In 1960 a former child actor with writing ambitions,Mancunian Tony Warren begins submitting television scripts for 'Shadow Squad' to progressive Canadian producer Harry Elton,who wants to nurture local talent. Tony,however,is keen to sell a drama he has written about real Northerners,called 'Florizel Street',after a picture of Prince Florizel in his office. Harry is supportive but Granada studio boss Sidney Bernstein is lukewarm,feeling it is seedy and unglamorous. Fortunately his brother Cecil sees the virtue in cheaply made studio drama with local actors and,with writer Harry Kershaw and director Derek Bennett on board,the street's residents are cast. Thirteen episodes are commissioned but the pivotal character of battle-axe Ena Sharples is proving impossible to cast until Tony brings in a cantankerous old actress from his radio days - Violet Carson. She is perfect. Less perfect is the title,which the tea lady says sounds like disinfectant. A new title must be found quickly - and so... Written by
don @ minifie-1
Slightly Gushing Account of the Origins of Britain's Longest-Running Television Soap
Tony Warren (David Dawson) was a struggling twenty-three old actor with limited radio experience, who responded to another casting rejection by transforming himself into a writer. Through a combination of sheer persistence and chutzpah, he managed to convince producer Harry Elton (Christian McKay) to back the idea for a new drama series set in a Manchester terrace, with the emphasis on real people's lives. After a shaky start, when the idea was rejected by Granada Television's chief executive Sidney Bernstein (Steven Berkoff), Warren was eventually commissioned to write thirteen episodes. The rest, as they say, is history.
Charles Sturridge's production is not without its anachronisms. The sets are too chintzy, their bright colors creating a never-never land of early Sixties Manchester. Some of the dialogue is resolutely contemporary; and the relationship between Tony and Harry is far closer than would have been tolerated at a time when homosexuality was still illegal.
Daran Little's script favors cardboard characterization: brothers Sidney and Cecil Bernstein (Henry Goodman) are the archetypal studio heads sitting behind desks in their expensive three-piece suits. All they need is a cigar in their mouths and they could pass for the old studio heads in classical Hollywood. Dawson's Tony Warren has the camp manners of a youthful Kenneth Williams; he develops a close relationship with Patricia Phoenix (Jessie Wallace) that acts a substitute for that of his real mother (Phoebe Nicholls).
The drama is redeemed to some extent by the quality of individual performances. Celia Imrie's Doris Speed captures some of the actress's faux gentility; but the script does not really allow her to develop her performance. Jessie Wallace makes a brave stab at Patricia Phoenix, but does not really understand the combination of down-at-heel awareness and indomitable spirit that made Phoenix such a legend among CORONATION STREET fans.
The only real star turn is Lynda Baron's Violet Carson; a remarkable person in her own right, who made a career for herself as "Aunty Vi" on radio's CHILDREN'S HOUR, Carson was brought in at the last moment to play Ena Sharples. Reputedly a difficult person to work with, she was nonetheless a remarkable performer who understood what Ena's life was about. In THE ROAD TO CORONATION STREET Baron recaptures this quality, especially when she faces the cameras for the first time and delivers Warren's script. To those of us who fondly remember Carson, this was a quite remarkable impersonation.
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