Irene Shubik and The Evolution
of Television Drama
a Polite Essay by Jeremy Sandford
Sooner or later, once Irene Shubik had published her book ‘Play for Today, the Evolution of Television Drama’, I had imagined she would present me with a copy. I had given her copies of various books of mine (‘Down and Out in Britain’ and the published novelisations of ‘Edna, the Inebriate Woman’ and ‘Cathy Come Home’) during the making of the BBC TV film ‘Edna, the Inebriate Woman’, of which she was the producer.
No presentation copy arrived. I am not an assiduous rereader of my own works, or of what others have penned about them, so when no book arrived I didn’t bother to go out of my way to acquire it. For many years, I never got round to reading the book.
Friends told me that Irene devoted a lot of space to the place of my screenplays in the evolution of television drama and I was flattered. Others mentioned that Irene saw the role of her own productions in the evolution of television drama as more central than others may have done, and that something like three quarters of the book concerned her own productions.
Meanwhile I was becoming aware of various rumours. To mention the oddest, that significant changes were made to the film of ‘Cathy’ between the first and second transmission, because of worries about its accuracy.
I had occasion to mention these rumours over the years to Tony Garnett, Ken Loach (producer and director of ‘Cathy Come Home’), and to Ted Kotcheff (director of ‘Edna’) and a number of other people, and we speculated about it. Occasionally the rumours surfaced in newspapers. Occasionally they seemed to be believed by people in the profession and I began to realise that they were potentially damaging to me, and indeed to a number of those people who were centrally involved in ‘Cathy’.
Meanwhile I was on occasion made aware that students, journalists, historians, and fellow professionals felt confusion that the factual content of Irene’s book seemed to differ from accounts in other books about that period, for example, George W Brandt’s ‘British Television Drama’, Alan Rosenthal’s ‘The New Documentary In Action’ and ‘The Documentary Conscience’, and in the introductions and postscripts to the published screenplays and novels of ‘Edna’ and ‘Cathy’.
Relatively recently I chanced upon a copy of ‘Play for Today, the Evolution of Television Drama’ and discovered what I believe must be a source of some of the rumours.
Most surprising of all, perhaps, is the statement on page 126: ‘On its (i.e. ‘Cathy Come Home’s) second showing, most of the background comments giving statistics were in fact omitted because of doubts about accuracy.’
I was astonished by this as it is quite untrue. And so, I wrote to Irene asking where she got the information from, saying that I’d like to track the rumour back to its source, and contact those who started it. After sending a number of letters, I received a reply saying that Irene had copied the information from a ‘quality daily’ whose name she had now forgotten.
Obviously it does no good to my, or Tony’s or Ken’s, reputation to be represented as inaccurate. I returned to the book and was fairly quickly able to spot a number of other statements which were untrue, and this particularly surprised me since Irene describes herself, in this same book, as a ‘professional historical researcher’; the factual errors are so unnecessary and so blatant that it is difficult to see how any professional historian could have strayed into them.
I was also hurt, in those sections concerned with my own plays, because I felt this a lack of loyalty, to put it at its gentlest, by a producer towards members of a team who had worked hard and long for her.
I wrote again to Irene, asking if we could meet over a drink to discuss these and, also, possibly devise a damage-limitation scenario. Irene failed to reply to a number of letters and finally told me she could not accept my invitation. She wrote that ‘all references were take from ‘BBC files (then kept in the script library) and newspaper press cuttings’, and that these she had now either destroyed or given to the BFI. She requested me to desist from writing to her. There came a letter from ‘J.M. Thurley, MA’, saying that he was her agent, and that he had advised her to see a solicitor.
I am sorry that Irene declined my invitation to meet, and also that she preferred to communicate with me through her agent. I suppose history (what actually happened) is slowly defined through the decades and centuries by writers, researchers, journalists, historians, writing to or interviewing each other, meeting, scrutinising the evidence, trying to support or undermine each other; a process of slow refinement.
I was also aware that Irene Shubik, like me and her agent, had a university degree. She has a ‘London MA’ degree for which she wrote a thesis called ‘The Use of English History in the Drama from 1599-1642’. (And I have an Oxford University degree in English Language and Literature). Irene’s academic background, even apart from her being a ‘professional historical researcher’, must mean that fellow academics and others will take her work seriously and it might be a reasonable expectation that she would follow the ordinary academic conventions.
I hope that one day Irene may feel that she’s able to comment, and indeed meet and discuss, and no-one will be more willing than me to retract any statement in what follows, if she is able to show I have at any point fallen into error. I shall also be happy to print anything she may care to write, as part of this document, in the way of explanation.
A few more errors that I immediately noticed: ‘6 January 1957 ... the time of Sandford’s engagement to heiress Nell Dunn’, (page 127). Nell and I had in fact got married in February 1956, the previous year; we therefore could not have got engaged in 1957, more than eleven months later.
‘... heiress Nell Dunn’. I have a memory that some tabloid newspaper of that time wrongly believed that Nell was the daughter of a ‘millionaire hatter’ who had the same name and had hat shops in many high streets at that time. Irene appears to have copied out this mistake from a gossip column. It is surprising that her academic training did not alert her to the danger of using this sort of thing as source material.
‘Sandford’s debut on radio ... a contribution to the Third Programme ... in 1956.’ By this date in 1956 I had had two radio plays performed (‘Dreaming Bandsmen’ and ‘It Is For Ever’), and written and presented a number of other radio programmes. In no sense was it a debut as I had been working for radio for some years.
‘[Sandford did a] piece about a machine that wrote love letters’. Irene seems to have got into a muddle about a couple of 25 minute programmes I scripted, recorded and presented for the Third Programme, about music boxes and other mechanically generated music. I think she may have copied out a fanciful statement from a tabloid, possibly the Daily Mirror. Neither programme was about the ‘machine that wrote love letters’, though a computer that could be programmed to do so made a brief appearance in one of the two programmes.
The computer, whose name Irene gives as ‘MUK’, should in fact be ‘MUC’, the Manchester University Computer.
Irene quotes, from a Daily Mirror article dated 19 December 1956, an entirely untrue statement. The simplest check (such as, for example, ringing me) would have demonstrated to her that it was false.
‘[Involvement in the lives of the underprivileged] didn’t spring, on Sandford’s part, from any desire to plumb the social depths so to speak. [The motive] which led [him] to do something so uncharacteristic was just curiosity.’ Irene here seems to have copied out part of a sentence from an article, of which I have a copy, from Woman’s Own. The same sentence goes on to quote me as saying that once curiosity had led me there, I experienced deep concern. Irene has cut out the second half of this sentence and, by taking it out of context, has reversed its meaning.
‘From this [marriage to Nell Dunn] ... Sandford was led, obviously by curiosity, to ... join the RAF band in Germany.’ This is completely untrue. Joining the band did not follow on from marriage. Conscripts were not allowed to have their wives living with them in Germany, so it’s difficult to see that it would hold much attraction from Nell’s point of view. I had, in fact, joined the RAF band seven years before my marriage to Nell and left it five years before my marriage.
‘Obviously by curiosity’. National conscription, not curiosity, was my reason for joining the Air Force. I was at that date a pacifist and musicians were (and, I believe, are) non combatant. In those days of compulsory National Service, I felt that music was one of the productive, as opposed to death dealing, roles available in the forces.
‘[Entering the German band was] getting his first entrée into the life of the working classes.’ Incorrect, even if placed at its correct date. In those days of conscription the German band was in fact mostly ‘middle class’ in its make-up. Music is not one of the ‘working class’ jobs but one of the professions. A number of my fellow bandsmen went on to join well established orchestras, including the Covent Garden Opera, the Concertgebouw, and the LSO.
(Page 128): ‘Sandford’s first play ‘The Dreaming Bandsman’. The title I gave my play was ‘Dreaming Bandsmen’.
‘First play’. It was my second play to be produced, the first being ‘It Is For Ever’.
‘The City of Coventry Police Band march[ed] up and down the stage for much of the first act.’ Perhaps an allowable exaggeration, although they in fact marched for little more than a couple of minutes. Irene is here speaking of the stage version at the Belgrade Coventry, not the earlier radio version.
‘[Sandford moved to a] fashionable flat in Cheyne Walk, Chelsea.’ It was a house.
‘Sandford ... surrealist writer.’ I’ve never been a surrealist writer, but believe I was so described in a tabloid newspaper.
‘[Nell Dunn] took a job wrapping chocolates in a factory.’ This is all Irene chooses to say about Nell Dunn and it is thus, I feel, an error of omission since Nell Dunn had already devoted much of her adult life to writing, with such extremely successful works as ‘Up the Junction’, ‘Poor Cow’, ‘Talking to Women’, etc., some of which have been adapted for television or films, and had already been transmitted by this date. Ken Loach’s television version of ‘Up the Junction’ was a landmark in the evolution of television drama. It is extraordinary that Irene leaves these fine works out and writes only of the sweet factory, especially since this is a book about television drama, not sweet factories.
‘Robert Muller, the Daily Mail, ... was the only one to recognise in [the stage version of Dreaming Bandsmen] the vitality ...’ Besides the Daily Mail, the Times, News Chronicle, Observer, and Daily Telegraph gave good reviews and talked of its vitality or used phrases like ‘compelling force’. There is also, I feel, an error of omission here in that Irene quotes the reviews of the stage play ‘Dreaming Bandsmen’ but fails to quote the rave reviews later achieved by the films ‘Cathy’, or even her own production of ‘Edna’, or reviews of any other of those programmes or books written by me, which received extensive reviews. ‘Dreaming Bandsmen’ was a stage play; a number of the others were television dramas or their derivatives, the book’s alleged subject.
‘[Sandford] at that time stored hard boiled eggs in a chandelier.’ The curious reader might be interested in being told how this, I would imagine difficult, feat could be carried out; or what possible relevance it could have to the evolution of television drama.
To turn from such triviality to more serious matters; I have already mentioned Irene’s claim, on page 126, that, on the second showing of ‘Cathy Come Home’, ‘most of the background comments giving statistics were in fact omitted because of doubts about accuracy.’ I have already mentioned that this is entirely wrong and, if believed, may well have damaged the professional reputation of Tony Garnett, producer, Ken Loach, director, and myself, writer. A simple phone call or visit down the passage to Tony Garnett’s office would have demonstrated to Irene that it was false.
The statement also libellously questions the integrity of the BBC TV establishment of the time. They, from the first, stood by the accuracy of ‘Cathy Come Home’. To have connived in alterations to the programme between first and second transmissions would have amounted to dirty tricks.
Worse than either of these, it appears to be an attempt to undermine the basic thesis of the play by claiming that the research on which it was based is inaccurate.
There was not at this time in existence the legislation which now protects an author’s moral rights in a work, but there was the written agreement between the Writers Guild, of which I am and was a member, and the BBC, which specifically forbade any tampering with the original, such as Irene describes, on the part of the BBC, without consultation with the author. Had such tampering taken place, I would have resisted it, and my position would have been backed, I am sure, by the Writers Guild. There was absolutely no need to tamper because the accuracy of the work had so clearly been established at the first transmission.
I think I’ve already mentioned that, when I asked her for the source of this information, Irene wrote to me that she copied it from an article in a ‘quality daily’ whose name she has forgotten.
‘On its second showing, two million council members and officials were asked to watch ‘Cathy Come Home’ and see how many mistakes they could find in it.’ Irene appears here to be quoting from a popular newspaper report that the Local Government Information Office had asked council members and workers (not officials) to watch the play and report back on ‘blunders, omissions and inaccuracies’, which it would then use in a ‘protest to the BBC’. A spokesman for that organisation tells me it is not something they would ever do, though it could perhaps have appeared as a rhetorical question in one of their briefing sheets, which town halls are encouraged to put on their notice boards, though he did not recall this. Their small organisation would be quite incapable, he tells me, then or now, of dealing with two million replies. Various newspapers reported, a day or so later, that it did not prove possible to spot any ‘blunders, omissions or inaccuracies’. The proposed protest was never made to the BBC. The BBC had already made an announcement in which it stood by the accuracy of the play. Irene’s use of this information out of context does give a very erroneous impression.
Perhaps the most unpleasant statement in the whole book comes on page 132 where Irene quotes with approval from an unidentified reviewer: ‘If Cathy had been more realistically portrayed as a foul-mouthed working class scrubber and her pretty appealing children had been replaced by appropriately snotty-nosed delinquents, then the sympathies of the good, honest, hard-working and decent British people would have remained dormant.’
This is classist, snobbish, prejudiced, and above all quite untrue. Since she hails from Canada, Irene’s branding of a typical homeless mother as a ‘foul mouthed working class scrubber’ and her children as ‘snotty nosed delinquents’ is a deeply prejudiced comment from someone who has not really understood our culture. It is remarkable that Irene did not mention these feelings at her original meeting with my agent Nick Thompson and myself in April 1970. At that time, possibly because she was eager that I should sign an agreement to sell some screenplays to her, she went out of her way to express admiration for ‘Cathy’, its accuracy, characterisation, and the various techniques employed in it.
It seems hardly necessary to add that my portrait of Cathy, a typical homeless mother, had been carefully researched, and in the eight years between ‘Cathy’ and Irene’s book, had been many times endorsed. Some of the research I was drawing on can, for example, be found in the BBC radio programme ‘Homeless Families’ in the BBC Sound Library and devised, recorded and introduced by Heather Sutton and myself; in my ‘Down and Out in Britain’ (Sphere), which is quoted from elsewhere by Irene, and in the essay attached to the novelisation of ‘Cathy Come Home’ (Pan), and also in a series of reports by myself in ‘The Observer’, ‘The New Statesman’ and ‘The People’ newspapers.
A serious historian would surely not claim our homeless mothers are typically ‘foul mouthed scrubbers’ without mentioning the research on which she is drawing. Yet Irene does not quote a single piece of research to support her claim.
On pages 128/9, Irene writes: ‘By the time we finished working on it,’ said Sandford, (the ‘we’ being himself and Ted Kotcheff who had consulted closely with him on it).’ Wrong. I did not work with Ted Kotcheff on the storyline of ‘Cathy’, or any of the various drafts of ‘Cathy’, although I did occasionally discuss it in general terms with him. Ted’s view was that my storyline, in the form that finally became the film, was too expensive to make. In terms of television up to that point, this was probably true. The story of the writing of ‘Cathy’ is told in detail in Alan Rosenthal’s ‘The New Documentary in Action’ (University of California Press, 1971) and it would have been very easy for Irene to check her facts therein.
I first met Irene Shubik in an Italian restaurant in South Kensington. It was a business lunch and Irene had come to discuss the acquisition of three television plays of mine. My agent Nick Thompson and I were there to talk over the contract.
Four years before, my drama documentary screenplay, ‘Cathy Come Home’, directed by Ken Loach, had achieved success; indeed was probably the most successful single play that television has put out, whether assessed in terms of the proportion of the population who watched it, the number of times it was repeated, the critical acclaim it received, the awards it won, its influence on our nation’s social policies, or the number of countries in which it was later shown.
A half dozen of television producers had written to me over the years since then, asking if by any chance I had for sale any other screenplays which might be as successful as ‘Cathy’ was. The most persistent had been Irene. I’d not replied to any of them, although I had indeed been working on, among many other things, a screenplay, ‘Arlene, or the Bastard’, for which Ken Loach had negotiated a contract with Joe Janni, the producer of cinema films.
‘Arlene’ was about a phenomenon of the times. The permissive sixties were producing a large number of babies born outside wedlock. The proportion, I discovered in the course of writing a newspaper series about it, and this seemed amazing at the time, was one in every thirteen. Despite the fashionable sixties view that sex was something to be grabbed at and shared whenever an opportunity presented itself, an older generation still took a hostile view towards illegitimate babies.
So there sprang up scores of hostels for what were then called ‘unmarried mothers’ in which these pregnant women lived communally from six weeks before their babies birth till two weeks afterwards. Sometimes the mothers then left to keep their babies or take them home for a mother or grandmother to bring up. More usually the combination of economic circumstance and public attitude forced them to hand the babies over to be adopted.
I have found the contrast between the pressure to have sex, which was so much a feature of the sixties, and the indignities suffered by these, mainly young, pregnant women in these hostels very poignant and dramatic and morally wrong and therefore important to write about. I liked the idea of a play, like Lorca’s ‘The House of Bernada Alba’, set in a place full of women. The play I wrote had, I believed, power and lyricism.
One day, Ken came to visit me at my home in Putney to talk about the script. My wife Nell showed him the page proofs of her novel ‘Poor Cow’, also about an unmarried mother, which was soon to be published by Jonathan Cape. Ken found that he liked ‘Poor Cow’ more, or even more, than ‘Arlene, or the Bastard’, and went on to make it for Joe Janni, with Terence Stamp and Carol White in the starring roles.
The rights to ‘Arlene’ reverted to me. I decided to top and tail it so that it became one of a trilogy, whose plays would be linked in their condemnation of a society not too kind to its weaker citizens.
For the first play I mapped out a story of what nowadays would be called ‘single homeless people’ and who, in those days, were more likely to be called tramps, dossers, derelicts, or ne’er-do-wells. This play, initially called ‘The Common Lodging House’, was later to become well known under its new title of ‘Edna, the Inebriate Woman’.
For the third play in the trilogy, I wrote ‘Till the End of the Plums’, about the problems and prejudice faced by our Gypsy population.
It was in order to discuss the sale of these three plays to the BBC TV that Irene, Nick and I met that lunchtime.
Smartly turned out in one of the fashionable high street outfits of the time, Irene did not at first sight strike me as a typical BBC TV producer. This was in part because there were at that time few women in managerial positions anywhere and television drama especially was still almost entirely a male preserve.
Later, I was to learn more about Irene; how, during a varied career, she had written a thesis on ‘The Use of English History in the Drama from 1599-1642’, and later had graduated to become what she called a ‘professional historical researcher’ and, for a Canadian company making educational films for children, wrote scripts on subjects like the mediaeval guilds or the founding of Virginia.
When I suggested Ted Kotcheff who, a few years before, had produced my stage play ‘Dreaming Bandsmen’ at the Belgrade Theatre, Coventry, as the director I would most like to direct my trilogy, I noticed that Irene momentarily flushed. Later I learned that they had had a romantic affair, first love for both of them, only coming to an end when Ted left Canada to come to England, and that Irene had written a screenplay based on this relationship which so far has never been performed. The labour she put into this and her historical scripts led her to feel later that she had useful suggestions to offer to other writers.
Irene followed Ted Kotcheff to Britain and got herself a job as story editor, under Sydney Newman at ABC Television. Sydney left ABC to become Head of Drama at the BBC, and Irene went too as part of the slipstream.
On arrival at the BBC, Irene found the complexity of a ‘vast corporation’ confusing and ‘for weeks ... literally sat alone in an office ... without talking to a soul.’ To add to her confusion, she confesses, ‘it took me weeks to find my way to the canteen.’
Feeling that she would like to become a producer, she asked, in her BBC contract, for a codicil that she would be considered for promotion to a producer within nine months. However, she knew, she says, that Sydney Newman ‘did not really consider me right for the job’, indeed, ‘he did not feel that I was producer material.’
Eighteen months later, still a story editor, she describes in ‘Play for Today; the Evolution of Television Drama’, from which most of this information is taken, how she wrote Sydney a memo ‘asking if I had to shoot my way into his office to get to see him and demanding to discuss the codicil in my contract.’
In ABC days, she explains, Sydney had a way of developing laryngitis when he did not want to discuss something unpleasant. He began by telling Irene what a hard day he had had. He hoped Irene wasn’t going to add to his troubles. Irene, ‘half choked with the memory of my Kafka-like year and a half of frustration and isolation’, reminded him of the codicil in her contract, upon which he blandly informed her that ‘he really didn’t think I had it in me to be a producer’. He then advised her to go off to America and enjoy herself.
Irene did not expect much from this interview although it was at any rate better than a previous occasion when ‘he had cried out in pain to me: ‘I’m so Goddamned sick of being father figure to a bunch of neurotics.’ However, a surprise was in store for Irene. Those were days when women were increasingly claiming the right to work alongside men in the professions. Cachet was attached to an employer who could show that he employed women in executive jobs. It may have been a thought like this that influenced Sydney when he decided to give to Irene her desired role.
Much to her surprise, she found herself promoted to assistant producer of a science fiction series and a series of Simenon stories. These in turn led to her becoming a producer at the showcase for BBC television drama which was then known as ‘Play for Today’.
Irene brought to the job a general knowledge of television picked up since she had been working as script editor. She also brought to it a volatile and excitable temperament. It was this latter quality which later caused her to be known, to some of those who worked for her, as ‘she who can lose her head when all around her are keeping theirs’. Of that, at the time, I had little inkling.
In retrospect, I can see that, already in that Italian restaurant, there were available to us clues which could have alerted Nick and myself to be on our guard. I spoke of how important accuracy was to me, and how I did not like to write anything for television which I could not support in a current affairs programme afterwards, as I had done in a programme called ‘Late Night Line Up’ and also on the David Frost programme after ‘Cathy’. There was a brief pause, followed by Irene appearing to be impressed. In fact, as I realised later, she had decided to stay silent for fear that a statement of her real views might jeopardise her acquisition of the screenplays. Her real views, as I learned when I finally came to read ‘Play for Today, the Evolution of Television Drama’, were in fact the opposite. Writers, so she claims, should at all costs avoid ‘revealing themselves, warts and all, to an audience of millions ... justifying or explaining their own work ... a little remoteness is, in my view, a very good thing.’
With a large number of television and radio appearances to my name, working at that time an interviewer on magazine and religious programmes, and as author of large numbers of newspaper articles and series, and having followed ‘Cathy’ with a number of television and radio appearances, lectures, and articles in newspapers, I was of course exactly the ‘warts and all’ type of author that Irene did not appreciate. These views she chose to keep to herself at the time.
Apart from Irene’s blush at the name of Ted Kotcheff, there was one other major clue, if we could but have read it, that trouble lay ahead. I explained that each play in the trilogy was about an important social subject of contemporary concern, and that I hoped they might be both as successful and also stir up discussion in the way that ‘Cathy’ had. Irene’s reply was; ‘Let’s make the plays as successful as ‘Cathy’, but please try to make them a little less Goddam controversial.’
I had agreed to meet Irene because she’d been the most persistent amongst producers who had written to me, and also she was from BBC TV, which had made possible the success of ‘Cathy’. I had decided I’d like to show loyalty to the BBC. Irene expressed pleasure in the challenge that lay ahead in the making of my trilogy. With no misgivings whatever, I signed away ‘Edna’, ‘Till the End of the Plums’, and ‘Arlene’.
Much of what I was writing at that time came from a position of social concern. ‘Cathy Come Home’ as a young man’s work had been written to change the world or at least one bit of it and, for a while, I believed I had succeeded. The amount that ‘Cathy’ changed anything seems, with hindsight, to be less than what I (and much of the British population) thought at the time, although I believe it still can be shown to have changed some things.
At that time it really did seem that I had become one of what Shelley called, speaking of writers, the ‘unacknowledged legislators of their time’. It had been one of those times when television, normally content to reflect the times it finds itself in, instead takes a part in the action. People’s attitudes were changed by ‘Cathy’, and government policy was changed. Television, I felt, was a medium through which, in an electronic democratic forum, a writer could address fellow citizens and incite them to action.
To Irene, however, as was to become apparent later but was not clear then, there was not that blazing concern for the society she lived in which, for example, I had found in Tony Garnett and Ken Loach. Nor had she thought much about the role of television in society. Television, in so far as I could judge her position, is something that is there, in which she was lucky to get a job, and is a river in whose waters she swims, and swims contentedly enough, though sometimes with moments of trauma, without ever attempting that intellectual leap which might make it possible to take a more lofty view of the countryside through which the river flows.
So, in her book, as in so many showbiz memoirs, the play’s the thing, rather than that wider world which forms its context. Irene’s book, in my view, is a fairly typical showbiz memoir. The big names are there; there are a few funny anecdotes; very little in the way of objective analysis, of what is ostensibly her subject.
I like to feel that a work like ‘Edna’ sprang from high motivation. ‘Play for Today, the Evolution of Television Drama’, despite its title, is not concerned with changing the world but in recording the part its author played in a bit of it.
At some times during the production of ‘Edna’, I remember asking myself and friends ‘must youthful idealism always meet its end in the tired bogs of institutional cynicism?’ ‘Edna’, later to be winner of so many accolades and one of the plays for which Irene will be remembered, is treated in the book as a bit of an indiscretion; Ted and myself, I feel, emerge as people who have committed some sort of social gaffe, like farting in a public place.
In writing this I am asking myself whether, in responding to bitchiness, I wish to descend to that bitchy level. I don’t. I eschew the kiss and tell antics of showbiz betrayal, even if given the spurious authenticity of an M.A. and a ‘professional historical researcher’. I don’t like the idea of betraying a colleague for whom I worked long and hard hours. But I do want to set the record straight. So, in this essay, I will try not to echo the bitchiness of ‘Play for Today, the Evolution of Television Drama’, and endeavour to confine myself to telling the truth.
On page 130 Irene writes; ‘Between the beginning and end product [of the script of ‘Edna’], lay a very tortuous path indeed’, this may be an accurate description of Irene’s feelings, as my script went through its various drafts. It would be wrong, however, to suggest that it seemed tortuous to the author, or later author in consultation with the director, as we worked on it. For me it was a fairly routine experience since by then I’d had some six or seven plays commissioned and written and performed, and written any number of books, newspaper series, and radio programmes, and my method of working is often, though not always, to write at some length to start with and whittle things down. I like to go through lots of drafts. I was also writing ‘Edna’ as a novel simultaneously and some fairly undigested wadges probably got into drafts of the script sometimes.
I think, in retrospect, that I showed Irene the script too early. I had felt I’d like to involve her in the creative process but I realise now that she clearly found this difficult. I think it would be right to say she had never produced or been part of a film of this complexity, and the type of play to which she was most accustomed was the studio drama.
It seems to me that Irene failed to understand the typical process of director and writer working closely together, which Ted and I had already become accustomed to in ‘Dreaming Bandsmen’, my stage play he directed. Irene had a hazy idea of the ongoing process at my and Ted’s script conferences. She did offer to be present, but because we were accustomed to working together, Ted and I declined this.
Irene mentions that the script contained a ‘disembodied voice which quoted statistics’, which she says she ‘decided to drop completely’. I think this is confusing, in that this device was of course modelled on the disembodied voices so successfully used in ‘Cathy’. At the original meeting with Irene and Nick Thompson in April 1970, the meeting that led to her commissioning ‘Edna’ and its two companion films, they were seen as very much a follow on to ‘Cathy’, using many of the same techniques and hoping, at any rate so far as I was concerned, for a similar degree of public involvement. It is surprising that Irene did not recognise, in the ‘disembodied voice’ mentioned here, the technique already pioneered so successfully in ‘Cathy’ and which, I like to think, made a strong contribution to its ‘atmosphere’ and ‘accuracy’. In retrospect I think it is probably a pity we dropped the disembodied voices.
Irene does not mention my proposal to have statistics flashed up on the screen, as in ‘Cathy’. These also got dropped and in retrospect I don’t know if this was a good thing or a bad. I have been told of stage performances of ‘Edna’ in which they were used very effectively.
Irene also claims she ‘dropped’ sequences in which Edna ‘turned to the audience and commented herself on her plight’. This is actually quite wrong because Edna does talk to herself and the audience in the film and it is surprising that Irene never noticed this. Also, it would not have been possible for a producer to ‘drop’ any part of the script without consultation with author and director, and without my permission. As Irene herself explains in her book, ‘in accordance with the Writers Guild regulations, no-one is allowed to rewrite without first asking the author to do so’.
Page 131: ‘By the time we started filming we had still reached no agreement [on the script].’ This is a surprising thing for Irene, in her role as producer, to say since the script was ready in good time for the first day of shooting. It was that script which, with some very minor changes, was printed when the play was published by Marion Boyars. (BBC Project No 02140/3484, of which I have a copy). It is really quite hard to understand how Irene, in her role as producer, was not aware of this.
This script was typed out in the BBC TV format in the first week in October. If Irene was not in agreement with it, it is difficult to see why she authorised it to be typed out at this point, when there were still four weeks to go before the beginning of shooting. A number of people were at this point working from it. It is very surprising indeed that Irene appears to have been unaware of this. As producer, it was her job to see that an agreed script was ready in enough time, and be aware of what was going on around her.
‘The form of the play was, in fact, largely hewn out in the cutting room.’ Peter Coulson did an excellent job on editing, but the form of the play had been carefully worked out in the shooting script (02140/3484), from which in turn the book of the screenplay was printed. (For more details of this, see Ted Kotcheff’s ‘Introduction’ in the appendix). To substantiate her claim, Irene would have to show that there are striking differences between shooting script and film, and this is not so. In the world of feature films there is of course nothing unusual about rewrites continuing throughout shooting as decided between director and writer, or even requested by producer. I have been involved in productions in which this was what happened. It was not so in this case. There was not at that time in existence the legislation which now protects an author’s moral rights in a work. But there was the written and very specific agreement between the Writers Guild, of which I am and was a member, and the BBC, which specifically forbade unilateral tampering with the original, such as Irene says took place, by the BBC, without consultation with the author. Had such tampering taken place I would have at the least resisted it, and my position would have been backed, I am sure, by the Writers Guild. Due to the existence of this agreement, there was absolutely no way that the events as described by Irene could have happened.
Various changes described on page 131, paragraph 2 are wrong in that, though these were certainly going on and being discussed by Ted and myself in the course of refining the script, it is absurd to suggest they were unusual or hectic. It was a typical way for a writer and director to work together. As anyone present at Ted and my pleasant and harmonious script conferences (such as his wife Sylvia) would, I am sure, witness, there was nothing abnormal or chaotic about it.
A striking difference in length is alleged by Irene between the shooting script (the one referred to above) and the ‘as broadcast’ transcript. For the record: ‘Edna’, then known as ‘The Common Lodging House’, was commissioned on 24 April 1970. My final draft was delivered on 2 October 1970. That was typed up at the BBC into a ‘Film Script’, also referred to as a ‘Rehearsal Script’, No 12140/3484. That occupied 94 pages in the version by my typist and 130 as laid out by the BBC. There is also in existence another version in the BBC layout headed ‘Transcript’, which could presumably only have been done after the film was made. This has the same number of sequences (123) and roughly the same number of pages (129). The stage directions and dialogue are almost entirely the same.
The film was shot in and around London between 2 November and 4 December 1970. Meanwhile the novelisation had already, in Autumn 1970, been delivered to Pan Books, containing the same material in the same approximate order, although of course at greater length, to be in good time for printing in order to coincide with the BBC’s proposed transmission in the Spring of 1971.
It is just possible that Irene mistook a draft of the novelisation which I sent to her, because I thought she would be interested, for a very long early draft of the television play. This could only have happened, however, if she had not read my covering letter, had forgotten various telephone conversations we had, and had failed to appreciate that this version was in novel rather than screenplay format.
‘Voluminous notes (printed in the appendix) had passed between [Kotcheff] and me and Sandford.’ These notes actually only passed one way; from Irene to us. At our script conferences Ted and I ignored these ‘voluminous notes’. A comparison of the two sets of her notes which Irene prints at the end of her book with the script and with the finished film reveals that, with one possible exception, none of them were ever incorporated. Ted and I did not feel that they were relevant. We felt that Irene did not have an understanding of the creative process that was taking place. Ted had an instinctual understanding of what I was driving at, Irene didn’t have this. Irene’s notes we used to light the fire in Ted’s comfortable study. There were no notes which went the other way, though I recall Ted occasionally shouting angrily at her down the telephone.
Page 136: ‘Our dosshouse was, in fact, made up by the designer.’ Blackfriars Road was already a dosshouse, located by me. There was no need for a designer to embellish this location since it was already quite arresting.
Page 137: ‘Only after the corpses of numerous characters lay on the cutting room floor did [Kotcheff] agree that they could have been cut from the script before we started shooting.’ It would be interesting to know which characters Irene thinks these are. However, knowing that Irene was looking for scenes to cut out, and wanting to ensure that the scenes subjected to this purge would not be important ones, Ted and I, as part of the script writing process, put in some scenes which were superfluous and which Irene could then cut out to effect her ‘economies’. An old showbiz trick.
Page 99: ‘Parker’s entire meticulous approach and reasoned attitude was totally unlike Sandford’s impressionism.’ While I appreciate that this is a personal view of Irene’s, I would suggest it is wrong. ‘Cathy Come Home’, for example, had never been faulted for its extensive factual content. Kotcheff uses the word meticulous in writing of my work (see appendix). The style of ‘Edna’ is intended to be impressionistic since I aimed to represent the world as seen through Edna’s disorientated perceptions, but I am happy to provide factual precedents for everything shown in ‘Edna’.
Page 106: ‘Sandford ... weak on structure.’ While I appreciate that this is a personal view, I feel that Irene failed to understand the dynamics of the play she had commissioned. Ted Kotcheff has paid compliment to my sense of structure in this play, and many other directors and critics also have done so, in various of my plays. For example, ‘Don’t Let Them Kill Me on Wednesday’ has a very tight structure. A fairly amorphous structure was intended for ‘Edna’. In other plays I have aimed for a tight structure.
Page 125: ‘[In] a script by Jeremy Sandford ... the details, on inspection, are blurs and blobs.’ In ‘Cathy Come Home’, there were actual factual statistics on the screen and soundtrack to back up what was being shown. These details in that drama, it seems to me, could hardly have been less like blurs and blobs. The details in ‘Cathy’ were backed by the BBC and never shown to be false. Meticulous attention to detail is something I pride myself on. I would hardly have survived as newspaper journalist, the author of scores of articles and series, in radio and television documentary, or in the world of factual books, if I didn’t. Unlike most writers of fiction, I do work in the more meticulous disciplines of journalism as well.
At the time of ‘Edna’ I was working as a regular researcher and interviewer for the ITV ‘Last Programmes’, doing about twenty programmes a year. Irene may remember that, reviewing ‘Edna’ for the Church Times, Colin Hodgetts said, ‘Some people have suggested that the play was exaggerated. Those who work in the field know that it is depressingly accurate.’ Bearing in mind the consistent level of inaccuracy in Irene’s own work, it could be questioned whether she is in fact qualified to judge what is accurate and what is not, and whether it is perhaps her ‘details’ which, ‘on inspection, are blurs and blobs.’
‘We cut accounts of life stories of all the other inmates of the hostel. These we had to cut.’ Untrue. I did want to tell the story of one or two of the other inmates besides Edna, and this happens in the script and in the film, as always intended.
It is true that two characters appearing before Edna in one of the Lawcourt scenes were omitted. These were cut for reasons of space, not quality. Irene fails to point out that a similar device still remains in the film in the common lodging house doctor scene, in which there are two ‘superfluous’ characters before Edna comes in.
Appendix: ‘Notes on Edna’. These notes are printed as sent to Ted and me by Irene. However, their presentation is incorrect; Irene has made a nonsense of them by printing them in the wrong order; as the dates printed with them show. Irene does not mention that few, indeed probably none, of these suggestions were acted on by Ted and me, in the creation of the script from which the film was made.
It is interesting that Irene failed to appreciate that, as transmitted, the film ran to 90 minutes. She only paid for 75 minutes. Some years later this was accepted and put right by the BBC Accounts Department.
Irene originally commissioned ‘Edna’ as one of three linked plays. The other two were ‘Arlene or the Bastard’ and ‘Till the End of the Plums’. Linked publication of novelisation of all three was arranged with Pan Books, who had also published the novelisation of ‘Cathy’. Unfortunately, Irene never got round to producing the other two plays she had commissioned. One of the two has since been performed on radio and stage, with some success.
Irene’s inability to put the other two dramas into production, and views expressed by her in her book, might suggest that she would not wish to work on a Jeremy Sandford project again; if only out of respect for the frustration caused to the writer by having a work bought and thus ‘tied up’ but never transmitted. This is especially important in my case because my screenplays often take many months to write. Surprisingly, a year or so after her book appeared, Irene commissioned yet another Jeremy Sandford Drama Documentary called ‘Smiling David’ (alias ‘Oluwale’). Having bought the drama, she then proposed that it should be directed by Philip Saville and that much of the story would be told in strip cartoon graphics. I was unable to agree that this would be advisable, and the production was abandoned. The play was performed four times on local and national radio, in one production featuring Paul Schofield as narrator. It received critical acclaim and was also published by Marion Boyars, but has never, as yet, appeared on television.
In ‘Smiling David’, it was planned, at my suggestion and with my agreement, to use a series of archive photographs which I owned, of destitution on the streets of London, in the production. These were left in Irene’s care with an assurance that they would be well looked after. Some weeks later I discovered they had been lost and the BBC later recompensated me to the tune of a few hundred pounds though nothing could, of course, compensate for their actual value.
I have not here attempted a critique of ‘Play for Today, the Evolution of Television Drama’ as a whole. If I were, one thing I would wish to speak about is a certain arrogance I detect in the author which, it seems to me, is typical of much of the BBC during the period of which she is writing and perhaps at all periods.
It is the arrogance of someone who claims, as she does, that young mothers who have lost their homes are ‘foul mouthed scrubbers’ and their children ‘snotty nosed delinquents’. It springs perhaps from a lack of respect for other human beings, and perhaps also for the lives lived by ordinary British people.
The book’s professed intention could be seen as impressive; namely to chart the evolution of television drama during a very exciting decade from Irene’s own personal viewpoint. One interesting feature is the very large space devoted to dramas which were in fact produced by Irene. On a rough count, three quarters of this book is concerned with Irene’s productions and only one quarter is devoted to those of other producers.
As a producer, Irene has employed some of the finest writers and directors of her time, yet there is in the book very little discussion of what it is that makes them excellent, what particular qualities they possessed, or even, surprisingly, their role in the evolution of television drama. It seems to me that this is a book whose author is happiest discussing the habits of writers who allegedly keep eggs in a chandelier, rather than tracing the more serious trends implicit in her title. She might have been interested to note, for example, that the scripts of ‘Cathy’ and ‘Edna’ came from the same stable; but the production of the earlier ‘Cathy’ is much more adventurous in terms of the techniques it uses. Some of these techniques (the voice overs, the long monologues in the background, the statistics, the news-type camerawork), although in the original script, didn’t really fit in the more theatrical or Thespian style of ‘Edna’. Their loss means that ‘Edna’, under Irene’s production, was not the innovative film that it might have been. In terms of its social importance, and in terms of the evolution of television drama, ‘Cathy’ is the more important of the two films. Yet Irene devotes a great deal of space to ‘Edna’ and very little to ‘Cathy’.
A great deal of what Irene wrote may have seemed true to her at the time. However, it might be worth her bearing in mind that it is dangerous to quote from the popular press, without at any rate some rudimentary checks. While most of the errors are presumably unintentional, Irene does seem sometimes to go out of her way to claim things that she must have known would be both libellous and in many cases painful to friends and colleagues.
A writer of television scripts herself, including the one about her affair with Kotcheff, Irene has never had a script accepted by British television. From this inexperienced position, she nonetheless comments in a way which could be perceived as arrogant and simplistic without, it seems to me, much respect for, or even understanding of, the many talented people she employed over the years. Her book reveals her as I remember her; a fine and good-looking woman who was often not able to understand the nuances of what director, cameraman, editor, writer, were trying to achieve. ‘Play for Today, The Evolution of Television Drama’ pours oceans of creativity into the meagre pint pot of what can be grasped by Irene’s intellect and perceptions. It doesn’t really matter that so much is borrowed from Daily Express type gossip columns. What does matter are the missing kingdoms of responsible analysis.
I have already described how ‘Edna’ was verbally sold to Irene by my agent and myself over lunch as one of a trilogy, linked by mood and subject matter (like, say, the later ‘Talking Heads’), but about people in different situations living lives that exemplify the trilogy’s basic thesis or poetry. There had already been interest in this project from ITV. After some thought I decided to accept the BBC’s offer since they had given such good support to ‘Cathy’. Loyalty seemed appropriate. In retrospect I realise that this was a mistake because the signs were already there that Irene might be planning to ignore her undertaking that the plays would be presented as a trilogy. I regret to say that my anger at this situation began to show as I realised what might be happening. My fury came to a head when it later became clear that Irene had allowed so much to be spent on ‘Edna’ that there was no more money to spend on the other two productions, and she no longer had any intention of presenting them as a trilogy.
My screenplays take many months to write and I regret that I was not as kind as I might have been in concealing my anger as it dawned on me that the second two plays in the trilogy, ‘Arlene or the Bastard’ and ‘Till the End of the Plums’ would now very likely never be made, since at that time it was rare for plays to be made if they were felt to be someone else’s ‘second hand goods’.
Most people, I think, would feel that it is part of the role of the producer to generate loyalty to his/her productions in the team they have assembled, and to themselves be loyal to that team, and most of us, on any human project, like to look back on what we’ve done with pride. It has long been a showbiz tradition to show a united front in publicity and not parade in the market place the boudoir secrets of those who were involved, and many contracts stipulate this. There is also a tradition of those who have ignored this and indulged in acts of betrayal.
It would be interesting to know whether Irene feels any gratitude towards her co-workers on ‘Edna’ or loyalty to them for what has been generally regarded as a major achievement. Even if every word in the book were true, I would find it worrying that a producer should apply this ‘kiss’n’tell’ approach to people with whom she has engaged to work for her.
There is here an attitude to the workforce that is centuries old. A Jamaican plantation owner may have treated his slaves with this patronising mixture of ridicule and contempt.
Though she approached those she commissioned as a friend, Shubik commissions should perhaps have carried a ‘health warning’; if you accept a job from her, there is a serious risk that she will feel this gives her carte blanche to libel and to ridicule you.
I do find it puzzling that, given the information available to her, Irene reached the conclusions she did in her book. An even greater puzzle is: why, when the ‘Edna team’ achieved such high accolades, and some of the most prestigious awards our profession has to offer (it won the Best Director, Best Performance and Best Play awards from BAFTA and the Writers Guild), instead of sitting back and enjoying the plaudits, she instead chose to spend long hours working on a book which would publicly insult and betray the team who had worked hard for her.
There came a time when Irene did appear to be actively trying to sabotage the potential effect of ‘Edna’. Aware of the amount of money that its association with ‘Cathy’ brought in for Shelter (an estimated quarter to half million), the national charity Christian Action, which aims to help single homeless people (like Edna) living on the streets and in hostels, with my help, arranged a press conference at their Greek Street hostel, printed posters and leaflets and booked space for advertisements to coincide with the transmission of ‘Edna’, scheduled for Spring 1971. Knowing all of this, Irene postponed the transmission of ‘Edna’ at short notice so that much of these accompanying spinoffs had to be cancelled. From this point on, Irene seemed to be trying to reduce the impact of ‘Edna’. When Clarence Paget, the managing director of Pan Books, who were to publish novelisations of all three of the trilogy, rang to suggest how they and the BBC might work together on publicity, Irene was initially curt with him and later refused to discuss the matter.
When a new date was decided for the postponed transmission, in Autumn 1971, Christian Action again sent out invitations to a launch at their Greek Street hostel. Irene had printed a different set of invitations to a launch in a viewing theatre on the same day and an hour or so earlier, and diverted journalists and critics making contact through her office to this alternative press viewing. Television and radio came to the Christian Action launch, which was linked to an appeal, but Irene largely succeeded in what appears to have been her intention, to sabotage the socially committed launch by Christian Action and replace it with a more typical television preview.
The film won the Best Performance, Best Direction, and Best Script awards from the ACTT and Writers Guild. My experience of these events is that the producer is normally approached by the award giving body and invites the winners to the ceremony. They, in theory at any rate, don’t know if they’ve won it or not. Irene, who was the one of us who knew we had won, did not contact me at all so that I missed both ceremonies. As far as I can make out, she also kept the information from Ted.
At both ceremonies, as I understand it, it was Irene herself who was sitting among the audience and Irene was the one who went up on to stage to pick up the glittering prizes.
Much of Irene’s book is quite a pleasant read. The factual content contains more hits than misses. I have to ask myself why, in the case of ‘Edna’, are there so many inaccuracies? Why is it dealt with at such length (was it that important in the evolution of television drama?) and, above all, why the debunking tone of voice, sometimes patronising, sometimes venomous? Why the betrayal?
I’ve thought of various explanations;
(1) The most important reason of all perhaps, it seems to me, is that because of her previous tempestuous romantic involvement with Kotcheff, Irene was, in her production of ‘Edna’, again swept away and unable to persuade him to make cost cuts; cuts which I myself was indeed, as time passed, prepared to make; cuts which would have enabled the film to come in on budget. ‘Edna’ was expensive for its time. Later, faced with severe criticism from her colleagues and bosses, was it easier for Irene to blame the overspend on Kotcheff and myself, rather than own up to her own inability to bring her production in on budget?
(2) Another possible reason also concerns Irene’s relationship with Ted. Although there were periods during which they worked well together, what she also got from him was a series of rows, sometimes of extreme violence in front of cast and technicians, about his perception that she was not providing enough money for him to make ‘Edna’ properly. ‘This is a film,’ he would shout, ‘This is how films are made!’ I think Irene herself has described the shooting of ‘Edna’ as a traumatic experience. It is possible, therefore, that the outcome of ‘Edna’ in terms of her and Ted was different to what she had dreamed it might be. It is sometimes said that ‘hell hath no fury like a woman scorned’ and it is possible that a motive for this part of her book - this, like all these explanations, is only hypothesis - was revenge.
(3) Another motive could have been financial greed. The reputation of Kotcheff and myself stood high at the time and lucrative pickings of up to, say, £5,000 might well have been available from the press for a ‘hatchet job’. Irene, encouraged by her publishers, may well have believed this act of betrayal could be lucrative.
(4) As a would-be writer of screenplays herself, Irene may have wanted to emphasise her own contribution to the script of ‘Edna’, since that would reflect back on her own ability as a writer.
(5) It is clear, from various things Irene has written and from my own memories, that Irene had conceived a high degree of envy for Tony Garnett, who she felt had got a better deal from the BBC than she had, and also had achieved a high profile as a producer in the public’s perception in a way she had not. It may be that this book as a whole seeks to raise her profile as a producer to a level comparable with Garnett’s; to match his status as a producer which, then as now, stood high.
(6) The next three possible reasons do not make me particularly proud. I am aware in retrospect that Ted and I were colluding to exclude Irene from some of the decision-making process and also were manipulative in creating a situation in which she spent more money on the film that she had intended. This, I can understand, was distressing for Irene.
(7) When it began to dawn on me that Irene did not intend to present the plays as a trilogy, and indeed did not intend to produce two of them at all, I was angry. In those days, if a producer had sat on a play for a year or two without producing it, the chances of getting another producer interested were slight. Plays are like babies and I was angry at what felt like the abortion of two works in which my emotional investment had been huge. I can understand now that it would have been kinder to my producer not to have expressed my anger so openly.
(8) Ken Loach had shot the whole of ‘Cathy Come Home’, a film demanding more resources than ‘Edna’, in three weeks, and had remained calmly in control. Tony Garnett, the producer, had equally been calm and professional throughout and I had come to believe this is the way things always are in film making. ‘Edna’, a less complicated film, took ten weeks to shoot and was the cause, on the part of the producer, of panic, trauma, and hysteria. Did I transgress the bounds of courtesy when sometimes I tried to inject some efficiency into the situation and urged Irene to take a hold on herself? Looking back, I have so say, with regret, that the answer may have to be ‘yes’; and that this experience may have been painful to Irene.
Although the BBC Drama Department was increasing the number of films it made, Irene was at that time fairly unfamiliar with the film making process and much more familiar with studio drama. She had certainly never produced a film calling for the resources and number of characters in ‘Edna’, which were more typical of a cinema feature film than the sort of thing Irene was used to. Ted and I, however, had both, separately, worked on films like this before and part of Irene’s very visible symptoms of panic may well have been due in part to her finding herself involved in a process more complicated than those she was used to. Irene was described by some of our production team as ‘she who can lose her head when all around are keeping theirs’. A typical story going the rounds, which may have been exaggerated, told how Irene, who had the key to the location where the day’s shooting was to take place, one day vanished entirely and actors and technicians, waiting outside were, as the minutes ticked by, becoming restless. At length Irene was traced to a woman’s toilet where she had locked herself in. On being asked whether she needed any help, Irene sadly replied; ‘Send Ted. I’ll make him goddam know how much he really goddam needs me.’
None of all this really explains why Irene should have chosen to write things in the book which, whether she knew them to be false or not, she certainly must have known would cause pain and confusion to colleagues and friends. Betrayal of friends and colleagues is not pleasant whatever the motive. Only Irene could tell us the reasons for this betrayal, or perhaps she herself does not know the reason.
Many organisations over the years end up serving themselves rather than the purpose for which they were formed. Whether they be armies, royalty, police, schools, religions, or the media, they can become increasingly concerned with their own survival rather than with serving the communities they were set up to serve.
A key ingredient in this process is often the staff canteen. It provides a cohesion in the lives of employees of many of our institutions, including the BBC. The food, subsidised, is delicious and cheap. There is no need to consider eating elsewhere.
To a large degree, employees cease to have social contact with those outside. A canteen culture develops in which perceived wisdom replaces actual involvement, at any non professional level, with the stresses and strains of the real world outside.
As a result, employees can often become remarkably out of touch and so, for this and other reasons, the situation often arises, in my experience, that the best programmes on television happen despite, rather than because of, those whose job it is to foster them.
This was true in the case of ‘Cathy Come Home’, which Tony Garnett made sure would not be seen by anyone in authority before it was transmitted and achieved such success. It made the stir it did despite, rather than because of, the BBC heirarchy.
That is what can happen when a producer knows his own mind. In the case of a weaker producer, the process works differently. Reading the tributes from Patricia Hayes and Ted Kotcheff, printed in this appendix, and then reading Irene’s ‘notes on Edna’, I am struck by a qualitative difference. What Ted and Patricia have to say is perceptive. It is hard to find a single word in Irene’s contribution which does not display her inability to understand what was important in my script or even what was going on around her.
‘Edna’ achieved the success it did despite, rather than because of, its producer. To understand how often this happens in a venerable organisation like the BBC is to be close to a truth of far wider importance than anything merely concerned with the film of ‘Edna, the Inebriate Woman’.
1. Preface to proposed new edition of ‘Edna’ by Ted Kotcheff.
2. Preface to ‘Edna’ by Patricia Hayes.
3. Letter from Jeremy Sandford to The Independent, March 1993.
4. Letter from Tony Garnett, August 1992.
5. Article ‘Truths Come Home’ by Harry Whewell in The Guardian, February 1971.
6. ‘Baftagate’, article in Sunday Times, April 1992.
7. Jeremy Sandford, some press quotes.
8. Jeremy Sandford, screenplays, radio plays, films, stage.
9. Jeremy Sandford CV.
10. Provenance of ‘Edna’.
11. Letter from Irene about the trilogy, 29 January 1970.
12. Letter from Pan re page proofs, 5 October 1970.
13. Letter from Irene about ‘Till the End of the Plums’, 6 March 1972.
14. ‘Edna, the Inebriate Woman’, from ‘The Documentary Conscience’ by Alan Rosenthal.
15. Irene’s ‘voluminous notes’ on ‘Edna, the Inebriate Woman’, as printed in ‘Play for Today; the Evolution of Television Drama’.
Jeremy Sandford: Screenplays, Radio Plays, Films, Stage
It is For Ever (1956), BBC, with Alan Wheatley.
Dreaming Bandsmen (1956), BBC, with Kenneth Haigue, Alan Bates; music by the author, conducted by Charles Mackeras.
The Quinquaphone (1957), BBC.
Not Wishing to Return (1958, remade in 1968), BBC, with Patricia Gallimore.
Whelks and Chromium (1959), BBC, with Harry Fowler.
Oluwale (1973), Radio Brighton and BBC, with Paul Schofield.
The Motor Heist (1975), Radio Brighton, Imperial Tobacco Award Nomination.
Virgin of the Clearways (1982), BBC.
Verdict Suicide (1985), BBC.
Hotel de Luxe (1962), ACTT award.
Cathy Come Home (1966), BBC, with Carol White; Italia Prize, ACTT, Writers Guild awards.
Edna, the Inebriate Woman (1971), BBC, with Patricia Hayes; ACTT Writers Guild awards.
Don’t Let Them Kill Me on Wednesday (1980), Granada, with Rita Tushingham.
Dreaming Bandsmen (1960), Belgrade Coventry, with Colin Blakeley.
The Fatted Calf (1980), ICA London, with Crystal Theatre of the Saint.
Dream Topping (1979-1981), Kings Head Theatre Club, Young Vic, and other venues; with Philippa Finnis.
Raggle Taggle (1993), Cheltenham Festival and Gloucester. Beaufort School Community Play.
Songs from the Roadside (1994 - ongoing), Folly Lane Theatre, Hereford, and other locations, with Ted Atkinson and Mark O’Gallaidh.
Provenance of Edna
(The dates are those on the scripts and letters)
An early version of the script. 09.12.69
Contract for ‘The Lodging House’ (working title of ‘Edna’) signed,
to be delivered by 31.03.70. 28.01.70
Letter from me to Irene apologising for straying over deadline. 01.04.70
Letter from Shubik: ‘the script on woman vagrants has not been written
at all’ (presumably crossed mine in post). This letter also states her
doubt about Kotcheff as director. 02.04.70
Fairly complete version of novel. 08.04.70
Letter from me to Irene: ‘Edna’ is at the typist right now. 14.04.70
Complete (?) version of novel. 30.04.70
Letter from me to Irene says; ‘Edna you already have’. 11.05.70
Letter from Irene asking me to work with Ted on reducing cost of
‘Edna’: she is to be away for six weeks. 20.07.70
Letter to Anne Kersch saying I’ve cut ‘Edna’ down re cost. 29.07.70
Letter from Irene: ‘I have finally managed to persuade Gerald Savory
to let us do ‘Edna’ ... 02.08.70
Letter from me to Gerald Savory says that Pan are ‘already setting up
Letter from Irene, plus notes, which she says she’s discussed with Ted
(most of these notes were ignored by Ted and me). 23.09.70
BBC copy of my script. 02.10.70
Letter from Clarence Paget at Pan enclosing page proofs of the novel
of ‘Edna’. 05.10.70
BBC typed script gives shooting times as beginning: 02.11.70
and finishing: 04.12.70
The book published. Spring71
The film originally to be transmitted: Spring71
The film actually transmitted: 21.09.71
The book ‘Down and Out in Britain’ (hard cover) published. 21.09.71
‘Down and Out in Britain’ (soft cover) published. 1972
Jeremy Sandford FanClub Archives
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