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: https://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/2017/jan/01/philip-saville-obituary

 

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.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/obituaries/2017/02/17/philip-saville-television-director-obituary/

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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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Fellow Traveller TX Card

Copyright resides with the original holder, no reproduction without permission

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is the transmission card for the Screen Two drama, Fellow Traveller, written by Michael Eaton, produced by Michael Wearing, and directed by Philip Saville. It was one of very few feature films produced at Pebble Mill, Under Milk Wood 1992, being another.

Thanks to Ann Chancellor-Davies for sharing the TX card. Ann’s late husband Gavin Davies was the production designer on the drama.

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Fellow Traveller poster and script front page

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Copyright resides with the original holder, no reproduction without permission

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks to Ann Chancellor-Davies for sharing this promotional film poster, and the front page of the rehearsal script, (Ann’s huband Gavin, was the production designer on the film). It never ceases to surprise and delight me, how many script front pages have been kept by people – they are such a mine of useful information!

Fellow Traveller was the only cinematic feature film to be made at Pebble Mill, it was transmitted on 10th February, 1991 on BBC2.

Below is the entry from the Radio Times, courtesy of the BBC Genome project:

“Starring Ron Silver, Imogen Stubbs, Daniel J Travanti, Hart Bochner
1950s Hollywood: the McCarthy senate committee is conducting a witch-hunt for supposed communists in the entertainment industry and betrayal is in the air. For three friends this proves to be a disaster – for the writer who must work incognito for the emerging ITV in England; for the musician now living in England, a painful renewal of old wounds; and for the star a final performance.
Producer Michael Wearing, Director Philip Saville”

http://genome.ch.bbc.co.uk/982604f5c78f4f9ab5618684c165c64b

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

Roger Slater: ‘I was Sound Mixer, ably assisted by the late great Tim Everett as Boom Operator and Benedict Peissel as Sound Assistant. Shot in Bray Studios and on location in the UK and Miami.’

Lesley Weaver: ‘I was the Hair & Make Up Designer, a privilege to work on this artistically challenging film as it covered historically wonderful periods for make & up and hair.

It took me to New York for photo shoots, Miami, The Keys glorious sea shore and numerous UK locations including Bray Film studios.

The fun recreation of 1950’s Robin Hood, Maid Marian, Sheriff of Nottingham and all the Merry (Stunt) Men.
Fighting scenes shot in Gavin Davies’s amazing huge forest built at Bray Film Studios.

Sue O’Neill was my lovely able Senior Assistant in the UK, amongst a team of talented make up girls and the late Peter Shepherd in the US.

We did 20’s 40’s & 50’s wigs, cut throats, pumping wounds and black blood for early 1950’s black & white TV make up… I remember Sue O’Neill baking her prosthetics around the country in various hotel ovens over night! Such dedication!
From Art Deco offices to post war austere London bedsits and disagreeable landladies. Then over to the warmth & glow of Hollywood party life with dazzling costumes glamorous film stars & cars, the McCarthy Committee cloud over Hollywood and suicide in coral swimming pools. It had it all for make up & costume!
Always a great laugh to work with Al Barnett Costume Designer extraordinaire and all the other talent technicians on the production ….. And let us not forget costume design assistant, Amin Hassan who we sadly lost a few week ago!

Writer Micheal Eaton was enthusiastically on set everyday and excited to be ‘wigged up’ for his Hitchcockesque cameo scenes! …

….. it was always a pleasure to find yourself working on one of Micheal Wearing’s productions as you knew all your hard work would contribute to something worthwhile.

How lucky was I?

Oh Happy Happy Days !!’

 

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Saeed Jaffrey

Maurice Colbourne & Saeed Jaffrey. Copyright resides with the original holders, no reproduction without permission

Maurice Colbourne & Saeed Jaffrey. Copyright resides with the original holders, no reproduction without permission

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Saeed Jaffrey, the well known Indian actor died today (Nov 16th 2015), aged 86. He will probably be best remembered for appearing in Gandhi, amongst a hugely long and impressive list of different film and television roles, but he also appeared in the Play for Today, and subsequent series, Gangsters (1975, 1976 & 1978), at BBC Pebble Mill. Gangsters was apparently one of his first roles after he moved from India to the UK. He played Aslam Rafiq, the charismatic boss of an illegal human trafficking racket.

Gangsters was produced by David Rose; Philip Saville directed the Play for Today, and Philip Martin devised and wrote the film noir, which was inspired by The French Connection.