Monday, 7 October 2013
Monday 7 October 1963
There might be people who'd be on the edge of their seat over the question of whether some air conditioning units are going to be available on time, but I have to confess I'm not one of them. Fortunately there's enough human interest bubbling away in tonight's Plane Makers that even if you're not especially interested in air conditioning it's still pretty engaging. Much of the human interest this week is provided by John Hamilton (Stanley Meadows), a buyer at Scott Furlong. We can see what kind of man he is from the moment he arrives at work, ignoring the greeting of an elderly security officer and rushing to suck up to a senior member of staff. An unashamed creep, Hamilton is desperate to advance in the company, and while chief buyer Norman Reynolds is on holiday he's having a whale of a time playing at being big man, having commandeered both his boss's office and his less-than-impressed secretary (Patricia Haines).
Hamilton's desire to gain power over others is vividly illustrated when he deigns to see a sales rep played by Howard Goorney (seen in The Avengers just a couple of days ago). Smoking a fag shortly before the rep enters his office, Hamilton hides the ashtray and makes out he doesn't smoke, but encourages the rep to - meaning he's left in the extremely awkward situation of having nowhere to stub out his cigarette: from which Hamilton clearly gains a sadistic thrill.
Newly installed works manager Arthur Sugden, meanwhile, is fretting about those air conditioning units, which are desperately needed for a plane under construction. And he's feeling increasingly uneasy about the perks employees see as part of their job - such as getting the mechanics to fix bits of their cars.
Sugden sends Hamilton to have a word with the contractor due to supply the units, the hail-fellow-well-met Jack Sefton (Campbell Singer), who regrets there's nothing he can do to speed up delivery. But while in his office an intrigued Hamilton notices a postcard from Norman Reynolds which suggests he has Sefton to thank for his holiday.
When Reynolds (Noel Johnson )returns to work, Hamilton overhears a conversation between him and Sefton which confirms that Sefton gave Hamilton and his wife use of his villa in Majorca. Hamilton can barely conceal his joy at discovering this piece of information. An embarrassed Reynolds attempts to justify himself to Hamilton - the holiday was arranged after Sefton had won the tender to supply the units, and was intended for his wife, who's recovering from a nervous breakdown, to convalesce. Hamilton delights in having the upper hand over his boss, and is very happy to let him know it.
Hamilton, convinced he'll be stepping into Reynolds' shoes before long, starts cosying up to Sefton himself. Cosying up to Sugden (who finds him utterly repellent) doesn't prove so easy. His insinuations about what Reynolds have been up to just earn him a stern ticking-off from the works manager. Realising he's not quite the master manipulator he believed himself to be, a chastened Hamilton bitterly throws away the symbolic cigar given to him by Sefton (in The Plane Makers a cigar is never just a cigar).
Deciding to finish what he's started, Hamilton visits Sugden in his office and tells him the whole story of Reynolds and Sefton - and also that his research has revealed there was actually a much better offer than Sefton's on the table from another supplier. It's information Sugden would really rather not have had.
Things don't look good for Reynolds. Summoned to see Sugden, he admits the offer of the villa prompted him to give Sefton the contract, but explains the lengths of desperation his wife's condition has brought him too. Sugden's reaction is one of weary disappointment: all over the factory he sees men taking any perks they can get, and he'd never considered Reynolds to be like that. Sugden refuses Reynolds' resignation and decides to take no action for the time being. Reynolds returns to his office, now permanently closed to Hamilton, where the strains of his professional and personal lives finally prove too much.
Written down it all sounds a bit dull, but All Part of the Job is brought to life by the fantastic performances of Meadows, Johnson and Reginald Marsh. Hamilton in particular is a vividly loathsome character who seems all too real. Patricia Haines is always brilliant, but here she gets disappointingly little to do.
There's no Patrick Wymark in this episode - perhaps the RSC didn't want to let him out this week.