Monday, 28 July 2014

What Did Charlie's "Growler" Look Like?

So, here we are at the reception desk with a hugely shoulder-padded Jill and a "Growler" loving Charlie, and it's time to catch up on a few e-mails...

Tim writes:

I loved your post on Charlie Mycroft. I was brought up on the Archers in the 1980's and was a great fan of Graham Seed. My mother never watched Crossroads and as it was pre-web days, I never knew Mr Seed featured in that programme. What did his toy dog "Growler" look like?

What a question, Tim! I have some episodes featuring said "Growler" somewhere. He was a small, black toy dog if I remember rightly. I'll try and get some screen caps up at some point - but there might be some footage on YouTube - do check. I was very happy to include Mr Mycroft in my Top 50 Favourite Crossroads Characters listings. If only the show had continued!

Monica writes:

I'm puzzled about Chris Hunter. David Hunter wasn't his biological father, was he?

No, Tina, he wasn't. This all came out in the early '80s when Iris Scott took some cassettes from Lloyd Munroe's cottage, thinking they contained music, then discovered they were tapes of Rosemary Hunter's therapy sessions with Lloyd. In 1984, Iris used the information to try and blackmail Jill and Adam Chance into keeping her boyfriend Gary in employment at Chimneys. This led Jill to say: "You really are a bitch, Iris!" Although aware of the facts regarding Chris's true parentage, David always regarded him as his son anyway.

Chris Hunter, played by Stephen Hoye.

And finally, from "Tish" (?!).

Loving the blog. Any chance of a mention of a certain Mrs Hope in your Top 50?

Ah, keep viewing, Tish!

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Our Top 50 Favourite Crossroads Characters - 32: Josefina Rafael

Josefina, played by Gillian Betts, was the wife of Crossroads chef, Carlos, in the 1960s. Both were Spanish. Josefina arrived in England after Carlos began work at the motel. Whilst Carlos was good hearted but fiery, Josefina was a warm and calming influence - and an optimist. She was a good friend to many of her fellow motel staff members, and a nice presence around the motel kitchen and dining room.

Carlos led her into several memorable scrapes.

But she loved him anyway.

Josefina's nephew, Peppi Costa, briefly added his culinary expertise to the motel kitchen staff, but, on returning to Spain for a holiday, was called up by the army.

1969 was a terrible year for Josefina: Carlos died in a fire after returning to Spain and she lost the baby she was carrying (I'm not quite sure of the order the tragic events took).

Poor Josefina! I can't remember her intended destination, but within a year or so she had left King's Oak - hopefully to rebuild her life and eventually find new happiness. 

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.


Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Was Crossroads Renamed "Crossroads Motel" In 1985?

Doris: "Well, I know it's called Crossroads, but I'd no idea it's a motel!"

Sandie writes:

I keep reading some slightly dubious stuff about Crossroads being renamed "Crossroads Motel" in the mid-1980s. I don't recall this. Was it?

It's a little confusing, but I don't think so, Sandie, not officially, not at the time.

In the show's new mid-1980s opening credits, the words "Crossroads Motel" were displayed across some fashionable vertical boardroom blinds. I think this was just for effect - a fancy new logo for the motel - but you can see how the confusion has arisen in more recent years, especially as many of the show's keenest modern day fans were small children back in the 1980s - or not even born - and the show's opening credits did end with the words Crossroads Motel!

Episodes from the 1970s and early 1980s would sometimes begin with a view of the motel sign - but we viewers never thought that episode was called Crossroads Motel Bar Restaurant Swimming Pool Open To Non Residents.

I don't recollect the show's producers announcing a name change (or rather extension) in 1985, and we viewers certainly did not from then on refer to the show as "Crossroads Motel". The emphasis was on the word Crossroads.

The 1985 opening titles were the first set of proper opening titles the show had ever had, so perhaps the designers decided to make a real splash. The 1980s had been greeted with a small change to the closing credits - the yellow on black lettering was changed to white on orange, apparently in an attempt to "brighten up" the show. The 1985 closing boardroom blinds were actually quite a sophisticated effect at the time.

The show did later formally extend its name, becoming Crossroads, King's Oak in 1987, however, this fact was formally announced by the producer - and clearly incorporated into the opening titles.

Whilst the first half of the 1980s had been as common as muck, the yuppie era was well and truly  getting into its stride in 1985. It's doubtful whether Mrs Tardebigge, who became the motel cleaner in late 1986, ever gave the blinds more than a flick of her feather duster.

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Our Top 50 Favourite Crossroads Characters - 33: Charlie Mycroft

1987: Charlie faces the joyful prospect of becoming Assistant General Manager at Crossroads - there's only one drawback: first he must go on the Red Ox training scheme...

Charlie Mycroft, played by Graham Seed, arrived at the Crossroads Motel in late 1986. Apparently one of Major International Hotels' star staff members, when the news broke that the motel was being sold to Tommy "Bomber" Lancaster, Charlie expected another placement to quickly arrive. But it didn't. "Bomber" liked Charlie and thought the ex-public schoolboy would add a touch of class to his establishment, so Charlie ended up staying on.

He was something of a buffoon, and the despair of his staff chalet mate - that up and coming yuppie-type Daniel Freeman. When Growler, Charlie's childhood companion toy dog, which guarded his pillow constantly, disappeared and was found in the swimming pool at the motel's new leisure centre, Charlie suspected Daniel and his girlfriend, Fiona, of doing the dastardly dunking. And he was right.

Daniel was not an easy chalet mate to have, and expected Charlie to absent himself whenever he wanted to entertain a lady there.

Despite his naivety and not-exactly-high intelligence levels, Charlie was a kind hearted soul and could be very charming, winning many friends amongst the motel staff. He and Benny Hawkins enjoyed reading their comics together in the staff room, and Charlie did his very best to find Benny's dog, Moses, when he went missing in 1987. He was an "absolute whizz" at organising activities for residents.

When last seen in 1988, romance for Charlie was blossoming with Crossroads secretary Anne-Marie Wade.

Charlie bore similarities to the character of Nigel Pargetter, who had first appeared in BBC Radio 4's The Archers serial in 1983. This was hardly surprising as Crossroads producer William Smethurst had created both characters and they were played by the same actor. Charlie's great kindness, trusting nature and not-exactly-high IQ make him an absolute must for a place in our Top 50 listing.

Charlie could quite easily have been a silly, unbelievable character, but Graham Seed played him with such integrity that I quickly found myself entering Charlie's world and liking him tremendously. Charlie was such a "people person" - so concerned for all those around him. He was even deeply moved when daft teenager Beverley Grice got engaged to her boyfriend Ranjit - although she only did it for the glamour of the situation, which included the thrill of wearing the ring!

I would have counted myself blessed to have had Charlie as a pal.

The spirit of true friendship was strong in late 1980s Crossroads. What a shame 21st Century soaps cannot make the same boast.