Sunday, 19 October 2014

Mavis And Rita: Dealing With Birthdays...

Just got another flamin' birthday out of the way, and amongst a few very "witty" cards was the little belter above, featuring two of my all-time Coronation Street favourites, Mavis Riley and Rita Fairclough.

Brilliant! Brought a smile to the old gob and I love it.

And let's count our blessings - time flies, let's just be thankful cows don't, as me dear old grannie used to say.

Monday, 15 September 2014

1986: "Our Hilda" - An English Rose!

Hilda Ogden - an English rose?! Yep, she became one in 1986, when Bee's, the Chester firm of seedsmen, launched a new rose named in honour of our Coronation Street heroine!

The raspberry pink rose appeared at the Chelsea Flower Show that year, and actress Jean Alexander was invited down for the preview.

In her 1989 autobiography The Other Side Of The Street, Jean wrote:

I had never been to the show before and I was entranced by the variety and beauty of the exhibits, but for me 'Our Hilda' shone the brightest.

And, of course, Jean posed for a photograph of the rose in Hilda's living room, complete with flying ducks and a photograph of the late Bernard Youens, in character as Stan Ogden.

Sunday, 14 September 2014

1981: Mark Eden - On The Street At Last!

18/2/1981 - A new man for Elsie?

Actor Mark Eden was very pleased in 1981. He'd landed a role in Coronation Street!

But not the role he is now remembered for!

Mark was Wally Randle, a customer at Jim's Cafe in Rosamund Street, where a certain Mrs Elsie Tanner worked. And she liked him!

Mark said at the time:

"I've wanted to be in Coronation Street for a long time. I'm glad I have made it at last!"

Little did he know - for the Wally Randle character was only around for a short time. He went to lodge with Elsie, regarding her only as a friend. But Elsie read more into the situation - and ended up shattered and alone.

Mr Eden left... and then, in 1986, returned as an entirely different character.

A character called Alan Bradley...

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

1985: Daran Little - Coronation Street's Quiz Kid

Found this article in the newspaper archive today, dated April 7, 1985, about (the then) eighteen-year-old Daran Little.

Daran, of course, would go on to succeed Eric Rosser as the Street's archivist, but in 1985, then an art student, he was hailed as "The Street's Quiz Kid". He was also a huge fan of the BBC's then fledgling soap EastEnders and wanted to become that show's paid historian!

Daran said of Corrie:

"My friends are amazed at the time and effort I put into watching Coronation Street. But I think it's a lot saner than hobbies like fishing.

"I feel as if I know the characters as people. Some you hate, some you love. It's the same as in real life.

"My favourite was Elsie Tanner. I feel close to her because I know all about her life. For instance, the twenty-three affairs she has had."

So, there you are! If you fancy being a future Corrie historian, start studying the show and who knows!

The newspaper set Daran twenty questions to test his knowledge. And he passed 100%. Daran then set twenty questions for readers. Here's a selection...

1985 Questions Set For Daran Little...

How many times has Elsie Tanner married, when, and who were her husbands?

In which year did Bet Lynch first appear?

When did Annie Walker's husband Jack die?

What happened to David Barlow and Irma Ogden?

Fred Gee has had two affairs, with Vera Duckworth and Alma Walsh. But who did he marry in 1981?

Name Mavis Riley's two suitors of last year [1984]?

1985 Questions Set By Daran Little...

Who played Mrs Gilda Montefiore in the 1962 Christmas play?

Who gave Lucille Hewitt a black eye when she tried to fiddle the factory bonus scheme and in which year?

How many people have had their names above the Corner Shop (to 1985)?

Name the original occupant of No 5?

What degree did Ken Barlow obtain?

Why did Len Fairclough sack Dennis Tanner in 1966?

Who kidnapped Christopher Hewitt in 1962, and who found him?

Who did Dickie Fleming catch his wife Audrey kissing in 1971?

Thinking caps on and remember, you couldn't Google in 1985! Answers coming soon!

1982 - The Very First Coronation Street Video Release...

In late 1982, when I saw the Magic Of Coronation Street in my local WH Smith's, I didn't have a VCR. Few people did (only 5% of the population in 1980) so that didn't worry me, but, by late 1982, I was thinking that one day I MIGHT have one, so I bought the video. It turns out it was 1987 before I actually got a VCR, but it was worth the wait because The Magic Of Coronation Street is a great watch - classic episodes from the show's early days, linked by Annie Walker, Elsie Tanner and Len Fairclough in the Rovers Return in 1982, reminiscing.

Broadcast Magazine, December 1982: Video releases. Annie Walker, of course, represents the Street's debut on video. But then, when one is licensee of one of the borough's foremost hostelries and a former Lady Mayoress to boot, one expects these little chores...

This was the very first Coronation Street video release (brilliantly parodied by Victoria Wood a few years later as something you could "keep and keep again") and it still makes lovely viewing. The episodes it contains, including the very first, are smashing, but the interlinking stuff from 1982 is also brilliant. It all finishes at Closing Time at the Rovers, with Annie bidding Elsie and Len goodnight, and treating Len to one of her specialities - a gorgeously sugary bitchy remark. Having observed him spending the evening with his old love, she can't resist a parting shot: "My love to Rita!"

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Worst Story-Lines... The 1970s... Lorry Crash...

A while ago we published a post about our worst story-line of the 1980s - Rita's amnesia of 1989 won the prize. For our next decade, the 1970s, there were several highly stinky contenders, but we decided that we'd pluck the lorry crash out of early 1979. It was a blockbuster that didn't work in our opinion, and looks laughable in retrospect.


Well, consider...

Firstly, Tracy is kidnapped. Conveniently, a young girl Deirdre was in maternity hospital with turns up not long before the crash... and moments before the crash, kidnaps Tracy from outside the Rovers. Would any sensible mother had left her little child outside a pub (or anywhere come to that?) anyway? No... it was incredible. TOO incredible!

Deirdre, it wasn't even safe to leave Christopher Hewitt outside Gamma Garments in 1962. What the 'eck do yer think yer playin' at, luv?!

And then there was all the drama of Deirdre threatening to jump in the canal and Alf Roberts's coma and mental health problems - so badly done. So soon forgotten.

And on top of all that, there were the victims of the crash with minor cuts and bruises - Len and Betty spring to mind - whose injuries seemed to disappear in an absurdly short amount of time.

We can forgive things like a fireman casting a shadow over the factory as he tried to get into the Rovers through a devastated window after the crash - we all know how the show was produced in those days, and actors casting shadows on "scenery" was accepted.

But as a piece of drama, the lorry crash simply does not stand the test of time. And it wasn't particularly great even in the 1970s.

Phyllis Pearce - From Dragon To Old Romantic

When Phyllis Pearce, played by Jill Summers, made her Corrie debut in 1982, she was hailed by the Press as a new Ena Sharples. And, although NOT in Ena's heyday class, she certainly had a sharp tongue. She nagged at Chalkie Whiteley. She bossed and fussed her grandson Craig. And she wasn't scared of Elsie Tanner, either.

But, after doing a disappearing act for a while after Craig and Chalkie emigrated, Phyllis returned to the district to work at Jim's Cafe and was very different.

She set her cap at Percy Sugden, dallied with Sam Tindall (to try and make Percy jealous) and was a fun-loving old duck.

A bit sad and a bit lonely.

But fun-loving all the same.

Phyllis was young at heart.

In fact, she was SO young at heart that she wasted no time in letting Emily Bishop know exactly what she thought of her when Percy moved into No 3 as Emily's lodger in 1988.

Fancy Emily trying to pinch her fella!

We think it was sensible of the production team to not try and mould Phyllis into a replacement Ena.

Ena was irreplaceable.

And Phyllis carved her own little niche in Weatherfield history simply by being Phyllis.

Friday, 5 September 2014

Hilda's Flying Ducks - Again!

The late 1980s - and Hilda and her ducks were upwardly mobile, as she went off to be housekeeper to posh Dr Lowther.

Hilda's ducks - and, of course, Stan's photo - continued to take pride of place in Hilda's new abode.

We've already covered the story of Hilda's ducks here - but Paul has written about them, asking:

When did Hilda's ducks disappear? And do you have a photo of your own flight of birds?

Hilda's ducks bade a final farewell in December 1987, Paul, when Hilda left. She was very fond of them. They had, of course, once belonged to her Aunt Aggie.

Regular readers will know that I inherited my great-grandmother's flight of birds a few years ago. I put them up for the sake of piece and quiet - my mother would have been highly offended if I hadn't - and some friends called our house "The Oggies" for a while. But they're not ducks. However, the idea is the same and those sorts of wall ornaments were very popular years ago.

I've taken a piccy for you, Paul.

And yes, that is a serving hatch in the wall below great grandma's birds.

But our house is nothing like Stan and Hilda's.

Apart from that.


Monday, 1 September 2014

1982: Albert Tatlock, MBE!

 31/12/1982 - and Jack Howarth gets the MBE! Richly deserved - cloth-capped grumpy old Albert was such a favourite - something between a lovable garden gnome and a troll sitting in the Rovers Snug. The award was for Jack Howarth's tireless charity work. "Off screen he is a cheerful, energetic man" says this front page article from the Sun newspaper. 

We love Albert! "Love?" you ask. "But he died years ago! Wouldn't loved be a more appropriate word?" No, because, despite the fact that both Albert and Mr Howarth died in 1984, whenever we watch old episodes of the Street, Albert lives again - and we enjoy Mr Howarth's performances just as much as we did when they were originally broadcast. Albert Tatlock is definitely one of the immortal characters of the Street.

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Those TV Times... 1981... Hilda Wants To Move...

How evocative of past times are pages from old TV listings magazines! Look at this! November 1981! Quincy!


Bullseye - in its very first series and yet to gravitate to its legendary Sunday teatime slot!   


Astronauts and 240-Robert!


Well, I remember the latter - dead good it was, an American import with a "a beautiful chopper pilot and two special cops trained to take on any emergency. Whenever someone's in trouble, they call in 240-Robert."


But Astronauts? Nope. But then I was never a Goodies fan, so a comedy by Bill Oddie and Graeme Garden would probably not have appealed and it's unlikely I ever tuned in.

And in Coronation Street, poor old Fred Gee was hanging onto the Community Centre flat, whilst Hilda Ogden had developed an upwardly mobile wanderlust and wanted to leave No 13. She and Stan went to look at a new house, and Hilda told the estate agent that it had "atmospherics".

Bless her!

And look at that ad for VHS/Beta Video Films! Heck - only about 5% of UK households had a VCR in 1981, and the race was on between Beta and VHS to become the best selling tape format.

Different days indeed...

Saturday, 23 August 2014

1980: Why Annie Walker Doesn't Like Pubs...

A nice little magazine article here from March 1980, featuring the wonderful Doris Speed, Mrs Walker of the Street.

Annie at that time, of course, was the landlady of the Rovers Return and held the place in great esteem - she regarded it as the hub of the local community, a place where customers could hopefully be taught better manners, and, of course, the building was also her home and housed many memories of her beloved late husband Jack.

Annie took great pride in the Rovers.

But the licensee's life was not one Doris Speed cared to contemplate in reality...

Back to 1980 for the facts...

Doris Speed - Coronation Street's Mrs Annie Walker, Britain's best-loved landlady - has a shocking confession: "I don't like pubs."

The sharp-tongued "boss" of the Rovers Return says: "I think I would have made a very bad landlady in real life. I've never drawn a pint. If I drink at all it's when I go out to dinner.

I NEVER go to pubs when I get off The Street's set in Manchester," says the real-life Doris.

"Arthur Leslie, who played my husband, and I were offered pubs by breweries who thought it would be a good idea.

"I think if he'd retired he'd have taken a pub - but this wouldn't appeal to me.

"If I do go to a restaurant I'd never perch on a bar stool, because somebody would either say 'Can I buy you a drink?' or would ask me to pull a pint.

"Mind you, very nice things do happen. I was having dinner with a woman friend and we had a sherry and a bottle of wine. I was the hostess and the time came for me to pay the bill.

"To my surprise, the waitress told us our drinks had already been paid for by a man who'd been eating elsewhere in the restaurant.

"He'd already left - without speaking to us - so we couldn't thank him. Now isn't that nice?"

To relax between recording the series, Doris plays bridge with other cast members.

She says: "I play with Johnny Briggs (The Street's factory boss, Mike Baldwin), Bill Roache (Ken Barlow) and Bernard Youens.

"Now, you'd never expect Stan Ogden to play bridge, would you?"

But some things must remain her private property, she says. She's unmarried and she lived with her mother until her death a few years ago.

Doris insists that the rest of her home life must not come under public scrutiny - and the same goes for her age.

She has been playing Annie now for almost twenty years [Andy's note: The Street would celebrate its twentieth anniversary in December 1980] and she's become fond of The Street's "Lady Muck".

"It's just the way Annie has developed - she's become a bit of a show-off. And possibly people believe that, if they talk to me, I'll be a bit like Annie - sharp.

"I like it, though, when Betty Turpin (played by Betty Driver) and Bet Lynch (that's Julie Goodyear) say things behind my back like 'Lady Muck'. They call me 'Barbara Cartland' too."

Her ambition is to be a successful stage actress.

"I'm quite good." she says, "but I don't get asked back. You have to give Granada six or eight weeks notice if you want to appear in something other than The Street - and most producers want you within a month.

"As for Annie, I think her ambition would still have been to be a landlady - but in a rather more exalted sphere. She'd love to have had a country pub, probably in Cheshire."

But that certainly isn't Doris' idea of the high life.

Monday, 18 August 2014

Speak Easy August 2014...

Mrs Sharples: "Speak Easy? If you're stopping round 'ere, you'll mind your p's and q's! This is a respectable neighbourhood, this is!"

Just one e-mail to catch up on. Sorry to Ed that's it been a while appearing!

Here tis...

Do you think the Street had different styles in different decades? More plot-driven in the 1960's compared to the 1970's for example? I'm interested in how the past decades helped make the show what it was during those times, in dialogue, plots, style and performance.

Well, all telly shows have to evolve to keep up with public tastes, Ed. But you can't split what was happening in soaps conveniently into decades, although many decade obsessives on-line attempt this. The reign of a particular producer may easily straddle different decades, for example (take Bill Podmore from the mid-1970s to early 1980s) and so on.

What is a "decade obsessive"? Well, it's somebody who obsesses about a particular decade, often one they don't really know much about (or were incredibly young in), pop it on a  pedestal and go on and on glorifying it. A fantasy alternative to living a proper life. 

One of my favourite on-line decade obsessive's ramblings features a guy saying how absolutely marvellous the show was in the 1970s. He then outlines a story-line from 1981 to prove it!

If I look at the Street from memory and what I've viewed recently I would say...

1960-1967 - the show was excellent - although it became increasingly idiosyncratic and removed from real life in some ways as time went on. The black and white filming of the show and gritty texture of Northern life was a wow.

1968-1975 - not a favourite era of mine. The Street moved further from reality, violence and OTT story-lines were on the increase (including the gun siege at Minnie's, the murder at No 9, Annie being threatened by intruders at the Rovers, the fire at the factory) and loads of dreary moaning. Some good stuff, but definitely not great. The viewing figures for that era declined. I'm not surprised. And would Elsie really have married posh Alan?

1976-1984 - Hooray! The muriel! Renee at the shop! Fred at the Rovers! The car in the lake! The Duckworths move in! Still quite a lot of violence (Ernie shot in 1978, etc,) but less than before, and now beautifully balanced by comedy and everyday life story-lines.

1985-1988 - rebuilding. So many old established characters had left or were leaving. One or two had died. The Street was having to draft in many new characters. Some worked. Some didn't. A patchy era, but the establishment of Bet and Alec and Alf and Audrey as couples was inspired - and ranting Percy was a joy. The long-term build-up of Alan Bradley as a twisted geezer with a hole where his conscience should have been was realistic and inspired.

1989 - in 1989, the Street had recovered its composure. The use of lighter cameras meant more location filming and we were out and about - visiting yuppie wine bars and docklands developments, a cardboard city, Weatherfield Town Hall and so on. The Street changed forever as the new houses, shops and industrial units went up, the show went three days a week, and Vera's stone cladding and the MacDonalds arrived. It was pacier than it had been, but still had plenty of time for everyday prattle and humour. And then there was Mr Bradley and the tram...

Those are my thoughts, Ed, very briefly laid out for you. But as you see, there's no convenient decade span within them. Because life simply doesn't happen in conveniently labelled ten year chunks.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

More About the Ena Sharples teapot...

Guy writes:

I enjoyed the post on your blog about the Ena Sharples teapot. I have spotted that there are a few variations on the design - including one with a slightly differently shaped handle, and one minus the bottle of stout and the glass on Ena's Snug bar table. Please would you publish a larger photo of your teapot so that I can study detail?

Certainly, Guy. My wife bought the teapot as a present for me around the late 1990s. She says she got it mail order. I'm sure they're around on eBay and such places. Very interesting to hear about the variations of design.

Saturday, 2 August 2014

Ena Sharples - 10th Anniversary Portrait

This lovely portrait of Violet Carson, in character as Ena Sharples, was one of a series commissioned by the TV Times magazine to celebrate Coronation Street's 10th anniversary in 1970. Other characters were featured over the ensuing weeks.

Ten years is a long time, and for Ena they had not been easy: she had faced the sad loss of her daughter Vera Lomax and her longtime friend and Rovers Snug companion Martha Longhurst; she had been buried in rubble when a train crashed off the viaduct; she had almost been killed in a coach crash; she had fought many battles with the fiery Elsie Tanner; her vestry home at the Glad Tidings Mission Hall had been vandalised and later demolished...

In the opening years, Ena was rather a scary figure and not terribly pleasant to have around (well, not for the other residents of the Street, but a WOW for viewers!). However, as the 1960s had continued, she had mellowed and, although still capable of epic battle, had become a much-loved and respected figure, a soap legend.

Violet Carson commented in 1970:

"Ena's still the battleaxe she was ten years ago, but she does have a heart of gold, and the mellow side of Ena has come out much more lately. Over the years I have tried not to let Ena's character overwhelm me. I've done my best to keep Ena and me well apart. Otherwise, by now, she would have taken me over."

Thursday, 31 July 2014

1982: A New Regular At The Rovers!

Here's a lovely Express and Star newspaper cartoon from May 1982, featuring Albert Tatlock, Bet Lynch, Len Fairclough, Hilda Ogden and... could it possibly be...!!! HRH the Queen (with attendant corgis). 

"Oh, she's been a regular since last Wednesday!" says Bet.

So, what was that all about?

Well, the Queen had just officially opened the new exterior set of Coronation Street. Work had commenced in November 1981, and the set had been completed in 1982. It remained in use until the recent move.

The 1982 set was a vast improvement on the old, which had no chimneys and had been built in a strange dislocated fashion that looked nothing like real houses when viewed from the side.

Or certain other angles.

Try viewing footage of the sale of Minnie Caldwell's house from 1976. As the camera closes in on the "For Sale" sign,  Emily Bishop's bedroom net curtain next door is fluttering in the cold breeze and there is a glimpse of scaffolding and sky behind it.

HV Kershaw wrote of the 1982 set: At last we had a real street!

It was larger, more life-size than the old, had a proper roof and back, and fibre glass chimneys with TV aerials fixed to them. The cobblestones were also properly aligned with the fronts of the houses. It was brilliant.

But the 1982 set also had one other major difference from the old frontage, established in the late 1960s, and that was the lack of graffiti round about, and smashed windows above the viaduct arches.

Was the Street going upwardly mobile? If so, 1982 was a little early in the decade.

It has to be pointed out that the old exterior looked more rundown and downright seedy than the production team intended as it had become a magnet for weekend vandals, who did a great deal of damage and left some pretty grotty evidence of their visits to be cleaned up.

Of course, the Street did go "upwardly mobile" as the 1980s progressed, with both the Rovers and the Corner Shop being refitted midway through the decade and the new side of the Street being built in 1989. 

And 1989 also brought us the Duckworths' stone cladding.

Dead posh, eh, chuck?

But back to 1982 and the featured cartoon: I had to smile on noticing the "Rovers Return Vs Crossroads" darts match poster on the Snug partition. Crossroads, the Midlands-based motel soap, was the Street's main rival back in 1982. No EastEnders.

Flamin' Nora! Haven't times changed?

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Pat Phoenix - "It's The Elsie Tanner In Me!" - 1966

Lovely Pat Phoenix was a legend as the Street's Elsie Tanner. We've found an article written by her from The Weekly News, March, 1966. Pat and Elsie were, of course, already national figures by this time. Here are some extracts from the article...


The trouble with me is - I'm a straight talker. I can't pay lip service. I've got to mean what I say. What's worse, now and then I can't resist a "grand gesture". When I see a scene building up, my sense of the theatrical gets the better of me.

Couple the two together and you can see why I spend a good half of my life up to my neck in hot water from one cause or another.

There was the time I was playing in pantomime and the manager added some extra matinee performances.

We all thought we should be paid for doing them. The manager dragged us all into his office and read us a long lecture on the ingratitude of actors.

They were fine when things were going well, he told us. But when a show was making a loss you didn't find any of them coming along and offering him a fiver.

I couldn't resist. I was carrying my unopened pay packet. My pay for the last week's show.

With a dramatic sweeping gesture I handed it to him. The wretch took it and kept it!

I managed to scrape together just enough money to pay the rent and then I was broke.

I'm the sort of fool who gets all hot under the collar about injustice and starts shouting about principles. Once it got me the sack.

I was playing for a company which changed management at the end of season.

The new managers got rid of the other actors but decided to keep me on.

I was highly incensed at what I thought was unfair dealing and said so in my usual forthright fashion.

After standing there like Joan of Arc delivering a lecture on loyalty, I found myself sacked with the rest of them.

On the other hand, I much prefer people to tell me the truth. It may hurt at the time but I appreciate it in the long run.

You can buy flattery but you can't buy the truth.

I lost a trusted friend recently. She told me a lie. It was over a silly thing really. But I'll never believe a word she says again.

I can't tell a lie even to save myself embarrassment. Sometimes I wish I could for my own sake. 

An actress friend usually wore very feminine hats. Then one day she arrived in one which, I thought, made her look dreadful.

She asked what I thought.

I tried to avoid answering, but she insisted, So I told her I didn't like it. It wasn't nearly as nice as the hats she usually wore.

She was a bit taken aback at first. But afterwards she thanked me and told me that at least she got the truth. She'd decided not to wear the hat again.

Usually in a situation like that I wreck something or knock my best china ornament flying or create some other diversion. I don't believe in offending people. I try not to answer, or find some little detail I can admire with easy conscience.

My mother usually tells me she wishes I'd kept my big mouth shut. Which is a bit much. It was her training that brought me up to abhor lies. She considers liars just about the worst thing in the world.

The way I think has a good deal to do with my mother.

Andy interrupts: There was one point about which Pat did allow herself a little lie though, as the article illustrates:

I was born at Portumna, Co. Galwey, though I came to Manchester as a small child.

In fact, Pat was born in Manchester. So, why the untruth? According to Wikipedia, Pat was later to explain that her mother had given her birthplace as Portumna in an early interview, and Pat hadn't wanted to contradict her! Perhaps it was also true that Pat liked the idea of being born in Ireland, and thought this added to her romantic image. Although, of course, our Elsie was as English as fish, chips and mushy peas!

More 1960s Pat soon.