Thursday, 24 July 2014

Cast Axings In The 1960s And 1970s...

Much has been written about the axing of cast members and popular characters from Crossroads in the 1980s.

It's not surprising.

But what does surprise me is the fact that so little is written about the axings of cast members and popular characters in the 1960s and 1970s.

Of course, there were not nearly so many, but still it is odd that Crossroads was chopping popular characters well before the 1980s began.

Sometimes there seemed to be reasons. Sometimes not.

Noele Gordon took the view that in a real motel staff and guests were always changing, and I suppose she was right, but with some of the characters it didn't quite wash. One, for instance, was the motel's chef, happy in a sought-after senior position. Another ran the motel's hairdressing salon.

And anyway Crossroads was not a real motel. I have heard of no other soap with the tendency to write out the viewers' favourite characters in this way.

The first popular character to be axed was Anthony Morton, who played the motel's original temperamental chef Carlos Rafael in the 1960s.

Carlos was killed off, and Anthony Morton sent Crossroads producer Reg Watson a mourning card, with "Wish you were here" written on it.

Other less high profile Crossroads folk got the chop before and after Carlos, but the next biggie to go was Amy Turtle, motel cleaner, kitchen hand and gossip, played by Ann George.

I have to say that Amy, on-screen from 1965 to early 1976, was more popular with my mother and aunts, and many other women in my neighbourhood, than Meg Richardson!

Her axing came after reported difficulties between herself and leading lady Noele Gordon.

Ann was invited back to make a few guest appearances as Amy in 1987.

In 1977, "tart with a heart" Vera Downend, played by Zeph Gladstone, was chopped.

Introduced by the (then) producer Reg Watson in the early 1970s, Vera was a charming character and a great favourite of mine. Her love-life was a disaster, but she was always around to provide sympathy and a listening ear to those in trouble. At the time, her leaving was a puzzle - did she decide to go, or was she dropped? In her 1988 book, Soap Box, TV journalist Hilary Kingsley revealed that Zeph had been dropped.

In 1975, Meg married her long-term suitor Hugh Mortimer (John Bentley). After a short period of married bliss, the character was dispatched to Australia on a "big business deal" and then, in 1978, killed off - dying of a heart attack whilst in the custody of international terrorists.

Hugh was very popular with viewers, and his wedding to Meg had been a tremendous spectacle, greatly enjoyed.

As if his departure wasn't enough, we suddenly learned that Hugh was not such a great businessman. He was in serious debt at the time of his death. Meg had to sell off motel shares, thus ceasing to be a majority shareholder, to pay off those debts.

Edward Clayton as Stan Harvey was part of the family at the Motel - he'd married Meg's daughter, Jill, and was one of the show's dependable and likeable characters - part of its stability. He was dispatched around the same time as Hugh Mortimer.

And like Hugh, the character was presented in rather an unsympathetic light upon his departure.

It was all a great shame.

And I still find it a puzzle.

As for me personally, I particularly missed Zeph Gladstone as Vera Downend.

Vera had become like an old pal through many evenings of me munching my dinner, whilst watching her endure the ups and downs of life on her boat and at the motel salon.

So, when next you are reading about the Crossroads cast axings of the 1980s, spare a little thought for those who were given the chop years before.

The axings I've outlined here did absolutely nothing for the show, and were as puzzling and downright distressing as any made later.

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED JUNE 2010 - UPDATED JULY 2014

2 comments:

  1. As someone who watched Crossroads through its entire existence - and if it was there would be watching it still - I can only put it all down to jealousy. It took up space in the schedule which other TV people envied!

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  2. It's a fact that Noele Gordon had tried to take over control of the running of the studio where Crossroads was shot. She got too big for her boots and had to go, the studio management were determined to stop anyone getting so popular as Noele so they got rid of them. Charles Stapley, (A relative,) clued me in on some of the goings-on.

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