Saturday, 31 May 2014

Our Top 50 Favourite Crossroads Characters - 40: Darby

Darby:  "Please extinguish that cigarette, Mrs  Tardebigge!"
Mrs Tardebigge: "It's me bit of pleasure, lover."

Mr Thomas Darby, played by Patrick Jordan, was the hall porter at the Crossroads Motel in the mid-to-late 1980s. Thomas was just about always called and referred to as "Darby" or "Mr Darby". Use of his first name no doubt seemed a little too informal to him.

Fiercely devoted to Nicola Freeman, Darby always made sure she received her newspaper and cuppa each morning. As soon she was settled in her office for the day, he was in with a tray - and woe betide anybody who smoked in her office, for Darby would be in with the air freshener (it was called "Whispering Glen" or something).

Darby had quite a rigid mindset and clashed with the likes of cleaner Mrs Tardebigge and new motel owner Tommy "Bomber" Lancaster. He hated Mrs Tardebigge smoking in the staff room. Like all the best "pain-in-the-neck" soap characters, he always believed he was acting for the best. Sometimes his was the voice of doom and gloom. When Tommy took over the motel in 1987, Darby droned on endlessly - saying that it was just like the old Station Hotel at Buxton years before, and that the staff would soon be out on their ears. Perhaps if he wasn't so apt to get worked up about things, Darby could have avoided the heart attack he survived. But he was soon back to his old self.

He developed a friendship with Margaret Grice's mother, Mrs Babbitt, herself a gloomy old fusspot. At the end of the series in 1988, as the Three Crowns took over the newly-renamed King's Oak Country Hotel, Darby was heard saying that it was just like the old Station Hotel, Buxton, all over again...

Sunday, 18 May 2014

Our Top 50 Favourite Crossroads Characters - 41: Jane Smith

Jane Smith, once described by motel owner Meg Mortimer as: "One of our waitresses, with a heart of gold."

A real plain Jane with a real plain name, this waitress, played by Sally Adcock, was employed at the motel in the mid-to-late 1970s. She was plain speaking too, a great, down-to-earth Northern character. 

Her family background was rather unsettled and her mother was... well... not the nicest nurturing influence, but Jane fought her way upwards and onwards and was a very loyal member of the Salvation Army. Occasionally, I found her a little bit too much of a do-gooder and she got on my nerves but, in the main, plain Jane was solid gold, always caring and cheerful. I particularly liked her scenes with Sandy Richardson. There were times when Jane almost seemed like a sister to him, and the two had a great rapport which I thoroughly enjoyed.

Jane was also a great friend to Carney and Diane and Benny and, in fact, just about everybody. She even stuck around for Diane, with whom she shared a flat for a while, when Diane went a bit loopy and took to prowling around at night shredding clothes and other strange things, and then thinking an intruder had done them.

Jane's positive attitude and devotion to the Salvation Army made for heartwarming viewing.

I don't think they make soap characters like Jane Smith any more. In today's soap world of lusting, money-grabbing and serial killings, kindly Jane would seem very out of place.


Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Our Top 50 Favourite Crossroads Characters - 42: Rosemary Hunter

1980 took a sudden turn for the worst for David Hunter as Rosemary confronted him in the motel office.  And she was armed. "David... say it... tell me you love me... SAY IT!" 

Rosemary, played by Janet Hargreaves, was the neurotic first wife of David Hunter. She was a one-time heavy drinker and all-time  pain in the neck. The highly civilised David actually struck her once. The programme's audience took his side.

Even after she and David were divorced, Rosemary still turned to him whenever she had a problem, and sometimes turned up at the motel to interfere with his business affairs. David and Rosemary had a son, Chris, but it was later revealed that David was not actually Chris's biological father.

Rosemary makes it into our Top 50 list simply because of the famous episode from 1980 when she shot David in the motel office. This occurred on the evening of David's engagement to novelist Barbara Brady. Rosemary had become more and more unhinged in the run-up to the engagement party, and afterwards confronted David, whining "Tell me you love me... say it..." 

When David refused, she shot him.

The scene has gone down in soap history and Rosemary's place amongst the Crossroads greats is absolutely assured - forever.

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Our Top 50 Favourite Crossroads Characters - 43: Kevin Banks

 Kevin Banks on his wedding day in 1981.

Painter and decorator Kevin Banks, played by David Moran, first appeared on the King's Oak scene in 1980. He was soon dating motel waitress Glenda Brownlow. Kevin was a nice, down-to-earth lad with a faintly Brummie accent, which made his posh family background rather surprising. His mother, Sally, was a social climbing and, quite frankly, bloody awful snob. Father Oliver was a respectable, middle class businessman. Kev's sister Penny was "frightfully" well spoken too. We can't recall seeing Joyce, Kevin's other sister, on-screen - she was living in Canada, but we're willing to bet she was posh as well.

However, being a bit of a rebel and having a bit of a rift with his parents, Kevin slotted in very well with the working class Brownlows, and even better with Glenda's cousin Iris Scott, another 1980 new arrival in King's Oak, who seduced Kevin at his Auntie Marian's house. Oh yes, the very wonderful Mrs Owen, receptionist at the village's group practice, was the sister of Kevin's awful mother.

Kevin married Glenda in 1981, and married life was hardly plain sailing. Kevin fell in love with young Carole Sands, David and Barbara's housekeeper. This was no lecherous frolic, in fact, it was a very pure and sweet little tryst, but the pair's feelings for each other ran deep and Kevin left the district and worked away to help save his marriage. 

Kevin didn't mind the fact that Glenda couldn't have children, but Glenda did and when the idea of having a test tube baby occurred to her in 1982, Kevin was horrified. Glenda left him to live with her Auntie Rose in London, and he was forced to agree. The result was first time lucky - a daughter, Katy Louise.

Financial troubles abounded, and Kevin's father Oliver, keen to build a relationship with his son, bought him a partnership in the local building firm belonging to one Percy Dobson. Percy was an old adversary of Kevin's, but the partnership seemed to be working out well, until Percy's sudden death in late 1984. Kevin was shocked to discover that the business was in debt. He and Glenda lost all their savings and the business folded.

Kevin tried his hand at being a house husband - looking after the house and his daughter whilst Glenda went out to work at the motel. When his father Oliver invited Kev and family out to visit him in Canada, the young Bankses eagerly accepted. On returning to England, Kevin briefly had a job as a salesman - which didn't suit him at all, courtesy of Kath's boyfriend John Latchford.

Kevin had wanted to leave for Canada permanently. After the salesman fiasco and continuing tensions with John Latchford, Glenda agreed.

The young Banks family left England and made a successful fresh start in Canada in early 1985.

Kevin was a likeable everyday character and a bit of an anchor in the Brownlow/Banks household. Story-lines about the family abounded in the first half of the 1980s, and, although sometimes absent whilst working away, Kev was usually there, coping with Uncle Wally, his father's affair with Sharon Metcalfe, Kath's depression after Arthur's death, and Glenda's ups-and-downs. Another of those believable characters it would have been good to have had a pint with down at The Running Stag.

Monday, 12 May 2014

Our Top 50 Favourite Crossroads Characters - 44: Kitty Jarvis

Mrs Kitty Jarvis, wife of Dick, mother of Brian and sister of Meg.

It's often forgotten these days, but part of the original concept of Crossroads was the tale of two sisters and their families - the sisters concerned were Meg Richardson, who was of course played by Noele Gordon, and Kitty Jarvis, played by Beryl Johnstone.

Noele Gordon in her autobiography, My Life At Crossroads, stated that the two sisters were originally envisaged as not having a very happy relationship - Kitty's jealousy of Meg and Meg's reactions to it being a pivotal part of the story. But, once on-screen, this was forgotten as Noele and Beryl got on well and it was felt that a clash of temperaments between the two characters would have been difficult to make believable on-screen.

The original opening theme music arrangements differed - depending on which of the two sisters' families were first seen on screen in individual episodes. There was an arrangement for the Jarvis family and an arrangement for the Richardson family/motel.

Kitty lived with her husband Dick at their newsagent's and tobacconist's shop some distance from King's Oak. They had a son, Brian. Kitty was revealed to be a kind and caring woman, not as unflappable as Meg, but definitely a good sort. She was a good wife and mother - and sister to Meg and brother Andy Fraser, and also a kind daughter-in-law to Dick's father, Enoch.

Kitty endured numerous crises, including her husband being cheated by his business associates, Victor Amos and Charlie Forward, and son Brian being accused of manslaughter.

When Beryl Johnstone died in 1969, the character had to die too. In Crossroads, when the unexpected death of a cast member necessitated the death of the character they played, the demise of the character was only briefly mentioned on-screen and there were no funeral or mourning story-lines. Such was the case with Kitty Jarvis.

Kitty seems largely forgotten when Crossroads is discussed these days. But the character and her family were a central ingredient of the original show, and the character was very popular. No 50th anniversary list of favourite characters of the 1960s, '70s and '80s would be complete without her.