REVIEW: Deathtrap

  • The Baxter Theatre, Cape Town, 1978
  • Character: Sidney Bruhl

REVISED AND UPDATED

DEATHT2

PETER (Centre) with producer, Pieter Toeien, and director, Stockton Briggle, during the first rehearsal for ‘Deathtrap’.

 Act I

  • Scene One: An afternoon in October
  • Scene Two: That evening
  • Scene Three: Two hours later

Act II

  • Scene One: Two weeks later, morning
  • Scene Two: A week later, night
  • Scene Three: A week later, afternoon

BACKGROUND

‘Deathtrap’ was written in 1978 by Ira Levin, and is a play within a play.

The comedy-drama was first performed in Boston in February, 1978, and thereafter moved to the Biltmore Theatre on Broadway. The production focused on here was one of the first stagings of Levin’s piece outside the United States.

In 1982, it was made into a film starring the late Christopher Reeve, Michael Caine and Dyan Cannon.

Alternating intrigue with humour, and throwing in more than one mind-reeling plot twist, Ira Levin’s ‘Deathtrap’ is a classic suspense thriller.

The play is both the epitome of the classic thriller, as well as a playful insider’s poke at the genre. “A thriller in two acts,” says Sidney of his protégé’s script at the opening curtain. “One set. Five characters. A juicy murder in Act One, unexpected developments in Act Two. Sound construction, good dialogue, laughs in the right places. Highly commercial.”

It’s an apt description of the play the audience is about to experience. Furthermore, as the narrative progresses, Levin continues to toy with references to his own play, within the context of Clifford’s script of the same name.

But Levin – nor Bruhl, for that matter! – invented the dramatic structure of the ideal thriller. Throughout the play, Levin cleverly alludes to the collection of other memorable thrillers to which Deathtrap belongs: Anthony Shaffer’s Sleuth, Dial “M” for Murder by Frederick Knott, Agatha Christie’s Witness for the Prosecution, and Angel Street by Patrick Hamilton, which Sidney credits with infecting him with thrilleritis malignis at the age of 15, the very same age at which Levin himself decided upon the career of a writer.

When multiple sets and many players mean mounting production costs, the advantages of a single set and limited cast are obvious. ‘Sleuth’, the play to which ‘Deathtrap’ is most often compared, took that theory to the extreme: Shaffer utilized a single set and only two actors to create one of the biggest hits of the 1970s, opening on Broadway in November 1970 and running for more than 1,100 performances. Its slim production costs, hardly at the expense of effective drama, are certainly one key to the show’s longevity. (Deathtrap, however, would beat Sleuth at its own game, running for nearly 1,800 shows later that decade).

THE PLAY

Sidney Bruhl (PETER WYNGARDE) is a celebrated writer of Broadway thrillers who’s suffering through a dry spell. After a string of embarrassing flops, he’s spending time in his comfortable Westport, Connecticut, home with his nervously afflicted wife, Myra (Beryl Gordon), hoping to be touched with inspiration along the lines of that which resulted in The Murder Game, Sidney’s magnum opus.

To make Sidney’s slump all the more painful, Clifford Anderson (Raymond O’Neill), a student of one of Sidney’s writing seminars, has recently sent his mentor a copy of his first attempt at playwriting for Sidney’s review and advice. The play, ‘Deathtrap’, is a five character, two act thriller so perfect in its construction that, as Sidney says, “A gifted director couldn’t even hurt it.”

Using his penchant for plot, and out of his desperate desire to once again be the toast of Broadway, Sidney, along with Myra, cook up an almost unthinkable scheme: They’ll lure the would-be playwright to the Bruhl home, kill him, and market the sure-fire script as Sidney’s own.

DEATHT1But shortly after Clifford arrives, it’s clear that things are not what they seem. Indeed, even Helga Ten Dorp (Patricia Sanders), a nosey psychic from next door, admits that her visions appear correct only in part. When the mystic leaves, Sidney calms his wife by pointing out that only a fraction of what had been revealed was actually correct, and that the clairvoyant had not precisely recounted the murder of Clifford at all. It’s only then that Myra admits her own closet hope that Sidney would go through with his plan to kill the young writer and take his script.

On that note, the two get ready for bed when suddenly Clifford – who is covered from head to toe in mud, grabs Sidney from behind and beats him to death. Completely traumatized by what she’s just witness, Myra collapses and dies from heart-failure. Once Clifford has checked to ensure that the woman is indeed deceased, he announces to Sidney that their “plan” has been successful; the young man’s murder had clearly been staged to free Burhl from his wife.

Two weeks later, and Clifford has moved into the Burhl’s home. Sidney, meanwhile, is still struggling with writers block when his attorney, Porter Milgrim (Robin Dolton) tells him that he’d witnessed Clifford locking a manuscript he’s been working on into his desk drawer. Immediately, Sidney goes to the drawer where he discovers that Clifford has been working on a piece entitled ‘Deathtrap’, which is unmistakably based on the plot to instigate Myra’s death.

When he returns home, Sidney challenges Clifford, who exclaims that he will simply move out and continue working on the play should the older man continue to object. Reluctanly Sidney resolves to help write the play.

A short time later, Helga returns to the house to warn Sidney that Clifford is planning to harm him, so the playwright tells his lodger that he’s managed to finish the second act of the play, but needs to run it by him to make sure it’s convincing. Little does the young man know, but Sidney has contrived a plan to stop him writing about Myra’s slaying: by acting out the sections he’s completed, he hopes to kill Clifford and make it look as if he was merely defending himself.

Clifford, however, has anticipated this move, and has replaced the bullets in Sidney’s revolver with blanks. Unwittingly, Sidney has given his former accomplice the ending he needed for his play.

He now compels Sidney to handcuff himself to a chair. The ‘cuffs, though, are replicas and Sidney is soon able to make his escape, whereupon he mortally wounds Clifford with a crossbow. Convinced that Clifford is dead, Sidney telephones the police, but as he does so the young man clambers to his feet behind the playwright, and wrenching the arrow from his own body, he plunges it into Sidney. Both men drop to the ground, dead.

A week later, Helga contacts Porter Milgrim, and tells him what actually occurred at the Bruhl house through her visions. The two instantly recognise what a first-rate story it would make if brought to the stage. But neither can agree over the finer points, and each of them begin to quarrel and intimidate the other over what financial gains might come from the play.


 

The Hellfire Club: The OFFICIAL PETER WYNGARDE Appreciation Society: https://www.facebook.com/groups/813997125389790/

 

 

 

 

 

REVIEW: Dear Liar

  • The English Theatre, Vienna, Austria: 1977

Character: George Bernard Shaw

Revised and Updated

 LIAR1

PETER as Shaw and Ruth Brinkmann as Mrs Patrick Campbell on stage.

As with most literary personalities, there’s been much written about Shaw’s work. However, the average theatregoer would probably be unacquainted with the private concerns of the man who wrote ‘Pygmalion’ [1], and who won both a Nobel Prize for Literature and an Academy Award, but who, latterly, turned down a knighthood.

‘Dear Liar’ was written by Jerome Kilty in 1957, and was first performed on Broadway in 1960. In this production, American actress and founder of the Viennese English Theatre, Ruth Brinkmann, plays Mrs Campbell , with PETER WYNGARDE as her testy paramour, George Bernard Shaw.

The play recounts the (purportedly) unconsummated affaire de plume between the playwright and actress that lasted for over forty years. As in the much more recent Vita & Virginia [2], ‘Dear Liar’ is what might be described as a “epistolary drama”, which involves the actors narrating and then reading aloud the letters exchanged between the characters.

Shaw was a prolific letter-writer, who traded correspondence with such luminaries as G.K. Chaterton, H.G. Welles and Michael Collins (amongst others), but it was Mrs Beatrice Sella Campbell, who proved to be his passion and muse.

There is little doubt that Kilty did a stellar job in entwining the innumerable strands of the story, and the two actors were skilful and polished; injecting spirit and vitality into both figures.

Portraying the sophisticated and tasteful leading lady in ‘Dear Liar’ had become something of a formality for Ruth Brinkmann by the time she and PETER took to the stage in 1976, having played her at the English Theatre several times during the 1960’s and early 70’s [3] – on each occasion being directed by her husband, Franz. Of particular note in Brinkmann’s performance was her comical depiction of Mrs Campbell playing Eliza Doolittle [4] to Shaw’s Professor Henry Higgins; endeavouring to transmute her voice from that of a native of Kensington into that of a Covent Garden flower girl. With gusto Brinkmann, as the theatrical diva, shrieked and squawked through her lines as she prepared for the part while PETER, as Shaw, grumbled, bullied and criticised the demoralised actress.

For his depiction of the egocentric writer, PETER, decided to forgo the familiar grey-whiskered appearance most familiar of Shaw, instead he opted to keep the droopy Jason King moustache and cascade of dark brown curls in which to play the influential playwright and theatre critic. The wearing of a pair of half-moon spectacles in the second half of the play was the only compromise he made to indicate the passage of time. Nevertheless, he offered a fiery performance; at times roaring his thoughts, feelings and contradictions both passionately and enthusiastically, and portraying the dramatist as both self-centred and yet caring.

The letters that were exchanged between the two were filled with wordplay, vitality and, sometimes, acrimony. The two discussed art, philosophy and politics, alongside their own hopes and dreams. As an actor, PETER has always been adept at briskly moving from enthusiastic rough-and-tumble to passionate feeling – as he was required to do when reading news of Campbell’s son, who’d fought in the Great War, or when discussing something more frivolous. It was these sharp mood changes that disclose the understanding that lay beneath Shaw’s hot-headedness and petulance. PETER also managed to control Shaw’s brisk patois commendably, too, whilst rapidly firing off the scribes impatient histrionics as surly as if he’d penned them himself.

The simplistic stage backdrop ensured that all attention remained, quite rightly, remained on the two players. The only furniture was two wooden chairs, though the tea cups, lamps and paperweight were imagined.

Whilst the letters between the two were alive with deep thought, punch and often rancour, one was left with the feeling that there was a huge void across which neither Campbell nor Shaw could ever transcend. Clearly, both these individuals were far more absorbed by their own notions and feelings than they were with the others.

The following is courtesy of The English Theatre, Vienna.

Beatrice Sella Campbell was not only one of the greatest English actresses at the beginning of the Century but was, for decades, an intimate soulmate of playwright, George Bernard Shaw. Jerome Kilty dramatized the sometimes very active correspondence to create a highly successful collage of correspondence:

‘Dear Liar’ is a piece of theatrical history, but above all a mosaic of the intimate 140317-1241-948-0960-132756relationship of two great theatrical personalities. This summer sees the fourth production of ‘Dear Liar’, again under the skilled direction of Franz Schaffranek. Ruth Brinkmann again plays Stella excellent as an actress at the height of her triumphs. Evidently capable of taming the shrewish, egocentric Shaw.

 PETER WYNGARDE, who achieved international fame since appearing in 53 countries as the dandified agent Jason King in the TV series, Department S, does not resemble Shaw in appearance, only in his Emerald isle dialect, and bring the dramatic monument down from his pedestal, showing Shaw the man, with all his weaknesses. Particularly moving his relation of the cremation of his mother, and uproariously funny is the ‘Pygmalion’ rehearsal. Without doubt, this ‘Dear Liar’ is another feather in the English Theatre’s cap.

Taken from the Wiener Zeitung

By Johann Werfring

When the young New Yorker actress Ruth Brinkmann planned a three-day stay in Vienna in 1959, this should have a lasting impact on the cultural life of the Austrian federal capital. On the very day she arrived, she witnessed the theatrical performance of Schnitzler’s “Das weite Land” with Paula Wessely. “In a city where you play such a theater, I would like to stay,” she thought to herself, as she later explained in a newspaper interview.

Shortly thereafter, the well-traveled tourist at the Café Hawelka in Vienna’s inner city met the now legendary poet H. C. Artmann, who introduced her to a young director of the Burgtheater in Vienna, to whom she gave the answer a year later: Franz Schafranek.

In 1963, they performed the first production with Jerome Kilty’s “Dear Liar”. With Ruth Brinkmann’s “Dear Liar” partner Anthony Steel, there was a powerful name. Everything went well, and as a result not only Viennese-speaking Viennese tourists, but also Viennese more and more arose in the performances.

Of course the first time had not been a honey lick. At first Franz Schafranek, the director, distributed copied notes during the day and sat at the cash desk in the evening. But the hard work was worth it, because the artistic professionalism gained not only in the country itself but also internationally high recognition.

From 1974, Vienna’s English Theater was a permanent venue in Josefsgasse in Josefstadt. Numerous stars, including Joan Fontaine, Anthony Quinn, Leslie Nielsen, Linda Gray, Larry Hagman, and Gracia Patricia of Monaco, have been successful. PETER WYNGARDE, also known as “Jason King”, worked with “Dear Liar” in 1977.

Also the “Schooltours”, which currently bring hundreds of performances to 250,000 pupils all over Austria, contributed to the fact that the theater became an Austrian “institution”. In the meantime, Julia Schafranek, daughter of the two founders, has been very successful.

[1] The film ‘My Fair Lady’ is based on the play, ‘Pygmalion’.

[2] ‘Vita & Virginia’ (1992). A drama based on the correspondence between Vita Sackville-West and Virginia Woolf.

[3]. 1963,  1972, 1973, and 1974.

[4] Campbell played Eliza Doolittle in ‘Pygmalion’, which premiered at His Majesties Theatre, London, on 11 April, 1914.


The Hellfire Club: The OFFICIAL PETER WYNGARDE Appreciation Society: https://www.facebook.com/groups/813997125389790/

 

 

 

 

REVIEW: Anastasia

  • The Cambridge Theatre, 1976.

Character: Prince Bounine

The action of the play takes place in a reception room in Prince Bounine’s mansion on the outskirts of Berlin.

Act I: A January Evening

Act II: An afternoon one week later

Act III: An evening two weeks later

THE PLAY 

The play tells the story of a group of unscrupulous Russian exiles: the Tzar’s former aide-de-camp Prince Bounine (PETER WYNGARDE) – artist Piotr Petrovsky (David Griffin), and banker, Boris Adreivich Chernov (David Nettheim), decide to exploit Anna Broun (Nyree Dawn Porter), when she claims to be Princess.  

PETER-7The men decide to form a consortium to raise funds amongst the exiled White Russian community to provide backing for ‘Anastasia’ to reclaim a inheritance of over £3,000,000, which the syndicate plan to share between themselves. Their main concern is to convince the Court in Exile – and especially the Dowager Empress Marie (Elspeth March), the Tsar’s mother.

⇐ PETER as Prince Bounine with Nyree Dawn Porter as Anastasia

As speculation concerning the Princess begins to spread across Europe, there is no shortage of subscribers willing to aid the conspirators and the young woman who, there is little doubt, bears a striking resemblance to the long-lost Anastasia.

Matters take an unexpected turn when the Prince Bounine and his accomplices begin to realise that Anne might actually be the real deal.

Obviously traumatised by the machinations of the three accomplices, ‘Anastasia’ reaches out to to in a catatonic trance the Dowager Empress who, aware of the men’s deception, answers with her own yearnings and wishful thinking. Self and reality are whatever we want them to be, it would seem, and all untrustworthy, unsound and brittle.

THE ANASTASIA ENIGMA 

In 1918, the Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna of Russia and the rest of the ruling Romonov family, were reported massacred by Bolshevik Bolshevik Red Guards in Ekaterinburg, and controversy thereafter raged as to whether the 17-year-old Duchess escaped death and was smuggled out of Russia.

The tragic events leading up to the assassination of the last Tsar of Russia are well recorded in history. The young Tsarevich Alexis – only son of the Tsar Nicholas and the Empress Alexandra, was an haemophiliac; a genetic disease inherited through the line of his Great Grandmother, Queen Victoria, and his suffering caused the Empress to turn to Rasputin; a wandering holy man. Through his hypnotic powers, Rasputin could elevate her son’s pain. The tremendous hold that the mystic had over the Empress was one of the major factors that led to the Revolution. The Tsar was naïve, ill-advised and believed wholeheartedly in the autocracy. When the country asked for reform and a sharing of the Imperial power with a more responsible government, the Tsar, influenced by Alexandra and Rasputin, refused and revolution was inevitable.

The Revolution in 1917 culminated in the downfall of the fabulously wealthy Romanov dynasty. In 1918 Nicholas and Alexandra, their daughters Olga, Tatiana, Marie and Anastasia, and the Tsarevich Alexis were imprisoned at Ekalerinburg. It is reported that on the night of July 16th the entire family, along with four retainers and a pet spaniel, were shot and bayonetted to death and their bodies disposed of in a disused mine shaft.

However, over the years there have been a number of claimants to the title of the Grand Duchess Anastasia; heiress to a vast fortune, and the rumours persist that the young Anastasia miraculously escaped the massacre and was smuggled out of Russia by sympatisers. One of the most famous of these was Anna Broun, also known as Anna Anderson, who was the only woman who tried legally to establish herself as the legitimate heiress to the Romanov legacy. her case was finally dismissed in the German courts in 1967.ANASTASIA

Nyree Dawn porter who played Anna Broun in this play, said at the time that she had an open mind on the subject. During her research for the role she’d come across an out-of-print book entitled, ‘I Am Anastasia’, that had been written by Broun. She said she found the story intriguing. “When I first heard the story, I thought she must’ve been a charlatan,” Ms Porter said. “Then I read the book and found myself completely bemused, There are so many factors to think about. Anna had a schizophrenic side to her character – she had to find herself. She’s not nice, but she wasn’t insane. And is she wasn’t Anastasia it was a long time to live a lie. The play is very close to what really happened. The characters are fact, though some have been given different names and a certain amount of dramatic licence has been taken”.

PETER, who portrayed Prince Bounine in the play, shares Ms Porter’s views on Anna Broun. “I haven’t got an answer to it at all,” he says. “But I’m fascinated by certain aspects of the story – the fact, for instance, that Anna could not or would not speak Russian when she was first found., though it later turned out that she spoke the language fluently. Also that the claims for the Tsar’s money were suddenly dropped and nobody has made a claim since, even though there’s a great deal of money involved. In 1912, the Tsar was the richest man in the world”.

Such an intriguing and romantic mystery is an obvious subject for dramatization. A film version of ‘Anastasia’ was made in 1956 starring Ingrid Bergman and Yul Brynner as Anna and prince Bounine, and in 1971, Kenneth McMillan created a full-length ballet about Anastasia for Lynn Seymour and the Royal Ballet. More recently, a musical version became a box office hit on Broadway. This particular play was adapted by Guy Bolton from the French novel by Marcelle Maurette.

At the time that this play was touring the UK, there was a chance that the Anastasia legend might have a sequel. In ‘The File on the Tsar’ (Gollancz) – a book published in the mid-1970’s by Tom Mangold and Anthony Summers, new evidence was brought to light, suggesting that other members of the Romanov family may’ve survived. One fact is certain – the Anastasia enigma will continue to be of enduring appeal and interest.

MYTH BUSTER…. 

Actor David Nettheim on working with PETER in ‘Anastasia’

PETER WYNGARDE was really an outrageous character. You couldn’t believe the clothes he wore. We played a West End season  at the Cambridge Theatre. He played theprincipal lead character, which Yul Brynner played and which I played before Yul Brynner at the very first season – at four days’ notice I might add, but that’s another story. PETER was flamboyant and didn’t like the designs for his costumes when he saw them on paper. He didn’t say anything, went off and engaged a designer to design all his uniforms, which looked over-the-top!”

Actually, both PETER’s uniform, and the costumes worn by Elspeth March, were designed by Alan Sievewright!

POINTS OF INTEREST… PETER had previously worked with Nyree Dawn Porter and Elspith March in ‘The Duel’ at the Duke of York’s, London, in 1968, and with Ms March in ‘Underground’ – National British tour, 1983.


 

The Hellfire Club: The OFFICIAL PETER WYNGARDE Appreciation Society: https://www.facebook.com/groups/813997125389790/

REVIEW: On Trial: ‘Sir Roger Casement’

Revised and updated

  • Broadcast: Friday, 8th July, 1960

Character: Sir Roger Casement

This play is extremely difficult to review, given that it’s not only based on true events, but the dialogue is taken, word-for-word, from actual court records which are well documented elsewhere. Nevertheless….

THE SERIES:

CASEMENT1

‘On Trial’ was a series of 60 minute reconstructions of famous British trials produced by Peter Wildeblood for Granada TV in Manchester. The premise of this detailed and brilliantly executed set of plays was to present them in documentary-style form, complete with external narrator – Andrew Faulds and commentator, Brian Ingis. It could be said that the series was a precursor to the kind of programmes that became popular on British TV thereafter, such as ‘Crown Court’ (1972-1984).

The series opener was ‘Sir Roger Casement’ – the play focused on here. The 10-epiode run continued with the trials of other illustrious and/or notorious personages (depending on your point-of-view), that included Oscar Wilde, and Sir Charles Dilke.

HISTORICAL FACTS:

Roger David Casement was born in Dublin, Ireland, on 1st September, 1864. After becoming a member of the British Diplomatic Corps. he was hailed a national hero for his activities in both South America and Africa.

At the turn of the 20th century, Casement was assigned to what was then the Belgian Congo, where he was instrumental in exposing the pitiless and exploitative practices used upon the indigenous peoples by Leopold II – King of Belgium, who plundered the colonies rich mineral deposits for his own personal gain.

Casement was instrumental in bringing this this outrage to the ears and eyes of the world, forcing Leopold to surrender the whole of the Dependency to his nation. Alas, this move did little to improve the lot of the population.

On his return from the Congo, Casement was directly assigned to a posting in Peru, where he was to find that similar crimes were being committed to those in Africa. He worked tirelessly to bring the plight of the people to the attention of the world’s governments and, in 1911, was rewarded for his humanitarian work with a knighthood.

THE PLAY AND THE STORY BEHIND IT:

A realistic and skillfully edited reconstruction of the trial of Sir Roger Casement for High Treason, opened a new series entitled ‘On Trial’ for Independent Television on Friday, July 8th, 1960. The case itself was an interesting and notorious one, although much more for its aftermath than for the matter for which Casement actually stood trial.

The story told through this play is of the trial of Sir Roger David Casement in 1916 for High Treason. The events that lead to this point were as follows:

It was on Good Friday of 1916, when the First World War was at its height, that Sir Roger Casement was arrested after landing from a German U-Boat on the Irish coast. His trial for treason, overshadowed by the existence of his notorious private diaries, was one of the most sensational in British history. The last of the great state trials at bar, Casement’s trial is still of enduring interest to lawyers, but since his counsel, Sergeant Alexander Sullivan, declined to put him into the witness box, the four-day trial in the court of the Lord Chief Justice in June of 1916, lacked the cut-and-thrust which marked Sir Edward Carson’s cross examination of Oscar Wilde.

∗∗∗

As the first shots of World War I were being fired, Dublin-born Casement made had his way to Wilhekmine in Germany, where he’d proffered both his skills and knowledge to the Kaiser in return for his backing in freeing Ireland from British rule. An agreement was struck, and Casement was returned to the coast of Eire in a U-boat.

The idea was that Casement would play a leading part in the Easter Uprising, where he was to distribute a consignment of arms to the rebels. However, the handover failed and casement was captured and detained by the British.

As a result of what the British government saw as a major betrayal, Casement was stripped of his Knighthood and charged with treason. Numerous well-known personalities came to Casement’s defence – including such luminaries as Gilbert Chesterton, Arthur Conan Doyle Edmund Morel and George Bernard Shaw – who suggested that the Accused must’ve suffered some sort of mental aberration to have carried out such an act of “evil” against the State, although their well-meaning interfering was not welcomed by Casement, who resented the implication that he was mentally ill.

Fortuitously for the Government, Scotland Yard supremo, Sir Basil Thompson, happened upon a much bigger stick with which to beat Casement with in the form of the infamous ‘Black Diaries’; a set of journals in which the Irishman had kept detailed account of his sexual encounters and homoerotic fantasies whilst in service to the Crown. The authorities ensured that copies of the Diaries were distributed widely enough to ensure that the growing appeals for leniency were quickly suppressed. Casement was hung at Pentonville Prison on 3rd August, 1916.

PETER’s PERFORMANCE:

This wasn’t PETER’s first daring role, having played exiled Polish officer, Lieutenant Jan Wicziewsky in Granada’s production of Julien Green’s ‘South’ in November 1959.

The play concentrates on the moments of high drama: the collapse of Sullivan at the end of the third day; Casement’s speech from the dock,;the solemnity of the three judges, each wearing a black cap passing the death sentence. Although he had little dialogue during the first 50 minutes of the play, the jewel in the crown of this production is undoubtedly Casement’s ‘Closing Speech’, which was spoken in its entirety by PETER who, at the age of just 27, played the 51-year-old Irishman with exceptional dignity and restraint. His performance in the title role; convincingly suggesting that Casement, sitting scribbling furiously or quizzically listening from the dock, dominated the proceedings, and his final scene was exceptionally moving.

Here is that Speech in full:

“My Lord Chief Justice, as I wish to reach a much wider audience than I see before me here, I intend to read all that I propose to say. What I shall read now is something I wrote more than twenty days ago. I may say, my lord, at once, that I protest against the jurisdiction of this Court in my case on this charge, and the argument that I am now going to read is addressed not to this Court, but to my own countrymen.

With all respect I assert this Court is to me, an Irishman, not a jury of my peers to try me in this vital issue for it is patent to every man of conscience that I have a right, an indefeasible right, if tried at all, under this Statute of high treason, to be tried in Ireland, before an Irish Court and by an Irish jury. This Court, this jury, the public opinion of this country, England, cannot but be prejudiced in varying degree against me, most of all in time of war.

I did not land in England; I landed in Ireland. It was to Ireland I came; to Ireland I wanted to come; and the last place I desired to land in was England. But for the Attorney General of England there is only “England”—is no Ireland, there is only the law of England—no right of Ireland; the liberty of Ireland and of Irish is to be judged by the power of England. Yet for me, the Irish outlaw, there is a land of Ireland, a right of Ireland, and a charter for all Irishmen to appeal to, in the last resort, a charter that even the very statutes of England itself cannot deprive us of—nay, more, a charter that Englishmen themselves assert as the fundamental bond of law that connects the two kingdoms.

This charge of high treason involves a moral responsibility, as the very terms of the indictment against myself recite, inasmuch as I committed the acts I am charged with, to the “evil example of others in the like case.” What was this “evil example” I set to others in “the like case,” and who were these others? The “evil example” charged is that I asserted the rights of my own country, and the “others” I appealed to aid my endeavour were my own countrymen.

The example was given not to Englishmen but to Irishmen, and the “like case” can never arise in England, but only in Ireland. To Englishmen I set no evil example, for I made no appeal to them. I asked no Englishman to help me. I asked Irishmen to fight for their rights. The “evil example” was only to other Irishmen who might come after me, and in “like case” seek to do as I did. How, then, since neither my example nor my appeal was addressed to Englishmen, can I be rightfully tried by them? If I did wrong in making that appeal to Irishmen to join with me in an effort to fight for Ireland, it is by Irishmen, and by them alone, I can be rightfully judged.

From this Court and its jurisdiction I appeal to those I am alleged to have wronged, and to those I am alleged to have injured by my “evil example,” and claim that they alone are competent to decide my guilt or my innocence. If they find me guilty, the statute may affix the penalty, but the statute does not override or annul my right to seek judgment at their hands.

CASEMENTThis is so fundamental a right, so natural a right, so obvious a right, that it is clear the Crown were aware of it when they brought me by force and by stealth from Ireland to this country. It was not I who landed in England, but the Crown who dragged me here, away from my own country to which I had turned with a price upon my head, away from my own countrymen whose loyalty is not in doubt, and safe from the judgment of my peers whose judgment I do not shrink from. I admit no other judgment but theirs. I accept no verdict save at their hands. I assert from this dock that I am being tried here, not because it is just, but because it is unjust. Place me before a jury of my own countrymen, be it Protestant or Catholic, Unionist or Nationalist, Sinn Feineach or Orangemen, and I shall accept the verdict and bow to the statute and all its penal ties. But I shall accept no meaner finding against me than that of those whose loyalty I endanger by my example and to whom alone I made appeal. If they adjudge me guilty, then guilty I am. It is not I who am afraid of their verdict; it is the Crown. If this be not so, why fear the test? I fear it not. I demand it as my right.

That, my lord, is the condemnation of English rule, of English-made law, of English Government in Ireland, that it dare not rest on the will of the Irish people, but it exists in defiance of their will—that it is a rule derived not from right, but from conquest. Conquest, my lord, gives no title, and if it exists over the body, it fails over the mind. It can exert no empire over men’s reason and judgment and affections; and it is from this law of conquest without title to the reason, judgment, and affection of my own countrymen that I appeal. I would add that the generous expressions of sympathy extended me from many quarters, particularly from America, have touched me very much. In that country, as in my own I am sure my motives are understood and not misjudged for the achievement of their liberties has been an abiding inspiration to Irishmen and to all men elsewhere rightly struggling to be free in like cause.

My Lord Chief Justice, if I may continue, I am not called upon, I conceive, to say anything in answer to the inquiry your lordship has addressed to me why Sentence should not be passed upon me. Since I do not admit any verdict in this Court, I cannot, my lord, admit the fitness of the sentence that of necessity must follow it from this Court. I hope I shall be acquitted of presumption if I say that the Court I see before me now is not this High Court of Justice of England, but a far greater, a far higher, a far older assemblage of justices—that of the people of Ireland. Since in the acts which have led to this trial it was the people of Ireland I sought to serve—and them alone—I leave my judgment and my sentence in their hands…

CASEMENT2

My counsel has referred to the Ulster Volunteer movement, and I will not touch at length upon that ground save only to say this, that neither I nor any of the leaders of the Irish Volunteers who were founded in Dublin in November, 1913, had quarrel with the Ulster Volunteers as such, who were born a year earlier. Our movement was not directed against them, but against the men who misused and misdirected the courage, the sincerity and the local patriotism of the men of the north of Ireland. On the contrary, we welcomed the coming of the Ulster Volunteers, even while we deprecated the aims and intentions of those Englishmen who sought to pervert to an English party use—to the mean purposes of their own bid for place and power in England—the armed activities of simple Irishmen. We aimed at winning the Ulster Volunteers to the cause of a united Ireland. We aimed at uniting all Irishmen in a natural and national bond of cohesion based on mutual self-respect. Our hope was a natural one, and if left to ourselves, not hard to accomplish. If external influences of disintegration would but leave us alone, we were sure that Nature itself must bring us together.

How did the Irish Volunteers meet the incitements of civil war that were uttered by the party of law and order in England when they saw the prospect of deriving political profit to themselves from bloodshed among Irishmen? I can answer for my own acts and speeches. While one English party was responsible for preaching a doctrine of hatred designed to bring about civil war in Ireland, the other, and that the party in power, took no active steps to restrain a propaganda that found its advocates in the Army, Navy, and Privy Council—in the Houses of Parliament and in the State Church—a propaganda the methods of whose expression were so “grossly illegal and utterly unconstitutional” that even the Lord Chancellor of England could find only words and no repressive action to apply to them. Since lawlessness sat in high places in England and laughed at the law as at the custodians of the law, what wonder was it that Irishmen should refuse to accept the verbal protestations of an English Lord Chancellor as a sufficient safe guard for their lives and their liberties? I know not how all my colleagues on the Volunteer Committee in Dublin reviewed the growing menace, but those with whom I was in closest co-operation redoubled, in face of these threats from without, our efforts to unite all Irishmen from within. Our appeals were made to Protestant and Unionist as much almost as to Catholic and Nationalist Irishmen.

We hoped that by the exhibition of affection and good will on our part towards our political opponents in Ireland we should yet succeed in winning them from the side of an English party whose sole interest in our country lay in its oppression in the past, and in the present in its degradation to the mean and narrow needs of their political animosities. It is true that they based their actions, so they averred, on ‘‘fears for the Empire’’ and on a very diffuse loyally that took in all the people of the Empire, save only the Irish. That blessed word “Empire” that bears so paradoxical a resemblance to charity! For if charity begins at home, “Empire” means in other men’s homes and both may cover a multitude of sins. I for one was determined that Ireland was much more to me than “Empire,” and that if charity begins at home so must loyalty.

Since arms were so necessary to make our organisation a reality, and to give to the minds of Irishmen, menaced with the most outrageous threats, a sense of security, it was our bounden duty to get arms before all else.

We have been told, we have been asked to hope, that after this war Ireland will get Home Rule, as a reward for the life-blood shed in a cause which whoever else its success may benefit can surely not benefit Ireland. And what will Home Rule be in return for what its vague promise has taken and still hopes to take away from Ireland? It is not necessary to climb the painful stairs of Irish history—that treadmill of a nation whose labours are in vain for her own uplifting as the convict’s exertions are for his redemption—to review the long list of British promises made only to be broken—of Irish hopes raised only to be dashed to the ground. Home Rule when it comes, if come it does, will find an Ireland drained of all that is vital to its very existence—unless it be that unquenchable hope we build on the graves of the dead.

We are told that if Irishmen go by the thousand to die, not for Ireland, but for Flanders, for Belgium, for a patch of sand on the deserts of Mesopotamia, or a rocky trench on the heights of Gallipoli, they are winning self-government for Ireland. But if they dare to lay down their lives on their native soil, if they dare to dream even that freedom can be won only at home by men resolved to fight for it there, then they are traitors to their country, and their dream and their deaths alike are phases of a dishonourable fantasy.

But history is not so recorded in other lands. In Ireland alone in this twentieth century is loyalty held to be a crime. If loyalty be something less than love and more than law, then we have had enough of such loyalty for Ireland or Irishmen. If we are to be indicted as criminals, to be shot as murderers, to be imprisoned as convicts because our offence is that we love Ireland more than we value our lives, then I know not what virtue resides in any offer of self-government held out to brave men on such terms. Self-government is our right, a thing born in us at birth; a thing no more to be doled out to us or withheld from us by another people than the right to life itself—than the right to feel the sun or smell the flowers or to love our kind. It is only from the convict these things are withheld for crime committed and proven—and Ireland that has wronged no man, that has injured no land, that has sought no dominion, over others—Ireland is treated to-day among the nations of the world as if she were a convicted criminal.

If it be treason to fight against such an unnatural fate as this, then I am proud to be a rebel, and shall cling to my “rebellion” with the last drop of my blood. If there be no right of rebellion against a state of things that no savage tribe would endure without resistance, then I am sure that it is better for man to fight and die without right than to live in such a state of right as this. Where all your rights become only an accumulated wrong; where men must beg with bated breath for leave to subsist in their own land, to think their own thoughts, to sing their own songs, to garner the fruits of their own labours—and even while they beg, to see things inexorably withdrawn from them—then surely it is a braver, a saner and a truer thing, to be a rebel in act and deed against such circumstances as these than tamely to accept it as the natural lot of men.

CASEMENT3

My lord, I have done. Gentlemen of the jury, I wish to thank you for your verdict. I hope you will not take amiss what I said, or think that I made any imputation upon your truthfulness or your integrity when I spoke and said that this was not a trial by my peers. I maintain that I have a natural right to be tried in that natural jurisdiction, Ireland my own country, and I would put it to you, how would you feel in the converse case, or rather how would all men here feel in the converse case, if an Englishman had landed here in England and the Crown or the Government, for its own purposes, had conveyed him secretly from England to Ireland under a false name, committed him to prison under a false name, and brought him before a tribunal in Ireland under a statute which they knew involved a trial before an Irish jury? How would you feel yourselves as Englishmen if that man was to be submitted to trial by jury in a land inflamed against him and believing him to be a criminal, when his only crime was that he had cared for England more than for Ireland?”

Casement

POINTS OF INTEREST:

Mention of the infamous ‘Black Diaries’ was made only in passing at the end of the play by the Narrator, in spite of their coming into the public domain around the time that the play was broadcast.

Producer, Peter Wildeblood, played a major part in the decriminalising of Homosexuality in the United Kingdom, having been one of only three gay men to appear before the Wolfenden Committee [1]. He himself had been arrested and sent to Wormwood Scrubs in the 1950’s for his part in the Montagu Case [2]. His 1955 memoir, ‘Against the Law’, was adapted by the BBC into a documentary in 1967.

[1]. Departmental committee set up by the British government under Sir John Wolfenden that recommended the decriminalisation of homosexuality in the UK.

[2]. Lord Edward Douglas-Scott, 3rd Baron Montagu of Beaulieu (1926-2015), who was put on trial in the mid-1950’s for Gross Indecency.


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PETER WYNGARDE: ‘Checkmate’ Interview

On Saturday, June 17th, 1989, Steven Ricks of TR 7 Productions interviewed PETER at the Thatched Barn (The Elstree Moat House) in Borehamwood, Hertfordshire (England), for his film, ‘The Prisoner Investigated.

Sadly, the interview was never used in any form by TR 7 Productions, and was hidden away on file until Mr. Ricks gave permission for the Hellfire Club to publish the complete transcript.


Steven Ricks: How did you first become involved with The Prisoner series itself?

PETER: I think it was Pat (McGoohan) who asked me to play Number 2. I think it came about because a long time ago I did a series called ‘Epilogue To Capricorn’, which was probably one of the best titles for any series in the world, but which probably had one of the worst scripts in the world! So the actors got together with the director, who was wild and crazy and was eager to do things, and he said: “What do you want to do then? I said, “Throw away the script – throw it in the bin, and we’ll just ad-lib. We more or less know what the characters are, and we could take it from there.” It became the top TV series of the time, because nobody knew what was happening. Does that echo something that happened with The Prisoner?

Steven Ricks: Yes.

PETER: And I think that’s how it came about. Pat said: “Would you like to do it?” And I said, “Of course I would! I love doing things like that.” I mean, the marvellous thing about filming – I don’t want to sound like that character I told you about who did that interview with all the clips of different actors on ‘Wogan’ [1], and sound like one of them, because actors talking about acting is one of the most boring things in the world – I must warn you of that to begin with. The great thing about this is that if you can do something that is off the cuff, which is what movies are about for me – it’s much more exciting. If it’s right off the cuff, then it works. If you’ve got the time and the money to do a David Lean film, which you can take time with and work on it – he has worked on a film for fifteen years. But of course, Patrick didn’t have that time, you see. He was the only guy who had a script. He knew what he was going for and I think it had a lot to do with that kind of excitement of creating something out of an idea, really.

Steven Ricks: What did you think of the script when you actually read it?

PETER: I don’t think I did.

Steven Ricks: You didn’t have a script?

PETER: I never read scripts anyway. If I can avoid it. I don’t think there’s any point in reading most of them. I’ll tell you another little secret about film scripts. If you pick up a film script and in the first ten pages there is dialogue, the best thing to do is throw it in the bin, if you can, because they are called moving pictures, and moving pictures have to move. You have to have action. If they do, then that’s great, but if there is all yap-yap-yap-yap-yap, page after page after page, you are into a radio play, or a theatre play.

Steven Ricks: Radio with pictures.

PETER: Yes, radio with pictures, or film plays – which they did for a very long time.

Steven Ricks: So, were you originally going to be going up to Portmierion village when they started out?

PETER: As far as I know – I was looking forward to that. I was rather disappointed that I never saw it, really. The studio had the operations room. I remember running round on the MGM lot, which was supposed to be a cut of the location thing. I remember running about a bit, because I remember those terrible blue Dunlop shoes that we all had to wear. I think he (McGoohan) must’ve had a deal with Dunlop or something – I thought they were hideous! But everyone wears them now, don’t they? Now they are popular. I just thought they were hideous. They were alright on a yacht, I thought, but I wasn’t mad about them on land.

Steven Ricks: When it came to do some of the studio stuff, where you’ve got the desk and all the control panels etc….

PETER: I was looking up, I think. At the big screen.

Steven Ricks: Did that cause problems sometimes?

PETER: Sometimes the angles were tricky, I think. And also the stuff they used on it – it was film in those days, not video.

Steven Ricks: Yes, it was film.

PETER: So the film had to be pushed onto screen. It had to match the second screen andPRIS1 the third screen and the fourth screen. So there was always a tiny bit of technical hitch going on there; there was always a bit of hold-up while they did those sorts of things. Waiting for the thing to do – it was a bit like watching a television, or a video now where you go (imitates a voice running backwards) it all goes back and you’ve got everybody going like that, and you come back on it. So there was a lot of technical things to do. I remember a fight that I had on a platform while these things were going on and I suddenly thought – we all stopped, because we thought ‘Oh my God! It means that every time we throw a punch we’ve got to match it up with the thing over there!’So Patrick very sensibly shot it at a different angle so we didn’t have to do all that. He was very good, you know, as a director. He should’ve directed a great deal more, I think.

Steven Ricks: Don Chaffey was the director on that particular episode.

PETER: Patrick did a lot.

Steven Ricks: Patrick did a lot?

PETER: Oh yes. He was the over-all boss on the thing; he watched every single thing. It was his baby, you know. He did ‘Danger Man’ to begin with, and he didn’t have a great say on the whole series – it was just one of those things, and as a result of that he said: “What would you like to do?” And he said: “As a matter of fact, I’ve got this idea”, and he went forward and presented it. This old hat to you?

Steven Ricks: Well, no.

PETER: But you’ve heard it all?

Steven Ricks: But I haven’t got it on film.

PETER: The thing that happened, I think. First, he did ‘Danger Man’ – huge success. Then he was asked what he’d like to do next, and I think he said I would like to do a series of my own. And Lew Grade said he could. Lew Grade didn’t know what was going on – he hadn’t a clue. And when it (The Prisoner) came out, I don’t think he was overjoyed by the idea, was he? There was a great deal of publicity saying ‘What the hell is going on?’ He’s a very honest man, in a way, Lew Grade. I did a series called Department S, which was very, very successful, and I was summoned to his office – this just gives you an indication of how I think Patrick had to deal with him, as I’m sure that the same thing applied. When he said, “Listen. I’ve got to tell you something. I don’t have my heroes like you. My heroes are blond; they’ve got blue eyes, and they are good looking. You come along here with a Viva Zapata moustache and you have this long black hair down to your shoulders, and you wear these funny clothes with your cuffs turned back. That’s not my idea of a hero. But, he said, I must tell you – my wife loves you, so we’ll do another series, OK!” And that’s how we did the second series, and I’m sure the same happened with Pat. He probably said ‘I don’t know what the hell’s going on, but some people like it. Let’s go on.’ You know you only usually do thirteen to begin with – or whatever it is, and if they work, they carry on. If they don’t work… There’s a lot of money involved, especially in those days. Especially for an English series, because there wasn’t all that much money floating about for that sort of thing. It was a feather in (Grade’s) cap; he allowed Patrick to do it, and it was huge – and it still has a phenomenal cult following.

Steven Ricks: What was Patrick like as a director.

PETER: Very helpful. Very, very helpful indeed. I think that he has got an outer sort-of surface, hasn’t he? One gets the feeling of it – and especially of the character he was playing. But beneath it he has got a very wicked sense of humour. I believe so. There was an instance when one of the actors said: “I don’t understand what this means.” And I caught Pat’s eye, and he looked at me and sort of went (he winks). And so the actor didn’t see that, and he said: “Well, I think that he means…”. Patrick had written it, remember, and he was directing it. And the actor said: “I think he’s a bit thick, isn’t he?”, and Patrick said: “Yes. That’s a very good idea to play him thick.” And this fellow said: “Do you really think so, Pat? Do you think that’s a good way of doing it?” “Yes,” he said. “Play him as thick as you can.” So that sort of thing worked.

Steven Ricks: Now, there was a particular sequence in ‘The Prisoner’ series where you were sitting meditating and you do a karate chop at the end of the scene.

PETER: Did I?

Steven Ricks: Do you remember doing that?

PETER: I don’t. Uh! I was meditating? Oh, yes. Of course. Of course. That’s right – now that was something. I remember now. You’re bringing it all back. Isn’t that amazing? That was something I think I was into at the time. I was into yoga, and I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be nice to do it here.’ And I think that’s how it came about. Yes, that’s how it came about. I don’t think it was in the script; may’ve been. There may’ve been an indication of it, and one took it from there. You only need an idea to go schoom with it, really. I think that’s what happened there.

Steven Ricks: Was it the original intention for you to play Number 2 once, or were you going to play it more than once?

PETER: I think the original idea was to go all the way through, and then whatever happened – whoever played the… was I the first one, or was someone else the first one? I think Leo (McKern) was the first one.

Steven Ricks: You were third.

PETER: Somebody was the first one when it was shown. Was that Christopher Lee?

Steven Ricks: No. It was Guy Doleman who was the very first one.

PETER: That’s right! He was going to go all the way through. I think he was the one who was going to go all the way through, and then they decided to change them, which I thought was more interesting for everyone, really. No, I don’t think that the original idea was to have a different Number 2; one each episode. There was an idea of having a guest star, because they did that with ‘Danger Man’, didn’t they? And all the series of that time.

PRIS2You remember, you said you thought that I had shot some of the ‘Jason King’ thing over here at the Thatched Barn; I don’t think we did. I think we shot ‘The Saint’ (The Man Who Liked Lions) here. I have a feeling. I remember an orgy scene by a pool (laughs), and we were all supposed to dress up in Roman costumes. That was the time that Roger (Moore) and I were supposed to fence at the end of it, or sword fight – not fence. A sword fight. I pretended to Roger that I’d never picked up a sword in my life, and that I didn’t know what to do. In fact, I’d fenced at the Green Club (London) – you know, the whole thing – and I love it, absolutely love it. So I thought it would be a little game with Roger, and we had to do this fight thing, you see, and every time he came along to see how the doubles were doing with me, I would go: “Oh! Oh! Oh, God!” And I said: “Roger, do you think it would be better if you did it with a double?” He said: PETER, we must see your face!” “So,” I said, “Can’t we just do it like they do in the Errol Flynn movies, you know, and have my face looking fierce like that?” He said: “Come on, have a go! We have one big take, OK?” It was ‘The Man Who Liked Lions’, that’s what it was called, and I had to knock him – bang, bang, bang, bang, and he gets hold of me and sticks the sword in me, and I fall into the lion’s den, which is the end of the movie – marvellous big moment. So he said to the stunt boys: “He’s a bit tricky about the fighting, isn’t he? Never mind, I’ll make him look tough; don’t worry. Then we can do the cuts and that sort of thing”. So I just went and really let him have it. And I went bang, bang, bang, bang, and I got Roger. He fell into the lion’s den! That was the episode that was filmed here.

Steven Ricks: There was also an actor called George Coularis….

PETER: Oh, yes! Yes!

Steven Ricks: …He was in ‘Citizen Kane’.

PETER: And the other one – ‘The Magnificent Andersons’. He was in what they called The Mercury Players. Mad as a hatter!

Steven Ricks: What was he like?

PETER: Wonderful. Eccentric. Crazy. Volatile. Terrific. Lovely. A very good actor; loved life and loved acting, which was shown, and everything was larger than life – off screen as well as on screen. I loved George; he was lovely. Super. It was a very happy series you know. Nobody knew what was going on, but it didn’t seem to matter.

Steven Ricks: Did you try to ask anybody? Did you ask Pat?

PETER: Everybody asked everybody, and then there was always a kind of – you know it was rather like the George Orwell thing, ‘1984’, which has parallels with this, hasn’t it? It’s a bit like that where you know something interesting is happening, but feels that you might be put away if you make too many inquiries! You know what I mean? And I don’t think that feeling was always around – people were sort of doing that occasionally, you know – you weren’t quite sure. It had a great atmosphere for the series, not just chummy-chummy actors together. It had this extraordinary atmosphere, I remember that. I mean, America has never done anything like that. It shows the kind of innovation that we are still capable of. Not recently, but ‘The Young One’s’ is an example of comedy which I love. I think it’s terrific – absolutely terrific. But not a great deal of television is new, is it? Do you know what I mean? You can hardly call ‘Dallas’ new, can you? Or ‘Coronation Street’ for that matter. It’s just getting into its 100th year or something!

Steven Ricks: It seems like it. Have you seen the episode you are in of ‘The Prisoner’?

PETER: I think I saw it at the time. I think I was terribly vain and watched myself relentlessly. I thought I was the most beautiful that had ever happened on the screen. Now you have to drag me to see myself in anything! I’ve just done a film and won’t go near the bloody thing, and I’m told it’s alright.

Steven Ricks: What did you think of your actual performance – of how the whole thing fitted together?

PETER: I really have no idea. I think that actors go through various kinds of phases. When I was an even less experienced actor – and that was pretty inexperienced – I went through a phase of being all the heroes I had seen on the screen. One day I would give you a performance of Errol Flynn; another day I was Noel Coward, and another day I was Ronald Coleman. They were the kind of movie and stage actors of the time – I was John Gielgud all over the place. It was awful! The series I did helped me more than any other thing I can think of to learn how to act on screen, but I think that if you’re lucky, if you are very, very lucky, the camera might pick up something that belongs to you – that is you; that is real; that is absolutely real. And you can’t lose that, you see. You don’t want to learn too much, because if you learn too much, you become aware of it. It becomes very boring. And we know lots of actors don’t we, who we think ‘Oh, he’s going to do the same old thing again. Isn’t he sick of it!’ He must have to see himself occasionally. One of them is appearing tonight. He’s probably your hero, so I’ll leave you to guess who that is.

Steven Ricks: Can you tell me. You said earlier that you saw Leo McKern. Whilst you were doing your one?

PETER: Well, Leo and I were up at rep in Nottingham. He played the father in ‘The Winslow Boy’ when I played the QC, I remember. We were both in rep with the lovely Maxine Audley and the guy who did a television series about a very seedy detective. Do you know who I mean?

Steven Ricks: When was that?

PETER: About 20 years ago. He wore terrible clothes – a raincoat.

Steven Ricks: You mean Peter Falk?

PETER: No. An English one. He was terrific. He was up there – Alfie Buerk. Do you remember Alfie Buerk?

Steven Ricks: Yes, I do.

PETER: You must’ve seen the series [2].PRIS4

Steven Ricks: I don’t think I have.

PETER: You were what – 12?

Steven Ricks: You said you had seen Leo McKern whilst you were shooting.

PETER: Yes, while we were shooting. But you see we were doing things back-to-back, so he was in another studio, and I was where we were. And of course because we knew each other, I watched some of his and he came and watched some of mine. He hadn’t done a lot of movies – we were all fairly newish. So I think that had a lot to do with it.

Steven Ricks: What sort of things was he shooting? Was he just shooting on the same set you were doing?

PETER: Yes. You had the big set, you know. So he would come and do it in the afternoon, or whatever it was – maybe with Patrick directing, you see. Don (Chaffey) would be doing one bit, and he (McGoohan) would be doing the other.

Steven Ricks: Well, I think that I’ve asked just about asked you everything I wanted to ask you. Really?

PETER: You’re done with me? Well, that wasn’t very painful, was it?

Steven Ricks: I can’t think of much else to ask you. Except, what do you think of the way the series has received such a following. 

PETER: Why do I think it has?

Steven Ricks: Yes.

PETER: I think for the reason I gave earlier on – that people weren’t quite sure what was going to happen next. Also, that they weren’t quite sure what it was about, and I think people like puzzles. If you have a murder like in the ‘Colombo’ thing, which have been wildly popular for a long time; all those sorts of things – Agatha Christie is another perfect example. Who did it. It’s a puzzle, isn’t it. And you want to watch the puzzle come out. Now, with ‘The Prisoner’, you knew there was something behind it, and it infuriated you because you couldn’t what it was, and the only way you could find out was by tuning in each week. It’s the extension of the cliff-hanger, isn’t it? Of the hero or the heroine going down a pit and clinging onto the end of the plane or train or whatever it is, and whether she falls down into the pit or not. You have got to know, haven’t you? That’s what it’s about. I thought that what had happened was that it had different levels; there was the Fascism – underlying Fascism there. The thing of terrorist governments. The Communism of the time, if you remember the Stalin attitudes. China had become Communist. It had all those layers underneath as well, which I don’t think were conscious, but they evolved consciously as a result of it. I think that was one of the main things.

Also, Patrick had a very strong, extremely stylised personality. He had an extraordinary delivery, for a start. It was very staccato, and an interesting delivery which I believed developed as a result of ‘Danger Man’, but it was carried forward into this. It was much more pronounced, because he as a person didn’t have that staccato, which I think he introduced for himself. And I think rightly for himself.12998625_1321739501186136_6236127385164476133_n.jpg

⇐ Original ‘Call Sheet’  from ‘Checkmate’

I would’ve liked him to have stayed in this country and made a contribution here instead of going off to America. I really think he could’ve made a contribution here, which in America is more difficult to do. People like Mickey Rourke, they like showing their psychological mishaps on screen, don’t they? They like to show that there is something psychologically wrong with them, and they love to expose themselves. I know that actors can’t help exposing themselves. The moment that you are in front of a camera you are exposing yourself, aren’t you, really? You are on stage and you are naked – really, no matter what you make. You can have armour plating on, but you are still naked on that stage. And every creak of their armour plating shows, you know; you can’t hide it. But the American’s take it one degree further. They do it psychologically and mentally as well. They show you all their awful behaviour. They behave badly I think sometimes on screen. I find that unforgivable. I don’t think that you should behave badly on screen. You can be nasty by implication – I don’t think you have to show it, really. It’s bad enough to be naked all over the place without having to show the wounds as well, don’t you agree?

© TR 7 Productions

[1]: BBC chat show hosted by Terry Wogan – 1982-1992

[2]:  ITV Detective series, ‘Public Eye’ 1965-1975


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JASON’s KING-DOM

The Story of Elstree Studio’s

Written By Al Samujh and Tina Bate

Situated on the edge of Hertfordshire, just 25 miles north of London, Elstree is known throughout the world as one of the major centres of British film making. However, as any viewer of film credits will have notices, Elstree Studios are in fact located in Borehamwood – the ‘wrong side’ of the railway tracks’ (literally) from its more upmarket neighbour, the REAL Elstree.

In the heyday of the ‘British Hollywood’, there were several studios in the town; MGM British National, The Gate, The Ideal, The Neptune, and so on. But the studios that played host to Jason King started out as the brainchild of an American film entrepreneur, one JD Williams. Shortly after the completion of his studios, however, Williams went into disagreement with his partners and the studios (with more of a touch of irony) fell into the hands of John Maxwell – a Scots lawyer who’d been brought in to handle litigation concerning the rift. Maxwell was a small-time cinema owner with a history of film distribution who was keen to entre production as the government were about to fix a firm foundation for the British film industry in the form of the much maligned quota system of 1927. ELSTREE3

⇐ PETER taking direction on the Backlot of Elstree (Department S)

Maxwell immediately achieved a quick turnaround of films at the newly acquired BIP Studios. So much so that the industry somewhat mischievously gave it the nickname the ‘Porridge Factory’. Some say this was in honour of Maxwell’s Scottish roots, with the other school of thought appropriating the name to the fast production of ‘pot boiler’ movies of the period.

Nevertheless, the studios succeeded and Maxwell developed an empire with his acquisition of hundreds of cinemas. By 1937, the empire was known as the now familiar name of The Associated British Picture Corporation, and its chain of cinemas had the corporate identity of ABC. Everyone who was anyone eventually passed through the gates of the ABPC. In 1929, the company was credited with the very first British sound production due to the, then, ‘boy wonder’, Alfred Hitchcock, re-shooting his ‘Blackmail’ feature after almost finishing it, to utilise the new RCA sound process. Future US president, Ronald Reagan, made a movie at the studios, whilst in the 1970’s, ‘Star wars’ and its sequels offered the British Film Industry a ‘New Hope’.

John Maxwell died in 1940, and at the time, the studios had been commandeered by the British Army for wartime activity. After the War, the “Porridge Factory” faced stiff competition from both J. Arthur Rank at Pinewood and the newly opened MGM British, which was built literally just across the street. After his death, Maxwell’s family struggled to regain control of the empire he’d built – finally losing out in 1946, when Warner Brothers bought a controlling stake.

Despite the American influence, the studios continued to make films with a distinctly British flavour, such as ‘The Dambusters’ in 1955. In the same year, Britain also saw the introduction of commercial independent television. The board at ABPC realised that this was a sign of things to come and thus successfully bid for a franchise to serve London and the Midlands. So was born ABC TV – soon to become a production company for one of the classic series of the Sixties, ‘The Avengers’.

Television rapidly gained hold and with eth diminution of the “Swinging Sixties”, a hectic film production schedule was under way in Britain. with more and more studios turning themselves over to TV shows. More importantly, they invested in new sound stages and technology especially for the medium.

Department S was the 6th ITC television series yo be filmed at ABPC Studios. The twist here being that in 1962, Lew Grade had acquired the nearby National Studios (now BBC Elstree) – home of the Eastenders soap, yet continued to have his major productions filmed elsewhere. The advantage of ABPC was that it boasted a versatile backlot with not one, but TWO sizable tanks. Therefore, with a little bit of dressing, “The backlot would double as everything from Berlin to Hong Kong… you just changed the window shutters.” Johnny Goodman – on ‘The Saint’.

Many areas of the Studios turned up repeatedly in various series; one of the favourites being a concrete thoroughfare between the scene docks and the smaller stages. This was where a crated Jason King was dropped off by his associates in ‘A Thin Band of Air’, and which doubled for Rotterdam Docks in The Champions episode, ‘The Invisible Man’.

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PETER in a scene from The Champion’s episode, ‘The Invisible Man’ on a jetty at Tank 2 at Elstree ⇒

A major refurbishment of the facility in the 1960’s gave ABPC, not only a new administration block, but probably its most utilised feature in those wonderful ITC adventure series – the underground car park; a scene of assassination and abduction aplenty (as noted in Department S episodes, ‘The Man From X’ and ‘A Small War of Nerves’, and the Jason King stories, ‘Flamingoes Only Fly On Tuesdays’ and ‘As Easy As A.B.C.’. 

The ITC series undoubtedly gave ABPC Studios the breathing space it needed to stave off closure as befell its more glamorous neighbour, MGM, in 1970. However, ABPC was not totally immune and in 1968 a successful takeover bid was staged by musical and electronics giant, EMI. Despite this, Department S is still credited as having been produced at associated British, with Jason King being credited to EMI-MGM Studios (after its closure, MGM US had sponsored a three-year joint finance with EMI so as to maintain a small UK production base).

By the time of the EMI takeover, British production was flourishing. Vast numbers of cinemas had closed as TV took over, and there was precious little call for indigenous film making. By now, Hollywood ruled.

In the late 1970’s, EMI had been bought out by Thorn and another double-barrelled name was evident on the Shenley Road. But the studios had long since passed into decline – neither EMI nor Thorn had invested much in the infrastructure. Cold walls and plaster were quickly (and cheaply) coated with paint, but that was about it.

The rebirth of the facilities came with the making of ‘Star Wars’; for the sequel ‘The Empire Strikes Back’, Thorn actually erected a huge silent stage to accommodate its blockbuster sets. Then Steven Spielberg came on George Lucas’ recommendation to make his ‘Indiana Jones’ series of films. the future of the studio was looking rosy.

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⇐ PETER during a break in filming ‘Jason King’

But then the rollercoaster ride that is British film making took a dip and it was announced in 1986 that the studios were to be sold to the Cannon Group, whose disastrous tenure ended as soon as 1988. Enter the Brent Walker Group, who called their new venture Goldcrest Studios; overstretched themselves and ended up in the criminal courts.

this was the final blow for the ‘Porridge Factory’ as a group, and in a desperate (and ultimately unsuccessful) bid to survive, sought to divest itself of its less productive assets. A major redevelopment was announced for the studios, with the site and the number of studios shrinking, but with the new sits to be installed with all the latest film technology. The bulk of the land was to be released for redevelopment.

Thus in 1991, the whole of the eastern side of the studio complex fell to the bulldozers. The lack of investment and interest in the studios was revealed when the front offices of the building were pulled down. When the admin functions where moved, the entire site had simply been abandoned and shut off. Indeed, inside the old Hammer Film office, it was like walking aboard the Marie Celeste; scripts, publicity materials, pressbooks –all lying where they had done so for the last 20-odd years, gathering dust.

Fortunately, those familiar tall trees and some of the old haunts of Jason King, the Champions et al, still exist. Hertsmere Borough Council purchased the remaining stages from Brent Walker under a compulsory purchase Order and reinstituted filmmaking alongside the new Tesco supermarket, where photos of some of Elstree’s finest film adorn the walls in tribute to those better day.

MUCH better days!

In December 1996, actors and technicians associated with Elstree Studios were invited to witness the unveiling of a plaque to commemorate and celebrate the achievements of the Studio itself and of the Hammer Film division.

Amongst the assembles dignitaries was PETER – dressed in a black baseball cap and sunglasses, Sylvia Simm, Ron Moody, Nigel Hawthorne, Pat Coombs, Liz Frazer, Lana Morris, Barry Morse, William Lucas and Hammer legend, Christopher Lee, who accepted a Lifetime Achievement Award on behalf of his great friend, Peter Cushing.

DEPARTMENT S AT ELSTREE

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Arial view of the Elstree lot ⇑

SITE KEY:

  1. Gateway
  2. Gateway
  3. Production Offices
  4. Cafeteria/Restaurant
  5. Film Processing Laboratories
  6. Film Vaults (demolished)
  7. Sound Stages 1&2
  8. Sound Stages 3&4
  9. Sound Stages 5&6
  10. Soundstage 10 (demolished)
  11. Tank 2
  12. Utility Buildings
  13. Tank 1
  14. Perimeter Road (a new structure was built here after Department S and Jason King was completed)
  15. Backlot
  16. Underground Car Park exit
  17. Set Assembly block
  18. Ancillary Services block
  19. Soundstages 7, 8 & 9
  20. Administration block
  21. Underground Car Park entrance

Areas at Elstree featured in Department S:

18. Ancillary Services Block:

The wide covered alleyway at the side of this Block is where we see Sullivan fighting with two thugs in ‘The Last Train to Redbridge’, and the building also doubles for Interpol’s Auto Division building where Annabelle Hurst checks out the burnt out Rolls-Royce in ‘The Double Death of Charlie Crippen’. It’s also used as parts of Heathrow and Orly Airports in ‘Six Days’ and ‘The Trojan Tanker’, respectively.

15. Backlot:

A cemetery that had been especially made for the ‘Randal and Hopkirk (Deceased)’ series is seen in both ‘The Ghost of Mary Burnham’ and ‘The Double Death of Charlie Crippen’.

The scene from ‘A Cellar Full of Silence’, where Jason just managed to get out of the exploding phone box, was also filmed here.

The Backlot Dirt track is where Annabelle notices a newly painted gatepost in ‘The Pied Piper of Hambledown’, and is also utilised in ‘The Shift That Never Was’.

14. Perimeter Road:

This is where Jason is beaten up by Dave Prowes in ‘The Treasure of the Costa del Sol’. It also makes an appearance in ‘The Man From X’, ‘A Fish out of Water’ and ‘Dead Men Die Twice’.

1 & 2: Main Gateways:

These were used as the entrance to Orly Airport in ‘The Trojan Tanker’.

9: (Behind) Soundstages 5&6:

This consisted of several small utility buildings, plus a handful of larger constructions that included a big red brick structure which could house as many as fifteen different sets. This served as the background for when Sullivan leaves the Aerospace research facility in ‘The Man From X’.

11 or 13: Tanks:

Jason steps off a jetty into one of the Tanks in ‘Last Train to Redbridge’.

Town Façade:

By redressing this set, it became a Spanish town in both ‘Les Fleurs Du Mal’ and ‘Who Played The Dummy?’, Istanbul in ‘The Perfect Operation’ and London in the pre-titles segment of ‘The Man From X’.

16 & 21 – Underground Car Park:

Appears in ‘The Man From X’ when Jason comes to the aid of Wanda Ventham, and becomes a warehouse at London Airport in ‘Six Days’. It can also be seen in ‘The Man in the Elegant Room’, ‘The Bones of Byrom Blaine’.

PETER, Joel Fabiani and Rosemary Nichols are seen standing on the Entrance Ramp of the Car Park at the very end of ‘Ghost of Mary Burnham’.

6: The Vaults:

This was a whitewashed, single story building which had stood on the Elstree site since the studio began production in 1927. It makes an appearance in ‘The Last Train to Redbridge’ as the East London Mortuary and in ‘The Mysterious Man in the Flying Machine’.

*This area of the studio is now occupied by a Tesco Supermarket.

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Throughout the time he spent filming at Associated Elstree, PETER used Dressing Room No. 515, which was at the side of Soundstages 3&4 (circled on Layout above).


The Hellfire Club: The OFFICIAL PETER WYNGARDE Appreciation Society: https://www.facebook.com/groups/813997125389790/

REVIEW: The Sunday Night Play – ‘Loyalties’

 

  • Broadcast: Sunday, 29th April, 1962 

Character: Ferdinand de Levis

LOYALTIESCaptain Ronald Dancy, D.S.O.[1] (Keith Michell), has just retired from military service and is now at a loose end, with no idea what to do with himself. Having become familiar to a life of discipline and combat, he entertains himself with his love of horses and women, but nothing can replace the brutal excitement he craves.

Currently penniless, Dancy marries Mabel (Jennifer Wright) – a well-to-do woman who has long admired him, and who has a temperament that he’s always desired in a woman. Nevertheless, the former Captain is still forced to sell his most prized horse to his friend, Ferdinand De Levis (PETER WYNGARDE), as he can no longer afford to keep the Mare. Despite his penniless state, Darcy nonetheless managed to retain membership of some of the most exclusive gentleman’s clubs in London, and with them the friends who’d request the company of himself and his new wife at weekend gatherings at some of the most exclusive addresses in the country.

On one such occasion at Meldon Court – the home of his old chum, Charles Winsor (Jack Watling), Dancy is furious to learn that De Levis has sold on the horse for a hefty profit on the £1,000 he’d received. Later that same evening, amidst the male banter and revelry, Dancy’s bitterness inspires him to make a £10.00 wager with De Levis that he can leap atop a four-foot high bookcase in a single bound. Ferdinand accepts, and Dancy subsequently wins the bet. De Levis, however, is condescending – saying that a real gentleman would never indulge in such infertile parlour games – and least not for such a trifling amount of money. This insult irritates Dancy still further.

Around 12 that night, Winsor and his wife are wakened by De Levis, who informs them that the money he’d accepted for the sale of the horse has been taken from his room, and demands that the matter is immediately explored. Winsor and his friend, General Canynge (Felix Alymer) are, together, horrified at the assertion that someone at the Manor could be responsible for such a crime, and yet neither is keen to point a finger at either the staff or guests. De Levis’, nevertheless, insists that the police are summoned.

Immediately, the visitors begin close ranks against De Levis – asserting that he’s handled the situation indelicately. He, in turn, construes that their stance is born more from bigotry than out of any other concern, given that he’s a Jew. Dancy, meanwhile, does little to dissuade Ferdinand’s supposition by taunting De Levis about his race.

 When Inspector Dede (Michael Collins) and a Constable (Max Latimer) arrive to begin their investigation, a number of theories are put forward concerning who the perpetrator might be, but when De Levis asserts that Dancy is the thief, and that he can provide poof to support the claim, he’s told in no uncertain terms by the other guests to keep the allegation to himself.

De Levis reluctantly agrees to remain silent, but only until he can deliver the necessary evidence, but when he realises that he’s been expelled from the clique, he openly points the finger at Dancy.

Over the course of the next couple of days, the disagreement between De Levis and Dancy is pored over by the group of friends – all of whom are reluctant to believe that the Captain could be responsible for such a dishonourable act. That’s until Dancy is ultimately unmasked when the notes taken from De Levis’ room are discovered and traced back to him.

Although De Levis is finally vindicated, before the group will give Darcy up, they devise a plan for the Captain to disappear before he’s arrested. Yet, conversely, the play ends in tragedy when Darcy choses to hang himself to avoid the disgrace of being taken into custody.

[1]: Distinguished Service Medal


The Hellfire Club: The OFFICIAL PETER WYNGARDE Appreciation Society: https://www.facebook.com/groups/813997125389790/