Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Betty Driver

We were deeply saddened to hear of the recent death of Betty Driver - Betty Turpin/Williams in Coronation Street since 1969.

As warm hearted and good natured as the character she played, experienced performer Betty Driver was actually retired from acting and running a pub in Cheshire when Corrie producer HV Kershaw spotted her and asked her to audition for the Street. Betty always recalled with deep gratitude the support given to her by actor Arthur Leslie, the Street's Jack Walker, during her early appearances in the show, and she became firm friends with Jean Alexander - Hilda Ogden. The two ladies would often spend time chatting and making padded coat-hangers for their favourite charity between takes.

My own personal feeling is that Betty could lift a scene simply by bustling into it, and she had that magic quality of seeming to be everyday working class - the sort of person you'd have a giggle with if you accidentally clashed trollies in Tesco's.

The character of Betty Turpin was one of the Street's anchor characters, often just simply around behind the Rovers bar, but she endured her fair share of drama, particularly in the '70s and '80s. She arrived in 1969 as the sister of Corner Shop owner Maggie Clegg. In the early '70s, her husband Cyril was retired from the police force after attacking a criminal (who had been terrorising Betty) with a lead pipe. Cyril died in 1974, and Betty then endured the shame of the revelation that her "nephew", Gordon Clegg, was actually her own son, born out of wedlock during the war. In 1982, Betty was mugged, but her greatest triumph came during that decade when her employer Bet Lynch, recently taken over as Rovers chief, asked Betty to make her hotpot a regular on the Rovers menu. The hotpot, a very occasional feature for some years beforehand, became a legend - and a version actually appeared in real-life supermarkets in recent years.

God bless, Betty - we'll miss you. xx

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Richard Hillman, 1982: "You Left The Door Open..."

Richard Hillman - dead or did he take a Tardis back to 1982 and pretend to be a social worker?

Eeek! That's all we can say having just viewed an episode of Coronation Street from 1982! There were Rita, doin't washing up, when she became aware that somebody was at the front door. Oh no! we thought - Albert Tatlock coming round for a good moan? Annie Walker to tell Reet that Len's drinking was getting beyond a joke and that she really couldn't bear his presence in her establishment any longer? Elsie Tanner ready to have a bitch at her old pal, the woman who had married her long-term romantic interest? Or Mavis Riley, all of a dither after a filling at the dentist? "Ooh, Rita, I shall have to go to bed this afternoon, I can't work in the Kabin, I really can't. My cheek's come out like a golf ball..."

Rita emerged into the hallway, and we flew off the settee in alarm as RICHARD HILLMAN stood there, smiling, and saying something like: "Your door was open..."

ARRGGGHHH!!! Were the far cosier 1980s becoming infiltrated by some of the weirder story-lines of more recent decades? Had Richard Hillman found a Tardis and travelled back to 1982, thus altering the past? What could we expect next? That awful Tony Gordon trying to bump off Phyllis Pearce so that he could have her job in the cafe? Mad Maya seeking to blow Alf's Corner Shop off the face of the planet?

But no, it's OK, the 1980s remain sane (well, at least in Corrie!) the man in Reet's 1982 hallway wasn't Richard Hillman. it was Brian Capron playing social worker Donald Worthington.

Caring social worker Donald Worthington, a role which neatly dovetailed with his role as caring schoolteacher Mr Hopwood in Grange Hill from 1980-1983.

Phew! We'd clean forgotten Mr Worthington. We returned to the settee, all of a tremble, and had to watch four episodes from 1985 featuring the Clayton family to calm our nerves!

So weird to see performers playing bit parts who later went on to play central characters...

Michael Le Vell as Neil Grimshaw, truculent Kabin paperboy of 1981 minus Kev's glamorous 1980s 'tache, was another surprise.