Tea Time Tidbits: 2011

Tea Time Tidbits

Week of December 19, 2011:
Anton Rodgers

For Anton Rodgers life must have seemed to imitate art when the star of May to December married actress Elizabeth Garvie, who was some 24 years his junior. The couple met while filming the 1982 drama series, Something in Disguise and continued to work together until the actor's death just over four years ago, on December 1, 2007. Garvie was Rodgers' second wife; his first was Morna Watson, a former ballet dancer. That marriage produced two children, a boy and a girl, and with Garvie, Rodgers had three more sons. All five children and both Mrs. Rodgers reportedly got along swimmingly.

Rodgers who was born in Wisbech, Cambridgeshire on January 10, 1933, made his first stage appearance in 1947 at the age of 14, when he had a walk-on part in Carmen at the Royal Opera House. The following year, he appeared in a touring production as Pip in Charles Dickens' Great Expectations and followed that up by playing the title role in Terence Rattigan's The Winslow Boy in Birmingham.

The son of an accountant and a former singer, who ran a dancing school, Rodgers never planned on entering the acting profession. Instead he wanted to go to University and become a doctor. His domineering stage mum, however, had other plans in mind for her son and she insisted he went into the acting profession. So after Rodgers finished his touring productions and left school, he enrolled at the Italia Conti Academy and then got a scholarship to attend the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts.

As a youngster, Rodgers was not a healthy child. He almost died of pneumonia when he was a baby, and when he was 14 he started to have bad stomach pains which continued through his late twenties, when after started bleeding badly from the mouth and had to undergo surgery to replace two-thirds of his stomach with plastic.

Ill health, however, did not prevent Rodgers from doing his National Service as a Forces Network broadcaster. It also didn't prevent him embarking on a career in films and in 1956 he took over from Peter Sellers in the film Rotten to the Core. Despite a strong cast, Rodgers claimed that he had never been more miserable in his life and had taken the role only to appease his mother, who enjoyed thinking of her son as a 'film star'. Subsequent film appearances included Carry on Jack (1963), Scrooge (1970), The Day of the Jackal (1973), Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (1988) and Son of the Pink Panther (1993).

Rodgers' West End stage debut was at the Wyndham Theatre in The Boyfriend in 1957. Other shows included Waiting for Godot, Heartbreak House, The Beaux Stratagem, Henry V, and The Italian Straw Hat. In the mid-1970s he was in a National Theatre production of The Front Page, which toured Australia. Rodgers would have to wait almost a decade before appearing at the National Theatre in London though, but the opportunity arrived in 1984 when he was cast in George Bernard Shaw's Saint Joan. Before that, in 1979, Rodgers was the recipient of a Laurence Olivier Best Actor award, for his appearance in the musical Songbook. Then the same year, Rodgers realized his dream of appearing at the National Theatre in London. He also got his first starring role on television in a series called Fresh Fields, starring Julia "Miss Marple" McKenzie. Although the series only aired for a couple of years it managed to win itself an Emmy award. After it finished, Rodgers was cast as Alec Callendar in May to December, which ran for six years.

Anton Rodgers
With Eve Matheson in May to December.

As well as acting, Rodgers also enjoyed directing. In 1970 he directed The Fantasticks at Hampstead, and The Taming of the Shrew at Northcott Theatre in Exeter. Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman followed at the Oxford Playhouse in 1975.

Rodgers' final stage engagement was in the touring production of Alan Bennett's The History Boys in 2006. Sadly ill health forced his withdrawal and he died the following year.

If you've got an actor or a show you'd like to see featured in Tea Time Tidbits, drop me a line.

To contact Heather:
E-mail: heather@mpt.org
Address: Afternoon Tea
Maryland Public Television
11767 Owings Mills Blvd.
Owings Mills, MD 21117

 

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Week of December 12, 2011:
Kathy Staff

This week we pay tribute to Kathy Staff, who played the formidable Nora Batty in Last of the Summer Wine and who you've lately been seeing demanding her Afternoon Tea.

Kathy Staff
Kathy Staff.

Staff, who died three years ago this week on December 13, 2008, was born on July 12, 1928 in Dunkinfield, Cheshire, to a working-class family, who valued Church above all else. As a young girl, Staff, whose real name was Minnie Higginbottom, would attend two Sunday school sessions and two services on the Sabbath. Performing was what young Minnie loved most though, whether in local pantomimes or the Church choir. She also loved to dance and her dream was to become a ballet dancer. It wasn't to be as her father, who was a clothing company manager, could never raise the money for her to take formal ballet training.

Staff left school, where she'd been made Head Girl, when she was 14, trained as a shorthand typist and went to work at the National Gas & Oil Engine Company in Ashton-under-Lyne. Fortunately for Staff the firm she worked for had an amateur acting group which she joined. Her mother, who worked part-time, scraped together the money to send her daughter to private singing lessons and by the time Staff was 21, she had decided to become a professional actress.

Kathy Staff
John Staff arrives for the
funeral of his wife of
57 years.

Changing her name to Katherine Brant (which was the name of a storefront she'd seen while travelling to work on the bus) she got work in a touring repertory theatre in Wales. It was there that she met her husband, John Staff; a young student and lay reader in a local church who went onto become a school teacher.

After marrying John in 1951, Staff took her husband's last name, and retired from acting while she bought up their two daughters. The youngest, the Rev. Susie Jackson, would become one of the first women to be ordained in the Church of England. Staff's retirement lasted ten years until, at the persuasion of an old friend from her days in the theatre, she returned to work as a three pound a day extra in television. She also got a very nice supporting role alongside Alan Bates in the 1962 film, A Kind of Loving. Also in the film, was her LOTSW co-star Thora Hird.

In 1969 Staff was cast in her first soap opera; Castle Haven. After that she had a regular role in the popular soap, Crossroads, and would appear sporadically from 1978 until the series finished in 2002. She also played in Coronation Street as Vera Hopkins.

Kathy Staff
Staff as Nora Batty.

In 1972 Staff appeared in the first pilot episode of Last of the Summer Wine. In looks and personality, Staff was the exact opposite to the baggy-stockinged character she portrayed. While Nora was a dragon-lady with a sharp tongue, Staff had a gentle personality, reflected in her love of collecting antiques and listening to classical music. Often, while recording a scene, she had to be urged to be more abrasive in the delivery of her lines, to keep in character. Also, as Staff was several sizes smaller than Nora, she had to be trussed into a man's vest onto which padding had been sewn.

Once in her Nora get-up, Staff was virtually unrecognizable. So much so that she was free to go about her personal life and continue with such activities as singing in her local church choir. "People never seem to recognize me straight away", recalled Staff in an interview. "They know they have seen me somewhere, but they are not sure where."

Kathy Staff
Staff in the film Mary Reilly.

Following up on the success of Staff as Nora Batty, show creator David Croft also cast Staff as Mrs. Blewitt in his series Open All Hours. Also, during the 1980s and 1990s, Staff appeared in several films, including The Dresser, Little Dorritt and in Mary Reilly, starring opposite Julia Roberts and John Malkovich.

Somehow, Staff also managed to pen an autobiography; My Story – Wrinkles and All, which was published in 1997 and fit in a number of stage roles. These included Lady Bracknell in The Importance of Being Earnest, Madame Arcati and Mrs. Malaprop in touring productions of Blithe Spirit and The Rivals respectively and a touring production of the comedy Sailor Beware, as well as two West End plays: the farce Two into One and comedy When We Are Married. She also appeared in many pantomimes.

Kathy Staff
Last of the Summer Wine actors Jane
Freeman and Mike Grady were among
the funeral mourners.

At the age of 80, Staff was diagnosed with a brain tumor. She passed away at the Willow Wood Hospice in Ashton-under-Lyne with her husband John at her bedside. More than 400 mourners attended her funeral, which was held at the church where she delivered her first performance in a pantomime at the age of three.

If you've got an actor or a show you'd like to see featured in Tea Time Tidbits, drop me a line.

To contact Heather:
E-mail: heather@mpt.org
Address: Afternoon Tea
Maryland Public Television
11767 Owings Mills Blvd.
Owings Mills, MD 21117

 

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Week of December 5, 2011:
David Griffin

This week's Tea Time Tidbits topic is actor David Griffin, who appears as Emmet Hawksworth in Keeping Up Appearances.

David Griffin
Griffin as Emmet Hawksworth
in Keeping Up Appearances.

Griffin was born in Richmond, Surrey on July 19, 1943. His first job in show business was when he was just 15 years old, when he was an assistant on an ice skating chimpanzee act. After training at the Italia Conti Stage School in London he went onto enjoy a wide and diverse acting career, both on stage and television.

Griffin's early stage career was in 1964 at The Playhouse in Weston - until the theatre was destroyed by a fire. As Griffin recalls "it was my very first repertory season and it had to be moved to the town hall. The director wouldn't be defeated and we continued the season. The Salvation Army donated costumes for us and only three days after the fire we were on stage again. It was one of those real 'the show must go on' moments."

David Griffin
Playbill from the pantomime Peter Pan.

Griffin wasn't put off and went on to make his living in repertory theatre. One of his roles was as Frank in the stage version of Educating Rita. He's also had roles in the Agatha Christie plays, Murder at the Vicarage and And Then There was None, as well as Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice and J.B. Priestley's An Inspector Calls.

Griffin joined the cast of Keeping Up Appearances at the beginning of the second series. He stayed with the series for four years, from 1991 to 1995, after which he toured worldwide with actress Su Pollard, in the stage show The Good Sex Guide Musical Review. Griffin had previously worked with Pollard in the hit television comedy, also written by David Croft, Hi-De-Hi, playing Sqdn-Ldr Clive Dempster DFC, from 1984 to 1988.

Griffin's other television work included 'Allo, 'Allo, Michael Palin's Ripping Yarns and, like many of our Afternoon Tea actors, Doctor Who. He appeared as Lt. Commander Mitchell aboard the submarine in the 1972 story The Sea Devils. He has also starred in pantomimes such as Jack and the Beanstalk and Peter Pan.

David Griffin
Griffin rehearsing for Peter Pan.

One of things Griffin enjoys about performing in panto is the fun he has, especially when he's playing a comic villain such as Captain Hook. He thoroughly enjoys the banter with the audience. "Oh, it's brilliant the way they join in", says Griffin of his experience, "the more abusive they are the better I like it. There really is nothing better than getting booed constantly."

Griffin's worst panto memory is of the time his character didn't get booed. Recalls Griffin, "I was doing panto in Horsham and I couldn't get anything out of the performance because the audience just wouldn't join in and make some noise and boo. I could actually hear parents saying to their children 'don't shout at him' and I'm stood there thinking, no do. I even heard a headmaster on the way in with his school say they all had to be quiet and behave, and I was thinking no, don't do that, you have to misbehave, that's the point. But pantomime is great. There's so much hi-tech stuff around these days for youngsters but stick two dancers in a cow suit or dress a man as a woman or the other way around and the suspension of belief is absolutely magical."

David Griffin
Griffin in 2007.

A far cry from pantomime is the world of film and Griffin has several film credits to his name, including The Blood Beast Terror, where he appeared alongside Peter Cushing.

Griffin is fluent in French, which must come in handy as he's married to a Frenchwoman. Together they have two children.

If you've got an actor or a show you'd like to see featured in Tea Time Tidbits, drop me a line.

To contact Heather:
E-mail: heather@mpt.org
Address: Afternoon Tea
Maryland Public Television
11767 Owings Mills Blvd.
Owings Mills, MD 21117

 

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Week of November 28, 2011:
Peter Sallis

At the request of an avid Afternoon Tea viewer, this week we're going to take a look at Last of the Summer Wine's Cleggy, actor Peter Sallis, who despite his seemingly authentic northern accent, was actually born in London on February 1st, 1921.

Peter Sallis
Sallis in a 1973 episode of
Last of the Summer Wine.

After leaving school, Sallis, whose father was a bank manager, also went to work in a bank, but not the same one as his father. When World War II broke out he joined the RAF as a wireless mechanic, teaching radio procedures at RAF Cranwell. When one of his students offered him the lead in a camp production of Noel Coward's Hay Fever, Sallis jumped at the opportunity and went on to make regular appearances in the camp shows, entertaining the troops. After the war finished, Sallis left the RAF and received a scholarship to attend London's prestigious Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London, under a scheme for ex-service men. He made his first professional stage appearance in 1946.

Peter Sallis
Sallis in Doctor Who.

Throughout the 1950s and '60s, Sallis continued to work mainly on stage, and appeared with such theatre legends as Laurence Olivier, John Gielgud, Ralph Richardson, Orson Welles, and Judi Dench. He did do some film and television work during this time as well, however, most notably in 1958 when he played the title role in the BBC serialized production of Samuel Pepys.

In 1965, Sallis appeared on Broadway playing Doctor Watson in the musical Baker Street, alongside Richard Burton. Then in 1967, like many of our Afternoon Tea actors, Sallis did a stint on Doctor Who, playing a scientist in the story "The Ice Warriors".

Peter Sallis
Sallis in The Persauders.

In 1971, Sallis acted alongside Roger Moore and Tony Curtis in an episode of The Persuaders and a couple of years later in 1973, he originated the role that was to make him popular the world over, that of Norman Clegg, in what was a one-off pilot for Comedy Playhouse called Of Funerals and Fish. Following the success of the pilot the BBC commissioned a series to be called Last of the Summer Wine.

The character of Norman Clegg was created especially for Sallis, who admits that he shares more than a few similarities with his onscreen persona and is proud of the fact that Clegg's character remained constant throughout the over 35 years of filming. He played Clegg from 1973 to 2010 when the show concluded and was the only cast member to appear in every single episode. There were times though when Sallis wondered if joining the series had been the right decision. One of those was when, along with Michael Bates as Blamire, and Bill Owen as Compo, he set off in a wobbly canoe on Yorkshire's freezing cold River Wharfe. Owen was in the bow, Bates was in the stern, and in the middle was Sallis.

Peter Sallis
LOTSW: "Three Men in a Boat".

As the canoe sailed under the bridge at Bolton Abbey it started to wobble. It then gave a shudder and tipped right over. The non-swimming Sallis later recalled that he only managed to avoid drowning, was because he put a foot on a hard object under the water and was able to lever. The hard object turned out to be Owen's head! "To have us row a canoe and shoot the bridge and come out the other side into this choppy water, there's no wonder the bloody thing turned over and no wonder I nearly drowned," said Sallis.

It was this kind of visual comedy, however, that audiences loved and slapstick routines would become more and more frequent an occurrence. Sallis began to scan new scripts seeking out the dreaded words "All we see of our three is a row of bubbles on the surface of the water." In later years, as the main male leads grew older, they would be replaced by stunt men and the younger cast members would take over the physical comedy tradition.

Peter Sallis
Wallace and Gromit.

Being in a long running television series, didn't prevent Sallis from accepting other work, and during the 1970s and '80s he appeared in a number of other television shows. His biggest success, outside of Summer Wine, came in 1989 when he gave voice to the animated eccentric inventor, Wallace in Wallace and Gromit: A Grand Day Out. Three Oscar winning Wallace and Gromit films followed in 1993, 1995 and 2008 and last year, at the age of 89, Sallis provided the voice for Wallace in the TV show Wallace and Gromit's World of Invention.

When first asked by Wallace and Gromit creator, Nick Park, to be the voice of Wallace, Sallis tried to persuade him to cast someone else, as he was only able to do a Yorkshire accent and not the Lancashire accent Park wanted for Wallace. Park insisted Sallis audition and despite Sallis's attempts to put him off, cast him in the role.

In 2006, Sallis published an autobiography called, Fading Into the Limelight and in 2007 he was awarded the OBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours List in 2007 for services to Drama. Sallis acknowledged the honor, saying "I'm flattered. I don't even dream about these things, which is probably just as well...but it means a lot to me."

Peter Sallis
Sallis and his wife Elaine Usher after
their wedding at St. John's Wood Church,
London, 9th February 1957.

Sallis and his wife of over 50 years, Elaine Usher, who he married in 1957, have one child Timothy 'Crispian' Sallis. Despite 60 years in show business Sallis has managed to keep his private life private. He rarely travels outside of England, but he did get to go to the Academy Awards ceremony in Los Angeles when Wallace and Gromit was nominated for a Best Animated Feature Film award It was a thrilling experience for Sallis, "I've always been an Oscar fan. I love the girls, the actresses, who are in tears and thank their mummy and their daddy and the chap who looked after their dog. Just to be there was really lovely."

Peter Sallis
Sallis with Frank Thornton waiting to
watch the last episode of LOTSW.

Now 90 years old, Sallis suffers from macular degeneration, which is why in the later episodes of LOTSW you don't see him in as many scenes. The disease doesn't however prevent Sallis from helping raise funds for the Macular Disease Society and he can frequently be seen or heard making television and radio appeals for the charity. Earlier this month in fact Sallis recorded an online documentary film about the disease, which can be seen here.

 

Peter Sallis
Pagett recently, and as Elizabeth.

The cast of Last of the Summer Wine.
Front row seated: Roy Clarke (who wrote the program), Peter Sallis (Norman Clegg) who appeared in every episode since the first one was filmed in June 1972, and Frank Thornton (Herbert Truelove).
Standing L-R: Jean Fergusson (Marina), Josephine Tewson (Miss Davenport), Alan J.W. Bell (director/producer), Juliette Kaplan (Pearl Sibshaw), Robert Fyfe (Howard Sibshaw), Ken Kitson (PC Cooper), Burt Kwouk (Entwhistle), Trevor Bannister (The Captain), June Whitfield (Nelly), Mike Grady (Barry), Barbara Young (Stella), Christopher Beeny (Morton Beemish), and Tom Owen (Tom Simmonite).
Absent are Jane Freeman (Ivy) (like Peter Sallis, an original cast member), Sarah Thomas (Glenda), Jean Alexander (Auntie Wainwright), Brian Murphy (Alvin Smedley), Russ Abbot (Hobo), and Louis Emerick (PC Walsh).

If you've got an actor or a show you'd like to see featured in Tea Time Tidbits, drop me a line.

To contact Heather:
E-mail: heather@mpt.org
Address: Afternoon Tea
Maryland Public Television
11767 Owings Mills Blvd.
Owings Mills, MD 21117

 

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Week of November 21, 2011: The original Upstairs, Downstairs, part two

This week we wrap up our look at what the cast members of the original Upstairs Downstairs have been up to since the series finished in 1975.

Upstairs, Downstairs
Pagett recently, and as Elizabeth.

Nicola Pagett, who played Lady Elizabeth Kirbridge, performed the title role in a 1977 BBC adaptation of Anna Karenina and was in a variety of films including The Viking Queen and Oliver's Story. Pagett also played a lead role in the 1994 to 1995 sitcom Ain't Misbehavin'. In 1998 the actress chronicled her experiences with manic depression in a book titled Diamonds Behind My Eyes. In the book Pagett tells of how in 1995, while appearing in What The Butler Saw at the National Theatre in London, she began behaving erratically and was ultimately diagnosed as having acute manic depression. During this time she developed an obsession with Alastair Campbell, the Prime Minister's Press Secretary. Her obsession culminated in her being confined in a closed psychiatric unit. She now controls her illness with medication and self-awareness.

Upstairs, Downstairs
Early acting days, and as Hudson.

Gordon Jackson, the stern bible quoting Mr. Hudson, started acting as a teenager and enjoyed a career of almost half a century. Although he had almost 60 film credits to his name, Jackson was perpetually afraid of being unemployed. The handsome redhead was so insecure that he would forget lines, shake when handling props and even refused to watch his own screen performances. On leaving school, Jackson, who was born in 1923, became an apprentice engineer draughtsman at the Rolls-Royce Factory in Glasgow. He continued working at the factory even after he got his first film role in a film called The Foreman Went to France, made at Ealing Studios in 1942. That role lead to a succession of small character parts and he eventually became a full-time actor. Ealing Studios was also where Jackson met his wife, Scottish actress Rona Anderson.

Upstairs, Downstairs
With wife, actress
Rona Anderson.

Throughout the 1950s and '60s, Jackson juggled films, such as Mutiny on the Bounty, The Great Escape, The Ipcress File and The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, with stage and television work. In 1971, Jackson was offered the role of Angus Hudson, which he accepted because it guaranteed six months work. Just five years later he received an Emmy.

Following Upstairs, Downstairs, Jackson played tough guy, George Crowley in the action crime series The Professionals which ran from 1977-1983. He also starred as solicitor Noel Strachen in the 1981 Australian mini-series A Town Like Alice. In 1979, Jackson received an OBE from the Queen. Tragically his career was cut short when, in 1989, it was discovered he had severe bone cancer. Jackson passed away on January 14th 1990.

Upstairs, Downstairs
Baddeley minus Mrs. Bridges' wig,
rehearsing a scene.

Angela Baddeley, who played Mrs. Bridges, was born in 1904 in London. Her family was wealthy and she based the character of Mrs. Bridges on one of the cooks they had when she was a child. Baddeley wasn't the only actress in the family; her younger sister was Hermoine Baddeley. Having made her stage debut at the age of eight, Baddeley performed in Richard III at the Old Vic Theatre in London when she was just nine years old. As a teenager, Baddeley performed in numerous musicals and pantomimes, before 'retiring' from acting at the age of 18. A few years later, Baddeley came out of retirement and went on to establish herself as one of the most popular theatre actresses of her day. In 1975 she was awarded a CBE for her 'services to acting'.

Upstairs, Downstairs
Angela Baddeley in make-up
being fitted with her
Mrs Bridges wig.

After the conclusion of Upstairs, Downstairs, Baddeley was all set to put her Mrs. Bridges apron back on in a spin-off from the series, which was to have focused on Mr. Hudson, Ruby and her running a seaside boarding house. Before filming could begin, in February of 1976, Baddeley died of pneumonia at the age of 71. Her last role was on the London stage in the second cast of Stephen Sondheim's A Little Night Music. Baddeley's grandson is Charles Hart, who wrote the lyrics to the Andrew Lloyd Weber musical The Phantom of the Opera.

Upstairs, Downstairs
As Rose, and recently.

Jean Marsh, the co-creator of the series (with fellow actress Eileen Atkins), played formidable parlourmaid Rose Buck. Since the series ended, Marsh has had a busy career in the theatre and on television, including a starring role in the US sitcom 9 to 5 (1982) and films such as Return to Oz (1985) and Willow (1988). Marsh again plays Rose in the new version of Upstairs, Downstairs, but this time she has been promoted to Housekeeper. In October of this year Marsh had to take a break from filming the new series when she suffered a stroke.

Upstairs, Downstairs
Beeny as Edward
the footman.

Christopher Beeny, who played Edward Barnes the footman, became a regular on the UK's first soap opera The Grove Family. He went on to star in the comedy In Loving Memory. In recent years Beeny has cameoed on Last of the Summer Wine.

Upstairs, Downstairs
Alderton with wife Pauline
Collins and their son
Nicholas in 1974.

John Alderton, who played Thomas Watkins the chauffeur, went on to star with his wife Pauline Collins, who played Sarah, in the spin-off drama Thomas and Sarah. Just one of numerous times the long married couple has worked together, both on stage and the screen. Alderton also made appearances in James Herriot's 1975 film It Shouldn't Happen To A Vet and in the 2003 movie Calendar Girls. In 2008, Alderton played Christopher Casby in the 2008 BBC adaptation of the Dickens classic Little Dorrit. Alderton and Collins reunited on screen in 2002 in the film Mrs Caldicot's Cabbage War.

Upstairs, Downstairs
As Ruby, as Tasambeker.

Jenny Tomasin played scullery maid Ruby Finch. After Upstairs, Downstairs ended, Tomasin joined the cast of Crossroads playing waitress Florence Baker. She remained with the Motel soap until 1979. In the 1985 she made a memorable appearance in Doctor Who during Colin Baker's tenure as the Doctor. Her character, Tasambeker, was exterminated by the Daleks. Tomasin also appeared in ITV soap Emmerdale before her character, Noreen Bell, was killed off In 2006. Her most recent television appearances have been chat shows, where she is interviewed about her days on the series and how hard it has been for her to get acting work since the series ended. "I feel the series might have limited me," says Tomasin. "There are a lot of strong-woman parts I could have played, which nobody would see me as."

Upstairs, Downstairs

The cast reunite in summer 2002 for the After Upstairs, Downstairs documentary. Left to right: Jackie Tong (Daisy), Meg Wynn Owen (Hazel), Simon Williams (James), Jenny Tomasin (Ruby), Lesley-Anne Down (Georgina) and Gareth Hunt (Frederick).


 

Upstairs, Downstairs

Back-stage group photo from the 50-years BAFTA celebration event from October 2007. From left to right: Christopher Beeny (Edward), Jacqueline Tong (Daisy), Simon Williams (James), Pauline Collins (Sarah), John Alderton (Thomas), Jean Marsh (Rose/co-creator), Meg Wynn Owen (Hazel), Lesley-Anne Down (Georgina) and Jenny Tomasin (Ruby).

 

So that wraps up our look at the actors in Upstairs, Downstairs. If you've got an actor or a show you'd like to see featured in Tea Time Tidbits, drop me a line.

To contact Heather:
E-mail: heather@mpt.org
Address: Afternoon Tea
Maryland Public Television
11767 Owings Mills Blvd.
Owings Mills, MD 21117

 

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Week of November 14, 2011: The original Upstairs, Downstairs

A couple of weeks ago we were chatting about actress Pauline Collins who played Sarah in the long running TV drama Upstairs, Downstairs. Over the next couple of weeks, I thought you might enjoy a brief rundown on what Ms. Collins' co-stars in the series have been up to since it last aired in 1975.

Upstairs, Downstairs
David Langton off set.

David Langton who played Richard Bellamy added a number of other "Lords" to his acting resume after the show finished. Namely, Prime Minister Lord Asquith in Number 10 in 1983, and Lord Mountbatten in the television film Charles and Diana: A Royal Love Story in 1982. While living in Stratford-upon-Avon where he was enjoying semi-retirement, Langton suffered a fatal heart attack and passed away in 1994 at the age of 82. It was only after Langton's death that his friends discovered his real age, having always been under the impression that he was 10 years younger.

Upstairs, Downstairs
Rachel Gurney and David
Langton as Lady Marjorie
and Richard Bellamy.

Rachel Gurney who played Lady Marjorie Bellamy was written out of the show at her own request, after the first two series. She went onto enjoy a successful stage career, making her Broadway debut in 1980 in Major Barbara. Gurney returned to Broadway twice more in The Dresser (1981–1982) and Breaking the Code (1988).

Gurney passed away in 2001 at age 81. She is said to have regretted leaving Upstairs, Downstairs, and had her character not been last seen setting sail on the Titanic, would have loved to have returned.

 

Upstairs, Downstairs
Hannah Gordon then, more recently.

Hannah Gordon was just 33 when she played Viscountess Virginia Bellamy, Richard's second wife. Since the show ended in 1975, Gordon has kept busy with roles in television such as Midsomer Murders and the daytime television program Watercolour and on the stage. She has also done a lot of narration including animated features such as Watership Down, which ran from 1998 to 2002, BBC radio plays and audiobooks. In 1983 Kordes of Germany bred a floribunda rose which they named Hannah Gordon in her honor. Gordon also regularly performs her popular one-woman show For All Occasions at theatres around the U.K.

Upstairs, Downstairs
Simon Williams as
Major James Bellamy.

Simon Williams, who played the series heart-throb Major James Bellamy, went on to make a career of playing upper-class roles in many TV shows, including Dr. Charles Cartwright in Don't Wait Up Sir, and Charles Merrick in Holby City. The 6' 4" actor also enjoys a successful career writing thrillers and plays Williams' most recent stage work is as Cabinet Secretary, Sir Humphrey Appleby in the stage version of Yes, Prime Minister. For over 30 years, Williams, who goes by the nickname "Sam", has been an active member of the Actors' Charitable Trust (a charity that provides financial support, information and advice to actors whose children have special needs, and also helps with childcare costs and other expenses for actors who are living with cancer or other illness) and Denville Hall (a retirement and nursing home for elderly actors and actresses, including those with dementia). Williams also donates his time and expertise to the Sir Terence Rattigan Charitable Trust, the King George V Fund for Actors and Actresses, and several other charities.

Upstairs, Downstairs
Meg Wynn Owen then, more recently.

Meg Wynn Owen who played Hazel Bellamy has worked consistently in television and film. Film roles include character parts in Gosford Park, Love Actually and Pride and Prejudice. Most recently, Meg is the mother in the British sitcom Family Business.

Upstairs, Downstairs
Lesley-Anne Down then, more recently.

Lesley-Anne Down, who played Georgina Worsley, appeared in films The Pink Panther Strikes Again, A Little Night Music and Hanover Street opposite Harrison Ford. She was also Stephanie Rogers in Dallas in the early 90s and since March, 2003, she has played Jacqueline Payne Marone in the soap The Bold and the Beautiful. Down's permanent home is in Los Angeles. Down has been married three times.

Upstairs, Downstairs
Season Three cast.

 

Upstairs, Downstairs
Reunion cast photo, 1982.

 

A reunion photo taken in 1982, featuring the early set of characters from the series. Note that Simon Williams has his arm around an imaginary person. It can only be assumed that somebody (Jean Marsh perhaps?) couldn't make it to the shoot and the intention was to add her photo in later!

We'll be chatting about other actors in Upstairs, Downstairs next week, including Angela Baddelly and Gordon Jackson. In the meantime, if you're an Upstairs, Downstairs fan let us know what you think of the new series.

To contact Heather:
E-mail: heather@mpt.org
Address: Afternoon Tea
Maryland Public Television
11767 Owings Mills Blvd.
Owings Mills, MD 21117

 

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Week of November 7, 2011: David Jason

David Jason
A very young David Jason.

It's hard to imagine that the much put upon Granville in Open All Hours, played by actor David Jason, is in real-life a "Sir". Jason, who was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1993 and knighted in 2005 for his services to drama, was born David John White on February 2nd, 1940 in North Finchley, a suburb of London.

The 5ft 5" actor Jason (he changed his name in 1963 after discovering there was already an Equity actor called David White) got the acting bug when he was fourteen years old. His first stage appearance was when he stepped into the role of a Cavalier in a Civil War drama put on by his school, when one of his classmates had to drop out. Until that point, Jason had thought acting was something that only girls did. Much to his surprise he loved the experience and joined an amateur dramatic society, hoping to follow in the footsteps of his older brother Arthur, who had become a professional actor.

David Jason
As Blanco in Porridge, looking
much older than his 35 years.

Jason's father, Arthur, a porter at Biillingsgate Fish Market and his mother, Olwen, who cleaned houses, however, persuaded the young David, when he left school at the age of fifteen, to get himself a trade by working in a local garage as a trainee mechanic. He duly complied, but after a year switched courses to become an electrician, all the while continuing to hone his acting skills in a number of amateur productions.

A few years later, when he was in his 20s, Jason and a friend set up their own business called B & W Installations. Then in March of 1965, Jason was recommended by his brother to take over his role in a Noel Coward play. The director went to see Jason in one of the amateur productions he was performing in and offered him the part. He made his professional debut in the play at Bromley Rep on April 5, 1965, earning the princely sum of nine pounds a week.

David Jason
As Derek Trotter in
Only Fools and Horses.

Jason stayed at Bromley Rep for over a year, playing variety of roles usually of a comedic nature. While he was there he met Lennard Pearce when they both appeared in the eighteenth century comedy The Rivals. Fifteen years later, the pair reunited when Pearce played Gradad to Jason's Del Boy in the series that shot Jason to fame, Only Fools and Horses.

After Bromley Rep, Jason went on to appear in numerous stage and television productions and in 1969 was cast as a decrepit old gardener in a brand new Ronnie Barker series called Hark at Barker. Jason and Barker hit it off immediately and the pair would be paired again in 1973 in Porridge and Open All Hours. Jason's role as Granville garnered him the part of Del Boy in Only Fools and Horses, when the director of the series watched it one night and realized that Jason was ideal for his new sitcom which was still lacking an actor to play the main character.

David Jason
David collecting his OBE in 1993,
with partner Myfanwy Talog.

Only Fools and Horses ran for sixty-two episodes ending with a three-part Christmas special in 1996, the last part of which drew in an audience of 24.3 million. During its run Jason also created two more memorable characters to add to his ever growing repertoire; Sid "Pop" Larkin in The Darling Buds of May and Detective Inspector William "Jack" Frost in the TV series A Touch of Frost, which ran for seventeen years. Interestingly enough Jason was not the first choice to play "Jack". He only got the role after it was turned down by his good friend and mentor, Ronnie Barker.

In 1995, Jason's girlfriend of eighteen years, Welsh actress Myfanwy Talog, died of breast cancer. The experience inspired Jason to organize his own charity, The David Jason Trust, for terminally ill children. He also threw himself into his work and throughout the 1990s, along with his roles on television, he appeared in numerous films and documentary series.

David Jason
As Inspector "Jack" Frost.

At the age of 61, Jason took on the role of his life - that of 'dad'. His daughter Sophie Mae was born in 2001. Jason and Sophie's mother, Gill Hinchcliff, who is 20 years Jason's junior, had met when she was working as a production assistant on A Touch of Frost. They married on November 30, 2005 at a private ceremony at the Dorchester Hotel.

According to an interview Jason gave last year, being an older father is not without its stresses. "I think maybe you do lack a bit of patience when you're an older dad," said the then 70-year-old. "It's great, but - cor, blimey - try watching television when she comes home at four o'clock and she's like: 'No, you can't watch the news. I'm watching SpongeBob.' You hardly get a look in, believe me."

David Jason
With wife Gill and daughter Sophie Mae
at the premiere of Cirque du Soleil's
Totem at the Royal Albert Hall.

When asked by BBC television's Michael Parkinson why he'd waited so long to become a father, the actor said "I didn't actually wait, it was thrust upon me I think. My life has been in reverse. It wasn't fame and it wasn't money, but I always wanted to succeed. The only way I could do that was to try with every job to be better than I was in the last one, and to learn. Because of that I needed to be footloose and fancy free. I needed to go where the work was. As soon as things started to get heavy with a relationship, I'm afraid I was one of those that would (be) off, gone. Only because, I knew for me I couldn't be responsible for a family and the silly work I was doing."

David Jason
Wearing a hairpiece as he filmed
his new BBC comedy The Royal Bodyguard.

That "silly work" of course has bought joy to millions and continues to do so with the release of a brand new David Jason sitcom, The Royal Bodyguard. In it Jason plays a royal protection officer who got the job by accident - and really isn't up to the role. Which is something you can't say about any of the parts Jason has taken on in his half century acting career.

If there's an actor you'd like to see featured in an upcoming tea-time tidbits, write to me at...

 

To contact Heather:
E-mail: heather@mpt.org
Address: Afternoon Tea
Maryland Public Television
11767 Owings Mills Blvd.
Owings Mills, MD 21117

 

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Week of October 31, 2011: Pauline Collins

Pauline Collins
As Sarah Moffit in Upstairs, Downstairs.

If you've recently been enjoying the revival of Upstairs, Downstairs, then today – courtesy of a viewer request – we take a trip down memory lane and chat about Pauline Collins, who starred as Sarah Moffit in the original series.

Collins was born in Exmouth, Devon on September 3, 1940, but grew up near Liverpool. She caught the acting bug at just eight years old, when she stepped into a role at a local amateur dramatics society production run by her mother. Later Collins worked as a drama teacher while acting on a part-time basis.

In 1957, Collins had her first television role in the long running series, Emergency Ward 10, where she played a nurse and in 1962, she entered the acting world full-time, making her stage debut in Windsor, in a play called A Gazelle in Park Lane.

Pauline Collins
You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger with Woody Allen
and Gemma Jones.

Two years later, the young Roman Catholic actress found herself work at a repertory theatre in Killarney, Ireland. Life seemed idyllic; acting in a different play every night, boarding with other actors and falling in love. At the end of the season, Collins' world turned upside down when she discovered she was pregnant.

Hiding her pregnancy from family, agents and friends, Collins entered a home run by nuns for unmarried mothers. It was there her daughter Louise was born and immediately given up for adoption. Collins never forgot her little girl and 22 years later the pair reunited. Collins documented the anguish of the experience and the subsequent joy of their reunion in a memoir she penned called Letter to Louise.

After the birth of Louise, Collins returned to England where she threw herself into her work and made her West End debut in 1965 in a play called Passion Flower Hotel. The following year, she made her first film, Secrets of a Windmill Girl and in 1967 she played Samantha Briggs in the Doctor Who series The Faceless Ones. Producers were so impressed with Collins that they offered her the opportunity to continue working on the show as a new companion for the Doctor. Collins declined, but later returned to the BBC in the pilot episode and first series of a show set in Liverpool called The Liver Birds. That was in 1969, just a few years before Collins would become a household name in her portrayal of Sarah the maid in the ITV drama Upstairs, Downstairs.

Pauline Collins
With husband John Alderton.

Collins appeared regularly in the first two series. The second series also starred Collins' actor husband, John Alderton as chauffeur Thomas Watkins. The couple went on to appear on screen together several times. First in Thomas and Sarah, a spin-off to Upstairs, Downstairs, and later in the sitcom, No, Honestly, and in the Wodehouse Playhouse series, which ran from 1975-78. They also co-narrated an animated British children's television series called Little Miss in 1983 and starred in the ITV drama series Forever Green, where they appeared as a couple escaping the city with their children to start a new life in the country.

 

Pauline Collins
The Broadway production of
Shirley Valentine.

Forever Green ran from 1989 to 1992, during which time, Collins gained international fame in the 1989 film Shirley Valentine, an adaptation of the one-woman play she'd won an Olivier Award for in London's West End a year earlier. Her portrayal of the bored Liverpudlian housewife Shirley, talking over the problems of her marriage with her kitchen wall garnered Collins Golden Globe and Academy Award nominations. The same year the film was released, Collins took the play to Broadway, where she won a Tony award.

In real life, Collins is nothing like disgruntled housewife Shirley. Her 42 year marriage to Alderton is one of the most stable in show business and has produced three children, Nicholas, Kate and Richard.

Pauline Collins
With her OBE in 2001.

In 2001 Collins was awarded an OBE. When Collins received a phone call from 10 Downing Street, she thought Tony Blair wanted her support in the general election. "I was stupefied", said Collins after receiving her honor from the Queen at a Buckingham Palace investiture ceremony.

"The letter had got lost, it was sent to a former agent or something. So I didn't know anything about it. I was amazed that I should be awarded anything - I think I said 'What's it for?'"

Pauline Collins
As Mrs. Flite in Bleak House.

The OBE was, of course, for the actress' services to acting. One of Collins' favorite roles was that of Miss Flite in the BBC production of Charles Dickens' Bleak House. Dickens was very much part of Pauline's childhood. As Collins tells it, "Mum loved Dickens and often put on dramatizations of Dickens, in particular Nicolas Nickelby. She was very good at it. I guess that's where my love of his work started." For the role, Collins had to wear yet another period costume, as she'd just completed filming on the set of Doctor Who where she'd played Queen Victoria. According to Collins, "it was the heaviest costume I've ever worn – it was like carrying several small children 'round with me all the time!" That was in 2006 and Collins became only the third actor to have been in both the original and the new series of Doctor Who.

Collins' most recent role was in the 2010 Woody Allen film, You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger. Her other film roles include Paradise Road, with Glenn Close and Cate Blanchett in 1997 and City of Joy with Patrick Swayze in 1992.

If you've got a current or past British actor you'd like to find out more about, let me know.

To contact Heather:
E-mail: heather@mpt.org
Address: Afternoon Tea
Maryland Public Television
11767 Owings Mills Blvd.
Owings Mills, MD 21117

 

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Week of October 24, 2011: Chef's Lenny Henry, continued

As promised this week we're going to chat more about Lenny Henry who plays Gareth Blackstock in Chef!

Fifty three year old Henry was born at Burton Road Hospital in Dudley, Worcestershire. The son of Jamaican immigrants, Winifred (Winnie) and Winston, Henry was half way through completing an engineering diploma at Westbury Technical College when at the age of 17 his world was turned upside down after winning Britain's New Faces talent show. Suddenly he was famous.

As Henry recalls, "I went from nothing to everything in the space of three minutes. The whole idea of fame and stardom was that it's for them, not for me. I was going to be an electrician or work in a factory like my dad."

Lenny Henry
The Henry family; Billie, Lenny,
and Dawn.

Henry's relationship with his father was virtually non-existent. They shared a home, but little else. His father rarely spoke to him, or his six siblings, and hugs were unheard of. It wasn't until Winston lay dying in 1975 that he finally started to communicate with his son.

As Henry remembers it "on his death bed he wanted to cram a lot in. He'd talk about Jamaica and his life there and when he first came to England. I would just sit there and nod and then he was gone. I didn't cry. There was respect for him but the emotional connection wasn't there."

Henry's factory worker mother on the other hand was his hero. A strict disciplinarian at home, when it came to standing up for her kids there was no one stronger. "She'd come to the school and speak up for me," recalls Henry. "A teacher at primary school kicked me because I threw paint. She [Winnie] yelled and shouted, and demanded an apology. The teachers hid from her."

His mother's death had a far greater impact on Henry than that of his father. "Her illness went from 1991 to 1998 and it was very difficult. It was a miracle that I was able to be funny because there were so many sad things going on. She was a diabetic, a double amputee, had glaucoma, was asthmatic and had a heart condition. My mum was very, very tough. It wasn't until she had a stroke, which took her speech away...once that happened she just thought, there's no point."

Winnie passed away while Henry was on tour in Australia. Henry remembers not being able to respond to his brother-in-law who had given him the news over the phone. He cried for 30 minutes. It was after his mother's death that Henry began his intense course of studying as a way of honoring the strong woman who, despite her son's success in show business, had always worried that he hadn't had much education.

At the time of Winnie's death, Henry was married to Dawn French, star of The Vicar of Dibley. The couple met in 1981 at the Comedy Store in London, where French was performing with her friend Jennifer Saunders. For the 6ft 3" Henry and the barely 5ft French, it was love at first sight.

French announced her love of Henry to her mother in typical jocular fashion; "know when I was little, you were always telling me about the big black bogeyman who would come and get me if I didn't go to sleep? Well, he's come and got me!"

Lenny Henry
Dawn French and Lenny Henry
on their wedding day,
October 20, 1984.

The comedic couple got married at St. Paul's Cathedral in 1984. Their marriage had more than its fair share of problems. From the attacks they came under publically from racists who objected to their mixed race marriage, to their struggle to have a family.

For years, while making people laugh on screen, the couple bore the private pain of miscarriages, failed IVF treatments, sneaking in and out of clinics to avoid media interest and humiliation when they tried to adopt and were turned down because French was too fat. Eventually, after an enforced diet for French, she managed to meet the social services health requirements for adoption and in November of 1991 the couple welcomed into their home a little girl who they named Billie.

The death of Henry's mother and the pressure he had been under because of how much she and the rest of his family depended on him financially, eventually took its toll on Henry. A year after Winnie died he was checked into a nursing home suffering from depression. With his wife's support and grief counseling Henry pulled through.

While Henry and French's marriage may have survived the challenges it faced in the late 1990s, it eventually crumbled ten years later when the couple were forced to live apart while Henry prepared and performed the most challenging role of his career, Othello.

Lenny Henry
The couple at the BAFTA awards
in November 2009.

The couple's 25 year-long-marriage had been held up to the world as proof that high-profile celebrities could share the limelight and still keep their relationship intact. After spending so much time apart Henry and French realized that they were more friends than a couple and that they would rather remain friends than become an unhappily married couple. It wasn't a decision they made quickly or lightly. According to Henry, they "talked and talked and talked", until eventually "we knew it was the right thing to do."

The marriage was dissolved exactly a year ago, but Henry and French remain best friends. So much so that shortly after their divorce was made final they took a much needed vacation together with their daughter, Billie.

Henry is now busy preparing for his debut at London's prestigious National Theatre, where next month he'll appear in Shakespeare's The Comedy of Errors, playing Antipholus of Syracuse. The comedy, which tells the story of what happens when two sets of twins separated at birth meet for the first time, opens November 22nd, and will be broadcast to cinemas worldwide on March 1, 2012.

If you've got a favorite Afternoon Tea actor you'd like to see featured in Tea Time Tidbits, let us know.

To contact Heather:
E-mail: heather@mpt.org
Address: Afternoon Tea
Maryland Public Television
11767 Owings Mills Blvd.
Owings Mills, MD 21117

 

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Week of October 17, 2011: Chef's Lenny Henry

Lenny Henry
As Gareth Blackstock in Chef.

For many fans of British comedy programs when they hear the name Lenny Henry the image that immediately comes to mind is that of the scowling Gareth Blackstock; the character Henry plays in Chef. That's not the case for those of us living in England in the mid-1970s. To us, "Lenny Henry" conjures up Tiswas; a Saturday morning British television series which ran from 1974-1983 and had a fanatical following among school kids and parents alike. The word "tiswas" means "a state of confusion or commotion" which the young Henry presided over to perfection.

Henry was just 21 when he was cast in Tiswas, having made a name for himself at the age of 18 by winning the popular on-air talent show, New Faces (similar to America's Got Talent, minus Simon Cowell). His winning act had been an impersonation of Stevie Wonder, but it was his imitating white celebrities, such as Michael Crawford's Some Mothers' Do Have 'Em character, Frank Spenser, that left the biggest impression among viewers.

After leaving Tiswas in 1981 Henry honed his craft as a stand-up comedian by performing twice a night in Blackpool. He also went back to school.

Lenny Henry
School days, age 12.

Born on August 29, 1958, in the town of Dudley in the West Midlands, Henry had left school at the age of 16. He describes the school, now closed down, as "a conveyor belt for factory workers." According to Henry, the school never encouraged its students to do 0-levels and the word "university" was never mentioned. As Henry tells it "there were lots of people who went to my school who should have gone to university - that's what I think. A lot of people were ignored. A lot of people in my family were very smart, but didn't go to university."

There was also racism. For an entire term, Henry had a fight every single day because of racist name-calling. The punishment he received was harsh as there were no laws against teachers hitting pupils with a sneaker or a stick. Henry did have some inspiring teachers though, and remembers with fondness his science teacher, Mr. Brookes. It was Brookes who first encouraged Henry in his comedy by letting him use a reel-to-reel recorder to rehearse funny voices. That influence helped Henry reach far beyond the classroom unlocking ambitions he barely knew were present. "We all bloom towards the sunlight", reflects Henry. It just took Henry a little longer than most to get the education he felt he was capable of and deserved.

Lenny Henry
Impersonating newscaster Trevor
McDonald in Tiswas.

Henry's quest for an education began with his return to college in Preston at the age of 22, to study for his 0-levels and still continues. Today, 30 years later, he is in the midst of acquiring a PhD. "It always felt like unfinished business", says Henry. Coming straight off of Tiswas, Henry found himself performing comedy impressions for holidaymakers , while in his spare time he'd be reading Yeats, Tennyson and Shakespeare as he fast-tracked his way through English literature and language. "It was brilliant", says Henry, "I was doing this weird literature thing, feeding my brain."

When it came to taking his exams, Henry says his presence baffled the other candidates who would wonder "what's the bloke from Tiswas doing sitting in the back of the exam room?" Henry plugged away and was rewarded years of studying later – most of which was done at Open University - not just with a BA, but with a thirst for learning. He went on to take a Masters degree in screenwriting at the Royal Holloway, University of London, achieving a distinction. Henry is now in the middle of a four-year project working towards his PhD, studying the representation of black people in the media.

One of the things that spurred Henry on in his academic pursuits was his feeling inferior to his peers in the comedy world. As his career developed and he moved to London permanently, he found himself surrounded by comedians who had been to university and it made him even more aware of what he'd missed. No matter that he was a rising star education was a conversation from which he continually felt excluded.

"When I came to London, everyone I met had been to university, everyone had a degree, I was really jealous, I wanted to punch people out", recalls Henry. "I'm not an idiot, I never was an idiot", says Henry, but "they talked about having a Geoff Hurst [a first class degree] or a Desmond [a 2:2 degree]. I used to say 'What's that?'"

Lenny Henry
In the title role of Shakespeare's
Othello.

Henry credits his degree course with giving him the confidence to tackle the title role in Shakespeare's Othello, which he took on in 2009 at the West Yorkshire Playhouse in Leeds. The play was hugely successful and following a regional tour transferred to the West End's Trafalgar Studios.

Not counting his performances in pantomime, Othello marked Henry's theatrical debut. The casting of Henry may have come as a surprise to the British theatre going public, but not to Henry. As he told a Daily Telegraph reporter shortly before the play opened, "it was always on my radar. It's the part, isn't it, for a black actor. It's a pimp or a cop or a thief or a slave or...Othello. That's what the brothers down the gym are getting in shape for. 'What you doin', man? You playin' a pimp?' 'Nah, man, I'm playin' Offello. Gotta get in shape.'"

All joking aside, Henry's journey towards one of Shakespeare's most complex characters had been a long time in the making. He'd seen his wife at the time, Dawn French, play Bottom in A Midsummer Night's Dream, and his best friend comedian Alexei Sayle play Trinculo in The Tempest, but he'd always refused to take seriously any Shakespearean roles he'd been offered. That changed after his Open University experience, where as part of the six year's he'd spent getting his BA in English Literature, he'd studied Shakespeare for 12 months. He'd listened to Shakespeare's plays in the car, watched them on TV at home and eventually felt qualified enough to participate in a documentary on BBC Radio 4 called Lenny & Will, where he'd gone "in search of the magic of Shakespeare in performance" and where he'd first met Othello director Barrie Rutter.

Drawing on his memories from his schooldays in Dudley gave Henry an understanding of Othello more than most. It was a role with which he could well identify. As he told the Telegraph, "I could have a fight every day because of being called wog, nig-nog, blackie, sooty, coon. I had to learn other ways to cope, otherwise I just wouldn't have got through school. Having grown up with that I understand how Othello would feel. This stuff bounces off him. He's used to it. As we know, soldiers say, 'It's a term of endearment, me calling you a nig-nog! I luv yer!' Also having usually been the only black person, which was my life for at least 15 years of my career, I really empathise with Othello's isolation'."

Mirroring the length of time it had taken him to achieve academic success, at the age of 51, after over 30 years in show business Henry's performance as Othello won him an "outstanding newcomer" award at the London Evening Standard theatre awards in November of 2009. On receiving the award, in his typical jocular fashion, Henry quipped "I must be the oldest newcomer there has ever been - which means there is hope for Bruce Forsyth [a long running BBC gameshow host]'s King Lear." Later adding that his late mother would have enjoyed the occasion. "My mum would have been there in a big church hat, sat in front of Kevin Spacey," said the star.

We'll chat more about Lenny Henry and his parents next week, until then, you can let me know how you're enjoying Chef by dropping me a line.

To contact Heather:
E-mail: heather@mpt.org
Address: Afternoon Tea
Maryland Public Television
11767 Owings Mills Blvd.
Owings Mills, MD 21117

 

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Week of October 10, 2011: Open All Hours' Lynda Baron

Lynda Baron
Lynda Baron at this year's
BAFTA Awards.

One of the things that I think makes the shows we enjoy during our Afternoon Tea so compelling to watch is the superb quality of the acting. It's almost as though we are watching real people, not actors pretending to be someone else.

Lynda Baron, who plays Nurse Gladys Emmanual, the much adored fiancée of Arkwright in Open All Hours is one of those actors. It's hard to imagine she's not a real nurse. One thing Baron does have in common with Nurse Gladys though is that both hail from "up North", Baron having been born in Urmston, Manchester in Lancashire, on March 24, 1939.

Before becoming an actress Baron trained as a ballet dancer at London's Royal Academy of Dance. Her first professional performance was in pantomime at the Liverpool Empire when she was just 16. It was while performing in a pantomime that Baron had her most embarrassing moment. Recalls Baron "I lost my red silk dress whilst flying and was left revolving slowly in my pants [underwear] and bra. I laughed till my ribs hurt, and so did the audience". The experience didn't put Baron off performing and she considers the best advice she ever received to be to "work as hard as you can, and stay out of mischief".

Lynda Baron
Linda Baron with Ronnie Barker
and David Jason in Open All Hours.

One of Baron's earliest television roles was in 1964, when she had a small part in the popular long running soap opera Crossroads. Appearing in the same series at the exact same time as Baron was David Jason, who she was reunited with in 1976 in Open All Hours, where Jason plays Arkwright's hapless nephew Granville.

The list of television shows that Baron has appeared in reads like a Who's Who of British TV; Up Pompeii, Z Cars, Miss Marple Investigates, EastEnders, Last of the Summer Wine, and Baron has taken part in the BBC science fiction series Doctor Who three times, in 1966, 1983 and most recently this year.

Lynda Baron
Baron in her BAFTA nominated
role Violet Carson who played Ena
Sharples in Coronation Street.

This year Baron also received one of the highest accolades a British television actor can achieve when she was nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Award by the British Academy of Film and Television. The role was for Baron's portrayal of Violet Carson the one-off television drama The Road to Coronation Street about the early days of one of England's most beloved soap operas Coronation Street. (Carson played Ena Sharples in the series.)

Baron's talents aren't restricted to television roles. She has numerous stage appearances to her credit as well, including In Celebration, opposite Orlando Bloom and Tim Healy. Her other theatre credits include An Inspector Calls, Stepping Out, Entertaining Mr. Sloane and The Full Monty and this year she appeared in a West End production of When We Are Married by J. B. Priestley.

Lynda Baron
Lynda Baron and husband
John Lee after their wedding
at a registry office in London.

In 2005 Baron appeared in the film Colour Me Kubrick, which starred John Malkovich. Baron doesn't show any signs of slowing down and intends to "keep working till I can't remember the words anymore!" In what little spare time she has Barron enjoys gardening, knitting, painting and gossiping. She has been married to musician John Lee since 1966 and they have two children, Sarah and Morgan.

To contact Heather:
E-mail: heather@mpt.org
Address: Afternoon Tea
Maryland Public Television
11767 Owings Mills Blvd.
Owings Mills, MD 21117

 

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Week of October 3, 2011: Martin Clunes

Martin Clunes
Clunes as Doc Martin.

At the request of an Afternoon Tea viewer, this week we're going to chat about actor Martin Clunes, who plays Doctor Martin Ellingham in the popular British import Doc Martin.

Clunes, was born on November 28, 1961 in Wimbledon, South West London. His father Alec was a well-known classical actor, and his mother Daphne sat for many years on the board of the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art and once worked for Orson Welles. Daphne's first cousin was actor Jeremy Brett, and it was his influence that encouraged Clunes to take up an acting career.

Martin Clunes
Clunes as a child with his parents
and sister, Amanda.

Until the death of his father of lung cancer at the age of 58 when Clunes was eight years old, his life was pretty idyllic. The family, which included big sister Amanda, lived in a large house on Wimbledon Common, where Clunes remembers spending his days climbing trees without a care in the world. In the summer, the family would go off to their second home on the island of Majorca. It wasn't until Clunes was 18 that he discovered life hadn't been quite as ideal as he'd imagined. It turned out that his father hadn't been living at home when he died.

"He had left us", confided Clunes to a reporter in 2008. "At the time I didn't know. Mum kept it from us. He was an actor, away lots, working in the evening, so there was always a degree of absenteeism there. But he had gone to Majorca. The cancer was diagnosed not long after and, not long after that, he was dead. For years, I never talked to my mother about it, but I know she was wounded massively. It could have got better, you see. They could have resolved it, maybe, but then he died so there was always that sense of unfinished business."

Martin Clunes
Martin with his wife, Phillipa,
and daughter, Emily.

Clunes' father may have been the actor in the family, but it was Daphne who took Clunes to the theatre and would drag him backstage afterwards to meet the actors. According to Clunes, "she was so stagestruck. She was always more interested and excited than me. Even once I was in the business, if I got a new job, she would be beside herself, saying, 'Who is in this series?' I'd say, 'Well, so-and-so, and so-and-so, and yes Mother, thank you for asking, I'm fine, your granddaughter Emily is fine.' But she just loved it. She thought actors were the most marvelous people. It didn't matter who they were at heart. I'd say to her 'but Mum, he beat both his wives to a pulp!' She'd say 'marvelous Hamlet though'!"

The sudden death of Clunes' mother in 2007 came when Clunes' acting career was at a peek. Doc Martin, which had been airing for three years, was a huge hit. It attracted massive audiences and was especially gratifying for Clunes as it was produced for ITV by The Buffalo Pictures Limited, a company owned by Clunes and his wife, Phillipa Braithwate.

Martin Clunes
Clunes in one of his first
television appearance as
'Lon' on Dr. Who in 1983.

After a somewhat sporadic start to his acting career in the early 1980s, Clunes had finally become a well known face to British television viewers through his portrayal of Gary Strang in the sitcom Men Behaving Badly. He'd also appeared on the big screen in the 1998 Oscar-winning film, Shakespeare in Love, where he played the role of Richard Burbage.

Following the death of his mother, Clunes put production of Doc Martin on hold, while he concentrated on a number of charitable activities including a short on-line film on HIV discrimination he made with actor Stephen Fry, a commercial for the Born Free Foundation and Comic Relief.

Martin Clunes
On the set of the
documentary A Man and
His Dogs
.

In 2008 Clunes picked up where he'd left off and the fourth series of Doc Martin aired in England in 2009, with the fifth series premiering in the UK on September 12th of this year.

Clunes, his wife and 12 year old daughter Emily live on a 130-acre farm in Beaminster, Dorset, along with 14 horses, numerous chickens and sheep and their three dogs Tina Audrey, a cocker spaniel, James Henry, a Jack Russell, and Arthur Colin, a Labrador. Dogs and horses are especial favorites of Clunes. In 2008, he appeared in a documentary called Martin Clunes: A Man and His Dogs. To accompany the documentary Clunes penned the book A Dog's Life, the roguish tale of a life loving dogs. Something to bear in mind the next time you see Clunes as Doc Martin trying to shake off the affections of his four legged follower.

If there's an actor or show you'd like to see featured on Tea Time Tidbits, let me know.

To contact Heather:
E-mail: heather@mpt.org
Address: Afternoon Tea
Maryland Public Television
11767 Owings Mills Blvd.
Owings Mills, MD 21117

 

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Week of September 26, 2011: David Croft, writing partner of Jeremy Lloyd.

Seeing as last week's Tidbits focused on Jeremy Lloyd, it seems only fitting that this week we have a chinwag about his writing partner David Croft, or should I say Major David John Croft, OBE.

David Croft
Croft in 1993.

Born on September 7, 1922 in Sandbanks, Dorset, Croft started life under the name of David John Sharland. His parents were variety performers Reginald Sharland and Annie Croft. Annie was infamous in her day as a stage actress and Reginald, who moved to Hollywood when the couple split up, became a successful radio actor. With performing in his blood, it was inevitable that Croft would enter the world of show business. He did so at the tender age of seven, when he appeared in a commercial that aired in the local cinema. In his teens, Croft also put his managerial skills to good use negotiating percentage deals for his mother with theatre managers. When he was 17 he got his first - and what would turn out to be his last - film role, that of Perkins in Goodbye, Mr. Chips. A few years later, in 1942, Croft enlisted in the army.

After graduating from Sandhurst as Officer, Croft served for two and a half years in England and North Africa in the Royal Artillery. It was during his commission to India and Singapore that Croft rose to the rank of Major. His military career no doubt provided him with material that he'd use years later when writing comedies such as Dad's Army, It Ain't Half Hot Mum and 'Allo 'Allo.

David Croft
David Croft and Dad's Army co-creator
Jimmy Perry on the set of another
wartime sitcom they co-wrote,
It 'Aint Half Hot Mum.

As soon as he was demobbed in 1947 Croft returned to show business; this time as a writer. He primarily wrote scripts for pantomimes such as Aladdin, Goldilocks, Cinderella, and Babes in the Wood. That pantomime style of comedy of course is recognizable in Croft's Are You Being Served? - all the characters are there...Mrs. Slocombe, The Pantomime Dame; Miss Brahms, The Principal Boy; Mr. Lucas, The Heroine's Love Interest, Mr. Humphries, The Comic Lead, Captain Peacock, The Villain.

Croft continued to make a living as a writer, until 1955, when he worked for independent television – the newly formed commercial rival to the BBC – as the Head of the Light Entertainment Script Department. In 1959, he moved to Newcastle to work on the 1959 launch of Tyne Tees Television, where he remained for a short period as a producer, director and writer, before eventually joining the BBC.

David Croft
On 4 November 2010 David was
awarded an Honorary Degree of "Doctor
of the University of East Anglia and
Essex" at the Ipswich Town Hall.

Croft's early days at the BBC found him producing, and often directing, a slew of successful comedies; The Benny Hill Show, Steptoe and Son, Up Pompeii and Beggar My Neighbour, to name just a few.

David also wrote and produced many stage shows and spent some time working for Billy Butlin putting on production shows in his holiday camps around the UK. No doubt the inspiration for his 1980-88 comedy hit Hi-de-Hi!

While working on Beggar My Neighbor, Croft met an impoverished actor on the show called Jimmy Perry, who showed him a script he was working on about the Home Guard during the war. Croft loved it and agreed to work with Perry on getting it to production. Dad's Army would become one of Croft's most successful, and one of England's most loved, comedy series. It became a national institution that ran for nine seasons, from 1968-1977. Over 40 years since it concluded, it is still being show on television today.

David Croft
Croft in 2011.

One of the reasons for the show's success was its cast. Most of whom Croft had been introduced to by his wife, theatrical agent, Anne Callinder. Croft and Anne, who next year celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary, have seven children, four boys and three girls. All of whom no doubt are proud as punch of their prolific father who in 1977 was awarded an OBE. In 2003 Croft was given a Lifetime Achievement award at the British Comedy Awards and a BAFTA (British Academy of Film and Television Arts) Fellowship in 2008. Croft continues to be revered and respected around the world.

TTFN!

Footnote: Soon after this article was published we learned of the death of David Croft on September 27, 2011.

To contact Heather:
E-mail: heather@mpt.org
Address: Afternoon Tea
Maryland Public Television
11767 Owings Mills Blvd.
Owings Mills, MD 21117

 

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Week of September 19, 2011: Jeremy Lloyd, co-creator of Are You Being Served? and 'Allo, 'Allo.

Jeremy Lloyd
Joanna Lumley & Jeremy Lloyd in 1970.

Even if their names weren't included in the credits, it's easy to spot which two Afternoon Tea comedies were created by David Croft and Jeremy Lloyd. Are You Being Served? and 'Allo, 'Allo have the same zany qualities that can leave you in stitches from beginning to end.

The idea for Are You Being Served? came from Lloyd's own experience working as a suit salesman at a now closed down department store in London called Simpson's of Piccadilly. Many of the characters in AYBS? are drawn from Lloyd's recollections of his time at Simpsons. It was his wife at the time, Joanna Lumley, who suggested he approach Croft with the idea and the rest, as they say, is history. Lloyd's relationship with Croft though has lasted a lot longer than his marriage to Lumley, which was dissolved after just a few months.

Lloyd met Lumley - who you might recall was once also the girlfriend of Michael Kitchen - when he was in England on a break from working in America on Rowan & Martin's Laugh-in. When it came back to return to California, Lloyd chose to stay in England and marry Lumley.

The way Lloyd got his job on Rowan & Martin's Laugh-in is the stuff of which sitcoms are made. He was in an agent's office when he answered the phone and on the other end was the R&M show producer George Schlatter. Assuming Lloyd was the agent, Schlatter explained that he was only in London for one more day and was desperately looking for a writer/actor . Quick as a flash, Lloyd said "The best possible person you could get is Jeremy Lloyd and we handle him". When Schlatter enquired as to Lloyd's availability Lloyd responded "let me check his book... just a second...he's got a day off from filming tomorrow and he can see you".

Jeremy Lloyd
Lloyd as the "Tall Dancer"
in A Hard Day's Night.

Of course there was no filming going on and Lloyd was desperate for work. The fabrication worked, however, and Schlatter asked, who he assumed was the agent, if he could have Lloyd meet with him the next morning at the Dorchester Hotel. Lloyd assured him that he'd make sure "his client" was there. When he walked into the meeting the next day, Schlatter's initial reaction on seeing the gangly Lloyd was "God you're tall". "Yes, but I can walk under your table like Toulouse Lautrec and appear on the other side", said Lloyd. "If you can do that, you've got the job" said Schlatter. Lloyd did and Toulouse Lautrec became one of the characters he played on Rowan & Martin. Lloyd was with the show from 1969-1970 and became a very popular member of the R&A troupe, receiving 5,000 letters a week, mostly from women.

Life in California was a far cry from Lloyd's roots back in England, where he was born in Danbury, Essex, in the summer of 1930. His father was a petroleum engineer and his mother a Tiller girl, who danced with Fred Astaire in the films Evergreen and Blue Skies. When Lloyd was one, his parents sent him to live with his elderly grandmother in Manchester, who brought him up. Occasionally he would see his father, who would introduce him to people as the son of bandleader Joe Loss, saying "You've heard of Joe Loss? Well, this is my son - dead loss". He looked on Lloyd as a complete failure and insisted, as he wasn't learning anything at school, he'd better leave. So at the age of thirteen, Lloyd was put into a home for elderly people, which he recalls as being a "wonderful experience". It also helped him lose his Manchester accent as most of the people in the home were retired old generals and naval people. Being around them helped Lloyd to develop a "posher" way of talking.

Lloyd's mother, who had two daughters long after she'd had Lloyd, always refused to allow him to call her "mother". She never even told her daughters that Lloyd was their sibling. Despite his upbringing, Lloyd managed to break into television, when he took a film script he was working on to the head of Pinewood Studios. At the time he was supporting his grandmother working as a paint salesman, a metal sorter in a foundry, a road digger and an assortment of other jobs. The studio loved Lloyd's script and it was turned into the film What a Whopper starring Adam Faith.

Jeremy Lloyd
Lloyd in the PBS special, Behind the
Britcom: From Script to Screen
.

Lloyd then went onto not only working as a writer, but also as an actor on stage, television and film. If you've ever seen the Beatle's movie A Hard Day's Night, maybe you've spotted Lloyd. He's "the tall dancer" bopping away at the disco. He also had a very small speaking part in another Beatle's film, Help, where he played "a man in a restaurant". Both jobs he got through his friendship with the Fab Four.

Nowadays Lloyd is best known for his work on AYBS? and 'Allo, 'Allo, both of which he created with David Croft. AYBS? ran for ten years and when it had finished, the pair came up with the idea for 'Allo, 'Allo. They decided to set it in a café, where just like in AYBS? people had to come in with a problem. Only this time with it being in France, a much wider range of things could happen. The formula must have worked, because 'Allo, 'Allo ran for nine years and received numerous awards.

I'd love to know which Croft/Lloyd show you enjoy the most, so drop me a line.

TTFN!

To contact Heather:
E-mail: heather@mpt.org
Address: Afternoon Tea
Maryland Public Television
11767 Owings Mills Blvd.
Owings Mills, MD 21117

 

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Week of September 12, 2011: Heather's favorite new show in the Tea lineup.

So what do you think of our new Afternoon Tea programs? Do you have a favorite yet? I have to admit I'm more than a little partial to Open All Hours. It must be those north country dialects! I'm not the only one though; a few years back the series was voted eighth in Britain's Best Sitcom poll, and that was twenty years after it last aired!

Open All Hours
Nurse Gladys Emanuelle's house.

The show's writer Roy Clarke is a familiar name to Afternoon Tea viewers as he also created Keeping Up Appearances and Last of the Summer Wine. Open All Hours first aired in the UK in 1976 and ran until 1985. The setting for the show is Balby, a suburb of Doncaster in South Yorkshire. All of the show's exterior shots were filmed on a street called Lister Avenue. Gladys Emmanuel's house started out being number 32, but was moved to number 34 in the second series, when the owners of number 32 decided to redecorate in between series and their new décor wasn't quite in line with what the producers wanted.

 

Open All Hours
15 Lister Avenue, used as Arkwright's shop.

Arkwright's shop was actually a hairdressing salon called Beautique, located at number 15 Lister Avenue. In 2008, the local council considered demolishing the shop, but after campaigners fought off the bulldozers, it instead went up for auction. The final bid of £132,000 was, however, rejected by the owners and as far as I can tell the salon is still standing.

 

Open All Hours
Open All Hours.

Something that did sell at auction were two of the fake moustaches Ronnie Barker wore for his portrayal of Arkwright. They were donated by the BBC to the British Stammering Association for auctioning at a conference they held in September of 2005. The role of Arkwright was originally written without a stammer, but it was became part of his character at the suggestion of Barker. He also came up wiith the idea of the dangerous cash register.

If you're curious about the name of the show's theme tune, it's a song called "Alice, where art thou?", composed by Joseph Ascher.

You can let us know which of our new shows you're enjoying most by writing to me. I'll be back next week with more tidbits about our favorite British shows. Until then,

TTFN!

To contact Heather:
E-mail: heather@mpt.org
Address: Afternoon Tea
Maryland Public Television
11767 Owings Mills Blvd.
Owings Mills, MD 21117

 

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Week of September 5, 2011: Ronnie Barker, star of Open All Hours which now appears in the Afternoon Tea lineup.

 

Ronnie Barker
Open All Hours.

Our new line up of Afternoon Tea offerings gives us not just an opportunity for a couple more cuppas, it also means we'll have lots more to chinwag about the next few weeks. I thought we'd kick things off by chatting about the very funny, extremely talented and dearly missed Ronnie Barker, who stars as Arkwright in Open All Hours.

Barker was born in Bedford, Bedfordshire on September 25th, 1929. His father Leonard was a clerk for Shell Oil and he moved his family - wife Edith, Ronnie and his two sisters, Vera and Eileen - to Cowley, Oxfordshire when Barker was four. It was there he developed his love of acting and theatre. Attending the theatre was a popular pastime for the Barker family, and young Ronald once skipped school so that he could see Laurence Olivier in Shakespeare's Henry V. He was also an enthusiastic collector of autographs, and would stand outside stage-doors to add to his collection. The first one he ever got was that of actress Celia Johnson.

Barker's high school years were spent at the City of Oxford High School for Boys, where he became the proud owner of a chemistry textbook previously owned by T. E. Lawrence, aka Lawrence of Arabia. His musical talents were developed not in school, but through his participation in the choir at his local church, St James. After quitting school the minute he was able, Barker trained as an architect, but left after six months, to take over his sister Vera's job as a bank clerk at the Westminster.

Ronnie Barker
The Two Ronnies.

While at the bank, Barker became involved in amateur dramatics, both as an actor and a stage manager and after about eighteen months, much to his father's disapproval, he gave up his job at the bank to become a professional actor. Starting out at the Manchester Repertory Company as the assistant to the assistant stage manager, Barker earned the princely sum of two pounds and ten shillings a week (about $3.50). He was also given the opportunity to perform and his debut as a professional actor was on November 15, 1948, as Lieutenant Spicer in J.M. Barrie's Quality Street.

By the time he'd been in his third play, Barker realized that he wanted to be a comic actor and he got to test out his comedic skills when he worked as a porter at Wingfield Hospital in Gloucester following the Manchester Rep's closure. It was there that 20 year old Barker and one of the male nurses would frequently entertain the patients with their comedy routines. His versatility as a performer was later honed when he performed mimed folk music and dance at the Mime Theatre Company in Penzance. After the company closed, Barker went back to Oxford where he found success at the Oxford Playhouse, before heading for London's West End in 1955. By that time he had appeared in over 350 plays.

Ronnie Barker
The Frost Report.

It was while he was working in London that Barker became a cast member on various BBC radio and television comedy programs, including the popular radio sitcom, The Navy Lark, where he starred as the lookout Able Seaman 'Fatso' Johnson and Lieutenant-Commander Stanton. The program ran from 1959 to 1977 and Barker featured in 300 episodes.

Barker's big television break came in 1966, when he appeared in the satirical sketch series, The Frost Report, which along with David Frost also starred John Cleese, Josephine Tewson (Keeping up Appearances) and Barker's future comedy partner Ronnie Corbett. The pair had met a few years earlier, when Corbett was a barman at a club in London. Working on The Frost Report cemented their friendship, primarily according to Corbett because they were the only ones in involved in the show that hadn't attended university!

Ronnie Barker
The Two Ronnies.

Their show, The Two Ronnies ran from 1971 to 1986, and provided British television viewers with the memorable end of show catchphrase "It's good night from me - and it's good night from him". The phrase, delivered by Corbett, came about because according to Corbett, Barker "was a very private man, a quiet man...he found it almost impossible to talk directly, as himself, to an audience". Barker was also a perfectionist and as well as starring in the show, helped edit the footage and also wrote most of the material. This he submitted under the name Gerald Wiley because he wanted the material to be considered on merit not because he was one of the stars of the show. His true identity was only revealed when Wiley was invited to a team meeting.

Both Ronnies always got along, with Barker once saying "People refuse to believe that we don't have rows, tensions, private wars. It's a strange thing after so many years but we never have. Actually, it's even more amicable than a marriage - wedlock without the bad patches. Our sense of humour and perception of what's good and what's rubbish are uncommonly in tune."

Despite his comments, Barker was, according to Corbett "first and foremost a family man". He met his wife Joy in Cambridge in 1955, while she was a stage manager for two plays he was in and they married nine months later. Along with their two sons and daughter, they lived for many years in the town of Pinner, before moving to a converted mill in Dean, Oxfordshire.

Following the success of The Two Ronnies, which fast became a national institution, the BBC gave Barker free range as to what else he might want to do. He opted to produce some sitcom pilots, one of which was Open All Hours.

In 1987 at the age of 58, Barker retired from show business. When asked to explain why he had retired at the height of his fame, Barker said he had "completely run out of ideas and it scared and panicked me. I was always able to write scripts but, you know, I couldn't think of a single thing to write about. It was a very weird sensation. I had seen friends of mine start burning out. No one wants to see a 70-year-old on television who can't remember his lines. And also I had lost interest".

Ronnie Barker
The Barker family.

On retirement, Barker opened and ran an antiques shop called The Emporium in Chipping Norton in Oxfordshire Collecting antiques, books, posters and postcards had always been a favorite pastime of Barker's. His postcard collection amounted to 53,000. The shop didn't do very well though financially. In fact, Barker once joked, "I lose money every week, but it's a hobby. It's cheaper than skiing and safer at my age." Still Barker's 'hobby' lasted ten years, before the shop was sold and Barker, resisting all requests to come out of retirement, could concentrate on writing his autobiography, Dancing in the Moonlight: My Early Years on Stage, which was released in 1993 and All I Ever Wrote, his complete scripts, in 1999. He also wrote the play Mum for his daughter Charlotte Barker in 1998, which was performed at The King's Head Theatre, but garnered a negative response, with Barker stating that it got "the worst notices of any play in the history of the theatre."

Ronnie Barker
The Gathering Storm.

Barker was finally persuaded to come out of retirement in 1997, when he appeared with Corbett at the Royal Command Performance, and in 1999 for Two Ronnies Night on BBC One, and the following year for A Tribute to the Two Ronnies. In 2002, Barker appeared as Winston Churchill's butler David Inches in the BBC-HBO drama The Gathering Storm and as the General in the TV film My House in Umbria in 2003, alongside Maggie Smith (whom he had, early in their careers, advised to give up acting as he felt she would not be a success).

Barker's final appearance on TV was a BBC special presentation of The Two Ronnies Christmas Sketchbook. It was recorded in July 2005, by which time Barker was already in declining health, having opted not to have heart valve replacement surgery. He had already undergone a heart bypass in 1996 and the following year had survived a pulmonary embolism.

Ronnie Barker
Ronnie and wife, Joy.

Barker died of heart failure at the Katherine House hospice in Adderbury, Oxfordshire on October 3rd, 2005, aged 76, with his wife Joy by his side. The Christmas special aired posthumously in December. A public memorial service attended by 2,000 people was held at Westminster Abbey on March 3rd, 2006. Barker was only the third comedy professional to be given a memorial at Westminster Abbey, after Joyce Grenfell and Les Dawson. A fitting tribute to the master of television sitcoms who made the most difficult of theatre skills, being funny, seem effortless.

To contact Heather:
E-mail: heather@mpt.org
Address: Afternoon Tea
Maryland Public Television
11767 Owings Mills Blvd.
Owings Mills, MD 21117

 

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Week of August 29, 2011: Expanded Afternoon Tea lineup!

 

Great news for Tea-goers! Beginning September 5th, Afternoon Tea is expanding! It'll now run from 1pm instead of 1:30pm and you can partake of a spot of tea right up until dinner time. Here's what you can look forward to...

Chef!, The Old Guys, Open All Hours, May to December and 'Allo, 'Allo will all air in the 1pm time slot Monday through Friday. They'll be followed daily by Last of the Summer Wine (1:30pm); Keeping up Appearances (2pm); As Time Goes By (2:30pm); Are you Being Served? (3:00pm), Lark Rise to Candleford (3:30pm) and Antiques Roadshow UK will be at 4:30pm with the BBC World News following at 5:30pm.

If the 1pm shows don't seem familiar that's because, although not new to MPT, they are new to Afternoon Tea.

New lineup

Chef!

Stars the very funny Lenny Henry in the role of Gareth Blackstock, a reknowed Chef whose patience level and snide remarks are on par with that of Basil Fawlty.



New lineup

The Old Guys

Stars Clive Swift (Richard in Keeping Up Appearances) and Roger Lloyd-Pack as two ageing housemates who compete for the affections of their neighbor, played by Jane Asher.



New lineup

Open All Hours

Stars the brilliantly talented Ronnie Barker as tight fisted corner shop owner Albert Arkwright, who'll stop at nothing to keep his overheads low and his profits high. The program also stars David Jason as his much put upon assistant Granville.



New lineup

May to December

A poignant comedy about a bored to tears middle-aged solicitor, who embarks on a spring and autumn romance with a twenty six year old PE teacher. The show stars Anton Rodgers and Zoe Matheson (season one)/Lesley Dunlop (pictured).



New lineup

'Allo, 'Allo

Created by Are You Being Served's David Croft and every bit as funny. The setting is a German occupied village in World War II France, where Rene Artois, the owner of a café finds himself dealing with an assortment of zany characters and situations.


 

This is just a little about our new Afternoon Tea shows, which again begin Monday September 5th. I'm looking forward to chatting about the shows and the actors who star in them in the weeks to come. Don't forget if there's someone your particularly interested in finding out more about just drop me a line.

TTFN!

To contact Heather:
E-mail: heather@mpt.org
Address: Afternoon Tea
Maryland Public Television
11767 Owings Mills Blvd.
Owings Mills, MD 21117

 

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Week of August 22, 2011: Judi Dench on the musical stage

Judi Dench
Dame Judi Dench.

If you regularly access the Afternoon Tea website, you probably saw the video clip of Judi Dench performing "Send in the Clowns" from Stephen Sondheim's A Little Night Music. Is there nothing this Dame can't do!?

The performance on the video clip was Dench's tribute to the composer at a BBC Proms concert in July of last year. The entire concert was devoted to Sondheim in celebration of his 80th birthday. It was Dench's first time performing at a Proms Concert, but not her first performing the much loved song. Her role as Desiree in Stephen Sondheim's 1996 revival of the show at London's National Theatre won her an Olivier award for Best Actress in a Musical. (That's the equivalent of a Tony Award).

Judi Dench
Dame Judi as Desiree
in A Little Night Music.

Dench loved performing in the show so much that she stayed in the production for a year. When she returned to the role for a limited eight week engagement, it sold out the minute the tickets went on sale. This must have been a great boost to the actress's confidence especially given her initial frustrations during the rehearsals. Sondheim though worked closely with Dench, although when it came to "Send in the Clowns" he didn't give her one single note on how it should be sung. In fact after opening night Sondheim is said to have told Dench, "it's yours now". A great honor, especially considering it had originally been written for the husky voiced, Welsh actress; Glynis Johns, who herself won a Tony Award for her performance of Desiree in 1971.

Desiree wasn't the first time Dench had taken over a role originally intended for someone else. The character of Jean Pargetter in As Time Goes By was written with British actress Jean Simmons in mind. It would have meant though that Simmons give up her life in sunny California and move back to England to film the series. A move she was reluctant to make. After Simmons declined the role, Dench auditioned and the rest as they say is history.

As Time Goes By was, by the way, originally titled Winter with Flowers but the name of our Afternoon Tea favorite was changed on its first day of filming at the request of the cast.

Dench's versatility as a performer knows no bounds. As well as bringing tears to the eyes of the audience with her rendition of "Send in the Clowns," in May of 2002, she had them in stitches at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane when she gave a one of performance of "Sixteen, Going on Seventeen" from The Sound of Music. It was all in aide of a gala charity concert to celebrate the centenary of composer Richard Rodgers in aid of mental health charity, the Neurofibromatosis Association.

Wearing a blonde wig, knee-high white socks, and a frilly white frock, Dench bought the house down. Later Dench admitted she was nervous about the performance, saying "There was nothing 'Sixteen' about it. If anything it was like taking off on an aircraft with no runway to take off from." Dench's partner in the performance was actor Brendan O'Hea, who had performed previously with Dench in the 1997 film, Her Majesty, Mrs. Brown.

It's easy to see why Dench's late husband actor Michael Williams, once said "With Judi it's bloody Christmas morning every day!"

To contact Heather:
E-mail: heather@mpt.org
Address: Afternoon Tea
Maryland Public Television
11767 Owings Mills Blvd.
Owings Mills, MD 21117

 

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Week of August 15, 2011: Michael Kitchen

Michael Kitchen is one of those actors whose face seems to crop up on our screens over and over again, which after a career of over 40 years is hardly surprising.

Michael Kitchen
As DSC Christopher Foyle
in Foyle's War.

The son of a butcher, Kitchen was born in Leicester on October 31st, 1948. The former Church of the Martyrs Cub Scout performed in his first play at the City of Leicester Boys Grammar School, having joined the school's Dramatic Society not because he loved acting, but simply because "everyone was joining school societies". After appearing in school productions of Shakespeare and Shaw, to the envy of his schoolmates, Kitchen got accepted into the National Youth Theatre at the age of 15 and spent a summer in London. He was one of just 80 youngsters accepted out of 1300 who auditioned that year. "I didn't think much of acting", said Kitchen, "just having a good time. And the Youth Theatre certainly gave me that".

Kitchen also didn't think much of school and was known as 'difficult'. He wasn't interested in exams and was something of a rebel, so much so that his parents, Arthur and Betty, were worried when he announced that he wanted to leave school to become an actor. His teachers were also not very encouraging. It was everyone wanting him not to go into acting though that made Kitchen all the more determined. So he left and went to work at a repertory theatre in Coventry, where he cleaned the stage, made tea and emptied dustbins for a few pounds a week. Then came Kitchen's big break. He auditioned and got accepted at London's Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. If they hadn't taken them, he said, he would have given up. Armed with a grant from the Leicester City Council, Kitchen headed for London, where the thought of spending two years in the city of bright lights, was as much of an attraction to Kitchen as the school he would be attending.

Michael Kitchen
In the BBC's Play For Today;
Brimstone & Treacle, made in 1976,
but not aired until 1987.

By the time he left RADA, in 1969, Kitchen had lost his Midlands accent and won a major prize – the "Emilie Littler Award for outstanding talent and aptitude for the professional theatre". The ever modest Kitchen still wonders though if the prize, which came with a monetary amount of fifty pounds, was given to him so that he could pay off the forty pounds he owed the school bursary.

While at RADA Kitchen was also discovered by one of England's top talent agents and since 1970 he's been a fixture on British television screens. American audiences – at least those not familiar with Kitchen's starring role in Foyle's War – probably know him best as Chief of Staff Bill Tanner in the Pierce Brosnan James Bond films. He was also in Out of Africa and Mrs. Dalloway.

It was his role as the enigmatic DSC Christopher Foyle though that made Kitchen a household name in England. It's a character that Foyle's War creator Anthony Horowitz created with Kitchen in mind and which according to Horowitz would not have existed without Kitchen's input and suggestions. One of the characteristics Kitchen has in common with Foyle is his ability to play golf...badly. Although he loves the game, because of time constraints Kitchen now only gets to play with his eldest son about once a year and invariably according to Kitchen they 'never have enough golf balls to get around the course'.

Kitchen and Foyle also share a love of Hastings – where the series takes place. Kitchen having fond memories of spending time there with his family as a boy in the 1950s. Family life is very important to Kitchen and although he's known in England as 'the thinking woman's crumpet', he has been happily married to his wife Rowena Miller for 20 odd years. They met in the late 1980s at the Royal Shakespeare Company, where Kitchen was performing and Miller was his dresser.

Michael Kitchen
As Judge Jeffreys in the BBC 2000
production of Lorna Doone.

Prior to meeting Miller, Kitchen was romantically involved with actress Joanna Lumley who played Patsy in Absolutely Fabulous. At one point it was even rumored that the couple were considering marriage, but Kitchen wasn't ready to settle down. "I would have made a hopeless father in those days", says Kitchen, "but fortunately I was wise enough to know it". Instead Kitchen delayed fatherhood until two weeks before he turned 40, then he embraced it with a passion.

As well as achieving considerable success in the acting world, as a young man Kitchen also received a license to fly single engine planes. After the birth of his children (two boys), it became an expense he could no longer justify and then when he could afford it he simply didn't have the time. Kitchen's favorite pastimes nowadays are tennis, sailing and he's also a DYI enthusiast. Kitchen also enjoys playing the guitar, but confesses that "the better my son [Jack] gets at playing, the less I seem to pick up a guitar". One thing Kitchen did pick up in recent years was the art of rock climbing. He climbed Kilimanjaro to raise money for a project in Tanzania called the Village Education Project.

Kitchen currently lives in Dorset, where his wife Rowena continues to work part-time as Wardrobe Mistress of a private boarding school.

If there's a British actor you'd like to find out more about, let me know.

TTFN!

To contact Heather:
E-mail: heather@mpt.org
Address: Afternoon Tea
Maryland Public Television
11767 Owings Mills Blvd.
Owings Mills, MD 21117

 

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Week of August 8, 2011: Shirley Stelfox, another "Rose" from Keeping Up Appearances

Last week's tid-bits focused on Mary Millar who took over the role of Rose ("our Rose") in Keeping Up Appearances from Shirley Stelfox.

Shirley Stelfox
Shirley Stelfox as "Rose" in
Keeping Up Appearances.

Stelfox, who was born Born on April 11, 1941 in the small town of Dukinfield near Manchester in the north of England, knew from a young age that she was destined for a theatrical career. She attended Lakes Road Secondary School for Girls where she was cast in most of the main characters in the school's plays. On leaving school Stelfox travelled to London where she trained at the prestigious Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts.

In the almost fifty years since she left RADA, Stelfox seems to have barely been out of work, with roles in film, television and on stage. From the 1971 comedy film Carry On At Your Convenience, to a role in the Inspector Morse series (Last Bus to Woodstock) in 1991 to playing Mrs Arbuthnot in A Woman of No Importance at Leicester Haymarket Theatre in 1997, Stelfox seems to have achieved her personal ambition of 'wanting to do everything'.

Shirley Stelfox
As Edna Birch in Emmerdale Farm.

Stelfox is the only actress I know of to have appeared in all of the U.K.'s most popular soap operas, beginning in 1964 when she was cast in both Crossroads and Coronation Street. Both were one-off roles until 1993 when Stelfox was given a recurring role in Coronation Street that she kept for a year. Stelfox also appeared in Brookside and EastEnders. For the last decade though she has been a regular on Emmerdale Farm, where she plays paragon of virtue, Edna Birch.

It was the opportunity to work on Emmerdale, which is set in the Yorkshire Dales, that drew Stelfox away from Keeping Up Appearances after just one series. Stelfox loves playing Edna, who is a character that couldn't be more different to Rose. The only thing they seem to have in common is that neither are married. Rose being constantly on the look out for a husband and Edna being widowed. Widowhood is something to which Stelfox can easily relate having herself being made a widow after 18 years of marriage to actor Don Henderson, who died in 1997.

Shirley Stelfox
Shirley's husband,
Don Henderson.

Henderson who was frequently seen on television as the eccentric detective George Bulman, married Stelfox in 1979 and the couple enjoyed working together whenever the opportunity arose. Despite their celebrity status, the couple were very down to earth. In fact, Don apparently owned just one suit and even wore jeans to their wedding.

After his death, Henderson's ashes were put into a river in Stratford-upon-Avon and every year either Stelfox or her step-daughter visit the river to put in a blue flower in remembrance. A touching tribute to her husband's love of the simple rural life.

To contact Heather:
E-mail: heather@mpt.org
Address: Afternoon Tea
Maryland Public Television
11767 Owings Mills Blvd.
Owings Mills, MD 21117

 

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Week of August 1, 2011: Mary Millar, "Rose" from Keeping Up Appearances

This week I thought we'd have a chat about a favorite Afternoon Tea actress who had she lived would last week have turned 75.

Mary Millar
Mary Millar as "Rose" in
Keeping Up Appearances.

Mary Millar, who played the man mad "Rose" in Keeping Up Appearances was born in Doncaster on July 26, 1936 and went to school in my home town, Sheffield. Although her parents were both singers, Millar's love of animals lead to her originally wanting to become a stable hand. Those thoughts though went out of the stable door, when at the age of 16 she was cast as principal girl (the boy part) in the pantomime Babes in the Wood at the Empire Theatre in Sheffield. From then on Millar embarked on a theatrical career, which in the early days mainly focused on variety shows and operatic works. Her singing voice was so outstanding she was chosen in 1960 to understudy non other than Julie Andrews when she appeared in Camelot on Broadway, which also starred Richard Burton, who she got to appear opposite when she took over the role of "Guinevere".

Millar also appeared in a string of West End musicals, the most notable by far being Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Phantom of the Opera where she originated the role of "Madame Giry," appearing alongside Michael Crawford and Sarah Brightman. It was a part she'd play for over four years. As well as enjoying success in musical theatre, Millar was also an accomplished dramatic actress. In 1984 she took over the role of "Barbara Jackson" from Judi Dench in the play Pack of Lies.

It was television though that made Millar a familiar face to not only the British viewing public but throughout the world with her hilarious portrayal of "Rose" in Keeping Up Appearances. Millar was 55 when she auditioned for the part which up until then had been played by Shirley Stelfox. Knowing exactly the kind of character she was auditioning for, Millar bought a brand new mini-skirt and travelled to the audition on the Tube.

Mary Millar
Millar with Geoffrey Hughes
as "Onslow."

That mini-skirt was probably the only thing Millar had in common with Rose. In real life, Millar was an active Christian who performed on several National Gospel tours and appeared on two of England's most popular Sunday evening programs; Songs of Praise and Secombe on Sunday. Millar also travelled to Malawi to make a documentary about the work of the charity World Vision. Closer to home, Millar spent three years touring the British Isles in a one-woman show where she talked about her life, her work and her Christianity.

Millar's faith was well known among her fellow actors and when she was appearing in Phantom she would lead a Bible study between shows in her dressing room each week. Apparantly the Phantom Bible Study became a regular meeting place for many performers across the West-End.

Millar stayed with Keeping Up Appearances until it ended in 1995, but her acting career continued. In 1998 she returned to musical theatre in Disney's Beauty & The Beast. She played "Mrs. Potts" the teapot, the role played in the film version by Angela Lansbury. Sadly Millar had to leave the show when she became ill with ovarian cancer.

Millar was married to photographer "Prince" Raphael with whom she had a daughter, Lucy. Three weeks before her death Millar was asked by her pastor and friend what she would like to do when she arrived at heavens door. Her answer "rehearse for a part in the Angelic choir, darling" was typical of the actress whose career began and ended in the musical theatre. Millar died on November 10, 1998.

To contact Heather:
E-mail: heather@mpt.org
Address: Afternoon Tea
Maryland Public Television
11767 Owings Mills Blvd.
Owings Mills, MD 21117

 

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Week of July 25, 2011: Anna Massie

Earlier this month, England lost one of its best loved and most familiar faces on television – actress Anna Massey, who died from cancer on July 3rd at the age of 73.

Anna Massey
Anna Massie.

I first became a fan of Ms. Massey when she appeared in the 1979 BBC television series Rebecca, playing Maxim de Winter's housekeeper, Mrs. Danvers. That series also starred Massey's first husband, Jeremy Brett, as Maxim, and their 19 year old son, David, in a small role. Massey and Brett had married when Massey was just 22, but it didn't last and after several separations and reconciliations, the couple finally divorced in 1962.

Massey was born in Sussex on August 11, 1937. Her father was the Canadian actor Raymond Massey and her mother was the British actress Adrianne Allen. When she was two years old, Massey's father left the family and moved to America to live with a lawyer whose first husband, Bill Whitney, would eventually marry Massey's mother. It was Whitney who Massey chose to walk her up the aisle on her wedding day; a choice that infuriated her father who left the wedding in a rage.

Anna Massey
As Mrs Danvers in Rebecca.

After being evacuated to Wales early in the war, Massey attended private schools in London and Surrey. She was also sent away to school in Switzerland, but her homesickness was so intense that the school persuaded her mother to bring her home. Later she would go to finishing schools in Paris and Rome. With an absent father and socialite mother, Massey's upbringing was largely left to her nanny, Gertrude Burbridge. Their attachment was so strong, that after she died in 1968, Massey fell into a dark depression and became anorexic. She also suffered severe stage fright, which affected not just her work on stage, but also television roles. She would be terrified of forgetting her lines and sometimes she was so scared the skin would peel off the back of her hands.

Acting had been Massey's profession since as a 17 year old she had made her stage debut in The Reluctant Debutante – a role for which she received a Tony nomination. Her screen debut had been in the 1958 film Gideon's Day, directed by her godfather John Ford, and she co-starred with Laurence Olivier in the 1960's thriller, Bunny Lake is Missing. It took a grueling 12 years of psychoanalysis before Massey could conquer her demons. All the while she continued to sum up the courage to work. As well as Rebecca, Massey was also in the BBC costume drama, The Pallisers, where she played Lady Laura Standish, and in 1972 she appeared in the Hitchcock thriller, Frenzy. All filmed while Massey would get up at 5:30am three times a week to keep her therapist appointment. Although therapy helped Massey, she remained a chronic insomniac for most of her life.

Anna Massey
Massey and Brett cut the cake
on their wedding day.

Massey's most recent television costume series was Tess Of The D'Urbervilles in 2008, and you might also have seen her fairly recently in episodes of Poirot and Midsomer Murders. Massey's final television appearance was just last year, in the series Moving On.

In 1988 at the age of 53, Massey married Uri Andres, a Russian metallurgist working in London. They had known each other just three months. Andres and Massey's son David were both with her when she passed away.

To contact Heather:
E-mail: heather@mpt.org
Address: Afternoon Tea
Maryland Public Television
11767 Owings Mills Blvd.
Owings Mills, MD 21117

 

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Week of July 18, 2011: Antiques Roadshow

The last couple of weeks we've been chatting about two of Antiques Roadshow's most loved experts; Arthur Negus and Henry Sandon. This week I thought we'd talk about the show itself.

Antiques Roadshow
Appraiser Leigh Keno valued this Kentucky corner
cupboard at $8500. Surprising the owner who was
about to throw it away!

Watching Antiques Roadshow is like snuggling up in a comfy blanket, or soaking in a warm bath. When I watch it I'm as interested in the characters bringing in their 'treasures' to be valued as I am about the treasures themselves. They always seem to have a story and their reactions are often priceless. The way the experts seem to prattle off information about a particular item is so impressive. They rarely seem at a loss for words. Sometimes though that's all owing to the magic of television.

When taping the show, the camera films the experts talking spontaneously. The more important pieces are filmed later in the day with special cameras to get finer results. So the experts have had a bit more time to think through what they're going to say before the cameras start rolling. The owners of the items though never have any idea of what the experts going to tell them, so their reactions are completely authentic.

Antiques Roadshow
A peek behind the scenes at a taping of the Antiques
Roadshow USA
. William "Richard" Wright Jr. appeared on the
show for 11 years before his death at the age of 62 in 2009.

If you've ever wondered how the great big items – especially those huge pieces of furniture, owned by a diminutive old age pensioner – get to the location where the show's being held, they're actually collected from the owners in a van ahead of time and returned afterwards. Once the show's location schedule has been promoted, owners are encouraged to write in, giving photographs and information about things that are too large or heavy to bring in. If there's an interest in having the item on the show, someone comes round and looks at the item a few days before the show is filmed.

Sometimes, especially when there's a particularly rare find, you can almost see the expert salivating at the thought of owning such a piece. The experts though are strictly forbidden to try and buy, or even offer to buy, any of the items being brought into an Antiques Roadshow taping.

If you're planning on visiting the UK by the way and fancy visiting an Antiques Roadshow taping, the BBC would love to hear from you. Just send an email to antiques.roadshow@bbc.co.uk. If you get to go be sure to let us know. Drop me a line.

To contact Heather:
E-mail: heather@mpt.org
Address: Afternoon Tea
Maryland Public Television
11767 Owings Mills Blvd.
Owings Mills, MD 21117

 

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Tea Time Tidbits

Week of July 11, 2011: Henry Sandon, Antiques Roadshow UK

Henry Sandon
Henry holding up his MBE which he
received from Queen Elizabeth II in 2008.

Self-confessed 'potoholic', Henry Sandon, was originally set on a career in the music field. Fortunately for fans of Antiques Roadshow UK his discovery of Medieval and Roman pottery in his garden steered him in a different direction.

Born in the east end of London in 1928 Sandon was evacuated during World War II to High Wycombe and after his National Service in the Army he went onto study at the Guildhall School of Music. In 1953 Sandon moved to Worcester, where he taught music at the Royal Grammar School and sang in the Cathedral choir. It was while living in Worcester that Sandon met his wife Barbara, who worked at the Worcester Porcelain Museum. One of the couple's hobbies was to conduct mini-excavation in their garden. Sandon's discovery of fragments of Roman pots set him off on a whole new career path and he learned everything he could about ceramics. "I learnt it all myself", said Sandon in an interview he did for Worcestershire Life magazine in 2009. "I just dug in the ground and got my fingers dirty".

Henry Sandon
Henry being presented with a custom-made
Ozzy Owl cake on his 80th birthday.

Sandon must have done a bit more than that because he was eventually appointed Curator of the Worcester Porcelain Company and the Dyson Perrins Museum, a job he held for 17 years before his friendship with Arthur Negus lured him into the world of television. After guest appearances on Negus's programs Going for a Song, Collectors World and Arthur Negus Enjoys, Sandon became a regular on The Antiques Roadshow, joining the show in its second series as resident porcelain expert.

Sandon's greatest discovery on the show was in 1990 in Northampton, when Ozzy the "Owl" was brought in by a family who were using him as a flower vase. Rarely at a loss for words, Sandon found himself speechless, recognizing Ozzy as a rare Spilware pottery drinking vessel dating back to 1680! Ozzy went to auction and was purchased by Stoke-on-Trent's Museum and Art Gallery for £20,900. (approx $35,000).

Henry Sandon
A Henry Sandon Toby Jug.

Joining his elder statesman father on Antiques Roadshow is Henry and Barbara's son, John Sandon, who is also a porcelain expert. It's Henry's face though that people recognize the world over – and love. So much so in fact that during a show he did in Toronto once there was a separate queue for people lining up to kiss him! Sandon's face and voice are so well known that people have been known to go on the show just to meet him - something Sandon tends to find "rather wonderful", but "a bit embarrassing". Something Sangdon didn't find embarrassing, but felt flattered by, was when a Staffordshire pottery firm, deciding that his face resembled a Toby Jug, made a jug depicting him. His image has also been made into a porcelain candle extinguisher, something not to be sniffed at!

As for what Sangdon himself likes to collect – it's teapots. He has so many he can't count them all. If stuck on a desert island, Sangdon's choice of luxury item would be a huge supply of tea and a teapot. Sangdon collects other kinds of pots as well. Not all of which are antiques. He keeps them on glass shelves, or under the bed. In fact Sangdon once confessed to an interviewer that he takes a pot with him to bed each night as he has to hold one to get to sleep! Thereby adding to his reputation of being just a little bit potty!

I'll be back next week with more about Antiques Roadshow, till then...

TTFN!

To contact Heather:
E-mail: heather@mpt.org
Address: Afternoon Tea
Maryland Public Television
11767 Owings Mills Blvd.
Owings Mills, MD 21117

 

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Week of July 4, 2011: Arthur Negus, Antiques Roadshow UK

One of the longest running programs on PBS is Antiques Roadshow. The original version of the show, imported from the BBC, proved so popular with viewers that an American edition was created, so now we have Antiques Roadshow UK and Antiques Roadshow USA.

Arthur Negus
Arthur Negus (right) in a 1979 episode of
Antiques Roadshow UK.

The UK version of the show first aired in England 1979, but it actually started out a couple of years earlier as a BBC documentary about a London auction house doing a tour of the West Country in England. The documentary featured Arthur Negus, who after the show became a staple on Antiques Roadshow. Negus remained with the show until 1983.

 

Born in Reading, Berkshire, in 1903, Negus began running his family's antiques business when he was just 17 after the death of his father in 1920. During World War II, being too old to enlist Negus served his country as an air-raid warden. After the war in 1946 Negus joined Bruton, Knowles & Co., auctioneers of fine antiques based in Gloucester.

Arthur Negus
Behind the scene shot of Antiques Roadshow UK.

In 1966, when Negus was 62 instead of contemplating retirement he took up another job, that of television broadcaster on the series Going for a Song, which ran for ten years. That series, in which Negus as a panelist gave his opinion on the value of antiques, made him a household name and his West Country accent made him a memorable and favorite television personality. It also endeared him to the BBC, who not only used him in Antiques Roadshow, but also in 1982 gave him his own program, Arthur Negus Enjoys. That was also the year Negus was awarded the OBE (Order of the British Empire) and the year his last book A Life Among Antiques was published. In the book Negus reminisces about his life as an Antique Dealer.

Negus died at his home in Cheltenham in 1985, leaving his wife Irene whom he had been married to since 1926 and with whom he had two children.

Antiques Roadshow UK can be seen weeknights at 7:30pm on MPT2.

I'll be back next week with a look at another Antiques Roadshow UK favorite, Henry Sandon.

TTFN!

To contact Heather:
E-mail: heather@mpt.org
Address: Afternoon Tea
Maryland Public Television
11767 Owings Mills Blvd.
Owings Mills, MD 21117

 

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Week of June 27, 2011: By viewer request: Stephanie Cole

At the request of Afternoon Tea viewer Heidi Napper this week we're going to be chatting about Stephanie Cole.

Stephanie Cole
Stephanie and Graham Crowden in Waiting for God.

While most actresses go to great lengths to disguise their age, Stephanie is known for doing the exact opposite. Her portrayal of Diana Trent in Waiting for God is a perfect example. Although only 48 years old at the time the show first aired in 1990 and two decades younger than her leading man, Graham Crowden, Stephanie's rendering of the cantankerous old aged pensioner was so authentic that in 1992 she received a Best TV Comedy Actress award.

Since 2004 Stephanie has been starring in Doc Martin, playing Joan Norton, the aunt of Martin Clunes' character, Dr. Martin Ellingham. The veteran actresses' affinity for the elderly doesn't end when the cameras stop rolling. Her involvement with the Age Concern organization and her work as patron of the Bristol Research into the Care of the Elderly organization (BRACE), lead to Stephanie receiving the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 2005 for her services to drama and charity. She is also patron of the mental health charity Rethink, an organization Stephanie supports owing to the fact that one of her brothers has had schizophrenia for over thirty years.

Stephanie Cole
Stephanie Cole on Ravenshaw Bridge, Solihull.

Born on October 5, 1941 in Solihull in Warwickshire, three years ago Stephanie was voted the most popular Silhillian, garnering more than 21,000 votes. The competition, run by the Solihull Council and known as the S Factor, provided her with an opportunity to meet up with a childhood friend she had not seen for more than 60 years. He was a young 12 or 13 year old delivery boy who worked at her aunt's grocery store where Stephanie lived before being bombed out in World War II. She had mentioned him in her autobiography, A Passionate Life, recalling how he'd ride her around in the basket of his bike when she was just a toddler and how he helped clean up the rubble after a bomb landed in the back garden. Stephanie never knew the boy's surname though, only his first; Ron. The council set out to trace Ron and made mention of their search in a newspaper article about the winner of their competition.

The article was read by a relative of Ron Perkins, who contacted the paper explaining how Ron had known Stephanie's aunts well, having worked for them at their grocery store as a boy. After receiving the details from the paper, staff at the Solihull council arranged a meeting between Stephanie and Ron which took place at her aunt's grocery shop. For Stephanie it was a trip down memory lane.

Stephanie Cole
Stephanie Cole.

The actress, who hadn't been to Solihull in sixty years, lives with her husband actor and writer Peter Birrel in Somerset. They met at a party to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Old Vic school in Bristol. Stephanie had attended the school after auditioning for them at the age of 15. So too had Peter. The couple hit it off immediately, but Stephanie was reluctant to fall in love again after the end of her first marriage had left her suffering from bouts of depression. Soon after the reunion though Stephanie and Peter met up again and within months were living together. They married at Bath Register Office in 1995.

At the age of 63 Stephanie appeared as the 90 year old Madame Arcati in Noel Coward's Blithe Spirit in a revival of the play in London's West End. It was a role in which she'd made her stage debut at the age of just seventeen, thereby launching the actress into a career where refusing to 'act' her age has provided us Afternoon Tea viewers with countless hours of pleasure.

If there's an Afternoon Tea favorite actor or actress you'd like to find out more about let me know.

To contact Heather:
E-mail: heather@mpt.org
Address: Afternoon Tea
Maryland Public Television
11767 Owings Mills Blvd.
Owings Mills, MD 21117

 

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Week of June 20, 2011: Fawlty Towers' Connie Booth

Connie Booth
Connie Booth on her
wedding day.

Following up on last week's chat about Fawlty Towers, I thought you might like to know something about the show's co-creator, Connie Booth. Not only did Booth co-write the series with John Cleese and appear with him in the show as waitress Polly Sherman, she was also his wife.

The couple met in the late 1960s while Cleese, a graduate of England's prestigious Cambridge University, was performing in comedy clubs in New York. Booth was working as a waitress in Manhattan, a job she'd taken to support her acting career as an understudy in a Broadway show. According to Cleese it was 'instant attraction" when he walked into a restaurant and among all the "great-looking out of work actresses" there was Connie!

Connie Booth
The cast of Fawlty Towers.

Connie, whose father was a Wall Street stock broker and whose mother was a housewife was born in Indiana. She had moved with her family to New Rochelle, New York as a child, where she performed in high school productions and with her mother's encouragement had gone onto study drama in New York City. Connie's ability to express herself in ways that Cleese never could was a big part of the initial attraction. The pair married on February 20, 1968 and worked together in Monty Python's Flying Circus and in several Python films before co-creating what is probably Britain's best loved comedy series.

It was while working on the second series of Fawlty Towers that the couple's marriage began to unravel. Cleese contributes the break up to his perfectionist streak when his having to make sure the timing and the words were as good as possible would cause him to "get terribly wound up over things". Despite counseling, the couple divorced in the autumn of 1978.

Connie Booth
Connie Booth with John Cleese, Prunella Scales and
Andrew Sachs in 2009 at a reunion celebrating the
30th anniversary of Faulty Towers.

Following their divorce, Booth appeared in several British television shows, including Dickens of London, Little Lord Fauntleroy and The Buccaneers. In 1992 she worked as a volunteer at a specialist mental health unit in south-west London and in 1994 began her professional training as a psychotherapist. Booth gave up acting completely in 1995 and qualified as a psychotherapist in 2000. The same year she married John Lahr, author and senior drama critic for The New Yorker magazine and son of Bert Lahr who played the cowardly lion in the film The Wizard of Oz.

The sixty-seven year old Booth and seventy-one year old Cleese have remained good friends, and both attended the 1995 marriage of their daughter Cynthia, who appeared with Cleese in A Fish Called Wanda as his daughter Portia Leach. Booth continues to work as a psychotherpist in North London.

If there's a past or current Afternoon Tea personality you'd like to see featured in one of our weekly Tidbits, let me know.

To contact Heather:
E-mail: heather@mpt.org
Address: Afternoon Tea
Maryland Public Television
11767 Owings Mills Blvd.
Owings Mills, MD 21117

 

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Week of June 13, 2011: A Brief History of Fawlty Towers

Fawlty Towers
Geoffrey Palmer in "The Kipper &
The Corpse," Fawlty Towers.

Last week we were chatting about Geoffrey Palmer who is most commonly known to Afternoon Tea viewers as Lionel Hardcastle in As Time Goes By. One of the first times I saw Geoffrey on television was in Fawlty Towers, where he played Dr. Price in "The Kipper & The Corpse" episode. Maybe you saw it, too. He was later reunited with John Cleese in the film A Fish Called Wanda.

Fawlty Towers is probably one of the most loved British comedic television series. Only 12 episodes were made of the show, and each script took six weeks to write and a week to film. The production team would spend nearly an hour editing each minute of every program, spending up to 25 hours on each show.

Fawlty Towers
The cast of Fawlty Towers.

Cleese got his inspiration for the show after staying at a hotel called The Gleneagles in Torquay while filming Monty Python's Flying Circus in 1971. He became fascinated by the hotel's then owner, Donald Sinclaire, who Cleese later described as being "the most wonderfully rude man I have ever met."

Allegedly Mr. Sinclair threw Eric Idle's briefcase out of the window thinking it was a bomb, criticized Terry Gilliam for leaving his knife and form on his plate at an angle, rather than straight, and chucked a bus timetable at another guest after the guest dared to ask the time of the next bus to town. Sounds like something right out of the Basil Fawlty playbook!

Fawlty Towers
Best Western Gleaneagles Hotel,
Torquay.

A few years ago The Gleneagles was due to be demolished by developers who wanted to replace it with a block of 25 luxury flats. The plans were rejected by the local council and the hotel was purchased privately for £1.5 million. It is now part of the Best Western hotel chain and has been transformed into a modern boutique hotel.

Till next week,

TTFN!

To contact Heather:
E-mail: heather@mpt.org
Address: Afternoon Tea
Maryland Public Television
11767 Owings Mills Blvd.
Owings Mills, MD 21117

 

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Week of June 6, 2011: As Time Goes By's Geoffrey Palmer, a.k.a. "Lionel Hardcastle"

Geoffrey Palmer
"Lionel and Jean" in
As Time Goes By.

This week one of our longtime favorite Afternoon Tea actors celebrates his 84th birthday. Geoffrey Palmer, who was born in North Finchley in London on June 4th, 1927, is known the world over for his portrayal of Lionel Hardcastle in As Time Goes By. Although the jowly-faced actor's droll voice is probably one of the most distinctive on television, Palmer's approach to his celebrity status is as unassuming as the character he plays. He shuns personal publicity and has never even watched a television talk show, let alone appeared on one.

Palmer would much rather spend his time fishing than giving interviews. Although Palmer's been acting for over 50 years, the question of how much long he'll continue in the profession isn't nearly as important as "how many more years I can go on salmon fishing. How many more years will I be able to stand in a river?"

Geoffrey Palmer
Geoffrey and Sally Palmer
on their wedding day.

Unlike many of his contemporaries, Palmer didn't grow up longing to be an actor. He served his National Service as a Corporal with the Royal Marines, and after his discharge worked as an accountant at an imports office. A job he felt was enabling his propensity to dullness. It was only after meeting an actor friend of a cousin that Palmer decided to switch careers.

Feeling that perhaps if he became an actor, he too could become witty and fun loving. Starting out in an amateur theatre, Palmer soon discovered that he loved being on stage. Palmer soon found plenty of stage work, but it wasn't until the mid 1970s that he came to the attention of the British television viewing public in the series The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin, where he played Perrin's brother-in-law, Major Jimmy Anderson.

Geoffrey Palmer
The cast of Butterflies.

His success in that show was quickly followed up by the butterfly collecting, manic-depressive, dentist Ben Parkinson in Butterflies. A series, which starred The Royal's Wendy Craig, as Ben's emotionally disconnected wife Ria and Nicholas Lyndhurst (Only Fools and Horses) as his son Adam.

Palmer continued to find work in films and television pretty steadily throughout the 1980s (Black Adder, Fawlty Towers, A Fish Called Wanda), but his greatest success of course came in 1992. That's when he teamed up with Judi Dench in As Time Goes By. Their long running partnership pales in comparison to Palmer's real life love affair. He has been married for almost fifty years to his wife Sally, whom he wed in 1963 and with whom he has two children, Charles and Harriet. Coincidentally Charles's wife, actress Claire Skinner, and her father-in-law have both appeared on Afternoon Tea. She played the role of Mrs. Macey in Lark Rise to Candleford.

Geoffrey Palmer
Geoffrey Palmer with his OBE.

In 1995, Palmer was awarded the OBE (Order of the British Empire) by Queen Elizabeth II for his services to British Theatre.

Many happy returns Geoffrey!

To contact Heather:
E-mail: heather@mpt.org
Address: Afternoon Tea
Maryland Public Television
11767 Owings Mills Blvd.
Owings Mills, MD 21117

 

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Week of May 30, 2011: LOTSW's Bill Owen, a.k.a. "Compo"

Last week in our chat about Brian Wilde who starred as Foggy Dewhurst in Last of the Summer Wine, I mentioned how he and Bill Owen didn't always see eye to eye. They sometimes went for weeks on end without speaking. The dearly departed Owen was, however, deeply loved by viewers for over 26 years for his portrayal of "Compo Sommonite".

Bill Owen
Bill Owen as "Compo" in
Last of the Summer Wine.

Despite his having been ill for some time with stomach and bowel cancer, Owens' death at the age of 85 in July of 1999 came as a great shock to all who knew him. Although Owen had undergone emergency surgery, when he fell ill during the shooting of a millennium special of the series in France, he refused to give into the pain and insisted on completing the filming. Once he got back to Britain, though, tests revealed the severity of his condition – pancreatic cancer - and filming of a new series had to be put on hold. Sadly Owen never recovered.

Although only a little guy of 5' 4", Owen had a personality that was larger than life. He was born William Rowbotham in Acton, West London in 1914. His father was a tram driver, his mother worked in a laundry and his grandmother was the local midwife. Although he wanted to become an actor from a very young age, his parents couldn't afford to have him trained, so when he left school he became a printer's apprentice. It was a job he hated. So he quit and got a job as a singer with a local dance band. He also played drums and the money he earned from playing in London nightclubs paid for his acting classes. He was just 18 at the time. The classes paid off and he got a job with a repertory company then toured music halls with a cabaret act.

Like many other well known British entertainers, Owen spent several summers working as an entertainer at Butlin's Holiday Camps. The rest of the year he spent producing shows for the Unity Theatre, a left leaning organization that staged plays on social and political issues.

Bill Owen
Bill Owen in the 1950s.

During the Second World War Owen was a lieutenant in the Royal Army Ordinance Corps. After a grenade explosion during a battle training course blew off the foot of one of his men, he had a breakdown and was forced to return to civilian life. Owen resumed his acting career and by the late 1940s was contracted to the film studio J. Arthur Rank. His first film using his new name of Owen instead of Rowbotham was When The Bough Breaks, where he played the role of "Bill Collins". The film also starred Owen's LOTSW castmate Thora Hird. Other films included Georgy Girl, O Lucky Man and a number of Carry On films, including Carry On Sergeant, Carry On Regardless and Carry On Nurse. In total Owen made 46 films, but his great love was always the theatre.

In 1950 Owen played "Touchstone", in William Shakespeare's As You Like It at the Cort Theatre in New York. His co-star was Katherine Hepburn with whom, according to Owen's son Tom, he was "madly in love". Unfortunately for Owen it was a one sided love affair, although she did give him a photograph of the two of them in a scene from the play, on which she inscribed "To Bill, with affection and gratitude - Katharine Hepburn." It remained one of Owens' most prized possessions.

As well as acting on stage, in film and on television, Owen also had a successful career as a songwriter, penning the lyrics for the Cliff Richard's 1960's hit "Marianne". In partnership with Mike Sammes, he also wrote lyrics for pop songs performed by Englebert Humperdinck, Harry Secombe, Sacha Distel and Pat Boone. Owen also wrote numerous one-act plays for boys clubs and was arts adviser to the National Association of Boys Clubs, for which he was made an MBE in 1976. His dancing skills weren't bad either, in fact Gene Kelly once called him a 'born dancer'. All of these achievements though were often overlooked in favor of the role that made Owen a household name. "Compo" the scruffy, woolly capped, welly wearing, lecherous, incorrigible prankster, whose passionate pursuit of the formidable "Nora Batty" lasted 26 years. In real life, Owen was married for 17 years to Edith Stevenson with whom he had a son, Tom who joined the cast of LOTSW after Owen's death, playing his long lost son Tom Simmonite. Owen married former actress Kathleen O'Donoghue in 1977 and the couple made Holmfirth their home.

Bill Owen
Bill Owen's gravesite.

Owen's love of Holmfirth was known to all. In fact a couple of years before his death he made plans to be laid to rest in the local churchyard at St. John's Parrish Church in the village of Upperthong, for which he had helped raise money for repairs. This came as no surprise to Peter Sallis, who played "Clegg" in the series. Twenty years before when the pair had been sitting filming up by the Church, Owen told Sallis that it was there he wanted to be buried. I'm not sure which particular scene they were filming, but perhaps it was the one where "Compo", "Foggy" and "Clegg" had the following conversation...

Compo: I wonder what they'll put on my gravestone?
Foggy: Something very heavy, I hope.
Clegg: What would you like on it?
Compo: Somebody else's name.

Till next week, as "Compo" would say "Tada"!

To contact Heather:
E-mail: heather@mpt.org
Address: Afternoon Tea
Maryland Public Television
11767 Owings Mills Blvd.
Owings Mills, MD 21117

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Week of May 23, 2011: LOTSW's Brian Wilde, a.k.a. "Foggy Dewhurst"

As promised this week we're going to chat about actor Brian Wilde who replaced Michael Bates's Blamire in Last of the Summer Wine. Wilde's portrayal of former army corporal Foggy Dewhurst, was his last foray into television before his death in March of 2008, at the age of 80. It was also the pinnacle of a long, successful acting career.

It seems serendipitous that Wilde's golden years would be spent in Holmfirth, the Yorkshire location where Last of the Summer Wine was filmed, as he was born in Ashton-under-Lyne in Lancashire, just 15 miles away in 1927. Most of Wilde's childhood though was spent in the Home Counties. After leaving his Hertfordshire Grammar School, the teenager went to London, where in 1947, he trained as an actor at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts. One of his fellow trainees was Peter Sallis, who played Clegg in LOTSW.

Brian Wilde
Brian Wilde as "Foggy Dewhurst" in Last of
the Summer Wine

Wilde's first film and television appearances were in the early 1950s, and while he worked consistently for the next 20 years, he didn't receive national name recognition until being cast as prison officer Barrowclough in the hit BBC comedy series, Porridge. The series, which stared Ronnie Barker, ran until 1977, with a film version being made in 1979.

While still working on Porridge, Wilde donned the trademark cap, picked up a cane and created Foggy Dewhurst; a character with whom he apparently had a lot in common. In fact, according to Peter Sallis, "If you saw him in character as Foggy you get a pretty good idea of what Brian was like".

Wilde was, however, a very private man. According to Sallis, "If you saw him in Porridge or Last of the Summer Wine then you knew as much about him as I did. He was a private person, not in a stuffy way, but he didn't mix socially".

Wilde may not have mixed much, but he was extremely well thought of by the series creator Roy Clark and producer Alan JW Bell. "He was one of my favorite actors", said Clark at the time of Wilde's death. "He was absolutely impeccable with every line. You could give him all sorts of convoluted speech and he never made a fluff. A wonderful actor and a very nice man".

Bell, reiterated Clark's comments. "He was a fine actor to work with, very professional. He was an old school actor. You turned up, knew your lines and played them the very best you could. He had an enormous warmth to the public when he was off the set".

Brian Wilde
Brian Wilde and Ronnie Barker in Porridge

Someone who didn't get along quite as well with Wilde, was his co-star Bill Owen, who played Compo. Their relationship was known to be "prickly". In a rare interview Wilde once admitted that they had disagreements over the interpretation of scenes or the cutting of dialogue, and added that "we've never walked off the set in anger - we're too professional for that - though we have a few days when we're not talking". The pair also had differing political views. Owen was a staunch socialist, while Wilde was very much a Conservative. In fact, it was thought that when Wilde declined to appear in a stage version of LOTSW in 1983, it was because of the friction between himself and Owen.

In 1985 Wilde left LOTSW in order to do other things, one of which was a show called Wyatt's Watchdogs, which also stared Wilde's actress wife Eva Stuart. This was Wilde's first ever leading role and he played a retired soldier trying to run a neighborhood watch group. The show though was poorly received and only lasted six episodes.

Meanwhile a new character, Seymour Utterthwaite, played by Michael Aldridge, was introduced to replace Wilde, but by 1990 Foggy was back. Wilde remained with the series for the next seven years, when he was forced to drop out because of an attack of shingles. He recovered, but at his own behest didn't return to the series, his place in the threesome being taken over by Frank Thornton, who Wilde himself suggested as a replacement.

In January of 2008 Wilde suffered a fall at his home in Ware, Hertfordshire. Never being the most robust of men, the 6ft. 3" tall, 180lb Wilde was left in a fragile condition. He was admitted into a nursing home where on March 19, 2008, he died in his sleep of natural causes.

Until next week,

TTFN!

To contact Heather:
E-mail: heather@mpt.org
Address: Afternoon Tea
Maryland Public Television
11767 Owings Mills Blvd.
Owings Mills, MD 21117

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Week of May 16, 2011: LOTSW's Michael Bates, a.k.a. "Cyril Blamire"

Michael Bates
Peter Sallis as "Clegg," Bill Owen as "Compo" and
Michael Bates as "Cyril Blamire" in Last of the
Summer Wine
.

During the course of all the years we've been enjoying Last of the Summer Wine on Afternoon Tea, we've seen so many comings and goings among the various characters in the series it's sometimes hard to keep up! Someone you might recall from way back when the series first started was "Cyril Blamire." He was the pompous, opinionated conservative who made up the original comic threesome and was played by actor Michael Bates from when the show originally aired in 1973, to 1975.

Bates, who was born on December 4th, 1920, in India, served with the Brigade of Gurkhas in Burma. He was discharged at the end of World War II, and in 1947 he joined the Royal Shakespeare Company, where he remained until 1953. For the next 30 plus years, Bates made full use of both his physical bearing and his military background. He appeared in films such as Battle of Britain, Oh, What a Lovely War, and Patton. It was Bates' role in Patton which led to him being cast in the 1971 cult classic A Clockwork Orange. For many years, Bates also played an assortment of military personnel in the BBC's long running radio comedy series The Navy Lark.

Michael Bates
The cast of It Ain't Half Hot Mum.

As well as starring in LOTSW, Bates also appeared in another popular British television series called It Ain't Half Hot Mum, where he portrayed an Indian character called "Rangi Ram." It was a role that caused some controversy as he was made up with a fake tan to look like an Indian. Having been born in India, and speaking Urdu fluently, it was a role Bates loved. So much so, that when he discovered he had cancer and had to drop all his other acting projects, he continued to play in It Ain't Half Hot Mum until shortly before his death in January of 1978 at the age of 57.

Bates was replaced in Last of the Summer Wine, by actor Brian Wilde, whose life we'll take a look at next week. Until then, if there's someone in any of our Afternoon Tea shows you'd like to know more about, drop me a line.

Until next week,

TTFN!

To contact Heather:
E-mail: heather@mpt.org
Address: Afternoon Tea
Maryland Public Television
11767 Owings Mills Blvd.
Owings Mills, MD 21117

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Week of May 9, 2011: LOTSW's Gordon Wharmby, a.k.a. "Wesley Pegden"

Last week we remembered the recently departed Trevor Bannister who played the lovable cockney Mr. Lucas in Are You Being Served? Bannister was also in another popular Afternoon Tea series; Last of the Summer Wine. He was a fairly new addition to the show, playing Toby Mulberry Smith, one of many new characters bought in owing to the real life demise of some of the older residents of Holmfirth. Gordon Wharmby for instance who played Barry's father-in-law Wesley Pegden in the series was an actor whose death of lung cancer at the age of 68 on May 18 2002, came as a shock to the producers of the series.

Gordon Wharmby
Gordon Wharmby
as "Wesley Pegden"

Born in Salford, Lancashire in 1933, Wharmby served in the Royal Air Force, during his national service, where he learned to be a fireman. His original profession though was as painter and decorator. It was a job he loved and one he continued to do in the Manchester area for five years after his first appearance in Last of the Summer Wine in 1982.

The role of Wesley was one that Wharmby got almost by accident. In 1981, having been a jobbing actor with the Oldham Repertory Co., and getting some minor roles in a few television shows, Wharmby auditions for the LOTSW episode In the Service of Humanity. He was one of five actors reading for a one-line part whose character description was simply "man on the roof". Another character was supposed to take away his ladder to rescue someone from the river. Wharmby's one line was: "Hey, bring back that ladder."

Director Alan Bell and writer Roy Clarke were so impressed by Wharmby's 'natural' talent that they asked him to do a cold reading of the character in of Wesley in the episode titled "Car and Garter". Although a different, well-known actor had tentatively been chosen to play the role, Bell decided to cast Wharmby, who had practically no acting experience, on the spot. Clark then took some of Wharmby's own characteristics and tailored them to Wesley. It was a role Wharmby would enjoy playing for over 15 years.

Gordon Wharmby
Wharmby and Thora Hird as
"Wesley and Edie Pegden"

Wesley's wife in the show was veteran British actress, Dame Thora Hird. Playing opposite her was initially intimidating, but eventually to Hird's great amusement Wharmby started giving her 'notes'. As well as Last of the Summer Wine, Wharmby also had small roles in several other British television shows, including Agatha Christie's Poirot, Hetty Wainthropp Investigates and All Creatures Great and Small.

Agatha Christie's Poirot by the way is just one of the many British shows you can see on MPT2. It airs Tuesday nights at 8pm. MPT2 is also where you can find Last of the Summer Wine on Sunday nights at 8pm. That's just in case you miss the show's weekday showing on Afternoon Tea at 1:30pm weekdays.

I'll be back next week with more about the residents of Holmfirth. Till then,

TTFN!

To contact Heather:
E-mail: heather@mpt.org
Address: Afternoon Tea
Maryland Public Television
11767 Owings Mills Blvd.
Owings Mills, MD 21117

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Week of May 2, 2011: We remember Trevor Bannister

Amid the flurry of excitement over the Royal Wedding, it was also a time to mourn the passing of one of Afternoon Tea's own 'royals' – Trevor Bannister, who played Mr. Lucas in Are You Being Served? Bannister suffered a fatal heart attack on Thursday, April 14th while doing some repair work on a shed in the allotment at his home in Thames Ditton, Surrey.

Trevor Bannister
John Inman as Mr. Humphries and
Trevor Bannister as Mr. Lucas in
Are You Being Served?

Although 76 year old Bannister had lately made a comeback to television as 'Toby' in Last of the Summer Wine, as far as I'm concerned, he'll always be the 'junior' in the menswear department at Grace Brothers. Along with his partner in mischief making, Mr. Humphries, played by another sorely missed AYBS? favorite, John Inman, Bannister was an irascible rascal and the bane of Captain Peacock's existence.

Born in Wiltshire on August 14th, 1936, Bannister was the youngest of three children. Like other British actors you may have read about in our weekly tid-bits column, Bannister got his start in show business at Arthur Brough's repertory company in Folkestone. He was just fifteen at the time, and little did he know then that he and Brough, who played Mr. Grainger in AYBS?, would be reunited in what would become one of the BBC's most popular exports.

After completing his mandatory two year's of National Service, Bannister enrolled at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts and made his West End stage debut in 1960. The show was Billy Liar, starring Albert Finney in the title role. A few years later, Bannister was invited to play Mr. Lucas in a pilot episode of Are You Being Served? and stayed with the show until 1980.

Bannister's leaving AYBS? at the height of its popularity was for many fans something of a mystery. It turns out that it was purely a matter of finances. AYBS? was a seven week a year job, and its Friday tapings conflicted with the opportunity Bannister had to do a long tour in a play called Middle Age Spread. When the BBC was unable to meet Bannister's request to change the recording day of AYBS? to Sundays so that he could appear in both, he had no other option than to leave the series.

Trevor Bannister
Trevor Bannister (left) as Toby
in Last of the Summer Wine with
(l-r) Brian Murphy as Alvin, Russ Abbot
as Hobbo and Burt Kwouk as Entwistle.

Bannister returned to the BBC in 1988 in the sitcom Wyatt's Watchdogs, where he played 'Peter Pitt', alongside Brian Wilde ('Foggy' Dewhurst in Last of the Summer Wine). Bannister also had minor roles in Keeping Up Appearances, The Saint and The Avengers and played three different characters in Coronation Street.

In 2006, Bannister toured all over Britain as Sir John Tremayne in the 70th Anniversary production of the Noel Gay musical Me And My Girl and in 2009 he became a regular on Last of the Summer Wine.

Bannister is survived by his second wife Pam, and three sons from his first marriage.

To contact Heather:
E-mail: heather@mpt.org
Address: Afternoon Tea
Maryland Public Television
11767 Owings Mills Blvd.
Owings Mills, MD 21117

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Week of April 25, 2011: The Royal Wedding, and sad Britcom news

Trevor Bannister
Trevor Bannister, 1934-2011.

This week amid the excitement of welcoming a new member to Britain's Royal Family, we shouldn't forget to pause awhile and say farewell to a long-time member of our Afternoon Tea family. Actor Trevor Bannister, who played the cheeky chappy Mr. Lucas in Are You Being Served?, died of a heart attack last Thursday, April 14th at the age of 76. I'll be paying tribute to Mr. Bannister in next week's Tea Time Tidbits column and invite you to share your thoughts. You can drop me a line at heather@mpt.org.

Now, here's more on what to expect this Friday, April 29th, when Prince William marries his longtime girlfriend Catherine Middleton. Miss. Middleton's official Royal Title won't be announced until after the marriage, so there's no knowing yet whether she'll become Princess Catherine. One thing we can be sure of thought is that it will be a wedding for the ages.

The costs of throwing such a lavish production haven't been revealed, but The Royal Family, with a six figure contribution from the Middleton's, will pay for all aspects of the day that constitute the actual wedding. For example, the service at Westminster Abbey, the flowers, the dresses, the carriage procession, the reception and the dinner. Costs that are consequential to the wedding, such as security, policing and street closures and cleaning will be paid for by the British Government and other bodies.

The Royal Wedding
Philippa "Pippa" Middleton.

Accompanying Catherine down the aisle, along with her father, will be her sister, Philippa, as Maid of Honor, four young bridesmaids, aged between three and eight years old and two page boys, aged ten and eight. All of the bridesmaids are from the groom's side of the family, including three year old Eliza Lopes, granddaughter of the Duchess of Cornwall. Acting as Best Man to Prince William will, of course, be his brother Prince Harry.

One of the most enjoyable aspects of watching a Royal Wedding is the music. Friday's Wedding Service promises to be exceptional, with two choirs, one orchestra and two fanfare teams. The Choir of Westminster Abbey consists of 20 boys and 12 professional adult singers. The Chapel Royal Choir, which has existed since at least the Norman Conquest, consists of ten boy choristers (known as Children of the Chapel) and 12 six male professional singers. If you think the uniforms worn by the Children seem a little outdated, that's because they date from the reign of Charles II.

The London Chamber Orchestra comprising of 39 musicians, seated in the organ loft of the Abbey, will perform, along with a Fanfare Team of seven musicians from the Central Band of the Royal Air Force, as well as the State Trumpeters of The Household Cavalry. Music for the service was carefully chosen by the bride and groom, along with advice from Prince Charles and will include a number of well-known hymns and choral works as well as some specially-commissioned pieces.

The Royal Wedding
A Fiona Cairns wedding cake.

Following the Wedding Service at Westminster Abbey, Claire Jones, the Official Harpist to The Prince of Wales will perform at the Reception given by The Queen at Buckingham Palace. At the Reception, guests will get to sample the wedding cake. Created by Leicestershire-based cake designer Fiona Cairns, who is known for only using traditional British ingredients, the cake will be a multi-tiered traditional fruit cake, decorated with cream and white icing, and featuring a strong British floral theme using elements of what is called the Joseph Lambeth technique; a method using lots of intricate piping to create 3-D scrollwork, leaves, flowers and other ornate decoration.

In addition to the official wedding cake, Prince William also asked McVitie's Cake Company to create a one of a kind chocolate biscuit cake, made from a Royal Family recipe. I wonder what tea they'll be serving?

Don't forget to set your "teasmaid" will you for 3am this Friday, April 29th. That's when MPT will commence airing the Royal Wedding festivities live from London. If it's a little early for you, don't worry, we'll repeat the proceedings in their entirety Friday night at 7pm and on Saturday, April 30th at 6pm.

If you're planning on having your own Royal Wedding Party, or if you went to England to celebrate, let us know how it went. I'd love to share your stories!

TTFN!

To contact Heather:
E-mail: heather@mpt.org
Address: Afternoon Tea
Maryland Public Television
11767 Owings Mills Blvd.
Owings Mills, MD 21117

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Week of April 18, 2011: The Royal Wedding

Greetings teagoers! So are you all set for Friday, April 29th? That's when you'll have to replace your Afternoon Tea with a Morning Cuppa Tea, for MPT's live coverage of the Royal Wedding. The on-air festivities kick off at 3am. Yes, you read that correctly – if you want to see all of the coverage, you'll have to go to bed early the night before and set your alarms. Here's a rundown on what we can expect – all times are London times, so if you're on the East Coast don't forget to minus 5hrs.

The Royal Wedding
Kate Middleton and Prince William.

At 8:30 am (3:30am here on the East Coast), the 1900 invited guests will start arriving at Westminster Abbey. Yes, that's a full two and a half hours before the actual ceremony takes place, which is a blink of an eye compared to the ten years Kate has waited to wed her Prince! So who can we expect to be on the lookout for among the guests? Well, David and Victoria Beckham will be there, along with Sir Elton John and his partner David Furnish. Film director Guy Ritchie will also be there, but that shouldn't be a surprise, because although best known for his marriage to Madonna, he's also Kate's sixth cousin once removed. Former English rugby coach Sir Clive Woodward and his wife Lady Woodward will also attend, as will Rowan Atkinson (Blackadder).

More than 15 members of the Middleton family will attend, along with two former boyfriends of Kate's and four ex-girlfriends of William. As well as inviting his best friends, William has also invited his former nannies, Barbara Barnes who looked after William and Harry before they started school, and Tiggy Pettifer, who took over from Ms. Barnes. Two of William's former headmasters also made the list, along with a gaggle of buddies of both the bride and groom from their college days at St. Andrews.

The Royal Wedding
The Venerable Bogoda Seelawimala.

Although Sarah Ferguson wasn't invited, both her daughters, Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie, will be there, along of course with Prince Andrew and a whole host of other Royals. As a matter of protocol, the couple are also required to invite a fairly large number of politicians and religious leaders. These include British Prime Minister David Cameron, along with Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, the leader of the opposition Ed Milibrand and the Venerable Bogoda Seelawimala, the head priest at the London Buddhist Vihara monastery. He'll be the one in the vivid colorful costume.

At 10:00 am all the guests will proceed to the Abbey, with the Queen and Prince Philip being the last to arrive at around 10:40am.

At 10:50 am Kate and her father Mike will leave Buckingham Palace, going towards Westminster Abby passing through The Mall, House, Whitehall and Parliament Square. They will be driven in a Rolls Royce, which will be the first time since 1963 that the royal bride has arrived at the church without riding in a horse-drawn carriage.

At 11:00 am Prince William and Kate Middleton's wedding ceremony will commence. The service will be conducted by The Dean of Westminster. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Douglas Williams, will perform the marriage ceremony. The address will be given by The Bishop of London, who is a personal friend of Prince Charles and his family and who confirmed Prince William and officiated at the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Service.

At 12:15 pm Following the ceremony Prince William and Princess Catherine will return (in a horse-drawn carriage) to Buckingham Palace.

The Royal Wedding
The Queen and Prince Philip.

At 12:30 pm William and Kate will arrive at Buckingham Palace, where they'll be met by the Queen. The formal reception will follow.

At 1:25 pm the newlyweds will appear together with their family on the balcony of Buckingham Palace.

At 1:30 pm the royal couple will witness a ceremonial and honorific flying of planes of the Royal Air Force, before returning to the reception.

At 7:00 pm a private dinner and dance will be held at Buckingham Palace, hosted by Prince Charles.

The festivities will continue well into the wee hours, as William and Kate have arranged for a nightclub to be set up at Buckingham Palace. A DJ, a dance floor, lights, and a cocktail bar will be taken into the Palace, where several state rooms have been set aside for the reception. Approximately 300 have been invited to attend.

So that's the play by play lineup for the Big Event. If you miss MPT's live coverage, we'll be airing it in its entirety again Friday night at 7pm and Saturday, April 30th at 6pm.

We'll have another update on the Royal Wedding next week, until then...

TTFN!

To contact Heather:
E-mail: heather@mpt.org
Address: Afternoon Tea
Maryland Public Television
11767 Owings Mills Blvd.
Owings Mills, MD 21117

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Week of April 11, 2011: The cast of Lark Rise to Candleford, Part 3

This week we're going to wrap up our look at the actors who play the characters in Lark Rise to Candleford.


Lark Rise to Candleford

Emma Timmins/Claudie Blakley
First up is Claudie Blakley who plays Laura's mother, Emma Timmins, You might recognize Claudie from a show we aired a few months ago, John Lennon Naked. She played John's first wife Cynthia. Costume dramas, however, seem to be a particular favorite with Claudie, and she's appeared in Cranford as Martha, and also in the Oscar-winning Gosford Park, as Mabel Nesbitt, and as Charlotte Lucas in the 2005 version of Pride and Prejudice.

Claudie trained at the Central School of Speech and Drama in London and has worked extensively in theatre, including with the National Theatre, where she played Wendy in Peter Pan, and the Royal Shakespeare Company. In 1998, she won the Ian Charleson Award for her performance in The Seagull at the West Yorkshire Playhouse. Claudie's father was Alan Blakely, a member of the 1960s pop band, The Tremeloes, who died in 1995.


Lark Rise to Candleford

Queenie Turrill/Linda Bassett
The matriach of the village, Linda Bassett, is no stranger to village life, having been born in the village of Pluckley in Kent in 1950. Her mother was a typist and her father a police officer. Linda had no formal actor training, chosing instead to attend Leeds University. She only stayed there a year though as she was always getting distracted from her studies by doing plays. Before attending University, Linda worked as an usher at the Old Vic Theatre and in the catering department at the National Theatre. After leaving University, Linda stayed in Leeds, working with a community theatre group that performed in adventure playgrounds, hospitals and special needs schools.

Linda's break into the professional acting world didn't come until she was in her early 30s, when she was cast in a Caryl Churchill play Fen, in which she peformed both in London and New York. Although mainly a stage performer, you might recall seeing Linda in the movies Calendar Girls, where she starred as Cora (she was Miss March) and in The Reader, where she appeared as Mrs. Brenner. In 1999, Linda was nominated as Best Actress in both the Evening Standard and the BAFTA Film Awards, for her portrayal as Ella Khan in the film East Is East. For television, Linda was Mrs. Jennings in the BBC adaptation of Sense and Sensibility.


Lark Rise to Candleford

Twister Turrill/Karl Johnson
Unlike the character he plays, elderly layabout Twister, Karl is probably one of the hardest working actors in the industry. As well as working extensively on stage with the National Theatre, the Royal Court Theatre and the Royal Shakespeare Company, Karl has appeared in a string of television series and films for well over thirty years. Although he was familiar with the book before he took on the role of Twister, Karl avoided reading it for years, simply because of its title. "It sounds like a trip to Laura Ashley", said Karl. Fortunately for us, he didn't avoid saying yes, to playing the part of Twister!


Lark Rise to Candleford

Alf Arless/John Dagleish
Lark Rise to Candleford was John's very first role in television. He trained at the Drama Centre London. John is currently filming a new comedy drama series called Beaver Falls, which follows three British university graduates who have landed jobs at an elite American summer camp. Filming for the series is taking place in South Africa.


Lark Rise to Candleford

Gabriel Cochrane/Richard Harrington
Richard, who was born in Merthyr Tydfil in Wales, didn't expect to get the job, but was thrilled to be cast. Although intimidated at first by joining a cast that had been together for a while, Richard was welcomed with open arms and made to feel as though he'd been there for years. You might also recall seeing Richard in the long running BBC series, MI5. Now that Lark Rise is no longer being filmed Richard is finding he has something in common with the character he plays. Like Gabriel Richard too is job hunting and hopefully it won't be long before we see him again in another BBC production.

 

I'll be back next week with more tid-bits on our Afternoon Tea shows and their actors. Until then,

Until next week...

TTFN!

To contact Heather:
E-mail: heather@mpt.org
Address: Afternoon Tea
Maryland Public Television
11767 Owings Mills Blvd.
Owings Mills, MD 21117

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Week of April 4, 2011: The cast of Lark Rise to Candleford, Part 2

Greetings Lark Rise fans! Here I am back again with some more tidbits about the characters you've got to know and love in Lark Rise to Candleford and the actors who play them.


Lark Rise to Candleford

Margaret Brown/Sandy McDade
The timid Rector's daughter, Margaret, who married Thomas Brown, is played by Scottish actress Sandy McDade. Born in Scotland, McDade knew she wanted to be an actress since she was 14 years old, and by 15, she had joined the Scottish Youth Theatre. At 19, McDade left Scotland, to move to London. She appeared in several television series, such as The Office, Silent Witness and Taggart, and she also worked a lot in the theatre. In fact, in 2003, McDade garnered a London Evening Standard Best Actress award. The play was Rona Munro's Iron, and she played Fay, a murderer. McDade currently lives in London with husband David, and their three children, Skye, 23, Miriam, 14, and Clara, 12, but her heart is still in Scotland.


Lark Rise to Candleford

Pearl Pratt/Matilda Ziegler
Matilda Ziegler, who plays the gossip loving Pearl Pratt, has had quite the varied theatrical career. She's performed in Shakespeare's Twelfth Night for the Royal Shakespeare Company, and in numerous telvision shows, all playing very different roles, including the Rowan Atkinson sitcom Mr. Bean where she played the title character's long suffering girlfriend, as well as EastEnders and The Inspector Linley Mysteries where Ziegler had a reoccuring role as Christine Miller. Ziegler is married to actor Louis Hilyer and they have two daughters, Evie and Faye, and one son, Herbie.


Lark Rise to Candleford

Ruby Pratt/Victoria Hamilton
Ruby Pratt may not have much success in the romance field, but the actress who plays her has enjoyed considerable success in the acting world. In 1995 Victoria Hamilton won the London Critics Circle Theatre Award for Most Promising Newcomer, and in 2000 won for Best Actress. In 2002 she was nominated for a Laurence Olivier Theatre Award for Best Actress for her role in As You Like It, and in 2003 received a Tony Best Actress nomination for A Day In The Life of Joe Egg. Costume dramas seem to be Hamilton's forte. You might remember her as Mrs. Forster in the BBC's Pride and Prejudice, starring Colin Firth? She also played Queen Victoria in Victoria & Albert, and has appeared in three Jane Austen adaptations, Pride and Prejudice, Persuasion, and Mansfield Park. Hamilton is celebrating her 40th birthday this week (April 5th) and is married to British actor, Mark Bazeley.


Lark Rise to Candleford

Daniel Parish/Ben Aldridge
Devonshire born, Ben Aldridge who plays Laura's partner, Daniel Parish, attended St. Peter's Church of England High School in Exeter and graduated from the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts (LAMDA) in 2008. Since then, he's been consistently working, either in the theatre (The National Youth Theatre and the Globe theatre), or in television series such as Compulsion and Inspector Lewis.

 

I'll be back next week with a final wrap up on the actors in Lark Rise to Candleford. If there's something you'd like me to cover in these weekly tidbits, let me know.

Until next week...

TTFN!

To contact Heather:
E-mail: heather@mpt.org
Address: Afternoon Tea
Maryland Public Television
11767 Owings Mills Blvd.
Owings Mills, MD 21117

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Week of March 28, 2011: The cast of Lark Rise to Candleford, Part 1

One of the best things about doing these weekly tidbits is hearing from our viewers. It's been lovely to hear from so many of you about how much you enjoy Lark Rise to Candleford. For the next few weeks, I thought we'd take a look at some of the actors in the series - those credits fly by so fast, it's sometimes hard to catch the actor names. So here goes...

Lark Rise to Candleford

Dorcas Lane/Julia Sawalha
Candleford's Postmistress, Dorcas Lane, is played by Julia Sawalha, who is best known for playing Saffy – the long suffering daughter to Jennifer Saunders' Edina, in the hit comedy, Absolutely Fabulous. Julia also appeared in Pride and Prejudice (Lydia Bennet), Martin Chuzzlewit (Mercy "Merry" Pecksniff) and Cranford (Jessie Brown). No wonder she moves with such ease in those long skirts! The 42 year old Julia has also appeared in several films, including voicing Ginger in the animated film Chicken Run. One of Julia's very first television roles, was in another series you might have seen on MPT - Mystery's Inspector Morse, it was the episode "Last Seen Wearing" and she played the role of Rachael.


Lark Rise to Candleford

Laura Timmins/Olivia Hanninan
Olivia Hallinan started acting at the age of seven, working for TV, film and stage. She studied English and Drama at the University of Manchester and her first professional role was in Jack and the Beanstalk with UK favorite Cilla Black. This year sees 22 year old Olivia's feature film debut as she stars in the British film noir Jack Falls as Natasha.


Lark Rise to Candleford

Minnie Mude/Ruby Bentall
Ruby Bentall who plays Dorcas' hopeless housemaid, Minnie, has also appeared in another series you might have seen on MPT – the comedy detective series, New Tricks. Both of Ruby's parents are actors, who between them have a total of six children. (Ruby's mum is Janine Duvitski, the actress who plays long-suffering Jane on Waiting For God.) 22 year old Ruby was born at home in Camden, London, and she still lives with her family in Central London.


Lark Rise to Candleford

Thomas Brown/Mark Heap
Pious postman, Thomas Brown, is played by Mark Heap who was born in India to an English father and American mother. The 53 year old's acting career began with the 'Medieval Players' touring company, Mark is also a trained circus performer who started out as a street entertainer, even winning an award for a comedy juggling act called 'The Two Marks'.

 

I'll be back next week with more about some of your favorite Lark Rise actors. In the meantime, if you have a question, or want to let me know what you think about Lark Rise, or any of our Afternoon Tea offerings, you can drop me a line.

Until next week...

TTFN!

To contact Heather:
E-mail: heather@mpt.org
Address: Afternoon Tea
Maryland Public Television
11767 Owings Mills Blvd.
Owings Mills, MD 21117

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Week of March 21, 2011: Remembering Wendy Richard

One of the most recognisable faces on Afternoon Tea has to be that of Wendy Richard, who plays the glamourous 'dolly bird' Shirley Brahms in Are You Being Served?

Wendy Richard
Wendy and Mollie Sugden.

Wendy, who died at the age of 65, on February 26, 2009, was no stranger to the life of a department store shop assistant. Her first job after she left the Royal Masonic School for Girls in Rickmansworth, was in the fashion department of the high class Piccadilly store, Fortnum and Mason. No wonder Wendy seems so comfortable selling women's clothes at Grace Brothers!

Wendy's real name was Wendy Emerton, but after studying drama at the Italia Conti Stage Academy in London, she changed it to Richard, because she thought it sounded 'short and neat'. Wendy's life, however, was never what you could describe as tidy – it seems to have been full of dramatic events and trauma. Her parents ran a pub, whose clientel included Ruth Ellis; the last woman to be hanged in Britain. When Wendy was just 11 years old, her father committed suicide and after her mother died 17 years later, Wendy embarked on a series of disastrous marriages, all three of which ended in divorce.

Wendy Richard
Wendy and the cast of Are You Being
Served?
Reunite in Grace & Favour.

As though to compensate for her unhappy personal life, Wendy became best known to British television audiences through her work on comedy series, such as Dad's Army, Please Sir and On The Buses. She also appeard in the classic comedy films, Carry On Girls and Carry On Matron.

As well as achieving success as an actress, in 1962, Wendy also had a number one record. It's Wendy who can be heard imploring Mike Sarne to "give over", on the hit record "Come Outside".

It was Are You Being Served? though that really bought Wendy to the public's attention and she portrayed the lovable, if somewhat dippy, sexpot Miss Brahms for 12 years, from 1973-1985. In 1990, the Are You Being Served? cast reunited for a sequel to the show, Grace and Favour, It must have been a welcome change for Wendy to play Miss Brahms again, as opposed to the role of Pauline Fowler – the baggy cardiganed, sharp tongued matriach in the BBC soap opera EastEnders.

Wendy Richard
Wendy at the British Soap
Awards in 2007.

Wendy was one of the original cast members of EastEnders and she played Pauline Fowler for over 20 years. She left the show when she disagreed with the storylines being written for her character. It was that kind of fortitude along with a sense of humor that endeared her to her fellow actors. Mollie Sugden, who played Mrs. Slocombe in Are You Being Served?, considered Wendy "the daughter I never had" and Frank Thornton, Captain Peacock in the show, appreciated the fact that Wendy "didn't suffer fools gladly", and he found her "acidic wit" "most refreshing!"

In 2000, Richard was awarded the MBE for services to television and in 2007 she was given a British Soap Award for Lifetime Achievement for her role in EastEnders. Not long after, Wendy was diagnosed with cancer, which in October of 2008, was discovered to be a particularly aggressive and terminal form of the disease. In typical Wendy take charge fashion, she wrote out her will, planned her funeral and immediately married her long term partner, John Burns. It was Burns who was at her side, a few months after their marriage, when she died at a Harley Street clinic in London.

To contact Heather:
E-mail: heather@mpt.org
Address: Afternoon Tea
Maryland Public Television
11767 Owings Mills Blvd.
Owings Mills, MD 21117

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Week of March 14, 2011: A look back at John Inman, Part 2

Greetings! Heather here with more about our favorite 'floorwalker", John Inman.

Although born in Preston, Lancashire, Inman considered Blackpool as his home town, having moved there at the age of 12. His mother ran a boarding house in the town and his father was a hairdresser and when Inman expressed a desire to be an actor, they paid for him to have elocution lessons at a local church hall. The lessons must have paid off, because at the age of 13, he made his stage debut at the South Pier in Blackpool in a melodrama called Freda.

When Inman was 15, he took a job at the Pier, making tea, clearing up and playing parts in the plays After leaving school, Inman worked for two years at Fox's – a gentlemen's outfitters in Blackpool. No wonder he fit so nicely into his role as Mr. Humphries! Inman moved to London when he was 17, and a few years later joined a repertory company in Crewe as a scenic artist. He made his West End debut in the 1960s in a musical called Ann Veronica at the Cambridge Theatre and his television debut in 1970 in a sitcom called Two In Clover.

In 1972, David Croft, asked Inman to play a part in a Comedy Playhouse pilot called Are You Being Served? The rest, as they say, is history. Inman's character grew from minor to major, as did Inman's popularity not only with the British public, but around the world.

John Inman
John Inman in pantomime.

In 1979, Inman appeared at the Adelphi Theatre in London, playing Lord Fancourt Babberley in Charley's Aunt. A foreshadowing of the many times, Inman would appear in drag as the traditional Pantomime Dame. A role he relished – in fact, no matter where his travels took him, he would always return to England at Christmas to do a pantomime.

It was while appearing in a pantomime in December of 2004, that Inman contracted Hepatitis A and was forced to cancel an appearance. This was the climax in a series of bouts of bad health, having been hospitalized with bronchitis in 1993, collapsing on the stage in 1995 and spending three days in intensive care in 2001 after suffering breathing difficulties. Inman never worked again and died early in the morning of March 8th, 2007, aged 71.

Inman was cremated at Golders Green Crematorium on March 23, 2007, leaving practically his entire estate – 2.8 million pounds - to his partner of 33 years, Ron Lynch, who he had married in a civil ceremony in 2005.

Next week, we'll be taking a look at the career of Inman's AYBS co-star Wendy Richard, who played Miss Brahms in the series. Until then,

TTFN

To contact Heather:
E-mail: heather@mpt.org
Address: Afternoon Tea
Maryland Public Television
11767 Owings Mills Blvd.
Owings Mills, MD 21117

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Week of March 7, 2011: A look back at John Inman, Part 1

Hello, Heather here for our weekly chat about the shows and people we love to watch on Afternoon Tea. One of the actors we've been enjoying on MPT for so long now that he seems almost like family is of course the hysterically funny John Inman. It's hard to imagine that Inman, who seemed eternally effervescent, is no longer with us, but this week marks the third anniversary of his passing. What a character - both on screen and off.

John Inman
Frederick John Inman
June 28, 1935 - March 8, 2007

Many years ago I had the pleasure of attending a PBS 'do' at which Inman was the guest speaker. I'll never forget my first sighting of him as he ran across the room, grabbed hold of the elderly lady I was speaking with at the time, flung his arms around her and said "oh, Mary!" as though greeting a long lost friend. They'd never actually met, but seeing her name tag and recognizing in Mary's face a kindred spirit, who might provide sanctuary from the mundane conversation he was currently embroiled in, propelled Inman practically into Mary's arms. Inman must have been a good judge of character, because Mary's immediate comeback was "oh, John!", and she played along with the long lost friend scenario for all it was worth.

Inman's talk to the guests that night was more of a stand up routine, rather than an interview. Having refused to be interviewed formally on the stage, he walked (or flounced) around the floor area, taking questions from the dinner guests and simply 'chatting' about whatever popped into his head. What I remember most was the great big smile on Inman's face, and the constant stream of laughter coming from his audience. He was a man who was obviously happiest when making others happy.

As well as being popular with the public, Inman was also extremly well regarded by his peers and especially by his fellow variety artists, and he was elected King Rat by the Grand Order of Water Rats – an entertainment industry charity based in London.

Inman was also President of the UK's Heritage Foundation, a charity comprised of entertainment artists and technicians who raise funds for good causes, such as Cancer Research, The British Heart Foundations, the Parkinson's Disease Society and many, many others.

I'll be back next week, with more on John Inman, but for now, take time to pause, reflect and remember...

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Week of February 28, 2011: Downton Abbey, and a Sweepstakes!

Hello, Heather here with good news for those of you who might be suffering from Downton Abbey withdrawal. Response to the series has been so positive that a second series is now in the works and will be part of the MASTERPIECE Classic season in 2012. Julian Fellowes continues as the writer for the upcoming series, which will again star Dame Maggie Smith, Hugh Bonneville and Elizabeth McGovern.

The Bridge of Sighs
The Bridge of Sighs, Oxford

I think you'll agree that Downton Abbey was a fantastic start to MASTERPIECE'S 40th anniversary season. It's hard to believe that MASTERPIECE is 40 years old! Just think of all the stunning locations we've journeyed to without leaving our front rooms! There's an opportunity, by the way, for you to win a chance to see some of the MASTERPIECE iconic locations in the MASTERPIECE 40th Anniversary Sweepstakes! The grand prize is a trip for two adults (four days/three nights) to the UK with VIP tours of places such as Highclere Castle, the setting for Downton Abbey and Greenway, the home of Agatha Christie. Accommodation will be in the historic cities of Bath (Persuasion) and Oxford (Inspector Morse & Inspector Lewis).

The Sweepstakes runs from through April 26, 2011 (5pm, ET) and travel to UK must be from September 11 through 15, 2011. No purchase necessary; winner will be selected by random drawing. For full details and information on how to enter, go to http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/masterpiece/sweepstakes/index.html.

So just how long have you been enjoying MASTERPIECE on MPT? And what was your favorite MASTERPIECE? Goodness, that's a hard question! Personally, the one that comes immediately to my mind has to be Poldark? Do you remember that one? Set in Cornwall and based on the novels by Winston Graham. Upstairs, Downstairs, was another of my absolute favorites and I can't wait to see what's going on at 165 Eaton Place, when the series resumes in April. If you want to let me know your favorite MASTERPIECE drop me a line at heather@mpt.org. And if you win that sweepstakes – don't forget to send us a postcard! The address is Afternoon Tea, Maryland Public Television, 11767 Owings Mills Blvd., Owings Mills, MD 21117

TTFN!

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Week of February 21, 2011: Josephine Tewson

Hello, ready for a good old chin wag about our favorite Afternoon Tea shows and the people who star in them? If you look up the definition of "chin wag", by the way, it means "light informal conversation for social occasions". Sounds like something Hyacinth might say. This week I thought in celebration of her approaching birthday we'd have a natter about the woman for whom having a light informal conversation with her neighbor is a nerve wracking event. I'm talking, of course, about Liz in Keeping Up Appearances, played by Josephine Tewson, who turns seventy-two this week on February 26th.

Josephine Tewson
Josephine Tewson as Elizabeth, in
Keeping Up Appearances

Unlike the television role she plays, Josephine actually quite likes talking, which is just one of the common miserpections people have of her, as in real life, Ms. Tewson swears she's nothing at all like the nervous Elizabeth Warden. It must have been the training she received as a student at London's prestigious Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts – a theatre school that seems to have churned out more than its fair share of talent. So many of the actors we regularly see on MPT graduated from RADA; Kenneth Brannagh, Peter Bowles, Arthur Brough, Trevor Eve, Peter Sallis, John Thaw, June Whitfield, to name just a few.

Josephine, June Whitfield and Peter Sallis all appear in another Afternoon Tea staple – Last of the Summer Wine, where Josephine plays Miss Davenport. I wonder if they too have a good old chin wag – about their days at RADA. Although I doubt they were there at the same time, given that Josephine is the 'baby' of the trio. If Josephine hadn't attended RADA, she says she would have liked to have read English at Durham University. Fortunately for us, however, Josephine chose acting over academics. After working in repetory for a decade or so, during which time she met, married and divorced actor Leonard Rossiter, who you might also know as Reginald Perrin, Josephine, became one of England's best known supporting comedic actresses, appearing alongside Ronnie Barker (Open All Hours), David Jason (Only Fools & Horses) and Hywel Bennett (Shelley).

It seems that comedy must be in her blood, because Josephine is related to yet another Afternoon Tea actor – none other than Are You Being Served?'s John Inman. He was her cousin! See if you can detect a resemblence. Keeping Up Appearances and Are You Being Served? both air Sunday nights on MPT2, as well as weekdays on MPT's Afternoon Tea. For a full listing of programs, see www.mpt.org.

If you'd like to acknowledge, share thoughts, or have a question about any of the actors in your favorite British series, drop me a line. You can email me at heather@mpt.org, or pop a letter in the post to Afternoon Tea, Maryland Public Television, 11767 Owings Mills Blvd., Owings Mills, MD 21117.

TTFN

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Week of February 14, 2011: Patricia Routledge, Part 2

Hello, Heather here, back for a chat about Patricia Routledge, who plays the formidable Hyacinth Bucket in Keeping Up Appearances.

Last week I was telling you about a production of The Pirates of Penzance Patricia starred in which is available on DVD. Another film she made was the 1967 film, To Sir With Love, starring Sidney Poitier and Lulu. You can also see Patricia in Alan Bennett's Talking Heads, a collection of monologues, which is also available on DVD. If you've never seen it, you're in for a treat, because it also features Last of the Summer Wine's Thora Hird, in one of the most moving performances of her career.

In 1990, Routledge landed the role of Hyacinth Bucket. It's hard to believe that the series only ran for five years, having ended at Patricia's request in 1995.

I had the privilege of meeting Patricia several years ago at a charity event she was talking at in support of Public Television. At the end of the evening I was bursting to tell her about Hyacinth's resemblence to my mother – they have the same furnishings, similar types of husbands, both love to hold 'candlelight suppers' and my mum even has a sister called Rose!

Patricia Routledge
Patricia Routledge, in
Hetty Wainthropp Investigates

"Everyone says that", said Patricia, cutting me off before I could go into my lengthy comparisons. As I slunk away, feeling as though I'd just been reprimanded by a stern Headmistress, I got a sneaky feeling that Patricia had heard it all before and didn't want to hear it again. In fact, it seemed to me that she actually didn't much care for the character she'd created, with her delusions of grandeur and social pretensions.

No doubt, Patricia much preferred her Hetty Wainthropp character. In fact, the formidable Ms. Routledge made no bones about the fact that she was most definitely "not amused" when the BBC cancelled Hetty Wainthropp Investigates after four series. Ten years after its cancellation, she still felt angry enough to tell the press that she felt that the "BBC is run by 10 year old children!" That's something only Hyacinth would say...well, Hyacinth and my mother!

Patricia, who has never married and has no children, continues to work and currently lives in Chichester. She will turn 82 on February 17th – Happy Birthday, Hyacinth!

TTFN

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Week of February 7, 2011: Patricia Routledge, Part 1

Greetings Afternoon Tea fans! One of the things I love about the shows we get to see every afternoon on MPT is the fact that many of the actors in the series are in their Golden Years. It's so inspiring to see someone such as Patricia Routledge, who turns 82 this month, not only still working, but doing so in such an active fashion.

Routledge of course is best known for her portrayal of Hyacinth Bucket in Keeping Up Appearances, but before she stormed onto our tellies in that role, she enjoyed a successful career as a musical theatre actress. Being an actress though wasn't something Patricia set out to do. She actually majored in English at the University of Liverpool. It was there that she became involved in the school's Dramatic Society and was persuaded by a fellow society member to persue an acting career. So after graduating, Patricia trained at the reknowned Bristol Old Vic Theatre School and began her theatrical career as an unpaid assistant stage manager at The Liverpool Playhouse, where she made her stage debut in 1952 as Hippolyta in "A Midsummer Night's Dream."

Patricia Routledge
Patricia Routledge, as seen in
Darling of the Day

In 1968 Patricia made her Broadway debut in the musical Darling of the Day, which although it was a very short-lived production, garnered Patricia a Best Actress in a Musical Tony Award. Thereafter, followed a series of unsuccessful Broadway productions, until 1980, when Patricia played Ruth in The Pirates of Penzance at the Delacorte Theatre in New York's Central Park. Her co-stars were Kevin Kline and Linda Ronstadt. The show was a huge success and subsequently transferred to Broadway. Unfortunately for Patricia, it transferred without her, and she was replaced by Estelle Parsons. A DVD of the Central Park production starring Patricia is, however, available. I haven't seen it, but if you have and want to let me know what you think of her performance, drop me a line at heather@mpt.org. Or if you want to send me a lavendar scented letter Hyacinth-style, you can send me a letter at Afternoon Tea, Maryland Public Television, 11767 Owings Mills Blvd., Owings Mills, MD 21117.

I'll be back with more information on Patricia Routledge next week, but till then...

TTFN

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Week of January 31, 2011: The Britcom Golden Agers

Greetings Afternoon Tea fans! One of the things I love about the shows we get to see every afternoon on MPT is the fact that many of the actors in the series are in their 'Golden Years'. I think it's simply wonderful that the senior citizen actors in Britain are given the opportunity to continue to share their talents in such series as Last of the Summer Wine, One Foot in the Grave and Keeping Up Appearances. The actress who probably works more than any is, of course, Dame Judi Dench, who turned 76 last month.

 

Judi Dench
Judi Dench

Dame Judi has a decades long career in stage, film and television and gives no indication that she has plans on slowing down in the near future. In fact, she has four films coming out this year alone! The one I'm really looking forward to seeing is My Week With Marilyn, about the tense relationship between Sir Laurence Olivier and Marilyn Monroe during the filming of The Prince and the Showgirl. Dame Judi plays Dame Peggy Ashcroft and the film is simply studded with faces you'll be sure to recognize.

Kenneth Brannagh plays Olivier, Zoe Wanamaker, is Paula Strasberg, Sir Derek Jacobi plays Royal Librarian Sir Owen Morshead and there's a slew of other actors that have been in the British shows you love to watch on MPT. Including, Dominic Cooper (Willoughby in Sense and Sensibility), Eddie Redmaine (Angel Clare in Tess of the D'Urbevilles), Geraldine Somerville (Louisa Stockbridge in Gosford Park) and Miranda Raison and Simon Russell Beale who played Jo Portman and the Home Secretary in MI-5. I'm sure there's lots of others. If you see it and recognize someone I haven't mentioned, or if you know of another film that our Afternoon Tea viewers might be interested in seeing, let me know. Email me at heather@mpt.org, or write to Afternoon Tea, Maryland Public Television, 11767 Owings Mills Blvd., Owings Mills, MD 21117.

I'll be back next week to talk about one of Britain's most popular "Golden Girls", Patricia Routledge, who will soon be celebrating her 82nd birthday. Till then,

TTFN!

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Week of January 24, 2011: Arthur Brough

Hello, Heather here for a quick natter. Today I thought we'd have a chat about one of my favorite Afternoon Tea actors. A quiet, unassuming, although sometimes known to be crotchety, man whose diminutive manner belies a wicked sense of humor. I'm talking of course about Arthur Brough, who played Mr. Grainger in Are You Being Served?

Born in Petersfield, Hampshire in 1905, Arthur attended The Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, where after graduating he joined a Shakespearean troupe and met his wife-to-be, actress Elizabeth Addyman. After they married, the couple began establishing theatre companies throughout England, until the onset of World War II, when Arthur enlisted in the Royal Navy, where he served for the duration.

After the War, during which his ship was involved with the evacuation of Dunkirk, Arthur resumed his acting career and reopened his repertory theatre the Folkstone Rep, which included among its actors, Trevor Bannister, who stars as Mr. Lucas in Are You Being Served?

Arthur Brough
Arthur Brough

In the early '60s, Arthur began finding work in films and television, including a guest appearance in Upstairs, Downstairs (episode 3, series 2). Arthur kept up his work at The Folkstone Rep, however, until 1969 when the theatre closed as Arthur's wife began to suffer ill-health. It was in 1972 that Arthur was cast in the role we know him best – that of Ernest Grainger – the senior menswear salesman of Grace Brother's Department Store.

After the completion of Are You Being Served?'s fifth season, on Easter Sunday in 1978, Arthur's wife of 50 years, died, prompting a devasted Arthur to announce that he was quitting acting. Just six weeks after his beloved Elizabeth's death, Arthur also died. At the time of his death, Are You Being Served?'s creator David Croft credited Arthur with being the inspiration for much of the humor in the show. His mischievous sense of humor knew no bounds, and he would often pull pranks on his castmates during the recording of the shows.

Arthur also liked his daily tipple – and would frequently disappear from the set to pop to the pub next door for his favorite Pink Gin. No wonder Mr. Grainger usually has a smile on his face, eh?! Next time you see Mr. Grainger in the show, see if you can figure out which scenes were filmed before, and which after, Arthur's trip to the 'boozer'!

If you'd like to share your thoughts about any of our Afternoon Tea shows, you can drop me a line either by email heather@mpt.org, or you can send me a letter at Afternoon Tea, Maryland Public Television, 11767 Owings Mills Blvd., Owings Mills, MD 21117.

TTFN

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Week of January 17, 2011: Lark Rise to Candleford author Flora Thompson, Part 2

Hello, Heather here with more on the woman who created the brand new Afternoon Tea series we've been enjoying this month – Lark Rise to Candleford.

As you probably know by now, the series is an adaptation of the semi-autobigraphical trilogy, Lark Rise to Candleford, by Flora Thompson. The village of Lark Rise was in reality Flora's birthplace Juniper Hill, which has remained unchanged since the time of which Flora wrote. In fact, many of the local features mentioned in Lark Rise to Candleford (End House; Queenie's Cottage; the School; the Farm; the Rectory; Cottisford House to name just a few) can still be identified.

Flora, with daughter Winifred, c 1906.
Flora, with daughter Winifred, c 1906.

In the trilogy, Flora changed her own character's name from Flora Timms (as she was known before her marriage to John Thompson) to Laura Timmins. Flora's mother Emma and her brother Edwin Timms, were the inspiration for Emma and Edward Timmins. Maybe that's what makes the characters we're seeing in this series so interesting - the fact that they were drawn from real-life people. With that in mind, we'll be learning a lot more about Flora's life in the coming weeks as we continue to enjoy Lark Rise to Candleford.

Flora's fascinating trilogy was published in its entirity just two years before she suffered a heart attack and died in died in 1947 at the age of 70. Flora is buried in Longcross Cemetery in Dartmouth, next to a memorial to her son Peter, who was lost at sea in World War II.

In 2007, to coincide with the sixtieth anniversary of Flora's death, the Old Gaol Museum in Buckingham opened a permanent exhibition of her life and works, as a themed museum. Well worth a visit if you ever find yourself the other side of the Pond. If you don't, not to worry, we're happy to bring you a bit of Britain every weekday afternoon beginning at 1:30pm.

Don't forget, if you'd like to share your thoughts about Lark Rise to Candleford, or any of our Afternoon Tea shows, you can drop me a line either by email heather@mpt.org, or you can send me a letter at Afternoon Tea, Maryland Public Television, 11767 Owings Mills Blvd., Owings Mills, MD 21117.

TTFN

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Week of January 10, 2011: Lark Rise to Candleford author Flora Thompson, Part 1

Hello, Heather here for another natter about our new Afternoon Tea offering, Lark Rise to Candleford. Last week we chatted about where the series was filmed, this week I thought you might like to know a little more about the woman who penned this semi-autobiographical novel.

Flora Thompson was born in 1876 in the hamlet of Juniper Hill, near Brackley in Northamptonshire, which is a county set right in the middle of England. Flora left school at the age of 14, and went to work as an assistant at the local Post Office where she also lived for seven years. After she moved, she took a number of temporary jobs in various neighboring counties and eventually ended up in Grayshott, Hampshire where she stayed until 1901. Flora then took a job as a Post Office Clerk, at the Post Office in Yateley and it was here that she met her husband, John Thompson, while he was temporarily working in nearby Aldershot.

Flora ThompsonJohn and Flora married in 1903 and moved to Bournemouth where John worked as a sorting clerk at the Post Office. After her marriage, Flora gave up her job, had three children, and began entering writing competitions in the women's magazine The Ladies Companion. Her first published work – an essay on Jane Austen – appeared 1911 in The Ladies Companion which later that year published Flora's essays on Emily Bronte and Shakespeare's heroine, Juliet.

In 1916, with the onset of World War I, it was back to the Post Office for Flora where she worked with her husband after he was transferred to a post in the town of Liphook. In 1927, a promotion for John took the Thompsons to Dartmouth, Devon, where Flora continued her writing which now progressed from essays to short stories and poetry. Her first published volume was Bog-Myrtle and Peat, a poetry anthology. Lark Rise, based on her childhood, was published in 1939, followed by Over to Candleford in 1941 and Candleford Green in 1943. The three stories were published as a trilogy in 1945, as Lark Rise to Candleford.

I hope you're enjoying the series as much as I am, and if you want to share your thoughts about the series, feel free to drop me a line either by email heather@mpt.org, or you can send me a letter at Afternoon Tea, Maryland Public Television, 11767 Owings Mills Blvd., Owings Mills, MD 21117.

Until next time,
TTFN

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Week of January 3, 2011: Happy New Year!

Welcome to Tea Time Tidbits, our new weekly communique where we'll have a good old natter about the shows you love to watch on Afternoon Tea.

What better way to kick off a brand new year than with a brand new series, Lark Rise To Candleford, which you can see every weekday afternoon at 3:30pm. I love it when the BBC gives us a chance to escape to rural England. In the case of Lark Rise, the series was filmed in England's West Country. The villages of Lark Rise and Candleford were actually created from scratch on farms in Box and Nexton Park in Wiltshire, with the interior scenes being filmed in Gloucestershire, at a BBC warehouse in the town of Yate.

Chavenage HouseGloucestershire was also the location of the country scenes you see in the show. They were shot at Chavenage House in the Cotswolds. Chagenage House, by the way, was the setting for the Masterpiece Theatre series Cider with Rosie and Tess of the D'Urbervilles. It was also used in the Are You Being Served? spin off series, Are You Being Served, Again!, or as it was known in England, Grace and Favour. Are You Being Served?, of course, is an Afternoon Tea staple, and I've a feeling Lark Rise to Candleford will also become an essential part of your tea-time viewing. If you're worried that it's going to go away after one series – do not fear! Our programmer went out on a limb and purchased all four available series.

Don't forget by the way, that another terrific new series, starts on Sunday, Jan 9th at 9pm – the Masterpiece Classic, Downton Abbey, a drama set in pre-World War I and starring Maggie Smith.

I'll be back next week for another natter, in the meantime, if you want to let us know what you think of Lark Rise, email me at heather@mpt.org. That's also the email you can use if you have questions, or comments about any of our Afternoon Tea offerings, or anything else for that matter. If you prefer to write to us Hyacinth-style, our mailing address is: Afternoon Tea, Maryland Public Television, 11767 Owings Mills Blvd., Owings Mills, MD 21117. Looking forward to hearing from you, TTFN!

 

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