Monday, 21 October 2013
Monday 21 October 1963
The Old Boy Network is a wry look at the double standard in business which means a worker can be fired for a costly mistake, and yet an executive (in theory more accountable) can do the same and escape censure. It's also a showcase for director John Cooper's obvious fondness for big closeups of his cast.
Here's Bert Palmer, whose resemblance to a superannuated whippet made him a natural for playing relics of a bygone working class (he's probably best known as Alan Bates' dad in A Kind of Loving). Here he plays 63-year old Bert Wainwright, who's blamed for the breakage of a vastly expensive piece of radar equipment due to be installed in a jet ordered by Africa Airlines (even though its not entirely his fault).
Bert's handed his notice by his boss, William Breen, played by Patrick Magee. An angry Magee is always a sight to see, and his wrath's lent an extra dimension here by him using the accent of his native Ulster (a character refers to Breen as having come "from the gutters of Belfast"). It's a strangely exotic sound among the RP and generic working class accents sported by the rest of the cast.
When the news of the radar's destruction reaches Managing Director John Wilder he's incandescent with rage. Never one to empathise with his workforce, he just wishes there was a more severe punishment than the sack available.
The test flight of the African plane is due shortly, but the situation's just about salvageable - Wilder sends a memo out informing the relevant staff that it'll need to be put back. Here's his secretary Miss Lingard being a bit lascivious with an envelope.
Unfortunately one of Scott-Furlong's young executives, Nigel Carr (Jeremy Burnham), rolling into work with a hangover, fails to read the memo...
...and informs a key contact at African Airlines (Gordon Rollings) that everything's going ahead as it should.
Although this has made the situation far worse for Scott-Furlong Carr, rather than being chucked out on his ear, is given an opportunity to make things right.
Meanwhile, union convener Stan Wallace (Anthony Sagar), tries to get the decision to boot out bewildered old Ernie reversed. His pleas to allow the old codger (63 year olds were far older in 1963 than they are now) to stay on until his retirement fall on deaf ears, however.
So the considerably more aggressive Eddie Taylor (Richard Shaw) steps in. Eddie scorns the official union, seeing it as a lapdog to the bosses. But he prides himself on being one of a select group of 50 skilled workers the factory can't function without, meaning any threats they make are taken far more seriously Stan's polite requests. Sure enough, he manages to get Ernie his job back (much to Wilder's horror). As the decade wore on, it would increasingly be bullying agitators like Eddie, rather than the placatory Stan, who'd dominate the general public's image of industrial action.
Oh, and Carr manages to get himself out of his spot easily enough: he just tells his contact the date set for the test flight isn't convenient as it clashes with a party he's going to.
The cast of The Old Boy Network also includes the highly glamorous Justine Lord as Carr's gossipy secretary, but for some inexplicable reason the camera doesn't get very close to her. Here's a final bonus closeup this week, though: it's a sheet of Scott-Furlong headed paper!