's premature death, saying: "He was so loved. He hadn't done much but he was so loved that there was a universal sort of grief that went on." When asked to comment on his death years later, Kate Beckinsale said, "It was so sudden. He just went to sleep one night, and didn't wake up again.

At the time of his death, Richard Beckinsale had almost completed Bloomers — writer James Saunders's original script reveals that Beckinsale was due to attend the sixth and last rehearsal for the final episode of the series on the day he died, with the show to be recorded the following day. The five completed Bloomers episodes were aired later in the year.

He was also filming a movie, Bloody Kids, which then had to be re-cast. This role marked a change in direction for Beckinsale, being a more hard-nosed character than those he had played before. Three days after his death, Going Straight won a BAFTA award. A clearly distressed Barker delivered a brief but emotional acceptance speech in tribute to his co-star.

Plans had been drawn up to make a movie of Rising Damp — Beckinsale's other big sitcom success — and ultimately the movie was made in 1980. Christopher Strauli was recruited to replace Beckinsale, playing a different character.

In 2000, 21 years after his death, a documentary was broadcast on ITV in tribute, called The Unforgettable Richard Beckinsale. It featured interviews with his widow, the actress Judy Loe, as well as his father, sister, closest schoolfriend and two daughters. Also contributing were his co-stars, Ronnie Barker and Rising Damp's Don Warrington.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

The Adventures of Twizzle (1957-1962)

The Adventures Of Twizzle tv show photo

Children's TV programmes in the 1950s were generally unsophisticated affairs by today's standards, but one show, a puppet series called The Adventures of Twizzle (ITV, 1957-58 - 52 episodes), helped launched a company which in less than a decade permanently altered the face of children's TV.

Twizzle was made by the newly-formed AP Films, an independent production company formed by Gerry Anderson, Arthur Provis, Reg Hilland Sylvia Tamm. The fledgling outfit had originally intended to make cinema films, but the expected offers of work failed to materialise and, with mounting debts, AP Films couldn't afford to be choosy about its commissions.


The approach from author Roberta Leigh to film 52 scripts aimed at children's TV was not what the company had in mind, especially as Twizzle was a puppet series. To make matters worse, the budget was minuscule. But AP Films was in no position to turn away work. Reg Hilllater said: "We didn't do the puppets because we wanted to. We did them because we had to."

Twizzle, a doll who can extend his arms and legs, runs away from a toy shop in the opening episode, to avoid being bought by a particularly nasty little girl. Our hero's ability to 'twizzle' provided the core of each week's adventure. For example, when Chawky, the white-faced golliwog, inflates the tyres on his tricycle so much that it floats away, Twizzle stretches his limbs to bring it back down.


For all its lack of refinement, The Adventures of Twizzle proved a success, spearheading a new breed of programme aimed at the 6.00 to 7.00pm slot - an hour which had previously seen ITV and BBC temporarily cease broadcasting so that mothers' could get their children to bed. When the 'toddlers' truce' was lifted the search was on for programmes to pack the vacant hour; Twizzle helped fill the vacuum.
The string puppet characters inhabiting Twizzle's world were brutally simple constructions. Thick strings jerked crude papier maché heads to indicate which character was talking, and their looping walk looked amateurish even by the standards of The Flowerpot Men (BBC, 1952-54). But Twizzle and his gang, which included Footso the cat and Candyfloss the doll, were a hit. And although audiences could never have guessed it at the time, within seven years AP Films would be thrilling them with Thunderbirds (ITV, 1965-66).

Elvis: The King of Las Vegas

Elvis : The King Of Las Vegas : Deluxe Hardcover Book : 360 pages, with 1300 + pictures
The photo book Elvis - The King Of Las Vegas covers Elvis' Las Vegas years between 1956 and 1976; his concerts, the holidays, his wedding, a list of all the stage suits Elvis used on stage and more. This is a huge hardcover book with 360 pages.
A preview of the new Elvis - The King Of Las Vegas photo book.
A preview of the new Elvis - The King Of Las Vegas photo book.
A preview of the new Elvis - The King Of Las Vegas photo book.
A preview of the new Elvis - The King Of Las Vegas photo book.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Radio Times: 11th - 17th April 1970.

This edition of the Radio Times dates back to 1970 and its main focus is the FA Cup taking place at Wembley.

Mutiny on the Buses (1972)

Mutiny on the Buses was made back in 1972 and was directed by Harry Booth and starred Reg Varney and Doris Hare. The film was the second spin-off film from the TV sitcom On the Buses and succeeded On the Buses (1971). It was followed by a third film Holiday on the Buses (1973). The film was produced by Ronald Chesney and Ronald Wolfe for Hammer Films.
Bus driver Stan Butler (Reg Varney) agrees to marry Susy (Janet Mahoney), much to the anguish of the rest of the family. Arthur loses his job so Stan, as the main money earner, agrees to delay the wedding while teaching Arthur to drive a bus. Meanwhile there is mutiny at the depot when the Depot Manager installs a new radio control system in all the buses (borrowing an idea previously used in the episode "Radio Control"). Jack (Bob Grant) tampers with the radio system and crosses the wires with the police frequency and several misunderstandings ensue. Stan and Jack get into various scrapes, including a fire drill and a special tours trip to Windsor Safari Park, all to the exasperation of Inspector Blake (Stephen Lewis).
Mutiny on the Buses
Mutiny on the Buses - 11 x 17 Movie Poster - Style A
Directed byHarry Booth
Produced byRonald Chesney
Ronald Wolfe
Written byRonald Chesney
Ronald Wolfe
StarringReg Varney
Anna Karen
Michael Robbins
Doris Hare
Bob Grant
Stephen Lewis
Music byRon Grainer
CinematographyMark McDonald
Editing byArchie Ludski
Distributed byMGM-EMI
Release date(s)June, 1972
Running time89 mins.
CountryUnited Kingdom

Action Man - Field Commander & Field Radio

This classic Action man (gripping hands version), battery operated field radio (notice transfers on radio differ in catalogue picture) and three double sided discs (various colours - green was also produced), hat, scarf, jumper, trousers, boots, belt and holster, Colt 45 pistol.

The Bee Gees (1968)

Bee Gees,1968 Tour Book,USA,Deleted,TOUR PROGRAMME,78150
The Bee Gees 1968 Tour. Is a Rare 1968 US 20-page black & white tour book, featuring stunning original photography that includes portraits and live shots, with individual pages dedicated to each band member including the live musicians plus biography/liner notes and adverts presented in a green cover booklet.

Monday, 22 August 2011

Follyfoot Annual (1976)

This is the Follyfoot Annual from 1976. Above is the front cover and below a picture strip entitled, "One Good Turn" that appeared in the annual.

Randall & Hopkirk (Deceased) - Episode Fifteen - The Man From Nowhere!

The Man from Nowhere is the fifteenth episode of the classic ITC British TV Series, Randall & Hopkirk (Deceased) starring Mike Pratt, Kenneth Cope and Annette Andre. The episode was first broadcast on 28 December 1969 on ITV and was Directed by Robert Tronson.
A man enters Jeannie's life pretending that he is Marty returned from the dead. As he gradually builds Jeannie's trust with his alarming knowledge of Marty's life, Jeff, suspicious from the beginning (with Marty familiar with the man but unable to recall) finds that he is a runaway member of a gang and has taken Jeannie to the Cotswolds where she and Marty had their honeymoon. Seeming very inquisitive about recalling the details of where they had an accident it turns out the Marty imposter had stashed away a hoard of stolen silver years and years ago and that he was the other driver of the car where they had the accident after he had done it. He turns out that he was misleading Jeannie all along just to help locate his treasure, leaving Jeannie confused as to why he didn't just ask her in two seconds flat.
Randall and Hopkirk Deceased titlecard.jpg