Gangsters complaint

Letter from Mary Whitehouse to David Rose

David Rose’s reply to Mary Whitehouse

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This exchange of letters was given to me by David Rose several years ago.

Mary Whitehouse, in capacity of General Secretary of the National Viewers’ and Listeners’ Association, which she established, complained about many television programmes from the 1960s onwards. The 1975 ‘Play for Today’, Gangsters, clearly wasn’t to her taste, because of its violence, and ‘coarseness’. David Rose’s response defends the themes and tone of the film, as well as stating its public acclaim. I suspect that it felt like a badge of honour to provoke this kind of complaint from Mary Whitehouse: a way of gauging that the point of the play had been successfully made to the audience!

The following comment was left on the Pebble Mill Facebook page:

Jane Partridge: ‘Did you know the lady herself was a visiting speaker for the Royal Television Society Midland Centre’s meeting at Pebble Mill? It would have been somewhere around 1979-1980, possibly early 1981 (but definitely before June that year when I had to change departments). John Grantham was Secretary of the Midland Centre, and as his secretary, I had the job of meeting Mrs Whitehouse in Reception and taking her up to the room we used for the meetings. She was, in fact, a very nice person.’

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Michael Wearing biography by Lez Cooke

This article is from the Forgotten Television Drama website: https://forgottentelevisiondrama.wordpress.com/2017/06/07/michael-wearing-1939-2017/ by permission of Lez Cooke

Michael Wearing (1939-2017) 

Michael Wearing in 2009.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Michael Wearing, who died on 5 May 2017, was one of the talented people David Rose brought into television in the 1970s. Following the recent deaths of Barry Hanson, also recruited by Rose, Philip Saville, with whom Wearing worked on Boys from the Blackstuff, Rose himself in January and Christopher Morahan in April, the last few months have seen obituaries of some of the leading producers and directors from the so-called ‘golden age’ of British television drama.

After studying Anthropology at Newcastle University, where he was involved with a theatre group, Michael Wearing got a job as an assistant stage manager at Bromley before moving to the Royal Court Theatre, where he did his first directing. While touring a stage version of Gogol’s The Diary of a Madman, which he directed, Wearing met David Rose, then head of English Regions Drama in Birmingham, who subsequently directed a television version of the play at Pebble Mill, dramatized by Wearing and Victor Henry, who played the eponymous madman. Three years later, Wearing joined Rose’s regional drama department as script editor. In 1979 he directed Jack Shepherd’s Underdog (BBC2, 4 May 1979) for W. Stephen Gilbert’s The Other Side series, but was otherwise a script editor for four years at Pebble Mill, working with writers such as Alan Bleasdale, on Scully’s New Year’s Eve (BBC1, 3 January 1978) and The Black Stuff (BBC2, 2 January 1980), and Ron Hutchinson, on The Out of Town Boys (BBC1, 2 January 1979), writers with whom Wearing developed a particular rapport.

The following year he produced Stephen Davis’s Trouble with Gregory (BBC2, 23 February 1980) and Ron Hutchinson’s six-part Bull Week (BBC1, 1980), a social realist drama set in a factory in Birmingham, but it was Malcolm Bradbury’s The History Man (BBC2, 1981), adapted by Christopher Hampton, that confirmed Wearing’s penchant for progressive TV drama. The History Man was a four-part serial, a form with which Wearing was to excel as the single play gave way to the authored serial on British television in the 1980s. Ron Hutchinson’s four-part contemporary thriller Bird of Prey (BBC1, 1982) was followed by Alan Bleasdale’s five-part Boys from the Blackstuff (BBC2, 1982) which Wearing guided to the screen after a protracted production period. Wearing suggested Bleasdale write The Muscle Market (BBC1, 13 January 1981), originally intended to be part of the series, as a separate Play for Today, in order to keep him on board at a time when the BBC was prevaricating about commissioning a more expensive regionally base drama series. Wearing recruited Philip Saville to direct Boys from the Blackstuff, shooting four of the five episodes on video to keep costs down – a decision which arguably enhanced the contemporary realism of Bleasdale’s ‘state of the nation’ drama.

Boys from the Blackstuff, Snowy’s death. Photo by Maggie Thomas, no reproduction without permission.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Following the departure of David Rose to Channel Four, BBC English Regions Drama gradually declined as an important producer of regional drama; indeed, Boys from the Blackstuff represents the department’s last great achievement. Wearing subsequently left Birmingham, but such was his reputation that he was subsequently re-engaged by the BBC to executive produce the final series of Play for Today in 1984, personally producing plays by Howard Brenton, Barrie Keefe and Davie Pirie. Later in 1984 Wearing produced Alan Clarke’s last studio play, Stars of the Roller State Disco (BBC1, 4 December 1984). In the same year he was invited to produce a contemporary serial, then entitled ‘Magnox’, which Troy Kennedy Martin had been working on for some time. Wearing brought in Martin Campbell to direct and they both worked with Kennedy Martin to realise his vision. The convoluted nuclear thriller which emerged, re-titled Edge of Darkness (BBC2, 1985), was on of the seminal dramas of the decade, proving such a success when it was broadcast on BBC2 that it was immediately repeated on BBC1, Edge of Darkness won six BAFTA awards in 1986, including Best Drama Series/Serial.

After a production of Malcolm Bradbury’s Rates of Exchange fell through, Wearing moved to ITV for the first time, producing the feature film Bellman and True (1987) for Euston Films/Thames TV/Handmade Films. Subsequently shown on ITV in a longer three-part version in 1989. In January 1988 he returned to the BBC as head of Drama at BBC Birmingham, producing Peter Flannery’s Blind Justice (BBC2, 1988), a five-part drama about two radical barristers, and several films for series such as Screen One and Screen Two, including Michael Eaton’s Fellow Traveller (BBC2, 10 February 1991) directed by Philip Saville, about American writers working anonymously in Britain at the time of the McCarthy witch hunts/ As an indication of his propensity to speak his mind, Wearing drew an analogy between the subject of Fellow Traveller and contemporary developments in British broadcasting, with new government proposals threatening the future prospects of radical television drama. Such pronouncements only seemed to enhance his reputation, however, and in 1990 Wearing was recruited by BBC head of Drama Mark Shivas to become head of Drama Serials.

As the BBC entered a more competitive era, Wearing believed that quality drama could be the corporation’s chief weapon; among the many serials he was responsible for in the 1990s were classic literary adaptations such as Middlemarch (1994), Martin Chuzzlewit (1994), Pride and Prejudice (1995), Nostromo (1997) and Our Mutual Friend (1998), as well as original authored serials such as Paula Milne’s Die Kinder (1990), Hanif Kureishi’s Buddha of Suburbia (1993), Peter Flannery’s Our Friends in the North (1996), Dennis Potter’s Karaoke (1996) and Cold Lazarus (1996), and Tony Marchant’s Holdings On (1997).

Throughout this period, Wearing was an outspoken critic of BBC management, especially following the appointment of John Birt as director general in 1992, Wearing believed that Birt’s policies were stifling creativity and, after threatening it on more than one occasion, he resigned in February 1998. There was much industry sympathy for his position and, shortly after announcing his resignation, he was awarded the Royal Television Society’s highest accolade, the Cyril Bennett Judges Award, having received BAFTA’s Alan Clarke Award for outstanding achievement in television in 1997. He subsequently took up a position with the independent production company Irish Screen, excutive-producing the feature films Human Traffic (1999) and When the Sky Falls (2000) and the six-part serial Aristocrats (BBC1, 1999). After Irish Screen was wound up Wearing produced Farrukh Dhondy’s Red Mercury (2005), directed by Roy Battersby, a feature film about three young Muslim men who form a terror cell in London. He was also co-executive producer on the feature film version of Edge of Darkness (2010), which he told me in 2009 was ‘kicked-started by 9/11’, the 2001 attacks giving him an idea of how re-work Troy Kennedy Martins’ masterpiece in the new ‘age of terror’.

Speaking about his new job with Irish Screen in 1998, Michael Wearing said his intention was ‘To have fun doing work that matters.’ As a mission statement it sums up his attitude towards producing drama throughout his illustrious career.

(This is a revised version of a biography written for BFI Screenonline in 2009).

Lez Cooke

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You and Me and Him

Screen grab from ‘You and Me and Him’. Copyright resides with the original holder, no reproduction without permission

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the months before David Rose died, I was approached by a friend and former colleague of his, asking if I could get hold of a copy of David Mercer’s 1973, Thirty Minute Theatre drama, You, and Me and Him, for him. Through friends at the BBC Drama Village, I managed to get a copy of the drama dubbed off, and sent to David. Fortunately, despite being very frail David was able to watch it in the weeks before he died, it apparently meant a lot to him. I decided to take the opportunity of watching the drama myself, and below are a few observations about it.

The only character in the play is Coster, played brilliantly by Peter Vaughan. It is a studio piece, which sounds simple, there being only one character. It is anything but! Coster is in conversation with himself, in three different guises throughout the drama, in quite a schizophrenic manner. There are different settings, an office, and a bedroom. When in the office, Coster wears glasses and is smartly dressed, in the bedroom he is dishevelled and wearing pyjamas. He is in the care of a psychiatrist and realises that he needs to pull himself together. We hear Coster taped on a ¼” tape, and on the phone to himself.

It is a psychological drama and quite philosophical, and considers some of the darker issues in life, there is talk of army rape, of pornography and lusting after little girls. The tone gets increasing violent during the drama, as one version of Coster wants to get rid of his alter-egos. He even talks of suicide. The drama ends with the conclusion that ‘You and me, are him’, and that in fact they each love the other.

Technically the drama is very complex, with hundreds of edits in a half hour piece, including a lot of split screens. John Lannin was the VT editor, and did a wonderful job. It was presumably recorded on 2” videotape, and so the editing process must have been tortuous and extremely time consuming. There are some really creative shots especially in transitions between settings, for example the feet of one of Coster’s personalities from one setting, appear in the foreground of the other setting. I’m not sure how this would have been done at that time, unless it was a locked-off shot. There is also a shot showing the empty office chair spinning, and then Coster appears sat in the chair, which was presumably a locked-off shot.

The director was Barry Hanson, with David Rose the producer, and Michael Edwards the production designer. This was a really innovative piece of drama, which stands up pretty well to contemporary viewing. Apparently the master tape was supposed to be wiped, but it was kept by the VT boys, who changed the tape number. It was then found in the basement by Paul Vanezis in 1990, and placed in the BBC Archive.

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Nuts in May article

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Copyright resides with the original holder, no reproduction without permission

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This interview with Alison Steadman about the 1976 Play for Today, Nuts in May, must have taken place in 2009 (which is when the Alan Bennett play mentioned at the end of the article was on), but I’m not sure of where it appeared, or why. Perhaps it was simply an interesting article with Alison Steadman, which promoted Alan Bennett’s, Enjoy? David Rose gave me a photocopy of the cutting a few years ago, but it doesn’t say where it’s from.

Please add a comment if you can add any more information.

Here is the synopsis of the improvised drama, Nuts in May, from the Radio Times, from the BBC Genome project. It must be one of the strangest synopses ever, and tells the reader nothing, and everything, about the drama – which was no doubt the point:

Synopsis

“Camp Rules:
1: No open fires.
2: No music after 11.0 pm.
3: Positively no drains to be dug around any tent.
4: No crockery or cooking utensils to be washed up in toilet block.
5: These rules are imposed for the benefit and enjoyment of all during their holiday.
BBC Birmingham

Contributors

Film Cameraman: Michael Williams
Film Recordist: John Gilbert
Film Editor: Oliver White
Producer: David Rose
Devised and directed by: Mike Leigh
Keith: Roger Sloman
Candice Marie: Alison Steadman
Ray: Anthony O’Donnell
Honky: Sheila Kelley
Finger: Stephen Bill
Miss Beale: Richenda Carey
Quarryman: Epic Allan
Farmer: Matthew Guiness
Farm girl: Sally Watts
Policeman: Richard Ireson”

http://genome.ch.bbc.co.uk/6ba7ee595baf45749dd2742c67e47055

The following comments were left on the Pebble Mill Facebook page:

David Crozier: ‘I was the Designer on this superb film, Nuts in May. Tim Dann (then Design Assistant) and I had to have our wits about us to keep up with Mike Leigh’s ever developing improvisation. A thoroughly enjoyable experience which I constantly recall with warm thoughts!’

Lynn Cullimore: ‘I thought it was fantastic. Never to be forgotten and the brilliant Alison Steadman who has gone on to do more brilliant things. Thanks to all those people who were involved in it.’

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The Other Woman Cast and Crew

Copyright resides with the original holder, no reproduction without permission

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Included in the photo are: Michael Simpson, Michael Gambon, David Rose, Jane Lapotaire, Lynn Frederick, Gavin Davies (production designer, right handside next to Andy Meikle),Andy Meikle (production coordinator, far right with beard), 2nd row, Jan Nethercot (make-up designer), Sue Peck (dresser), Stephanie Hawkes (dresser) Tudor George (costume designer, behind and between Sue and Steph), Richard Ganniclift (cameraman).

Thanks to Janice Rider, Terry Powell, Susie Astle, Wendy Edwards for adding in names. Please add a comment if you can identify others.

The Other Woman was a Play for Today, broadcast on 6th January 1976.

Here is the synopsis from the Radio  Times, from the BBC Genome project:

“The Other Woman by Watson Gould

Kim, an angry young artist, disrupts the lives of Robin, a family man, and Niki, a temp sec – for whom she is the other woman.’
BBC Birmingham

Contributors

Writer: Watson Gould

Film Editor: Henry Fowler
Film cameraman: John Williams
Producer: David Rose
Designer: Gavin Davies
Director: Michael Simpson
Script Editor: William Smethurst
Kim: Jane Lapotaire
Robin: Michael Gambon
Niki: Lynne Frederick
Aunt Darnley: Barbara Atkinson
Miles Darnley: Leon Sinden
Rose: Rosalind Adams
Louise: Eve Pearce
Ben: Benedict Taylor
Lois: Martyn West
Barman: John Joyce”

The following comments were left on the Pebble Mill Facebook page:
[Also in the photo are:]
Terry Powell: ‘Tudor George costume designer. My very good friend who I’ve worked with the last 25 years. Who as I text we are now designing. Comic relief together.’
Susie Astle: ‘Jan Nethercot, make up designer. Sue Peck costume. Steph dresser.’
Janice Rider: ‘As Susie said from left 2nd row correct but Sue Peck would have been a dresser then I imagine and Stephanie Hawkes next to her , probably costume assistant and Tudor George ( between Jan & Sue Peck – also known as Dist – would have been the costume designer as Terry says .’
Tim Dann: ‘Alfie Mayall..scene crew behind Sue & Steph.’
Gillian Hardle: ‘Left of camera with arms folded looks like Rob Prosser — grip; Camera asst Richard Ganiclifft is seated behind the camera next right looks like Chrissie Marshall and right of her is Bert Round – gaffer electrician. I recognise everyone but can’t put names to faces.’
Lesley Weaver: ‘John Williams lighting film cameraman behind Gavin Davies maybe?’

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