Philip Saville obituaries

Philip Saville from an interview I did with him in 2009













Director of Boys from the Blackstuff, Philip Saville died on 22nd Dec 2016. Here is an excerpt from his obituary in ‘The Guardian’ from January 2017, written by Toby Hadoke:

The director Philip Saville, who has died aged 86, was an important figure in British television drama – an innovative practitioner who brought Alan Bleasdale’s 1986 Boys from the Blackstuff to the screen. The series, which concerned the harrowing effects of unemployment on five Liverpudlian men, had a difficult gestation – the BBC was not easily persuaded to allow a supposedly “arty” director to convey the reality of disenfranchised working classes. While he greatly admired Bleasdale’s scripts, Saville suggested rewrites, notably expanding the role of Angie, the wife of one of the men, Chrissie (Michael Angelis). This added a strong female element to an otherwise male-dominated piece and provided Julie Walters with a breakthrough role.

One episode, Yosser’s Story, featured the broke Yosser Hughes (Bernard Hill) desperately asking “gissa job” as his sanity was eroded along with his self-respect. By shooting Yosser’s Story on film, Saville gave it a haunting grandeur (the other episodes benefited from the immediacy of being made entirely on videotape, unusual for the time). The series won the Bafta award for best drama serial.

The full obituary is available on this link:


A further obituary was published by The Telegraph in February. Here is an excerpt:

Filmed with recently introduced lightweight cameras, Saville’s Boys from the Blackstuff caught the punch-drunk spirit of the industrial north-west during the early Thatcher years with its highly stylised portrayal of a gang of out-of-work tarmac-layer in Liverpool.

Saville had been parachuted in at the eleventh hour after the original director withdrew, and shot four of the five episodes on outside broadcast (OB) video, working on location in derelict docks and factories in and around Merseyside, exploiting video’s greater flexibility over film.

Rapturously acclaimed by critics, Boys from the Blackstuff transferred from BBC2 to BBC1, secured one of the swiftest repeat runs in television history and earned Saville two Bafta awards in 1983.


Olly’s Prison – Photos by Willoughby Gullachsen

Photos by Willoughby Gullachsen, no reproduction without permission.

‘Olly’s Prison’ was a three part drama series produced at Pebble Mill by Richard Langridge.  The script was written by Edward Bond, and directed by Roy Battersby. It was transmitted in 1993, and was probably the last studio only drama to be recorded in Studio A at Pebble Mill.  Dave Bushell was the lighting director, and Bob Jacobs the 1st A.D. and Ian Barber the AFM.  Dave Bushell remembers it being a satisfying drama to work on, although not a bundle of laughs.

Mike Eastman remembers working on the series: “I had a small acting role in this production playing a prisoner, my filming days were just prior to Christmas 1991. It was the first time I had worked with Bob Jacobs as ‘first’, but went on to do lots more work with him later on.”

The BFI database includes this precis of the storyline:

Part 1: Tells the tragic story of Mike who sees his life crumble as his grip on reality becomes ever more tenuous. He shares a claustrophobic flat with his 16-year-old daughter, Sheila. Sheila is uncommunicative, like many teenagers, and Mike becomes increasingly frustrated by her silence. He resorts to violence.

Part 2: Bernard is serving a life sentence for the murder of his daughter. He attempts suicide but fails. His fellow prisoner Smiler uses his makeshift noose to hang himself.

(No precis of Part 3 is included)

‘Olly’s Prison’ featured Bernard Hill as Mike, Jonny Lee Miller as Smiler, Mary Jo Randle as Vera, George Anton as Frank, Bryan Pringle as Barry, Richard Graham as Olly, and Maggie Steed as Ellen.



‘Boys from the Blackstuff’ – video of film editor Greg Miller

‘Boys from Blackstuff’ – Greg Miller from pebblemill on Vimeo.

In this video, film editor Greg Miller talks about the editing of the ‘Boys from the Blackstuff’ series.  Greg edited ‘Yosser’s Story’ on film, whilst the other four episodes were recorded on lightweight video cameras and edited on 2″ videotape. Bernard Hill played Yosser.

Philip Saville directed the series, and Michael Wearing was the producer. The series was produced at Pebble Mill and went out in 1982.

\’Jobs for the Boys\’

Boys from the Blackstuff – photos from Make-up Artist Maggie Thomas

Continuity polaroids of Bernard Hill, playing Yosser, in Boys from the Blackstuff. Photos by Maggie Thomas, no reproduction without permission.





































These photos are not to be reproduced without permission.

Boys from the Blackstuff was transmitted in 1982, and consisted of 5 x 55 min episodes.  It was produced by Michael Wearing, directed by Philip Saville, and written by Alan Bleasdale.  The cast included Bernard Hill as Yosser Hughes, Michael Angelis as Chrissie Todd, Peter Kerrigan as George Malone, and Julie Walters as Angie Todd, with Tom Georgeson as Dixie Dean and Alan Igbon as Loggo Lomond.

The series continued the original Black Stuff ‘Play for Today’ group of characters, and focussed on unemployment and poverty in Liverpool at the height of Thatcherism.

It was a particular challenge for make up artist Maggie Thomas, as Yosser (Bernard Hill) had a series of injuries which had to partially heal, before new injuries were added, making continuity difficult.