The bizarre tale of Fanny Cradock, Britain's famous and maligned TV chef from 50s to the 70s.

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
...
Johnnie Cradock
...
Derek
Steven O'Neill ...
Simon
Phil Nice ...
Technician
...
Gas Fitter
...
Director
Simon Greenall ...
TV Executive
...
Floor Manager
...
TV Executive's Wife
...
Christopher
...
Nicky
...
Jane
...
Dan Farson
Nathan Shomer ...
Julian
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Storyline

In the black and white days of post-war British television, Fanny Cradock, with her painted-on eyebrows and excessive make-up, is a colourful figure in every sense, even dyeing the food to make it show up on monochrome sets. But she is also something of a tyrant, disowning her son Chris because she disapproves of his wife, so that even her long-suffering husband and co-presenter Johnnie is powerless to intervene. Fanny's come-uppance comes about when she belittles a competition winner over her choice of menu in a television reality show. Audience disgust at Fanny's over-bearing treatment of Devon housewife Gwen provokes such a backlash that the television company sacks her. After Johnnie's death, she ends up as a resident, still trying to order the cooking, in a retirement home. Written by don @ minifie-1

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23 October 2006 (UK)  »

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The Voice, Darling.
2 October 2009 | by (London) – See all my reviews

All wrong, Darling. Completely wrong! Hypercritical (of others) Fanny Craddock must, one might suppose, be writhing in frustration at not being able to correct this aspect of her portrayal. The voice was rather hoarse, a bit affectedly posh, honking, loud and rather braying it was not unique for its time, it was the voice of the older actress or gregarious hostess and with her almost clown-like make-up (I recall her face looking white with make-up)combined to be her instantly recognisable trade-mark. The sound spoke eloquently of its process of formation - of cigarettes, of alcohol and being used frequently, loudly and confidently. Out of sight of the camera but within easy reach viewers might have supposed there was a lit cigarette and glass of something ready for instant use between takes.

Johnnie was from that "stand up straight, head up, chest out, stomach in" era and class that - all blazers, brilliantine and cravats, a familiar sight of those times. The little Benny Hill Show section with late comic actor Bob Todd caught the style perfectly. The style at least implied that the man was a gentleman and former army officer, probably ex-cavalry hence the stiff back - the posture even had a name: "a military bearing". As part of this was a gallant and rather courtly attitude to "ladies". Being "properly dressed" ie blazer and all, was not reserved just for "going out" but could be felt to be an obligation once breakfast had been cleared away indeed perhaps before breakfast (part of "keeping up standards"). (Newsreels of the 1930's show football fans going to the match in three piece suits and hats - it was an era where, relative today, people were over-dressed). It would have been more comic (and more moving) if Johnnie had been that more formally attired and courtly only to receive the verbal lashings from Fanny in return.

I'm not sure that Fanny was a "victim of her demons" rather than product of her time - a twilight period for class, family money, Empire, privileged travel and cheap subservient staff.

A film version with a more substantial script (including some reference to her earlier life) and two standout lead performances would be a dish to be relished, unfortunately currently only in anticipation. Difficult to imagine anyone better than the ubiquitous Jim Broadbent to play Johnnie. More difficult to cast Fanny - its the voice that's the problem.

Postscript: an superb biography of Fanny Craddock is to be found on Wikipedia. It notes her extraordinary pre-TV life including early destitution, particularly hard for someone from a once "good" family. However well worth reading too the surprising biography of her famous father - apart from being fascinating in its own right it sheds a great deal of light on Fanny. "Fear of Fanny" apparently was originally a stage play.


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