REVIEW: Dick Barton Strikes Back!

  • Country of Origin: United Kingdom
  • Duration: 73 Minutes
  • Format: Black and White
  • Released: 1948
  • Certificate: U (UK)

Character: Army Cadet (unnamed)

BART1Although PETER only makes a fleeting appearance in this film, as a completest project, I feel that it’s still necessary to include it on this ‘Site.

⇐PETER with Don Stannard and Bruce Walker

‘Dick Barton Strikes Back’ was the second of three films based on the radio series ‘Dick Barton Special Agent’. The trio of movies were quickly churned out by the newly-founded Hammer Films between 1948 and 1950. Directed by Godfrey Grayson, ‘…Strikes Back’ starred lantern-jawed Don Stannard as the former Commando-turned-secret-agent, with Bruce Walker as his sidekick, Snowey White, and Sebastian Cabot as the dastardly villain, Fouracada.   

Given that the film was produced in the post-war years, the story naturally reflects the issues of the day – namely a suspicion of Johnny Foreigner (the villains, unsurprisingly, have Middle-Eastern or South-American inflections), whilst the typically English characters (who have either Upper Class or Cockney accents) – are merely disgruntled at their inability to get a decent pint of beer in a Britain that was still under Rationing.

With the war now at an end, Barton finds himself at somewhat of a loose end, so when he’s approached by the powers that be to take on assignments that were deemed too sensitive for British Intelligence, he enlists the assistance of his two old Army chums, Snowey and Jock, who are only to happy to go along for the ride.

Although ‘Dick Barton Strikes Back’ was the last of a trio of films to be made, it was actually released between the other two films – ‘Dick Barton Special Agent’ (1948), and ‘Dick Barton At Bay’ (1950). There had been plans to make more films in the series, but that was until Don Satnnard died tragically in a car accident in 1949. His screen adversary, Sebastian Cabot, had been travelling in the same car, but had managed to escape virtually unscathed. BART2

You might be forgiven for thinking that you were watching an episode of ‘Department S’ when viewing the opening few minutes of ‘…Strikes Back’, as it reveals everything in secluded English village lying in silence, and all the inhabitants dead. As might be expected, Barton and Snowey are called upon to find out what the bally hell has been going on, and they soon find themselves on the tail of a band of travellers who lead them to the door of arch-villain, Delmonte Fourcada.

Fourcada, it emerges, is the henchman of a crazed scientist, who has developed a lethal Sonic Death-Ray that’s found to be responsible for wiping out the village. Alarmingly, the Ray is now being trained on London.

Despite their best efforts, Fourcada and his hoodlums always seem to be one step ahead of Barton and his colleagues, which inexorably leads to heaps of thrilling chases and lashings of exciting incidental music to accompany them. The story ends with a thrilling pursuit up Blackpool Tower no less, where Fourcada plans to signal his diabolical Sonic Ray to destroy the Capital. The bounder!

BART3

⇑ An original poster from the film

PETER’s ROLE

A VERY young PETER plays an Army Cadet, who descends a metal staircase at HQ to hand Barton and Snowey a futuristic-looking wire helmet, which proves invaluable to their solving the case. Hoo-rah! His appearance on screen last just a few seconds, and the character was unnamed in the credits.  


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

DONALD SPOTO: Once Upon A Time…

“I could not believe it when I read that American biographer had said all those things about me!” PETER WYNGARDE

Although Donald Spoto’s ‘Otherwise Engaged: The Life of Alan Bates‘ has been referred to on this Website several times within the context of other articles, we’ve never thus far had an detailed look at the ‘biography’ and the content relevant to this Blog; namely those sections concerning PETER’s ‘supposed’ relationship with its subject.

Spoto was born in New York in 1941, Donald Spoto is a writer and theologian. He’s penned numerous ‘biographies’ about religious figures as well as film and theatre actors. Some of those include James Dean, Grace Kelly, Ingrid Bergman, Tennessee Williams and Saint Francis of Assisi.

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‘Otherwise Engaged: The Life of Alan Bates‘. was published in the UK in 2008 (Arrow Publishing: ISBN-10: 009949096X)both from the press and public. Some professional critics wrote that it was too involved; as if Spoto was trying to include excessive amounts of irrelevant information, whilst cinema aficionados and fans alike saw an opportunity to protest against the author – not only in response to this volume, but for the numerous inaccuracies contained in his previous biographies, which included those of Hollywood stars Audrey Hepburn, Marilyn Monroe and Joan Crawford.

There was similar criticism of Spoto’s 1993 account of Laurence Olivier’s life, with no detractor more vocal than the actor’s son, Traquin (1936- ), who reacted angrily to allegations made in the book about his father. Whilst anyone familiar with Spoto’s earlier works would ascribe little importance to the writers’ claims, Tarquin justifiably saw these charges as being detrimental to Olivier’s legacy.

The contentious section(s) that concern our sphere of interest relates to PETER’s so-called ‘relationship’ with Alan Bates. Spoto maintains that the two actors met after a performance of John Osborne’s ‘Look Back In Anger’ at the Royal Court Theatre [1] in May of 1956, when PETER was said to have gone backstage to congratulate Bates on his performance: “Within two weeks,” Spoto declares provocatively, “the two were living together”.

What actually happened is as follows: There was public house in Slone Square where the actors and staff at the Royal Court would often have lunch or wind down after a performance. Bates, who was living in a flat in Battersea at the time, had been asking around the pub if anyone knew of a relatively inexpensive flat nearer to the centre of London.

Following his divorce from actress, Dorinda Stevens in 1955, PETER had been residing with a lady by the name of Ruby Talbot in Paddington, but had latterly purchased a former weavers cottage in Kent – right next door to fellow thespian, Dame Edith Evans, who’d engage him to chop wood for her fire. He too had been on the lookout for an apartment in central London which he could use when working “in town”, rather than staying in soulless and expensive hotels. It was he who approached Bates with the idea that they share a place in order to keep down costs.  

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⇑ Electoral register showing PETER living with Ruby Talbot.

PETER was then working at Pinewood Studios on a TV play called ‘The Salt Land’, which had been written by Peter Shafer. His father, who owned several properties in London, was happy to rent out a two-bedroomed ‘Garden Flat’ in a smart Georgian terrace to the two actors.

At no point in his book does Spoto ever make clear that it was common practice both then, and now, for young actors to share accommodation in an effort to reduce living costs. David Niven famously shared a flat with a number of actors, including Errol Flynn, but there was never any suggestion that they were anything other than friends.

“The flat was a blessing”, PETER says. “Whenever I was working, I had it, and vice-versa. On those occasions that we were both working, there was a divan bed in the second bedroom, so it was the perfect set-up.”

In 1958, PETER embarked on a British national tour as Count Marcellus in ‘Duel of Angels’, during the course of which he began a relationship with his Co-star, Vivien Leigh [2]. In early 1959, he became resident at the Old Vic in Bristol for nine months, where he both performed and directed ‘Taming of the Shrew’, ‘Long Day’s Journey Into Night‘ and ‘Cyrano de Bergerac’. Immediately thereafter, he re-joined the company of ‘Duel of Angels’ for an eighteen-month tour of the United States. Throughout that time he rarely, if ever, used the flat in London.18198445_1723067707719978_8872324003202855095_n

 

A cutting from the Detroit Free Press – Thursday, 24 November, 1960. This was published at the time that Spoto maintains that PETER was in a relationship with Alan Bates ⇒

 

On his return from America, PETER purchased a villa in Spain which he’d often use when he was between jobs, The property had been bought specifically with his parents in mind, as they would often fly out from their home in Scotland to spend time with their son.

“The only time that Alan and I took what might be considered a ‘holiday’ together, was a trip to Greece”, PETER says. “We booked through a travel agent in a dingy part of Earls Court which had a poster in the window which said: ‘Welcome to Greece – a dream come true!’

“Alan had never been farther than Derby, his native hometown. The “dream” meant a four-day, third-class train journey to Brindisi in southern Italy, with nothing to eat but sandwiches and warm Coca-Cola. We then took an old ferry boat (circa 1914) to Crete, on which we had to share a bunkroom  with five Turkish men who told us they worked in the ship’s galley. We only found out when we docked days later at Heraklion that they were wanted for armed robbery. Two of the men had tried to rape Alan one night, so we reported the incident to the Captain who, as it turned out, was related to one of the men. All of them – including the Captain, were arrested when we reached port for smuggling drugs, plus two other minor offences.

“We were both struggling actors, and had saved up for a supposed “guaranteed” First Class return to Crete. The irony was, of course, that Alan returned to Crete when he was offered the part of Basil, in ‘Zorba the Greek’ years later.”

It was around this time that Bates met Victoria Ward (1939-1992), who he subsequently married in 1970. Yet in spite of his involvement with the actress, AND his ‘theoretical’(!) “relationship” with PETER, Bates up sticks and went to live with Rock Hudson in California!

PETER-1⇐PETER around the time he first met Alan Bates

Spoto also alleged that “EVERYONE” within the acting fraternity “KNEW” that PETER was “gay”. The film and theatre community is very large, and encompasses not only the actors themselves, but directors, producers, technicians and all points between, and yet the author was either unable or unwilling to provide any corroborative evidence to back up this statement. In spite of the absence of any supporting testimony, Spoto attempted to expand on the ‘everyone knew’ stance, when he asserts that PETER was broadly known amongst his colleagues from the late Fifties onwards as ‘Petunia Winegum’.

In reality, this name was first used in a sketch by the Two Ronnies comedy double-act during a Jason King parody that was broadcast on Thursday, 22nd November, 1973 [3]. Spoto, an American, was unlikely to be familiar with the hilarious duo, or of their immense popularity in the UK during the 1970’s and 80’s. [4]. It’s probable that the author heard mention of the name whilst he was researching his book, and simply slotted it in at a random point in the timeline as it suited his agenda.

It’s important to note that PETER had only ever seen himself as a mentor to Bates, with whom he freely shared his contacts and knowledge of the business. On reading Spoto’s book, it soon becomes clear to anyone with even the most minute glimmer of insight, that PETER was far more sinned against than sinning – yet the author does everything in his power to paint him as a villain.

It was only after Bates took up with his future wife, Victoria Ward, that any unsound theories of his relationship with PETER began to circulate. The following is a quote from the actress, Mary Ure (1933-1975), who appeared alongside PETER in ‘Duel of Angels’ (1958, 1959-60) and ‘The Two Character Play’ (1967):

“Victoria (Ward) was known to be a loose cannon and was incredibly possessive. A couple of friends and I had bumped into Alan, and we arranged to go for dinner at a little place we knew in Chelsea, when Victoria burst in and began screaming that PETER WYNGARDE had been f*****g her husband. We all knew it was ridiculous, but Alan was absolutely mortified!”

Whilst researching his book, Spoto had requested a meeting with PETER to discuss his friendship with Bates, which ran into several hours over the course of two weeks. PETER had specifically requested that Spoto forward him a signed agreement to remove any material that he (PETER) didn’t agree upon. Needless to say, the author inevitably reneged on this assurance, and only sent the document AFTER the book was published.

Such underhandedness deserves only the most savage contempt.

[1] PETER was a founding member of The Royal Court Theatre.

[2] Further reading: ‘Damn You, Miss Scarlett’

[3] Since the Two Ronnies sketch which first used the name ‘Petunia Winegum’ was only broadcast in 1973, it couldn’t possibly have been widely known by British actors prior to that date.

[4] The Two Ronnies Show ran from 1971 to 1987.

 READERS COMMENTS ON ‘OTHERWISE ENGAGED: THE LIFE OF ALAN BATES’:

  •  Disappointing. Hard to put my finger on why this book was so unappealing – it guess it lacked depth and insight and was neither for someone interested in his acting (too superficial – summarising plot and quoting reviews) or his personal life (he was a wonderful chap who did not like getting too close to people – except his immediate family).
  • The book seemed well researched but ended up as a list of acting jobs with little insight beyond repetitive praise of what a good actor Bates was and how the company liked working with him. I’m not sure if it was the kindle edition, but the book had typos and also should have been better edited, if only to avoid repetition.
  • If you are a fan of Alan Bates and are looking for a decent biography then give this book a miss. One wonders why the Bates family entrusted this task to an American writer who is better known for production line bios of Hollywood stars and “celebrities” than serious actors.
  • The book reads more like a chronological list of Bates’ films and plays than a record of one of the most appealing actors of his generation.
  • Spoto shows little knowledge or understanding of the UK or the British theatre or cinema. Much of the material “quoting” Bates read suspiciously like a cut and paste job. John Mortimer’s play and TV version ‘A Voyage Around My Father’, which also featured Olivier, is dismissed in a few sentences, as is ‘Women in Love’. Once again no attempt seems to have been made to talk to other participants, such as director Ken Russell or actress Glenda Jackson, who could have given some comments and insights. Bates was in the first performance of John Osborne’s ‘Look Back in Anger’ which revolutionized the British stage, but Spoto does not have the insight to convey the importance of this breakthrough.
  • He is careless with facts. For example, he quotes a character as saying “Brendan Behan reminds me of another Welshman, Richard Burton”. Behan is in fact Irish. He refers to Diane Cilento as an “English actress” although she’s Australian…
  • Films like ‘Far from the Madding Crowd’ are treated superficially, with no build up and no follow up. One wonders whether Spoto even tried to talk to other actors involved, such as Terence Stamp (who has also become a writer) or Julie Christie. 

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

 

 

REVIEW: No Laughing Matter

  • The Arts Theatre, London. Opening night: Wednesday, 23rd January, 1957.

Character: Gérard Barbier

Act 1

  • The attic of Gérard’s house in Paris.
  • Early one evening in Lens.

Act II

  • A suit in a hotel on the Coté d’Azur.
  • Three weeks later. Morning.

Act III

  • The same. Two hours later.
  • Time – The present.

Translated from French into English, Arman Solacrou’s comedy (originally entitled ‘Histoire de Rire’) deals with two married women, their husbands and their lovers.

Gérard Barbier (PETER WYNGARDE) is absolutely delighted when his best friend, Jean-Louis (Paul Daneman), tells him that he’s been having an affair with a married woman, and is about to elope with her. In typical male fashion, Gérard brings up every conceivable moral and philosophical argument in support of his friends action; actively encouraging him to go ahead with his plan.

In the meantime, Gérard’s wife Addy (Brenda Bruce), has also been meeting with her lover, Lancelot Berenson (Alec McGowen), at the home she shares with Gérard’s, and is making plans elope herself that evening. Lancelot, however, doesn’t share Addy’s heartless enjoyment of danger for its own sake, and begins to get cold feet. He tells her that he’s concerned about the effect their actions will have on Gérard and their other friends.

LAUGHING

⇐ PETER (centre) as Gérard, with Brenda Bruce as Addy and Paul Daneman as Jean-Louis.

The arguments that Gérard made earlier take on a different colour when he finds a photograph of his wife, which she’d asked family friend, Jean-Louis, to pass on to her husband after she’d left with Lancelot. She’d hoped that her angry husband would tear it to pieces when he learns that she’d left him. Gérard, however, is heartbroken when he discovers his wife’s betrayal.

Meanwhile, Jean-Louis and Hélène Donaldo (Faith Brookes), who has left her husband to abscond with him, feel that they can enjoy their happiness without any feelings of guilt.

With so much heartbreak and upheaval, all the couples and their lovers decided to meet at a hotel on the Coté d’Azur to work out their problems; happily for the most part, but tragically for one of the lovers, who takes romance a little too seriously.

After talking through their differences, Addy decides to return to the arms of her husband, Gérard, who’s been driven crazy with grief at her running away. Now she’s back, he tries to put the nightmare behind him and indulges in light-hearted banter with her about the happy times they spent together in the early days of their marriage.

As for Jean-Louis and Hélène – they’re ideally happy until the unexpected arrival of Hélène’s wily husband, Gilles (Anthony Ireland), who has decided to use reverse psychology when he calls on his errant wife and her lover. He surprises both of them by talking calmly about their elopement. Cunningly, he sows seeds of doubt in their minds, he knows full well that Jean-Louis will quarrel with Hélène and leave her with no other course but to return home to him.

Laughting4Jean-Louis carries out Addy’s instructions and hands the photograph to Gérard ⇒

IN RETROSPECT

It was at long last that London gave some recognition to Amand Salacrou, and as with such cases at the time, it was the forward-thinking Art’s Theatre that brought the backward-looking West End up to date. It wasn’t as if there’d been much pioneering spirit on show, given that ‘No Laughing Matter’ had been running in Paris for almost three years by the time it hit the London stage.

On the surface, ‘No Laughing’ Matter seems like another story of the eternal triangle (in triplicate!), but the author had been so clever with his characters that a whole new viewpoint emerged. Although billed as a ‘Comedy’, there were many moving pieces as well as comic ones – all of which were played with polish.

Salacrou’s comedy has invariably been described by theatre-goers as a more heart-felt version of ‘Private Lives’; a bit more serious, too, as the French tend to take marital infidelity rather more seriously than we Brits. Certainly, the play started cheerful enough, but soon turned brittle and heartless. In the second half, the mood changed dramatically, and it was then that the audience got to see that what had previously seemed so amusing is really both tragic and heart-breaking.

LAUGHING3⇐ Addy after she returns to Gérard.

By engaging the audiences’ feelings, this play proved to be so much deeper and interesting than any British play on marital relations. Critics at the time described Salacrou’s wit as “keen and civilised”, and his style “fluent and assured”. “He combines the wisdom of a philosopher with the inventiveness of a genuine comedy writer”, Plays and Players suggested.

If there was one criticism of the play, it was that Peter Wood’s production, although subtle and balanced, was often coy when really it should’ve been cruel. His lighting and Paul Mayo’s sets were superb by all standards, and it was said that he managed to capture the Coté d’Azur atmosphere brilliantly.

Other things, however, weren’t quite as successful. Paul Daneman, one critic uttered, brought “polish and charm”, but there was neither “poetry nor passion in his performance”.

Brenda Bruce was “nowhere near cruel or heartless enough”, and Faith Brook as Hélène “was rather too matter-of-fact”.

And what about PETER. Well, he stood out for special praise from most critics. F.B.G. of Plays and Players described him thusly: PETER WYNGARDE manages to forget his Anglo-Saxon reserve and gives full life and conviction in his portrayal as the outraged husband.”

The Sunday Times commented in their 27th January, 1957 issue: “…Mr PETER WYNGARDE handles this woman’s husband of his volatile temperament…”

One critic at the time commented that, perhaps, ‘No Laughing Matter’ bore the imprint of the time it’d been written (1930’s), and that it might not therefore command success in the West End proper. He was right, but added that the play was both “entertaining and adult”.


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

 

MOST HAUNTED

A True Story by PETER WYNGARDE

CARTOONCAR

It’s over 50 years since an actor friend and I secured a part in a play in Stratford. As I remember, neither of us were particularly ‘Well off’ at the time, so instead of trying to find rooms in the town, we decided to look for alternative accommodation for the duration of the play.

Having scoured the local newspapers for what seemed like an eternity, we managed to find what appeared to be the perfect place; a large rural cottage located in a small hamlet just five miles outside of Stratford. The rent, if my memory serves me correctly, was one pound and ten shillings per week (£1.50), which even we two struggling actors could afford.

But there, it seemed, lay the catch: wasn’t this amount really a bit TOO much of a bargain to be true? I decided to make some enquires just to be sure that there hadn’t been a printing error but found, to our delight, that the figure was indeed correct. We decided to accept and moved in right away.

It was the middle of summer and the play, which was now in its third week, had proven to be a huge success. Following one of the many backstage parties that were thrown by the theatre manager, my friend and I were driving back to the cottage around 12.30am, when a young man appeared from nowhere, and sped across the road right in front of our car. I screamed out to my friend at the wheel, who immediately applied the brakes. We just managed to miss the man by mere inches.

A couple of nights later we were, again, driving back to the cottage after the evening performance when the same thing happened. Since the play was taking a break for a few days, we decided it was best if we stayed ‘home’ for the duration.

Following the end of the play’s run in July, my friend decided to audition for another production at the same theatre, and was successfully engaged in the lead role. I, on the other hand, had decided to take the remainder of the summer off, and spent much of my time sunbathing in the garden of the cottage.

One evening, however, whilst I was driving my friend to the theatre, I spotted what appeared to be the man who’d we’d almost killed on two previous occasions sitting on a fence by the side of the road. The moment he spotted us, he made a dash for the cover of the woods to our left, at which point I screeched the car to a halt and decided to go off after him. But despite that fact that I’d virtually been on his heel as he’d made off, I was unable to find him anywhere. It seemed as if he’d literally disappeared into thin air.

Later that same evening we arrived at the cottage to find that it’d been ransacked; all the furniture had been turned over, and there were paper and books strewn everywhere. I immediately made my way to the village police station, which appeared to be manned by one middle-aged officer to whom I related our tale.

Scratching the top of his head, he replied casually: “Did you know, Sir – that cottage is meant to be haunted? No one stays there for longer than a couple of days.” It suddenly occurred to me why the rent had been so low! I immediately returned to my friend who’d been left to tidy up the mess.

The following day whilst my friend was at the theatre, I decided to take a trip down to the local library to do a spot of research about this supposed “Haunted Cottage”. I found a book containing records of the family who’d lived there for many years. Among the lists of births and deaths, one entry leapt out at me: ‘Possibly Murdered’.

A few days later while I was at the cottage alone, I noticed that one of the watercolour’s on the drawing room wall was hanging lopsided, but as I walked over to fix it, it suddenly dropped from its hanger and crashed facedown onto the floor at my feet.

Noticing that the brown backing paper had begun to peel, I decided to remove it completely, and found amongst the padding of old newspapers dating back to the 1800’s, a piece of parchment containing what appeared to be a confession. Further investigation at the library revealed that the gentleman whose name appeared at the bottom of the document had been a labourer employed by the cottage owner.

At the age of only 23 years, he’d fallen in love with his Master’s wife of 17, and in a fit of jealousy, had murdered his employer who, it transpired, was over three times older than his wife.

Since I’d promised to pick up my friend from the theatre that evening, I left the ‘confession’ on the large oak table in the kitchen, and went out through the back door. Having relayed the story to my fiend as we drove back along the dark, winding country lanes which lead to the cottage, I half expected to arrive ‘home’ to find the confession missing.

I was slightly disappointed to see it still lying there on the table where I’d left it, but from that day on there wasn’t a single disturbance in the house, nor did we ever see the young man who’d twice darted across the road in front on the car.

It’s my belief that the ‘entity’ in question had been desperately searching for the confession behind the painting in order to finally put his troubled spirit to rest.


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

 

JASON KING’S BIG DAY IN THE HOUSE OF COMMONS

Sir Lew Grade has his say!

  • “How the IBA bullied me”
  • “Money? I made programmes because I believed in them”
  • “Why schedules used to take me ten minutes”
  • “I believe in hunches not research”

In April 1972, Sir Lew Grade, the Deputy Chairman and Managing Director of the ATV networks, produced revealing evidence before the House of Commons all-party Select Committee on Nationalised Industries who were inquiring into the Independent Television Authority (ITA). Sir Lew was closely scrutinised by eight MP’s: Sir Henry d’Avigor-Goldsmid, Sir Donald Kaberry, David Crouch, Jack Dormand, John Golding, David Stoddart and Christopher Tugendhat, with Russell Kerr in the chair.

“The ITA interfered too much in the compilation of programmes,” explained Lord Grade.

 “In the early Seventies I was asked to bring back the so-called ‘Sunday Night at the London Palladium’. One of the major companies said, “We’ll take it if you include beat the clock’. I said ‘fine’. Bit the ITA said, ‘No, you can’t do the Palladium with ‘Beat the Clock’. You can do it without – but the BBC can do a version of it with Bruce Forsythe on ‘The Generation Game’. I couldn’t see the logic in that. After all, we did start it.

“What really concerned ,me was that the Authority were inclined to take part in the creation and creativity of programmes such as ‘The Champions’, ‘Department S’ and ‘Jason King’, which should’ve been left to the professionals.

“Of course I fully understood the responsibility of the Authority to see that there was a balanced programming. I agreed with that. However, I would like to emphasise one thing. We (ATV) didn’t make 35% of all British programmes because we had to. We did them because we wanted to.”

jk4

It was suggested by Sir Donald Kaberry during the House of Commons meeting that the ITA may have been guilty of interfering and even altering Lord Grade’s judgment with regard to the content and scheduling of his programmes.

“This was true in many cases“, he said.

“For instance, in the Midlands on a Wednesday evening we showed ‘Jason King’. I described it to the committee as a series of 26 short films; a lighthearted adventure programme starring PETER WYNGARDE. It was not networked.

 “Starting the very same week was another series called ‘Callan’ featuring Edward Woodward in the title role. It was a gritty, rough-tough programme.

“The ITA said: ‘You can’t put ‘Jason King’ on at eight O’clock, because at nine O’clock you have ‘Callan’. Fine, I could see that argument. ‘But you can put ‘Cade’s County’ on. Now that was an American programme, and about three times as rough as ‘Jason King’, but because they happened to wear Stetson hats instead of a three-piece suit and use Jeeps instead of a Bentley, that was OK. I just couldn’t see the logic in it myself. That’s where I think they ought to have left it to the professionals.”

Sir Lew was once quoted that it took him just ten minutes for him to produce a broadcast schedule, and John Goulding asked if this were true. “Yes,” he replied.

“When someone joins the ITA, they are there for five years. It takes them three years to find out what it’s all about, and a further two years to learn about it. At the time of this inquiry, I had been in the entertainment industry for 47 years. Suddenly everything was at the recommendation of the Authority. Surely I had the qualifications to decide whether the great British viewing public was mature enough to watch both ‘Jason King’ AND ‘Callan’ in the same evening!”

In spite of Lord Grade giving the impression that he (amongst others) had occasionally been “bullied” by the ITA, he took great pride in the fact that he’d never been influence by such trivialities as profit or loss, and had made television programmes because he believed in them.

DEPARTMENT S - S01E12 - The Man Who Got A New Face (1968) [DVDRip]_avi_snapshot_33_22_[2011_11_09_16_27_00]

“If someone came to me and said: ‘We want to make this series called ‘Jason King’ for 8,000 an episode, what kind of thing can we produce for this amount. That’s how I did things.

“When somebody brought me and idea I would read it, and if I liked it, I’d say ‘We’ll make it’, regardless of the cost.

“I remember ‘Department S’ cost four times what some of the other series at the time cost to make, but the idea was good; it was an exciting one. That’s why when I was asked, ‘With the extra hours will you make money?’, I didn’t know, but you can’t stop progress.

“In 1971, I think we made about £800,000 profit on £15,000,000 capitalisation for our studios, and that was without the capitalisation involved in films, and yet we still went ahead and made many new series, including ‘Jason King’, because I believed that in the end it would work out right. I believe in hunches not research.”

It’s a little known that the Lew Grade was amongst a number of consortiums bidding for control of the much talked about ITV2 which, of course, eventually emerged as Channel 4. It was his hope that with it he might shake off the restraints of the ITA. It was his belief that ITV2 would complement the three existing channels, and afford him more freedom with regard to programme scheduling.

Sir Lew Grade was certainly confident in his ability to fly by the seat of his pants.


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

 

 

 

 

 

 

PETER WYNGARDE: MEDIA STAR

This is an on-going archive of PETER’s appearances in the press and magazines throughout the years, so do please check it out from time-to-time for new additions. 


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TV Times

Great Britain:
January 13, 1963. Peter’s first ever cover feature! Here, he is pictured (top) in the role of Glenkin in the Associated-Redifusion production of ‘Darkness At Noon’, in which he starred alongside Albert Lieven, Ronald Adamson and Edward Rees.

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Look Eastwards

Great Britain:
Local TV listings magazine for the Bristol area of England. August 1964.

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Det Nye

Norway: March, 1970.
‘Department S’ reaches the continent and Jason captures the imagination of Europeans everywhere, as seen here on the cover of this Norwegian weekly, Det Nye. Peter became a regular in the magazine, appearing on an almost weekly basis, either in the form of an article or centre-page pin-up.

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TV Times

Britain: May 22, 1970.
As the popularity of ‘Department S’ and its central character, Jason King, continues to grow, Peter is afforded the front page of this issue of the TV Times, along with a two-page interview entitled, “Love, Peter Wyngarde and an Eastern promise”.

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Televizier

Holland 1970:
TV listings magazine.

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Bravo

(West) Germany 1970.
Entertainment magazine. Interview and pin-ups.

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Aktuell

Norway: June 1970.
Norway’s most popular television magazine celebrates the arrival of Peter in Oslo.
Surrounded by female bodyguards, all wearing Jason King T-Shirts, Peter goes out to meet some of the 20,000 fans who turned up to greet him in the Norwegian capital, and to visit a local hospital.

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Tele

(West) Germany: June 10, 1971.

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Det Nye

Norway: March 1970.
Once again Peter features on the cover of Norway’s ‘Det Nye’, along with his girlfriend, model Elisabeth Var Over, both of whom are seen kissing at Peter’s luxury London apartment, and holding hands together on the South Bank of the River Thames.

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Hor Zu

(West) Germany: (July/August, 1971)
Peter receives the star treatment with a three-page feature on the Department ‘S’ spin-off, Jason King.

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Gong

(West) Germany, 1972

MAG-100

Action TV

UK: 2000

Five page interview with PETER, and in-depth feature on Department S.


ALEX

The Straits Times: September 1955

TWOCITIES1

Radio Times: 1957

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TV Mirror and Disc News: December, 1957 

2121212

Picturegoer: February, 1959

TREASURE

The Children’s Newspaper: 1958

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Daily Mirror: July, 1960

PAPER

The Daily Express: May, 1961

MAG-12

TV Times: 1962

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American TV listings magazine: 1970

MAGS-11

Televiser: 1970

MAG-7

Bravo: 1970

MAG-JAP

Unknown Japanese Magazine: 1970

unspecified

Daily Express: 1970

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The Herald Sun (Australia): 1971

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Look-In: 1972

MAG-8

Bravo: 1972

MARRIED

Cosmopolitan: April 1972

OR

Cosmopolitan: December 1972

MAG-6

 Bravo: 1972

This is an interesting piece, as it shows all the things that PETER loves and enjoys. These are as follows:

  • Fencing Kit: PETER has always been a keen Fencer, with both Sabre and Foil, and has fought at the famous Green Club.
  • Vivien Leigh: He appeared with Ms Leigh in Duel of Angels, and still describes her as “The love of my life”.  
  •  Tennis Racquets: He would play Tennis daily on the private courts at the rear of his home in London. One of his favourite pastimes now is watching matches from around the world.
  • Skis: He began skiing in the early Seventies, and became quite proficient.
  • Bust of Beethoven and Beatles Albums: PETER has an eclectic taste in music – from Classical to Pop.
  • Lion: He loves animals, and watches any and all wildlife programmes on TV.
  • Car: PETER has had a life-long love of cars, and has owned many classics.
  • Fresh Veg and Fruit: It’s a little-known fact, but PETER is a fabulous cook, and says that he finds cooking “therapeutic”. He’s always eaten healthily.
  • Dog: He’s owned dogs all his life – his most recent were an Afghan Hound called Yuseff, and two Conrgi’s named Cassio and Pipistrello – the latter because “he looked like a bat”.
  • Jewellery: PETER collects both wrist watches and clocks.
  • Flowers: He was inundated with flowers at the height of his fame, so always had bouquets of them around the house.

MAGS-9

Bravo: 1973

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The Stage: October 1973

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Video and Satellite TV Magazine: 1996

SFX-Flash3

SFX Magazine: February, 2006

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The Darkside: March 2017


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

REVIEW: Underground

  • British Tour: February, 1983
  • The Royal Alexander Theatre, Toronto, Canada. March-May 1983
  • Prince of Wales Theatre, London: July-August, 1983.

‘Twelve people on a journey that ends in death’

‘Underground’ is a dramatic play set on the London Underground, which opened in February 1983. Although the play was only given a lukewarm reception by the critics, it did little to dampen audience enthusiasm, as the play went on to brake all box office records at the time.

At the time the play was staged author, Michael Slone, had just written and produced The ‘Return of The Man from U.N.C.L.E.’ for CBS TV, which brought back the original stars, Robert Vaughan and David McCallum. ‘Underground’ was his first stage play.

Director, Simon Williams, was perhaps best known for playing James Bellamy in the long-running drama series, ‘Upstairs Downstairs’.

Raymond Burr, who played American lawyer, Jim Maclain, had been eager to work on the British stage, because of its tradition of fine acting. “It was one of the reasons they got a long list of big names for the play”. That list included PETER as Alexander Howard, Alfred Marks, Gerald Flood, Elspeth March and Ronald Leigh-Hunt.

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Raymond Burr and PETER during a performance at the Prince of Wales Theatre: Whilst the play was at the Royal Alexander Theatre, Toronto, Burr had tripped on cables backstage and damaged the cartilage in his knee. He had to use a walking stick for the rest of the tour.

Much of the equipment for the sets were loaned to the production by London Underground, which included all the carriage seats and guard uniforms.

THE STORY:

“Take twelve people at random and put them in a confined space with the temperature rising, and there you’ll see the layers of humanity slowly being stripped away”.

One of the characters says this early on in the first act of the play, but is it prophetic or calculated?

A London Underground train, carrying eleven passengers and a guard (Glynn Mills), hurtles through the black tunnels underneath City traffic. It slows in one of the claustrophobic arteries and stops. Nothing unusual in that, as every weary London commuter who’s passed through Edgeware Road could testify. However, the difference on this occasion is that the train does not start up again.

All the passengers know is that there is certainly another carriage next door to them, but nothing after that; no cab and no driver. They’re cut off – completely stranded.

As they sit, totally isolated, listening to the reverberations of other trains thunder around them, they have no idea whether they might strike at any moment.

With the temperature rising and claustrophobia closing in, this odd assortment of characters – all confined within a sweating nightmare, little by little begin to divulge his thoughts to the audience. These individuals include Jim Maclain – an American lawyer from New York who’s says he’s in London for a holiday… or might it really be business of a deadly kind?

There’s Alexander Howard (PETER WYNGARDE) – an English businessman, in his three-piece suit and gold watch chain, who says that he has an appointment in the city… and a lot of suppressed anger inside.

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(From left to right): Alfred Marks, PETER, Elspeth March, Eric Carte and Raymond Burr.

A cynical computer programmer, Graham Craig (Ian Cullen), who looks at human beings as cyphers that could be put through one of his machines.

Michael Preston and Elizabeth Snowden (Marc Sinden and Linda Hayden) – A young British couple; he, an abrasive and she, frightened.

A beautiful raucous dancer (Liz Edminston) who uses sex for defence, and an old tramp (Ronald Leigh-Hunt) whose delirious memories in some strange oblique way appear to reflect the atmosphere of what’s happening to them.

But what IS happening?

The passengers get to know each other as the minutes lengthen and the tempers shorten. Suddenly a window is smashed and the lights go out in the carriage, then two gunshots are heard. When the lights come on again, a man lays dead in a pool of blood. Which one of them shot him? And why? Were the fatal bullets meant for someone else and, more importantly, will the killer strike again?

While the audience watches and reacts to the passengers’ same feelings of claustrophobic terror, they wonder if there’s more to all this than a simple case of murder?

Shapes and shadows; what seems real could be a trick of the light. A terrifying plan unfolding in a dark place where it cannot be stopped. What is really happening on the London Underground carriage?

Take twelve people at random….

Original Poster

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During one performance of the play at the Birmingham Hippodrome, Ronald Leigh-Hunt’s wig accidently caught fire, but PETER and Alfred Marks were of little use, as all the pair could do was fall about laughing!


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