Happy Memories of Early Television…

You know, I recently sat back in front of the screen and watched the few surviving episodes of  Dixon of Dock Green… Some 22 episodes from 1973 to 1976, and I guess, I felt that these had stood up well to that Test of  Time. The series started in 1956 featuring Jack Warner and Peter Byrne, in Ted Childs BBC productions. I found the story lines were still very strong, offering not too differing and absorbing scenarios that have appeared and been applauded in latter years.

I guess, these episodes would have been shown early on Saturday evenings, as far as I can recall. My parents and I would sit and watch the opening introduction from a uniformed Sargent Dixon and with his opening invitation of “Good Evening all” and raised salute.

These were comfortable family shows, and you knew the villains would get their come-upence at the end. The series was based on an earlier full length Cinema feature entitled “The Blue Lamp” featuring Jack Warner, for the first time, as ‘Dixon’ and yet, it’s rather sad that non of the founding early black and white TV shows were saved for posterity, then, who really had a crystal ball. As a young man in those days of early TV colour productions with the BBC opting for the German PAL system, I can clearly remember the immense popularity of the series. By 1976, I guess, it was time for ‘Dixon’ to hang up his helmet, just perhaps, by now, he was a bit long in the tooth. Now… It’s happy memories and something to take to bed, with a glass of Scotland’s finest. “Goodnight All” …’Goodnight George’ was our chorused response.

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The Shriving of Miss Esme Stamp…

Episode 60… An Excellent Talk

The three sat around a table in the small dining room of the little photographic shop on Moscow Road in Bayswater. Charles had brought forth a bottle of excellent single malt whisky for them to enjoy. Esme began to sip warmly on her half-full glass tumbler and then looked directly at Toby.

‘What happened to Edward in the end?’ she asked.

Tobias smiled very kindly. ‘Are you really that concerned, or is it just simple curiosity?’

‘Yes, I would like to know,’ she replied. Just to put my mind at rest.’

‘Well, he was simply spirited away, he is a good boy now. I’m sure you would approve.’

While the warming whisky was beginning to reach parts of the mind within all three of them, tiredness lay just around the corner.

‘You mean… He was killed!’ Esme looked shocked.

‘Of course not!  There are gentler ways to reform a person’s character. Edward was introduced to what you might say… a better life… That is, one that would suit his crime more adequately.’

‘Did you torture him.’

‘Lets say, he was persuaded in choosing another character for himself.  Edward is now enjoying his life in quite a different role. Listen Esme, do you remember those hypnotic dancing ladies that you watched so elegantly from the tower room window and do you remember the barking dog that joined them. Now.. Do you understand?’

‘I thought, that was all a dream, you being there in that tower room. It can’t be real, because you were here, here all the time. Do you really have a power to put those images in my mind Tobias. To replace thoughts and visions in my head and to change a person’s image and character. Can you really turn a someone in to something completely different?’

‘Esme, those thoughts and visions are of your own making. I am merely the voyage on which you travel. Barney has this transient  gift too.’ He looked upon her with very bright eyes. ‘It is the way we brothers have been since birth. Charles knows of this, and now, you also share our thoughts.’

‘Then, what of Rebecca… Tobias?’

‘Her spirit won’t be with us for long. We feel this is merely a footprint. There is a purpose in giving herself to us. When we know that purpose… she will leave us.’

Charles listened quietly and very solemnly to things he already understood… then said:  ’Tonight we had better rest, with the thought that we all now know… We have a common goal.’

It was 6 o’clock the very next morning, when a gentle knocking of the shop door brought Charles from a warm bed and downstairs rather wearily…

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The Shriving of Miss Esme Stamp…

Episode 59… Return To Bayswater

On reaching Bayswater Charles drove quickly to his friend Doctor Michael Fellows.

‘Well Charles, I have given her a thorough examination and aside from a little shock’ he concluded, ’she seems to be in good health. One odd thing though, she hasn’t spoken a word to me. Has she said anything to you about her ordeal.’

‘Nothing very much doctor.’ he replied ‘Just some murmurings, really that’s all.’

‘Well Charles, could be the shock. Take her home and let her rest, that’s just what she needs right now. Please come and see me in the morning, I will need to know a little more about her for my report.’

‘Report!… Dear friend… Please understand. There can’t be any report.’ Charles startled hastily. ’Rebecca does not exist, at least not in our time. There would be no reckoning of her.’

‘What are you saying. This is nonsense. Of course she must exist. She is flesh and blood.’

‘No Michael. Look… You don’t understand.’

‘I understand, what I see before me Charles. You’ve clearly suffered stress in saving this woman from a burning building and it’s clouded your thinking. I have to report this to the Police, you know that. It’s the law. Go home, have a glass of whisky and rest, and then, tomorrow you can tell me why you did not take this unfortunate woman to a local hospital instead of bringing her all the way to Bayswater.’

‘Well, you said yourself that she is only suffering from shock.’

‘Come on Charles, that won’t do, it’s not an excuse and you know it.’ Doctor Fellows looked directly at him. ‘I need answers not fantasy.’

‘Alright I promise, I will explain everything in the morning. But I will need your confidentiality Michael, we have known each other for many years.’

‘Friendship is beside the point. I really can’t agree to anything like you suggest. You really do know that, don’t you.’

‘Alright then Michael… Just your findings, please nothing more. My account would simply confuse. However, as a friend, I will want you to know the facts, believed or not, that’s your choice. I will fully explain things, I promise.’

‘And no more fantasy please Charles. I have too much respect for you.’ Doctor Fellows smiled assuringly. ‘You are right, we do go back a long way.’

Toby had kept shop, just as expected, greeting them on their arrival and announcing that brother Barney had given up the small bedroom for their new guest and would stay close by with friends from College. ‘He’ll be here in the morning.’ was the word.

‘How did you know we were bringing Rebecca here?’ inquired Charles, rather surprised.

‘Doctor Fellows rang just after you left him, telling me you were home again and then mentioned Rebecca. I knew you would want her to stay here with us, rather than some gloomy hotel room.’

‘Thanks Toby. You’re absolutely right. Well, we are all very tired. Let’s get Rebecca off to bed, I sure Esme will help her get undressed and ready for a good night’s sleep. Then us three, I suggest, have a late night dram before geting ourselves retired for the night. It’s good to see you Toby, we’ve got lots to talk over in the morning.’

Esme remained very silent. She had began to warm to Tobias, for he would support Charles at every turn. With Rebecca here now, could this be a time of undue reckoning. Had they really brought a spirit from the past into their lives at Bayswater.

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Happy Memories of Early Television…

Whiplash… Outset 1959

Ok, I’m not one for name-dropping, so I’m kinda gonna work this little connection into my latest aquision. My father loved a number of programs put out by ITV. So in those days, and I guess it was a Friday evening, their news would end at 10.30 and for one full half hour, once a week, we would be treated to an Australian set drama featuring America actor Peter Graves, brother of James Arness (Gunsmoke) in the role of Christopher Cobb, who was the first man to run a stagecoach line from Sidney to Camden and on to Gundagai in New South Wales.

Now, me and dad loved to watch this series before going to bed, and recently, I discovered a reasonable priced DVD on NTSC to my absolute joy and from Amazon.

Now, for the name dropping bit. Frank Ifield, born in this country to Australian parents  had a string of hits in the UK and voiced the theme to whiplash on the outset of his career. In the 80s it became my privilege to photograph Frank and at 79 he’s still touring. Well done!

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Lost and Forgotten Films of British Cinema…

The Bridal Path… 1959

You know, I’ve mentioned this film on PGC before, and I guess this time I just wanted to give this a new take. For me, this is a sit down romp around the Highlands with a bag of popcorn and Bill Travers in the driving seat. He’s just an innocent guy out looking for a wife. Well, that simplifies a plot, that’s got much more to offer, as Ewan goes from one embarrassment of character to another. I’m surprised no production company ever cottoned on to this as a show, when comedy drama in colour reached our screens in the early 70s. The likes of “Porridge” “Dads Army” and the colour episodes of Steptoe and there were many others. A lad looking for a partner and encountering funny situations, I  guess would have been good for our screens.

Anyway, I like to shake out this old movie from time to time. The colour photography shot in the Highlands is truly evocative and coupled with the regretfully now demised Campbell Town Gaelic Choir who lend much to a charismatic background is just wonderfully nostalgic.

I guess, it still has to be a workout with my old VHS system, as yet, I can’t find a print on disc, nevertheless, I think it’s just a situation of waiting until the delivery guy arrives…

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The Shriving of Miss Esme Stamp…

Episode 58… Rescue

The ladder would just reach the window. He drove it hard against the wall and the ground. It felt secure. Within moments he had reached the window and beckoned Rebecca to first stand back then take his arm and climb onto the ladder, he shouted to her that he would hold her firmly and make sure she was safe. He pressed himself further into ladder in order that his body would help her support. The heat was unbearable and flames licked hungrily from inside the window as Charles smashed the glass with a covered elbow. Rebecca’s form was petite allowing her to grasp the ladder and swing herself out from the rather small aperture of the window frame. Charles held her waist and moved down the ladder a little allowing her room. Then carefully, and very slowly they both edged downwards until Charles was able to lift Rebecca to the ground.

‘This place is a mess, come-on, lets all go.’ he declared ‘Lets get away from this heat.’ The ladder was now well alight, and flames roared from every outlet of the building. ‘This is not for us and certainly not for Rebecca!’

Rebecca said nothing in their hurried escape from the burning house. On reaching the car, Charles observed her youth and beauty, she had been a broken-hearted bride. How, could any man pass up such a lovely creature. His mind pondered for the moment, and yet, he said to himself, she is no mortal, perhaps, immortal, maybe that is the reason for her husband’s infidelity, perhaps, he just did not understand. Thoughts passed around in his head without answers, but for now they would lay to rest until they had reached London.

Rebecca slept well in the back seat for most of the journey. As expected, her clothes had that distinctive smell associated of smoke and fire. At one point, Charles wind down his window to freshen the interior for all. ‘She will need some new clothes.’ he said thoughtfully.

‘Do you think she needs a Doctor?’ asked Esme.

‘I’ve a good friend in Doctor Fellows at Bayswater. He will be the man to consult’.

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Lost and Forgotten Films of British Cinema…

Man from Tangier 1957 This is a cosy and yet intriguing drama from the stable of Butcher Films and features American actor Robert Hutton. It’s warming to know that so many of these entertaining supporting features from the days of your local movie house are now preserved and presented on disc from such companies as Studio Canal, Renown Pictures, Freemantle and many more. I first owned a copy some years back, again on the old system VHS and was pleased when Renown issued it on disc. Butcher Films were used to fill out a cinema showing by supporting the main feature, a combination you rarely get nowadays as modern films are longer in length. Back in those days film producers took the view that the average audience would not sit for anything longer that two hours, unless it was an American production of magnitude, such as Gone with the Wind and others of big budget. Even American studios took the same view when it came to run-of-mill production, although at the time, more dollars were being put into these, as opposed to some British productions where backing was a difficulty.

Anyway, getting back to our Man from Tangier. This sweet little plot involves the mix-up with two identical overcoats in a Barber shop at a London Rail Station. This, without me spoiling the plot for you, leads to the unravelling of a master smuggling racket headed from abroad.

Butcher Films may have been considered second rate by some of my friends involved in film production, and yet today, you can find wonderful little gems in their wide range of screenplays. Nostalgic locations that perhaps no longer exist and character actors starting out to become household names. So why not take a trip down ‘Memory Lane’ you’ve nothing to lose.

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Lost and Forgotten Films of British Cinema…

Underneath the Arches 1937 This is a film that I’ve never seen, yet its title song can revolve around in my head for all time. The song from Flanagan and Allen was most popular in its day. Although, what I do have in my collection are the original production stills in album form taken by a Twickenham Studios stills man, then rescued from a skip by a dear friend Harry Amos, who at one time was a film editor at Bray Studios. Later Harry went into Television.

Alas, I’ve yet to find a disc of this film, maybe there is no suitable print available for transfer, one can only live in hope. Meanwhile, I will content myself with my lasting album of stills put together by Twickenham’s photo department…

Checking through this album and it’s script production progress, it would seem to be another madcap adventure for Bud Flanagan, Chesney Allen and the ‘Crazy Gang’. Enid is there too, providing her sensible element to the more zany antics of the remaining cast. Looking through the stills, lots of sand had been brought into the studio to provide what I think to be something of a South American flavour. Could be lots of fun.

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The Shriving of Miss Esme Stamp…

Episode 57… Rebecca’s Acceptance

Once more, Charles watchful look at the ruined house showed him nothing. No voice entered his mind. Nothing seemed to be out of order to his expectation, and once more, rain began to soak through those overhead clouds. ‘Come-on, lets go.’ He announced reluctantly.  ’There is nothing more for us here’. He had satisfied himself that this was a waste of their time. ‘Let’s get back to the car.’ he declared.

‘Charles.. Charles, I can see her. Rebecca, she is looking at us from a second floor window. The house is there, yes there, in all its entirety. Can’t you see. It’s as beautiful as before. She is smiling, and yet she is crying. Can’t you see her Charles… Can’t you see this beautiful lady.’

‘Esme, all I see are these old ruins, as I did before, but the images from my camera  allowed me to visualize a little before they faded completely…’

‘Something is wrong.’ Esme interrupted him. ’I just know it. There is brightness all around her. It’s filling that room Charles. It’s a fire. The room is ablaze. Look, now I can see other rooms beginning to light up. Charles, she has set fire to the house. We must do something. This is horrific! What can we do?’

‘We can’t do anything. Esme, what you are seeing are images put in your mind of a long distant past. I still see only ruins. Nothing more.’

‘But perhaps we are here to help her Charles, to somehow rescue her from this nightmare .’

‘She is dead Esme. You know that.’

‘Her spirit lives on Charles. I know it.’

‘She may not have perished here in this fire. She could have died of old age and this could just be her footprint left for me.’ Esme was beside herself and becoming distraught.

‘Then, what you are saying, it’s up to us, to save her from this dreadful fire.’ He began to follow he thoughts.

‘Let’s try Charles, let’s try, before the fire get a real hold.’

In searching for some way to reach this distressed woman images began to form in his head. He was seeing those images just as in his photographs. They were suddenly alive in his eyes. Albeit burning, the manor house became clearly visible, as if some outside force had placed it. The thought that Rebecca could conduct this energy simply pushed him on. Around the back of this house of inferno he found a large wooden barn just as it would have been in Rebecca’s time and likely used by the grounds staff to the manor. Inside there was much clutter of garden implements and thoughtfully a table and chairs placed for tea breaks no less and in one dark corner, a large double ladder that might just reach the second floor, after all, the tall growing Ivy had to be trimmed from the walls of the house by someone. With that thought in mind. Charles reached out for it. In a way it had leaned to the wall making it almost a fixture and took quite some freeing, after some cursing and panting it gave and suddenly he felt the full weight of this possible route of escape. Inner strength became a reality and that spurred him. Within moments he stood and faced the yellow heat of this blazing building. ‘Esme’, he shouted. ’You don’t have to guide me with your eyes. I can now see the house and the flames proper.’ Daylight had become night and those yellow flames were his single purpose

‘This is Rebecca’s way of coming into your mind.’ she shouted back. ’It’s through her power, she wants you to save her. At last, she has brought you into her astral level. Perhaps, she was unsure at first. I don’t know, but remember, we all meet in the end, along different and varied paths.’

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Lost and Forgotten Films of British Cinema…

Ok For Sound 1937 This movie held a fascination for me years ago when I was researching the life of Enid Stamp Taylor. Enid features along side the Crazy Gang headed by Bud Flanagan and Chesney Allen. It’s another screwball comedy set within a bankrupt film studio. By today’s comedy tastes it’s difficult to relate to, and yet there are moments within its production and delivery that is not so very different from today’s. Of course, it has too much song and dance that is much dated now and perhaps in a way, that’s part of its charm. I won’t give you the storyline because that’s rather here there and everywhere. Its clearly a vehicle only for the ‘Crazy Gang’ and the script making a gesture to their unique popularity of the time. If you do ever get the opportunity to watch this movie, then it would be worthy of your time and patience. Production was from Gainsborough at their Islington Studios in the days when the guys there were enjoying a real high, then screened around the Country by Gaumont British.

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