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 ...
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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
don @ minifie-1
The brother of Harry H. Corbett's second wife, Maureen, complained to the BBC that the timeline portrayed in the film was wildly misleading and gave the impression that i) Maureen's affair with Harry may have led to the break-up of his marriage to Sheila Steafel, which was not the case, and ii) Harry's decision not to make any more episodes of Steptoe and Son (1962) coincided with the birth of his and Maureen's first child, whereas the birth had happened eight years before the end of Steptoe. The BBC upheld these complaints and agreed not to repeat the film unless it was edited to remove these misleading errors. See more »
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 »
Well acted and made, even though it could have dug deeper.
Steptoe & Son (remade in the U.S as 'Sanford & Son') was one of the seminal British TV sitcoms of the 1960s, and owes a lot to the 'Angry young man' style of theatre and film that came the decade before. Out of that theatre came a slew of gifted actors like Albert Finney, Tom Courtenay, Richard Harris, Richard Burton, Laurence Harvey and the underrated Harry H Corbett.
That Corbett's career never reached the heights of the others is the subject of this solid and extremely well acted drama about how he found such success in the BBC sitcom that he was forever stereotyped and unable to break the mould or be accepted as the accomplished stage actor he was. 'Curse' is indeed apt to this predicament, the shows immediate success destroyed any chance he had of regaining his serious career. As he so poignantly states in one scene (and i admit i'm paraphrasing here) "I will forever be known as a rag and bone man".
Jason Isaacs does a splendid job as Corbett, his optimism slowly wearing away as his TV star shines. Trapped by immediate success he rues the day he agreed to do the show. At first the resemblance between the younger Corbett and Isaacs is superficial but once the show reappeared after a 5 year break in the 1970s, the resemblance between the two is striking, and the mannerisms are uncanny too (even the voice). Praise too for Phil Davis for his excellent portrayal of the sad and lonely Brambell, a man who also rues the day he did the show, but for very different reasons.
I cannot fault the two leads and all the actors are marvellous as is the period detail. My grumble is that this could have been a much better drama if the script had been longer and taken the film to a more logical conclusion (Corbetts death in 1982). It is well known that Corbett or Brambell didn't really get on (amazingly Brambell was only 13 years older than Corbett)so a deeper insight into that conflict would have been good. It would also have made more sense to show the ill fated tour of Australia and their post-Steptoe careers, and oddly no mention is made of the two Steptoe feature films they did in the early 1970s.
However this drama shows that Isaacs is a much better actor than his Hollywood career has so far shown. Phil Davis is also still one of the best supporting actors in Britain.
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