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Archive for the ‘Poldark’ Category

Sunday night’s splendid finale to the second series involved a scene which brought back vivid memories for me.

Here’s what I wrote in my memoir, Making Poldark, about the studio recording of the miners attack on Trenwith–the final episode of our first series.

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We finished the series with a bang – in fact we nearly burned down the BBC Television Centre. The last scene to be done in the studio was the burning of Trenwith – from the inside.

This was another diversion from the books – where Trenwith was kept well intact by Winston Graham. For television it was felt a more dramatic climax was needed and what better than the burning down of the bosses’ home by the disaffected and starving miners.

The set was a fine recreation of an eighteenth century upper-class living room filled with a mixture of real antique and good reproduction furniture and objets d’art. Well in line with the BBC tradition of authenticity, it had cost a fair amount to bring it together.

With the miners in this mood any thoughts of negotiation or arbitration were clearly out of the question. It was simply a matter of looking after one’s own and everyone for himself. The miners attacked through the windows of the drawing room where Ross was trying to persuade George Warleggan to run for his life; Elizabeth was there as George’s wife and Demelza arrived with the news that the attack was imminent.

It was the finale – the `walk down’ and in came the miners, professional extras who had been given instructions to set light to the place with their burning torches. This they did in a most professional manner. Original eighteenth century furniture was smashed and burned. But nobody said `Cut and so this bizarre spectacle continued, until things got so hot that the action ground to a halt and an instinctive responsibility prevailed.

It was a spectacular ending to an eventful nine months – and a few questions were asked.

Exhausted, we all went to the party at Angharad’s house. We’d been looking forward to it and it was not a disappointment. Two hundred people were there and it finished at 8 a.m. the next morning.

And so ended the first series of Poldark.

Well–“A more dramatic climax”?

I haven’t re-screened the seventies version–but Sunday night’s was pretty dramatic!

And I fancied Aidan’s approach, parting the angry red sea of miners.

My horse, Dennis, would have relished the drama of that–he was a natural born star and a bit of a show-off.

This was a terrific episode; for American viewers–a couple of episodes behind–something exciting in store!

Now–onwards!

Just eight books to go…!

 

 

 

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The END!

Full circle.

East coast to West coast and back–three weeks “on the road” and here we are in Washington DC about to fly back home.

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It has ended brilliantly with two memorable meals–both cooked by others.

For three weeks I’ve stayed out of the kitchen–apart from making four omelets in Palo Alto.

JOY!

We have relied on the kindness of friends for places to stay–without their generosity this trip would not have been affordable.

New York City was the US launch and a lively pop-up event at a Scottish bar and restaurant called St. Andrews in the heart of the theatre district.

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Enthusiastic POLDARK fans in the pub snug

 

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An American version of Demelza!

Our friends Melanie and Bruce kindly lent us an apartment on West 22nd Street–a long stone’s throw from where the bomb went off last week.

Melanie sent us photos of the Malibu Diner where we had lunch together–now a crime scene.

Then on to Dallas–hosted by our friends Cindi and Jay.

It’s hot in Dallas–every day! Close to 100F–we duck in and out of air-conditioned buildings and cars.

Screening of the first episode of season two of POLDARK at a local cinema–over 200 in the audience and it looked fabulous up there on the BIG SCREEN.

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Q & A afterwards with Bill Young–the Vice President in charge of programming at KERA, Dallas’ excellent PBS station.

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Thanks, Bill, for your creativity, perseverance and organization.

Some of the Dallas folks had scrapbooks of my FIRST visit to Dallas with Angharad 39 years ago!

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Poignant visit to Dealey Plaza and the Sixth Floor Museum in the Texas Book Depository, kindly hosted by the museum’s British executive director, Nicola Longford.

With Nicola Longford

With Nicola Longford

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The Texas School Book Depository on Dealey Plaza. The museum inside is the second most-visited site in Texas after the Alamo.

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Brilliant audio tour helps bring some understanding to the tragedy.

Breathless we fly to Los Angeles and arrive late at the lovely little house in Los Feliz of Christy, widow of TV director brother Peter–who died suddenly ten years ago of a heart attack.

Christy helped make the original contact with the flourishing bookstore in Larchmont Village, Chevaliers, where LA Times TV critic Robert Lloyd moderates beautifully the next evening.

With Robert Lloyd, TV critic for The Los Angeles Times

With Robert Lloyd, TV critic for The Los Angeles Times

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Sold out of books!

The following day a visit SoCal (KOCE), the PBS station for Los Angeles to record some pledge material with Maura Phinney.

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A short flight to San Francisco and on to Palo Alto I visit the Gates of Hell (!) in the Rodin Sculpture Garden on the Stanford University campus with our local host, Holly Brady.

The Gates of Hell do not dampen our enjoyment of the beautiful California day.

Big turn-out at Books Inc— our third visit to this remarkable bookstore opposite the Stanford campus.

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They’ve hosted us for all three cookbook tours.

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I demonstrate that a diagnosis of Diabetes is not the end of convivial eating and drinking–in moderation, of course!

We sell out of books again.

We fit in a private tour of LucasFilms HQ in the Presidio quarter of San Francisco, close to the Golden Gate Bridge, thanks to Hilary and Yves.

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It’s here that cutting edge special effects in films and animation are created. The halls are lined with artifacts at every turn.

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We head back east for the final event at Arlington Library last Sunday.

We stay with our friends, Irv and Iris. Irv, retired Washington correspondent for The New York Times, agreed to moderate the event at Arlington’s Central Library. A double act is born!

The sell-out audience (over 180) enjoyed it enough to buy us out of cookbooks.

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A good finish to a whistle-stop, heads down, no-time-for-shopping tour.

We spend a blessed 24 hours with our friends Ray and Ann in their waterside house on Chesapeake Bay–where I learn to breathe again.

Ray cooks a delicious meal of crab cakes with the local catch and pork fillet with clams–bliss it is.

Back in the D.C. last night Iris cooks up a storm for us.

Salmon marinated in soy, ginger and garlic preceded by an intriguing cantaloupe melon soup served chilled.

First day of autumn passes.

The prospect of walnuts and wood fires.

A bientôt, America and thanks!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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All these events are free.

If our paths cross, hope you’ll come say hello!

 

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In New York City:

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In Los Angeles:

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In Palo Alto:

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In Arlington, Virginia (Washington D.C. area):

Arlington

 

Poldark

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On the face of it Ralph Bates and Usain Bolt have little in common.

For one thing Ralph died over 25 years ago and Usain is about to defend his Olympic titles at 100 and 200 metres.

So why on earth are they sharing the title of this post?

Ralph loved sport–but as a spectator. Together we once attended a Barry Macguigan boxing match at Queens Park Rangers Football ground and as a mover I never saw Ralph “bolt”. To the contrary, he swayed elegantly.

Well, he was half-French! The eminent scientist, Louis Pasteur, was his great-great uncle.

It’s a question of attitude.

The interview below reminded me of dear Ralph and his insouciant nature.

With his third Olympic Games coming up, Usain Bolt a.k.a. the Human Arrow–double 100 and 200 metros champion–says the key for him (about performing) is to actively avoid thinking too much.

I’m in good shape and I’ve done all the hard work in training I know I’ll be good.

“When you’re waiting there, minutes before the race starts, it’s easy to end up staring down the track and getting caught up in it all; but when you know you’re in good shape then the performances come. Everything clicks and you just run the perfect race. You don’t need to think too hard, just execute–you are focused and ready to perform.”

As I read this, my mind switched locations to an over-lit corridor outside a BBCTV studio in Birmingham, where we were about to record an episode of the second series of Poldark–circa May 1977.

I was pacing up and down, “actively thinking too much“, worried about the next two-and-half hours of filming.

Ralph, dressed as the suave George Warleggan, spotted me anxiously pacing and quietly tapped me on the shoulder.

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“It’s only a play, Robin!”.

He might have added:

“You know you ‘re in good shape, you’ve done all the hard work in rehearsal and you know you’ll be good. You are focused and ready to perform!”

That’s what he meant with his reassuring pat on my shoulder.

Yesterday I learned that the Reverend Dr. Halse–that admirable, upstanding, pillar of the Cornish establishment–would be making another appearance in the third series of Poldark. which starts filming next month.

I’ll try to remember– It’s only a Play!

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An unusually insouciant Dr Halse

 

 

 

 

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Seeing this lift in our hotel transports me back to the forties and the residential hotels on the seafront at Eastbourne, where I used to visit my grandmother in the school holidays.

It has an open sided shaft so you can watch it ascend—looking up its skirts so to speak; and double hand-pulled filigree metal gates—that clunk satisfyingly shut.

It runs up the spine of the Fowey Hotel, built in 1881 to accommodate the new breed of holidaymakers arriving by train.

It also welcomed wounded soldiers for rest and recovery during the First World War.

It’s a period piece but manages to keep its dignity.

A testament to a time when the coming of the railways changed the face of Britain.

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On the wall between the lift and the dining room there are framed letters written by Kenneth Grahame, author of Wind in the Willows, while on holiday, to his son, whom he addresses as “dearest Mouse“.

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It is claimed that Kenneth Grahame made a boat trip up Lerryn Creek on the Fowey River with some friends and it became at the inspiration for the first chapter of The Wind in the Willows where the Rat and the Mole make a boat trip along the river for a picnic.

Wicker statues of the animal characters in the book guard the garden near the hotel.

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Typical Toad–hogging the foreground!

We are in Fowey on Cornwall’s south coast, for the Fowey Festival of Arts and Literature where I’m invited to give the Daphne du Maurier memorial address which opens the festivities—wow!

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The view from our window.

A week of wonderful cultural events unfolds in this unique setting.

 

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Déjà vu is the order of the day.

I was in Fowey 40 years ago filming the rescue of Dwight Enys from a French prison for two quite uncomfortable weeks.

We filmed at sea for two days and up that same creek for the rest—me and my Merry Men all dressed in 18th century gear—doing our best to keep straight faces:

“Follow me, men!”  

“Keep your heads down–which way did they go?”

Fowey hasn’t changed much over 40 years–to its credit.

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Though charming, it feels like a working place–not a cutesy-poo tourist attraction.

No pressure then–just the main keynote address and the following day a 45 minute talk about my books and how composing daily haikus helped me write them–and the “good luck” story of my diabetic journey.

Going up and down in that wonderful silent lift and soaking up the vista from our window–steadies my nerves!

More to follow…

 

 

 

 

 

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fawlty-towers

This weekend the classic comedy series Fawlty Towers celebrates its 40th birthday!

In December 1974 John Cleese cast me as cockney detective Danny Brown in the pilot episode of the series that is now celebrated as one of the great comedy shows of TV history.

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Quite why he cast me I have never been able to figure out–until this morning!

The only time I’d met him before was when we were both in an undergraduate production of Much Ado About Nothing directed by Trevor Nunn at Cambridge University in 1961. Although we were both in the same scene–Act IV Scene II–I can’t remember spending any time with him.

He was on the comedy side of university theatre in The Footlights and I was on the straight side, the ADC–the Amateur Dramatic Club.

This morning I pulled out my volume of The Works of Shakespeare (purchased, second hand, in 1960)–and looked up the scene.

John played a member of the Watch (comedy) and I was Borachio (straight)–a henchman of the villainous Don John.

Borachio and his fellow fixer, Conrad, are being arraigned by Constable Dogberry, having been caught red-handed by members of the watch.

Was John so impressed with my cockney accent that 13 years later he reincarnated a reformed Borachio as Detective Danny Brown?!

I was too nervous to ask him in rehearsal–seems the likely explanation though.

A week’s TV work just before Christmas after three years earning peanuts in the theatre was very welcome.

But it involved recording in front of a studio audience–something I’d never done–and I was nervous!

Snooty Basil didn’t like having his hotel foyer polluted with Danny’s broad Cockney accent, but was forced to show him a bit of respect when, failing to make Manuel–the waiter–understand his instructions to take the luggage upstairs–Danny steps into the breach with a surprising display of fluent Spanish.

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I don’t speak Spanish–so I learned the lines by rote.

Come the “take”–nails biting into my palms–I managed a faultless rendition of the Spanish lines–only to be told by the floor manager that there was a camera in shot–and we would have to go again!

AAGH!

There I am on the DVD, speaking fluent Spanish, so I must have managed it again–but I have no memory of it!

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I had just been cast as Ross Poldark and after Christmas began work on the epic that changed my life.

It wasn’t the end of Fawlty Towers for me though.

The pilot was approved and the series got the go-ahead. Six half-hour episodes were in the can, but a late plot change involving Polly–played by Connie Booth, John’s writing partner and wife at the time–meant they had to re-record part of my dinner scene exchange with Polly.

My hair had grown and changed color for Poldark–so for one afternoon at Television Centre in mid-summer, they dyed my hair dark brown and pinned it up at the back–and I was briefly Cockney Danny Brown again.

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I just read a newspaper piece about the anniversary, in which actor Nicky Henson, who appeared in a later episode, rejoices that 40 years later the residuals (those were the days!) are still enhancing his pension.

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Nicky Henson with John Cleese

I concur–we were lucky boys!

I doubt playing Borachio has ever paid off so well in the life of an actor!

 

 

 

 

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