Wednesday, 23 October 2013
Wednesday 23 October 1963
In the 21st century, soap opera weddings tend to be vastly overblown affairs, sometimes hitched on to another drama like the culmination of a love triangle, or the exit of half the cast in a freak accident involving a combine harvester. Often the show's slot will be expanded to twice its usual length to accommodate the momentous occasion. In 1963, this was not yet the case. Tonight's Coronation Street features the nuptials of Len Fairclough's slow-witted assistant Jerry Booth and his fiancée Myra Dickinson (Susan Jameson, still a familiar figure on our TV screens 50 years later). It's the same length as any other episode and somewhat strangely Jerry and Myra barely appear - with the actual ceremony occurring offscreen.
What we do see in considerable detail are the preparations of those Street residents who'll be attending the wedding. Harry and Concepta Hewitt's struggle to get ready on time leads to friction...
...while best man Dennis Tanner's attempts to rehearse his speech aren't aided by his mother's tirades against the institute of marriage.
At this point Dennis is still trying to make a singing star of the endearingly gormless Walter Potts, whose talents he's kindly providing for the reception. A country in the early stages of Beatlemania would immediately recognise the lapel-free jacket in which Walter looks so absurd. Dennis has always been a rather, er, flamboyant young man, and his relationship with his live-in protegé is certainly open to interpretation.
Wedding-obsessed Miss Nugent is practically exploding with excitement at having obtained an hour away from Gamma Garments to attend the church (you'd think Mr Swindley would know better than to give her ideas). Martha Longhurst, generous of spirit as always, refuses to go as she's had no invite to the reception: "If you're not good enough to seat down and eat with 'em you're not good enough to pray for 'em."
For some reason which without the immediately preceding episodes remains tantalisingly obscure, Ena Sharples has been sent to Coventry by the rest of the Street. Not literally - she's still going to the wedding, but as everyone waits for the cabs to the church they refuse to speak to her (even best friend Minnie Caldwell), and she ends up having to travel alone.
I expect a Google search would eventually reveal what Ena's transgression was, but I like the mystery. What did she do? Tell the public health inspector about hairy bourbons in Val Barlow's home salon? Spread a rumour that Florrie Lindley was soliciting outside the bingo hall? The mind boggles in the most agreeable fashion.
There's a very brief moment of drama outside the church as Jerry fails to turn up on time...
But he gets there eventually - he was over the road in the pub with Dennis. Presumably the ceremony all goes well, next thing we know we're at the reception, with some top-notch entertainment provided by Walter and a nattily-attired backing group who by rights should be called the Wallies.
Meanwhile, at the Rover's, those who couldn't be bothered to go to the wedding discuss Jerry and Myra's choice of honeymoon destination: they're off to Torquay, which Jack Walker doesn't think is sufficiently exotic. Annie demurs: "I have always believed, darling, that a honeymoon should be spent among one's own people." Somehow the conversation turns to Frank Barlow's remembrance of the time in Persia during the war he saw a man using his wife as a packhorse. "I don't mind a bit of caveman stuff meself," Elsie sighs wistfully.
Latter-day Boudicca Annie is unimpressed, however, and decides to sexually segregate the pub's clientele, with men in the public bar and women in the snug. It seems she has some kind of battle of the sexes planned: she, Elsie and Martha vs Jack, Frank and Albert Tatlock. Face it fellers, you've lost before you've even begun.
The episode ends with Ena, shunned by all and sundry, returning to her vestry to find someone's horrifically vandalised it. Surveying the wreckage with tears in her eyes the normally indomitable old woman slumps into a chair, traumatised: it's a horribly affecting sight.