Friday, 20 September 2013
Friday 20 September 1963
This week's Marriage Lines is one of the best to date: a frenetic 30 minutes that provides an especially good opportunity for Richard Briers to show off his skills as a farceur as George Starling desperately attempts to keep his past from colliding with his present. We get to meet two more of George's colleagues, nervous, Welsh Ossie (Anthony Hall) and cheerily misogynistic Harold ("It's a large, empty space surrounded by cotton wool", he says of a woman's brain), played by Richard Carpenter, who'd later create Catweazle and Robin of Sherwood. Ossie invites George to his engagement party - or at least it will be his engagement party if his girlfriend Ethel agrees to marry him.
Ossie looks up to George and Kate as his ideal of wedded bliss, which grants George a rare chance to play man of the world. George dispenses his considered wisdom on the fair sex: "They're like Martians" (John Gray got it wrong). Devoted as George is to Kate, he reveals that he still carries around a photo of his ex-girlfriend Jackie, for old times' sake: "Just because you get married to one of the opposite sex doesn't mean you're inoculated against the rest of them.
George's swagger dissipates when he learns, to his horror, that Jackie has been invited to the party too - Kate having been on the warpath since a chance meeting between George and his old flame in the local library (they were both reaching for the same Agatha Christie). George decides he can't possibly risk Kate and Jackie's paths crossing - the trouble is he's already called Kate and told her about the party that night. Sheepishly returning home, he has to break it to his excited wife that the party's off. But she's been lacquering her hair all afternoon!
Shortly afterward, Harold calls to say Jackie's been put off attending the party: having de-lacquered, Kate's a bit miffed about hearing the party's back on.
Women's hairstyles of this time look such a ridiculous faff that it's no wonder a major revival of the bob was just around the corner.
There's more trouble ahead for George, as the phone rings again - and it's Jackie on the end of the line.
She will be going to the party after all, but George is spared the need to come up with an excuse: Kate's so unhappy about her hair she insists George go alone: "It'll take you back to the days before you were married, won't it?"
George sets about preparing for the evening, and I feel it would be rude to allow the Starlings' intriguing bathroom decor to go unnoticed.
But wait - now Kate's decided she's got her hair to a presentable state, and wants to come after all. George calls Harold in despair: "There's nothing left now but to feign death, and I'm so nervous I wouldn't be able to keep still." Harold insists they'll get rid of Jackie shortly after she arrives, and George delays his and Kate's arrival to be on the safe side.
When they do get there, Jackie hasn't even arrived yet. George and Harold get their cover stories confused, leading to one of Kate's trademark weepy storm-offs. When Jackie (Sally Bazeley) finally does get to the party, she humiliates George by telling the whole party that nothing ever really happened during the course of their relationship. Kate takes this opportunity to return and stick up for her husband: "Why do you behave like an early Joan Crawford picture every time he happens to bump in to me?" asks Jackie, while Kate finally bests her by suggesting it's rather suspicious that George should have changed from a rubbish boyfriend to a brilliant husband as soon as he and she were no longer together.
Ossie thinks that the scene will have put Ethel (who's surprisingly glam, and played by Katy Wild) off the idea of marriage for good. Instead, she asks him to marry her: previously she'd heard Ossie's admiring tales of Kate and George and thought getting wed sounded hideously dull. On seeing the big drama she's decided marriage could be fun after all. Once again it's a bit frustrating to be presented with another female character who seems so much more interesting than Kate.