Sunday, November 17, 2019


The fact that the only time From The North appears to get an update these days is when someone this blogger really admired dies is, trust me, an irony which is not lost of yer actual Keith Telly Topping.
One of this blogger's favourite actors, Ian Cullen, has died at the age of eighty. Ian appeared in the first series of Doctor Who, playing the warrior Ixta, who took on Ian Chesterton (William Russell) in mortal combat (and lost), in one of this blogger's favourite four-part stories, 1964's The Aztecs. He subsequently played Nadeyan in a Big Finish production, Dark Eyes. This appearance came forty eight years after The Aztecs and is believed to be the longest gap for any actor in the general Doctor Who franchise. Born in West Bolden in County Durham in 1939, Ian first got the acting bug when appearing in a village pantomime aged four. After being educated in Washington, he trained at RADA with a scholarship when he was sixteen. An early television appearance came as David Balfour in the BBC's 1963 adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson's Kidnapped. Ian later became a household name in the UK when he played the popular character of PC Joe Skinner in Z Cars. First appearing in the BBC's long-running police drama series in 1969, the character was later promoted to Detective Sergeant and stayed with the show for six years and over two hundred episodes until Skinner was dramatically shot dead in what was, at the time, one of TV's most shocking moments of the mid-1970s.
Other recurring roles for Ian include the 1960s hospital drama Emergency-Ward Ten, in which he played Warren Kent (between 1966 and 1967), James Mithcell's acclaimed North East period drama When The Boat Comes In, as the former-miner-turned-MP Geordie Watson (1977 to 1981) and as the original lead of the Channel Five soap Family Affairs (1997). Ian's character in the latter series, Angus Hart, was also killed off when the entire Hart family died in a boat explosion. He also guest-starred in many British series, including The Bill, Blake's 7, Sorry!, Dalziel & Pascoe, Harbour Lights, The Gambling Man, Spender, The Black Velvet Gown, Skorpion, Our John Willie, Return Of The Saint, Crown Court, Dame Of Sark, A Tyneside Entertainment: A History Of The Geordie-Speaking Peoples, Department S, Redcap, Doctor Finlay's Casebook, The Protectors and The Haunted House. Ian's stage work was extensive and saw him perform in eight West End productions and spend two years with the Royal Shakespeare Company. He won rave reviews for his performance as Jay in Road To The Sea at the Orange Tree Theatre, in 2003. As well as his acting commitments, Ian also wrote for several television series and radio plays including The House On The Hill, the 1979 Play For Today Katie: The Year Of A Child, the popular and well-remembered 1970s Tyne-Tees children's series The Paper Lads and Rogue's Rock. He also found time to run a successful youth drama group in Surrey (the Surrey Heath Young Actors Company) for nearly thirty years. In 2008 Ian won a Gold Award for his narration of the feature-length documentary The Destiny Of Britain. Ian is survived by his wife, the actress Yvonne Quenet and their three daughters, Emma, Anne Marie and Adele.
It was perhaps ironic that the vastly experienced, inherently funny stage actor Stephen Moore, who died a few weeks ago aged eighty one, should be remembered mostly for voicing a robot, Marvin, The Paranoid Android in the original radio series of The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy. 'Life? Don't talk to me about life.' Douglas Adams's science-fiction comedy began in 1978 and Moore stayed with it through four further radio series, a six-part television adaptation, the records and the audio books (and, even the spin-off minor hit single). In a sense, he was the voice of the show, as he picked up other roles whenever something different was needed - these included a mouse, a doomed whale and the ruler of the universe - and he recorded the entire run of Hitchhiker books, on his own, for EMI. But even just vocally his range was considerable, as demonstrated in his regular appearances on BBC Radio 4's Poetry Please, or his leading roles in radio versions of Madame Bovary (with Nicola Pagett and Roger Allam), Dostoevsky's The Idiot and Marlowe's Doctor Faustus. On television, where he was first noted in a 1962 version of Jean Anouilh's Dinner With The Family - 'and introducing Stephen Moore' read the cast-list headed by Jeremy Brett and Renée Houston - he was as adept in comedy as he was in classic serials. In the 1980s, he played Felicity Kendal's boyfriend in the first series of Solo written by Carla Lane (his character was thrown out for sleeping with Kendal's best friend), Adrian Mole's father in two series of Sue Townsend's titular saga and David Lodge's flustered academic Philip Swallow in Small World. Later, Stephen appealed to wider audiences as Kevin The Teenager's long-suffering dad in Harry Enfield & Chums (1997) and as Eldane, the green-skinned leader of The Silurians in Doctor Who (2010). To many of these roles he brought the same brand of casual insouciance that became his trademark over three decades at both the National Theatre and the RSC. For Moore, the quietest and least lauded of leading actors, was a star by stealth, an actor's actor admired equally by peers and critics.
Tall and rangy, his remarkable and length career embraced the last efflorescence of The Old Vic (1959 to 1961) before The Olivier National supplanted it, the RSC and Royal Court heydays in the 1970s and, then, the reviving influx of the fringe; he was as much at home - and as charmingly revelatory - in the plays of Alan Ayckbourn as he was in those of Sam Shepard, David Hare and Howard Brenton. At The National he featured in Hare's Plenty (1978) and Brenton's hugely controversial The Romans In Britain (1980), as well as in Ayckbourn's epic comedies Bedroom Farce (1977) and A Small Family Business (1987). Moore's grounding was at The Bristol Old Vic and the Central School of Speech & Drama, where he won the Laurence Olivier medal. He was born in Brixton, to the solicitor Stanley Moore and his wife, Mary and was educated at the Archbishop Tenison's school in Kennington (right next to The Oval). After Central, he went straight into The Old Vic, where he played William in As You Like It, Slender in The Merry Wives Of Windsor, Flute in A Midsummer Night's Dream and Andrew Aguecheek in Twelfth Night. His comic, slightly gauche stage personality was thus established and he developed further in Jacobean comedy, Dostoevsky's The Possessed and The Trojan Wars (as Achilles and Polymestor) at Bernard Miles's Mermaid in Puddle Dock. He then went into regional rep at Windsor and Colchester before returning to Bristol where, under the directorship of Val May, he achieved prominence in The Iceman Cometh and Hedda Gabler and as Petruchio in The Taming Of The Shrew. He appeared with Ralph Richardson and Jill Bennett in John Osborne's West Of Suez at The Royal Court in 1971 and formed a bizarre love triangle with Jane Asher and James Bolam in Christopher Hampton's Treats, which transferred from The Court to The Mayfair in 1976. His television profile sharpened, too, during that decade, with stand-out performances in Tom Stoppard's 1975 adaptation of Three Men In A Boat (alongside Tim Curry and Michael Palin in Stephen Frears's film) and as the morose left-wing teacher married to Julie Covington in 1976's Rock Follies.
At The National in the 1980s he was a notable Cassio to Paul Scofield's magisterial Othello; an insinuating Grand Inquisitor to Michael Gambon's breakthrough triumph as Brecht's Galileo; a villainous magistrate in Howard Davies's revival of Dion Boucicault's The Shaughraun and in Richard Eyre's version of Ben Jonson's Bartholomew Fair. In the same period he did not forget the RSC, supporting Judi Dench's Mother Courage as the sardonic chaplain, winning an Olivier award as Torvald in Adrian Noble's staging of A Doll's House, succeeding John Thaw as Cardinal Wolsey in Henry VIII (with the title role played by Richard Griffiths) when Davies's production moved from Stratford-upon-Avon to The Barbican and playing the worldly-wise cynic Hallam Matthews in a revival of John Whiting's A Penny For A Song. One of Moore's great abilities was to create a performance of subtlety and nuance and expand into a large arena like The Olivier at The NT and this he did as the older title character in Peer Gynt in 1990, though he felt that he could equally have been entrusted with the younger Gynt, whom David Morrissey played as a Scouse scallywag in Declan Donnellan's production. In between his last NT appearances - as the Mayor in Ibsen's An Enemy Of The People (with Ian McKellen and Penny Downie) in 1998 and the exasperated Roote in Harold Pinter's The Hothouse in 2007 - Moore toured as Colonel Pickering in My Fair Lady and as the inspirational teacher Hector in Alan Bennett's The History Boys. He was always a reassuring presence on film, even as a military big-wig in Richard Attenborough's blockbuster A Bridge Too Far (1977), but he was a better fit in a handful of quirky, eccentric British movies ranging from Lindsay Anderson's The White Bus (1967) to Christopher Morahan's Clockwise (1986) and Richard Curtis's The Boat That Rocked (2009), in which he led a right-wing government trying to close down a pirate radio station run by Bill Nighy and Philip Seymour Hoffman. His CV also included appearances in The Last Shot You Hear, The New Avengers, Brideshead Revisited, The Last Place On Earth, Love On A Branch Line, Sharpe, The Thin Blue Line, A Bit Of Fry & Laurie, Brassed Off, The Peter Principle, Paradise Lost In Cyberspace, They Hanged My Saintly Billy, Theatre 625, Woodstock, Play For Today, Inspector Morse, Lovejoy, Van Der Valk, Between The Lines, Drop The Dead Donkey, And The Beat Goes On, Middlemarch, Soldier Soldier, Foyle's War and Holby City. Stephen was married four times. He had three children - Robyn, Guy and Hedda - with his first wife, Barbara Mognaz; one, Charlotte, with his second, Celestine Randall and another, Sophie, with his fourth wife, Noelyn George, who died in 2010. His children survive him, as do his sister, Rebecca, half-brothers Mark and Joseph and half-sister Selina.
Philip Larkin suggested that 'sexual intercourse began in 1963' but for over twenty million British TV viewers, the breakthrough erotic moment came on 9 January 1976. That Friday night ITV screened the first episode of Bouquet Of Barbed Wire, written by Andrea Newman, who has died this week aged eighty one. In the opening scenes, a married London publisher, Peter Manson, has a sulky lunch with Prue, a young woman who has just got back from her honeymoon. From his fury at her revelation that she is now carrying her husband's child and the lingering kisses they share as they part after the meal, the audience was initially led to believe that Peter was perhaps the woman's former lover, who feels cuckolded by her marriage. But, the shocking realisation that Prue, played by Susan Penhaligon, is actually Peter's daughter exposed the daring darkness of the drama. Although incest was never depicted or specified, a scene in which Frank Finlay's Peter stiffly watches as his son-in-law rubs sun cream around Prue's bikini-clad breasts, made clear that Newman had knowingly relocated Greek tragedy to the Home Counties. Across the seven episodes, Peter seduced a secretary, who may reasonably be seen as a surrogate for the young woman he really desires whilst, in another breach of family boundaries, Peter's wife, Cassie (Sheila Allen), goes to bed with their son-in-law (James Aubrey). Clive James, reviewing the series in the Observer, joked that, by the end, 'everyone had been to bed with everyone else. Except the baby.' The presenter Roy Plomley, interviewing Newman on a 1980 episode of Desert Island Discs, lazily accused the author of having a 'sleazy' imagination and sniffed that 'guessing next week’s [sexual] permutations became a sort of national game.' On the recording, Newman audibly bridled at this sneering comment, replying: 'I think there is an emotional logic to it. I don't see it how the critics have seen it at all.' And, apart from Prue spending quite a lot of time in bikinis or underwear, Bouquet was rarely visually salacious. What shocked at the time - and what remains powerful on re-viewing - is the constant boiling atmosphere of suppressed desire. The director Tony Wharmby's bold decision to eschew the musical underscoring common in peak-time drama - only a few notes are heard at the start and end of episodes - also gave the action the stark intensity of a stage drama. Finlay played Peter as an unstably dormant volcano of longing and guilt. The scripts contain allusions, through a metaphor involving ice-cream, to oral sex and practices as exotic at the time as the avocado pear that the protagonist orders in a swanky restaurant. The controversy around the drama was also driven by its showing, with social precocity, women wanting and seeking sex. The author's name that the series made famous was in fact a pseudonym, adopted by the writer when she published her first novel, A Share Of The World, in 1964. Unusually, she then solidified her nom-de-plume by deed poll and it was her stated wish that no attempt should be made by journalists to publish her birth name. This stipulation seemed to relate to a deep sense of privacy and a feeling that she truly found her identity only when becoming a writer, rather than any rejection of her family. Her 1969 novel A Bouquet Of Barbed Wire is dedicated 'to my parents with love' and she told Plomley that her mother was 'an amazing woman' whose contribution included typing up books and scripts from Newman's longhand manuscripts. Her father was a reporter and photographer, her mother a secretary at the chemical company ICI, where the couple first met. Their only child was born in Dover but, when the war broke out the family evacuated to Shropshire, while Andrea's father served in the RAF. They moved again, in peacetime, to Cheshire, where Andrea was precociously literary, starting a novel at the age of nine and musical, winning a piano cup as a teenager. She studied English at London University and, while there, married an older man, whom she met through churchgoing in Cheshire; they were initially 'very happily married,' she said, but later divorced. After eighteen months as a civil servant, carrying out a process known as 'coding', which she said involved putting circles around numbers on responses to a government social survey, she taught at Tottenham High School for Girls. Her early novels were written, at the rate of ten pages a day, during the eight weeks of the combined Easter and Summer holidays. Despite this fluency, Newman lacked confidence. Even when A Share Of The World (1964), set among the student world, was accepted by The Bodley Head, she rented, rather than bought, a typewriter, in case success proved to be transient. In an early sign that she wrote in a screen-friendly way, both her debut novel and the second, Mirage (1965), were immediately optioned by film companies, although no movies resulted. Her fourth, Three Into Two Won't Go (1967), about a love triangle among London swingers, did reach cinemas, directed by Peter Hall, although with a screenplay by Edna O'Brien, as at that point Newman had no interest in scriptwriting. The proceeds from the film allowed her to leave teaching, but even then Newman lacked security, returning to the London campus to take an MA in English (special subject, the novelist Graham Greene) to improve her prospects if she had to get another job. Between novels, she also wrote short stories and was asked to adapt one of them, The Night Of The Stag, for The Frighteners (1972), an anthology of half-hour horror dramas made for London Weekend Television and directed by Wharmby. He then hired her to write two scripts for Helen: A Woman Of Today, an LWT drama promoted as freshly feminist. As a thank-you gift to Wharmby, Newman sent him a copy of A Bouquet Of Barbed Wire, a novel which was now out of print. The adaptation he envisioned changed her standing and lifestyle forever and gave Finlay a career-defining role. The protagonist's surname was provocative, as it was only a few years since the revelation of the crimes of the American serial killer Charles Manson. It is likely that Newman knew what she was doing, as her writing was full of subtle allusions.
   The sequel, Another Bouquet, a novel and an LWT seven-parter that followed in 1977, took Newman's Manson household even closer to the House of Atreus. A later TV series, An Evil Streak (ITV, 1999), relocated the legend of Troilus and Cressida to contemporary academia, starring Trevor Eve, who would also play Manson in the 2010 BBC remake of Bouquet Of Barbed Wire. Newman declined an offer to script that adaptation. Diagnosed with breast cancer in 2004, she was also caring for her mother, who suffered from dementia before dying at the age of ninety seven and these two trials reduced her literary output in later years. Her subject matter of sexual intrigue inevitably encouraged speculation about a life that she liked to keep private. On his TV chat show, Terry Wogan asked her, after cataloguing the liberated libidos of her female characters: 'Are you like that?' Newman, after a perfectly-timed pause, replied: 'I have my moments!' She gave another interviewer the discreet precis: 'I have been dumped. I have done the dumping. I guess it evens out.' In the TV industry, Newman is at least as significant as an influence as she was a practitioner. The now popular TV genre of glossy sex dramas seems unlikely to have existed if Bouquet had not. And, at the time LWT commissioned Bouquet, while there were female writers working in British drama - Adele Rose, Fay Weldon, Elaine Morgan - the number was small and none of them had yet been allowed sole authorship of a show on the scale (seven parts) and scheduling prominence of Newman's. Mackenzie (BBC, 1980), a saga following three families through two decades, was, at thirteen episodes, the longest original British drama ever commissioned from a woman. Female TV writers who emerged in the 1980s - including Lynda La Plante and Paula Milne - walked the path that Newman had cleared; La Plante, in particular, following the model of stories that co-existed as novels and mini-series. Newman lived with her illness for fifteen years, but the cancer had recently become unresponsive to treatment. The only child of two only children, she left no family survivors, but, sparky and gregarious, had many devoted friends. A favoured relaxation was classical music, especially the Richards Strauss and Wagner, who were high on her Desert Island Disc playlist. Her luxury, as told on the Radio 4 show, was an unlimited supply of Krug champagne.
Terry O'Neill, who has died aged eighty one after suffering from cancer, was a paparazzo at heart, truest to his cheeky self when snapping reportage shots. Most of his career predated digital photography; he printed up contact sheets from the negative rolls to discover whether his vigilance had been rewarded with a single perfect frame. That was how he captured Brigitte Bardot in 1971, a cigar between her teeth as the wind swept her hair, or Brian Clough in 1965, forehead-down on the barrier of what was then called Hartlepools United's Victoria Park stand. O'Neill searched his contacts for the realisation of a hoped-for visual idea and, also, just to find out what was there. Which was a lot, whether subjects reacted to his blarney (the Queen gave one of the most genuine camera smiles of her reign after he told her a horse-racing joke), or took charge of the shoot, as did yer actual David Bowie, to whom O'Neill was, for a time, court photographer. He was Elton John's preferred picture-taker, likewise Led Zeppelin, The Who and Queen.
When O'Neill spotted a young Bruce Springsteen in a car park on Sunset Boulevard under a billboard to promote his Born To Run LP in 1975, he seized the moment to take just about the last pre-fame image of The Boss. Born in Romford, O'Neill was the son of Irish immigrants who settled in Heston, on the capital's Western edges. He never intended to be a photographer and was pushed towards the Catholic priesthood, but left school at fifteen to play drums in gigs. After National Service he hoped to join the British Overseas Airways Corporation as a steward, in order to reach the US to play jazz, but BOAC only offered an apprenticeship as a technical photographer, so he took it. In 1959, for an assignment on human emotion, he pointed his Agfa at an aged gent snoozing among African dignitaries in London Airport's sole terminal, who turned out to be the then Home Secretary, Rab Butler. A passing hack suggested which paper would buy the image and with that came twenty five quid and O'Neill’s entry to Fleet Street, with a Daily Sketch staff job.
     The tabloid was a lads' paradise of novelty stunts, including Laurence Olivier dragging up for the London Palladium. That O'Neill sometimes did not know who the important people were saved him from nerves. He capitalised on his youth and music tastes to trail and photograph a new young popular beat combo down in London from their native Liverpool, The Be-Atles through television studios, in the Abbey Road back yard, or blinking in unfamiliar daylight after emerging from another bus journey through the night from gig to gig. The Rolling Stones manager Andrew Loog Oldham asked him to cover his group, so O'Neill shot them in a cafe between TV sessions; Keith Richards acquired his first suitcase when O'Neill suggested that The Stones should all be given them so that they would look like a touring band as he dragged them down Denmark Street.
His 1963 Vogue portrait of Jean Shrimpton and Terrance Stamp (the 'faces of London') is one of the most iconic images of the era. O'Neill sauntered easily on to film sets in Europe and then Hollywood. How did he win cooperation from the beautiful people, especially women stars chary of their appearance? 'Compliments. More compliments, that's it,' he recalled. 'And ... you could add a few more compliments.' Male stars, a disgruntled Steve McQueen aside, adopted O'Neill as an amiable pal, happy to stay invisible despite his handsome looks. Frank Sinatra, on the recommendation of his ex-wife Ava Gardner, let O'Neill melt into his heavy Rat Pack crew for weeks; Michael Caine never minded when O'Neill - who became a close friend - recorded him yet again snoring in a reclining chair. And, he was a therapeutic listener. Peter Sellers would ring up regularly at 2am and O'Neill would go round to the actor's home to loan a sympathetic ear to Sellers' loneliness. To do that, O'Neill had to slip away from his first wife, the actress Vera Day, to whom he was married for thirteen years. The marriage ended after he moved to Los Angeles at the height of his success, despite him commuting for a while back to London by Concorde at the weekends. In 1977, he made a stunt of Faye Dunaway's portrait the morning after she had won best actress Oscar for Network: statue, newspapers, a Beverly Hills pool and Dunaway, looking bemused. They began a relationship and were married for four years in the 1980s, during which time O'Neill fell into movie production at Dunaway's behest (including her controversial Joan Crawford biopic Mommie Dearest in 1981) and a depression so deep that he eventually called his old friend the celebrity tailor Doug Hayward to tell him that he felt like taking his own life. Hayward ordered him onto a plane back to Britain. O'Neill was candid about his many relationships, from centrefold models thrilled by his London accent who pursued him through the Playboy Mansion, via Jean Shrimpton, to the US domestic monarch Martha Stewart in the late 80s; Eric Clapton pointed her out to O'Neill in a restaurant and O'Neill immediately walked up her, napkin over arm, pretending to be a waiter. Stewart housed him, fed him, bought him a kitten before he fled after six months, still burned from his last marriage, which had ended in 1987. By then he had been out of photography for too long to return at the same level; he considered becoming a picture editor before saying to a colour supplement editor, as he so often had done in the past, 'Listen, I got an idea.' The idea was a series of portraits of new 1990s faces, which restarted his career, but many layers of management and PR were now interposed between celebrity and lens and O'Neill was soon bored by long days waiting for a half-hour slot with his subject, buffered by legions of intermediaries. When granted the old freedom - invited to preparations for the Nelson Mandela birthday concert in 2008, for instance, or snatching a few frames of Amy Winehouse in the same year - the pictures still had their old vivacity. Most photographers threw away contact sheets like Kleenex, but O'Neill kept many of his, most of them better than usable (including Raquel Welch, in a fur bikini, tied to a cross, which was shot thirty years before it was eventually published and one of Muhammad Ali with his beloved mother). They became the basis first for a modest licensing business, then for multiple exhibitions and books that sustained him in retirement. O'Neill was made an honorary fellow of the Royal Photographic Society in 2004 and received the society's centenary medal in 2011. He was appointed CBE last month. His final marriage was to the model agency chief Laraine Ashton. The couple divided their London home between them, so both could retreat rather than leave. She survives him, as do his two children from his marriage to Day and a son, Liam, from his marriage to Dunaway.