Monday, 2 September 2019

Alan Ford

Alan Ford:

You know him. Intense, real-deal, London-born actor who has virtually created his own sub-type of the gimlet-eyed cockney villain: hard, trim, mod-stylish, a ruthless but rational enforcer or fixer. A slightly different proposition from the affable yet psychopath mob boss (typified by Bob Hoskins, Ray Winstone, Johnny Shannon, etc), you can watch him in action in some tough East End crime movies beginning with 'The Squeeze' (1977) and encompassing the classic 'The Long Good Friday' (1980) and the latter-day set of 'Lock Stock & Two Smoking Barrels' (1998) and 'Snatch' (2000) – running through to 'Jack Falls' (2011) and the less than satisfactory reboot of 'The Sweeney' (2012).

In the interesting London-set Stacey Keach vehicle
'The Squeeze (1977).  

On TV, as you might expect, there's a lot of London hardcase actioners and cop shows, sometimes on the side of law and order but more often than not as a villain of some sort. He's in 'Minder' ('90s variety) and 'Strangers', as well as a selection of lesser fare: 'Bergerac', 'Chinese Detective' etc,  - and he's racked up an impressive eight different characters in episodes of 'The Bill' stretching from 1985 to 2006...     

With DI Bulman (Don Henderson) in the excellent
ITV cop series 'Strangers' 
Less expected are the roles in a range of comedies. He was in the later series of 'Romany Jones' after the death of James Beck, playing (fell-off-the-back-of-a) lorry driver, Ken. He also appeared in 'Birds Of A Feather', 'Keep It In The Family' and 'The New Statesman', before a memorable turn as a boxing promoter in 'Knowing Me Knowing You With Alan Partridge' led to 'The Armando Iannucci Shows' and Matt Berry projects 'Snuff Box' and 'Toast Of London'.   

Despite the robes, delivering the full-on Alan Ford London
geezer treatment. A regular in Matt Berry's 'Snuff Box'.
All good stuff, and I notice he's also providing voice performances alongside the remarkable David Graham as one of Parker's dodgy mates, Light-fingered Fred, in the latest version of 'Thunderbirds Are Go'.  

Alan Ford-imdb 

Saturday, 20 April 2019

Nicola Pagett

Nicola Pagett as Anna in the historical WWII adventure movie 'Operation Daybreak' (1975)

Nicola Pagett:

A very successful actress and a lasting English beauty, combining home counties pertness with the feline eyes of Sophia Loren, Nicola Pagett is possibly still best known for her role as Elizabeth Bellamy in 'Upstairs, Downstairs' the British primetime TV giant of the mid '70s. This came after a series of television appearances in memorable mod-era actioners such as 'Danger Man', 'Mr Rose', 'The Avengers', 'Man In A Suitcase' and 'The Persuaders'. These were interspersed with some serious television plays and historical dramas including a portrayal of the ultimate classical femme fatale, Messalina, in 'The Caesars'.        

In 'Danger Man', acting cute for Patrick McGoohan
With Christopher Matthews in 'Some Like It Sexy' (1969)
The 1977 TV adaptation of 'Anna Karenina'
The '80s and '90s saw her translate her sex siren persona into a series of sassy and sexy older women characters with her turn as Liz in David Nobbs' 'A Bit Of A Do' and two slightly similar Northern sitcoms: 'Ain't Misbehavin', written by 'Last Of The Summer Wine' creator Roy Clarke, and 'Up Rising' with Anton Rodgers. Neither seem to have been great successes.        

As Mary Queen of Scots in 'Anne Of A Thousand Days' (1969)
In the '90s adultery sitcom 'Ain't Misbehavin' with Peter Davison

Movie credits include 'The Viking Queen' (1967), 'Anne Of A Thousand Days' (1969), the Peter Sellers comedy 'There's A Girl In My Soup' (1970), 'Operation Daybreak' (1975), 'Privates On Parade' (1983) and 'An Awfully Big Adventure' (1995).    
Nicola Pagett-imdb

Sunday, 7 April 2019

Granville Saxton

Actor Granville Saxton in a TV sketch show with comedian Jimmy Cricket

Granville Saxton: 

Gaunt and hawk-like character actor Granville Saxton has turned his hand successfully to comedy and drama since the mid-70s. He appeared in several of the ensuing decades' most popular series, though never really grabbing a solidly memorable role in any. You might possibly recognise him from the not-much-loved 1979 BBC version of 'The Old Curiosity Shop' in which he plays Dick Swiveller, or from the kids TV drama 'The Feathered Serpent', a wordy, studio-bound tale of Mesoamerican temple intrigue that sent kids running outside to play in 1978.                

His 1975 TV debut in the Brian Clemens 'Thriller' episode 'Kill Two Birds' 
As Xipec in the exhausting kids drama series 'The Feathered Serpent'
He pops up in a modest way in some quality series during the '80s and '90s, including 'Poirot', 'Charters & Caldicott, 'Our Friends In The North', and 'Shine On Harvey Moon'. Also, there's some variable comedy fare, ranging from 'The Comic Strip Presents' and the mildly diverting 'If You See God, Tell Him' to playing sketch characters in Jimmy Cricket's 'And There's More'.  One intriguing role was as the sinister Mr Fowl in the grimly satirical school comedy 'Hardwicke House' which seemed to aim for the triangular midpoint between 'Grange Hill', The Young Ones' and 'Britannia Hospital' (1982), but fell somewhat short, resulting in a sort of hyperactive, traumatised version of 'Please Sir'. Even a cast including the late great Roy Kinnear and Familiar Unknown favourites Tony Haygarth and Roger Sloman could save it from being axed after only two episodes.      

As Mr Fowl, brushing up on his classroom technique in 'Hardwicke House' 
The cast of 'Hardwicke House', Granville Saxton to rear,
behind the great Roy Kinnear. 
He's also a Harry Dean Stanton-esque Death Eater in parts I and II of 'Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows' (2010/2011), which I suppose is where more people have seen him than in any other role. Here's to many more like it.
Suited for the wizarding world. 
 Granville Saxton-imdb

Wednesday, 26 December 2018

Leslie Randall

Actor Leslie Randall, in character as Danny Boon in the film 'Billy Liar (1963) delivers his catchphrase: It's all happening

Leslie Randall:

I don't think I'd ever really mentally registered the name of Leslie Randall, despite his brief but memorable appearance as TV comedian Danny "It's All Happening" Boon in 'Billy Liar' (1963), one of my favourite films. At the time of shooting for John Schlesinger's classic version, Randall would probably be familiar as the co-star of ITV's first sitcom, 'Joan & Leslie' with his real-life wife Joan Reynolds, which ran to 71 episodes between 1956 and 1958 (although no footage survives). His portrayal of Boon, a ruthless professional behind a vapidly cheerful TV persona, sees him crush Billy's one and only daydream with any chance of coming true.              

In an episode of 'The Monkees' from 1967
A stalwart of the last years of music hall, he was regularly seen on panel games and variety shows during the '50s, but his pre-'Billy Liar' film and TV career is rather slight, he's in the war movie 'Mystery Submarine' (1963) and also stars in the light comedy 'Just Joe' (1960) again with his wife, and a cast including Anna Mae Wong and Jon Pertwee.

Perhaps finding opportunities a little slim in the UK, he headed for the states, where he pops up slightly unexpectedly in episodes of 'I Dream Of Jeannie' and 'The Monkees', before heading for Australia to revive the 'Joan & Leslie' concept, as newly-arrived British immigrants in Melbourne.           

In the Australian reboot of 'Joan & Leslie' from the late '60s
Later appearances are quite a hotchpotch, ranging from the lowly soap 'Emmerdale Farm' to Derek Jarman's painfully arty 'The Garden' (1990) via a corporate short for Abbey National with Patsy Rowlands. 

A one of the regular Vox Pops in 'According To Bex'
After numerous long gaps, he seems to have found a new lease of life in comedy, with regular small roles in 'My Family'  and Jessica (Hynes) Stevenson's 'According To Bex', before presumably settling into retirement around 2008. Born in 1924, he's now well into his '90s, so it's well deserved.      

With Emma Thompson in the Dustin Hoffman
movie 'Last Chance Harvey' (2008) 
Leslie Randall-imdb

Monday, 3 December 2018

Moira Foot

Moira Foot: 

Very tall and slender, with a charmingly toothy smile and an eye-catching embonpoint, Moira Foot is one of the troupe of dollybird actresses who populated the fantasy landscape of the '70s: either the glory days of light entertainment or the nadir of casual universal sexism, depending on your viewpoint. A quick glance at her credits (that will do, Mr Lucas) immediately conjures another age and another set of comedy values from a problematic canon: 'The Benny Hill Show', 'The Dick Emery Show', the movie of 'On The Buses' (1972), 'Are You Being Served?', and 'Doctor At Large'.     

Benny Hill, as 'World Of Sport's Dickie Davies, delivers a line
that almost certainly has something to do with Bristol City.   

Getting the benefit of George Layton's best bedside
manner in 'Doctor At Large'. 
Her father, Alistair Foot, was a comedy writer and one of the authors of the great touchstone of British theatrical farce, 'No Sex Please, We're British', so perhaps it's not surprising that the attractive young actress should find her way into this particular stream of light entertainment. Her first appearances were in the comedies of Ronnie Barker, well-known for his obsession with saucy postcard humour - a genre from which the cartoonishly glamorous Miss Foot seems to have miraculously stepped. She appears as Effie the maid in 'Hark At Barker' and the follow-up 'His Lordship Entertains', in which she is the frequent cause of Lord Rustless's popped monocle.   

Effie the maid has been making (surprise surprise) some dumplings,
in which Ronnie Barker naturally takes a keen interest    
In addition to the comedy shows and skits, there were a few brief, decorative appearances in dramas, such as 'Quiller' and 'The New Avengers', and other oddments, like the sleuth panel game 'Whodunnit' and a made-for-America musical evening with Jackie Gleason and Julie Andrews. 

As Denise of the Resistance in the later episodes of 'Allo Allo'

Her most recent role was in the fifth series of 'Allo Allo' where she turns up as René's childhood sweetheart, now a member of the Resistance. The show was still very popular, even if it had long since exhausted it's original premise, and she gives an enthusiastic performance at what must have been rather a flat point in the programme's long history. 

Ready to impress the driving examiner - if it were anyone
but Dick Emery's Hello Honky Tonks that is... 
Benny Hill sight gag No. 235. Short bald Jackie Wright is the man
forgetting bus queue etiquette next to the statuesque Moira Foot    
That was 1988, seemingly her last TV appearances for the time being, but she'll certainly be seared into the memories of many for her iconic comedy show legacy. She was understandably sought after by those elder statesmen of British vaudeville and nudge-nudge humour, and whether it was humiliating Benny Hill on a disco dance floor or helping young Mr Grace with his tablets, she played the gag. It was another time. 

Moira Foot-imdb

Tuesday, 20 November 2018

Rachel Bell

Rachel Bell

Rachel Bell:  

John Sullivan's '80s lonely-hearts sitcom 'Dear John' had a pleasingly melancholy undertow that makes it more appealing - to me, anyway - than his poll-winning national treasure, 'Only Fools And Horses'. A lot of that can be put down to the downbeat performance of Ralph Bates, previously best known for playing dashing Hammer Horror leading men, but also to a strong ensemble cast. The encounter groups were led by the fearsomely helpful Louise, played strongly by Rachel Bell as a self-help dragon spouting lurid Freudian analysis and trite '80s motivational claptrap.       

Under tough questioning in a 'Crown Court' episode from 1978
With Ronnie Barker in 'The Magnificent Evans' 
Before 'Dear John' in 1987, a number of television productions had featured her talents, among them 'Disraeli' with Ian McShane, 'The Magnificent Evans', 'Alas Smith & Jones', 'Miss Marple', a couple of 'Play For Today' dramas, and the 'Only Fools...' episode 'To Hull And Back'. She was also a regular in a spoof chat show on the newly-created Channel 4 called 'For 4 Tonight', written by  a pre-fame Ruby Wax and directed by a post-fame Mickey Dolenz. Sounds interesting, maybe, but I can't find any archive video.      

The latter '80s and early '90s included some situation comedies: 'Home To Roost', The Upper Hand',  'Last Of The Summer Wine'; some drama 'We'll Meet Again', 'Goodbye Cruel World', and the very odd 'Doctor Who' story 'The Happiness Patrol', before she landed another plum role, as the snooty Edith Pilchester in 'The Darling Buds Of May'.        

In 'Dr Who: The Happiness Patrol'. The weird Sylvester McCoy
era story with the Bertie Bassett-esque alien, The Kandyman  

As Miss Pilchester in 'The Darling Buds Of May' 
'Grange Hill' gave her a long run as Deputy Head Mrs Holmes during its later few years, and the new millennium has brought a steady supply of work ranging from 'Chucklevision', 'Birds Of A Feather' and 'The Bill', to 'The Detectorists' and JK Rowling's low-key detective series 'Strike'.   

As a teacher in the post-Harry Potter reboot
of 'The Worst Witch' for CBBC   
She can be spotted in a few feature films: 'The Edge Of Love' (2008), 'Red Mercury' (2005), 'Mary' (2005), and 'Sweet William' (1980), and also stepped neatly into Patricia Routledge's shoes for the stage version of 'Keeping Up Appearances'  

Rachel Bell-imdb

Tuesday, 13 November 2018

Christopher Sandford

Christopher Sandford:  

 The '60s were remarkable years, fizzing with possibilites, of sudden opportunities and lingering disappointments. Christopher Sandford's story is fascinating in the way it touches obliquely on some pivotal pop-culture moments. Without knowing it, I'd watched him in a number of my favourite films and television programmes, without a glimmer of recognition or connection.

'Coronation Street' Oct 1963, as would-be beat sensation Walter Potts   

Early roles as a teenager included a few TV shows, mostly now lost, and typical light comedies such as the inevitable cruise-ship romp 'Next To No Time' (1958) with Kenneth More and Sid James, and the equally inevitable schoolboy hi jinks of 'A French Mistress' (1960), with James Robertson Justice. But it was his role as Walter Potts, the gormless window cleaner of 'Coronation Street' that brought him to the public's attention. In 1963, as Beatlemania was gathering momentum, the primetime soap's storyline saw Walter transformed into "Brett Falcon" by would-be impresario Dennis Tanner. This neat TV-pop crossover even resulted in a flurry of real-life singles on Decca and Fontana. 
His solo album on Transatlantic from the mid-'60s. 

Demonstrating a radio tracking device to
Patrick McGoohan in 'Danger Man'  
He appears in several episodes of 'Danger Man', notably as a Arthur the departmental boffin and as a DJ/agent on a pirate radio station in 'Not So Jolly Roger'. He seems to have been ticking along nicely with the odd part in popular shows of the time, including 'Z-Cars', 'No Hiding Place', 'Public Eye' and 'The Saint'. He also appears in 'Half A Sixpence' (1967) as Tommy Steele's mate Sid, and the BBC adaptation of Dickens's 'Dombey & Son' from 1969.   

Flash bang wallop what a picture.  In 'Half A Sixpence' (1967)
with Tommy Steele (and the late great Julian Orchard). 
As Brett Sinclair's tuneless cousin Onslow, about to get electrocuted in a
'Kind Hearts & Coronets'-influenced episode of 'The Persuaders'    
The '70s presented a new landscape. Sandford's swinging London pop-persona was in demand, but looking increasingly outré in the new decade. He appears in full comedy-mode in 'The Persuaders' Ealing-esque episode 'A Death In The Family' as Roger Moore's groovy duffer of a cousin. On the darker side, he turns up as the brilliantly-named depraved pornographer David Thing  in "Cool It Carol' (1970) a rather grimy, if moralistic, sexploiter with Robin Askwith.        

Great character name. With a curious mix of guest stars in the
Robin Askwith sexploitation movie 'Cool It Carol' (1970)  
Darker still is his slightly chilly turn as Sue's fiancé in the marvellous 'Deep End' (1971), and another rather grim gooseberry role in the obscure Giallo-style 'Die Screaming Marianne' (1971).       

As the fiancé of Sue (Jane Asher) in 'Deep End' (1971)
'Die Screaming Marianne' (1971)
The remainder of the '70s saw relatively few highlights, and in fact there are only six entries on imdb covering the period from 1975 to 2006. He also returned to music with a couple of pastiche comedy records. A modest claim to fame comes from his appearance in the 'Dad's Army' episode 'Time On My Hands' as the German airman dangling from the Walmington-on-Sea town hall clock.  

A mixed bag, but some real gems, some terrific oddball stuff and a fascinating story.   

Christopher Sandford-imdb