In the early 1960s aspiring stage actor Harry H. Corbett jumps at the chance to play junk-dealer Harold Steptoe in a television comedy show 'Steptoe and Son'. However, the show's success ... See full summary »
Classic 1960s British comedy series about a middle aged man and his elderly father who run an unsuccessful 'rag and bone' business (collecting and selling junk). Harold (the son) wants to ... See full summary »
Harry H. Corbett,
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In the early 1960s aspiring stage actor Harry H. Corbett jumps at the chance to play junk-dealer Harold Steptoe in a television comedy show 'Steptoe and Son'. However, the show's success proves to be a poisoned chalice for him, type-casting him and thwarting his stage ambitions. Wilfrid Brambell, the actor playing his father, is marginalized in a different way. He is a gay man in an England where homosexuality is still illegal. The show runs for several years, incorporating film spin-offs but both, in their own way, feel that they have invoked the curse of Steptoe. Written by
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Directly after the 1962 awards ceremony, Corbett does his impersonation of Harold Wilson with reference to his White Heat of Technology speech. Wilson did not become Prime Minister for another two years and the White Heat speech was even later. However, the writer made this 'error' quite deliberately. He took dramatic license. Dates were fudged throughout the piece, so though the award ceremony was in fact held in 1962, the film avoids placing it in time. Harry's party trick was his Harold Wilson impression; that was the most appropriate moment in the piece to give him the chance to do his thing. See more »
The story of Harry H. Corbett's (Jason Isaacs') decline in fortune, from an aspiring star of Joan Littlewood's Theatre Workshop to a pathetic wreck in the mid-Eighties, reduced to playing pantomime and embarking on a pointless tour of Australia in a stage version of Steptoe and Son, is a familiar one. Although brilliant in his portrayal of Harold Steptoe, he became so typecast that no one could see him performing anything else. Wilfrid Brambell (Phil Davis) experienced no such agonies - as a character-actor, he was glad of the regular work. Nonetheless he had his own personal problems - as a closet homosexual at a time when it was illegal in Britain, he was reduced to making brief assignations in public rest-rooms. Apparently Brian Fillis' drama upset the Corbett family due to its portrayal of the Brambell/ Corbett professional relationship; as a result, the drama is now prefaced with a warning that some of the scenes are fictionalized versions of the truth. One wonders why there was so much fuss: the relationship between the two actors is portrayed as cordial on set, while off-set they chose to lead totally separate lives. Once the series finished in 1974 (on television, at least) they said goodbye to one another quite civilly. The drama suggests that Corbett was in a sense a victim of his own desire for fame and fortune - goaded by Tom Sloan (Roger Allam), the BBC's long-serving head of comedy - he agreed to make series after series, even though he protests to his wife Sheila Steafel (Zoe Tapper) that he will quit as soon as humanly possible. Isaacs and Davis give convincing characterizations; they capture the mannerisms of the two actors quite uncannily.
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