Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Wednesday 9 September 1964

Stan Ogden's got a new job, driving a "Rolls Bentley", and obviously his prime concern is showing it off to his neighbours.  Hilda's fair brimming over with pride in her husband, much to their daughter's revulsion.  "Being a wife, our Freda... our Irma, is a work of art," rhapsodises Hilda in the face of extreme scepticism (note that by now Hilda is fully be-curlered, as she would mostly remain for the next 23 years).  Part of Hilda's wifely art is making crab paste and cheese sandwiches for her beloved spouse while Mark Saber's on (for the uninitiated that's Saber of London, a long-running crime series produced by the Danziger Brothers which ceased production in 1960 but was used by ITV companies as a handy schedule-filler for a long time after) - the sort of minute, perfect details you expect from a Jack Rosenthal script.

Hilda gets rather excited about seeing Stan in his new uniform, though Irma's not so keen: "You know what I'm like when I get the giggles, I'm good for nowt all day."

At the Rovers, poor Jack Walker is suffering the aftermath of the Viaduct Sporting Club's talent contest, in which Annie's performance of "We'll Gather Lilacs" wasn't even placed.  It takes a while to establish that this is the reason for her foul mood.  "By 'eck, you don't half go round the cat's backside," sighs her long-suffering husband.  He inadvertently cheers her up by suggesting that the judges in question weren't the greatest arbiters of taste: "How often does Maria Callas do a season at the Viaduct Sporting Club?" she muses.

The £10 prize money was awarded to Lucille Hewitt, a viper in Annie's very own bosom, who wowed the judges with a beat number.  "I've never had so much money in me life!" she marvels as she heads off to town to spend it.  Annie comforts herself by reflecting that Lucille's triumph is proof positive of the judges' tin ears.

The corner shop also houses a distressed proprietor, though the reasons for Florrie Lindley's strange behaviour are rather more mysterious than Annie's bruised vanity.  She gets Minnie Caldwell's order all wrong, and shirtily refuses to change a note for her friend Elsie Tanner (whose hair, at this stage, is practically breaching the stratosphere).  The worst of her mood's reserved for the unfortunate Irma, who's a minute or so late for work.

Ena Sharples happens by, warning everyone present that her corn's giving her gyp - a surefire sign there's hail coming.  She wants to know if Florrie's heard any more from the Irish workman whose wage packet she returned.  In return, she feels the full force of the shopkeeper's ire: Florrie's convinced that Ena and Minnie are making fun of her, and storms off.

At the Rovers, Dennis Tanner's demonstration of the latest dance moves, which he accompanies with an a capella rendition of "My Guy", inspired by Lucille's performance the previous evening, is wasted on a bemused Jack.  Dennis is being all wistful about his time working in showbiz - he's currently a hairdresser, which seems about right.

By this time, Ena and Minnie have settled themselves in the snug to discuss Florrie's peculiar behaviour.  "We'll be getting a reputation for barmy folk in this street," Ena huffs.  "Oh, it's the pace of modern living," responds Minnie in a doomed attempt at seeming worldly wise.  But Ena has her own diagnosis of, and prescription for, Florrie's problems: "Bingo two nights a week and telly the rest.  You know, she needs a feller, that lass."

Minnie's been offered a ride in Stan's Rolls with the Ogdens, and, in her usual brook-no-argument way, Ena muscles her way in too: "Do you know how often I've been in a big shiny car?" she asks Minnie, rhetorically.  "Twice, in 60 years.  And I'd just like to do it once without a wet hanky in me hand."

The ride turns into a proper outing as Minnie's lodger Charlie Moffitt (and his dog) pile into the vehicle too, and Albert Tatlock runs after the car to be included too.  The trip's on film, with no recorded sound, so the programme-makers decide to add plinky-plonky piano music to make it seem like a proper silent movie.  It's an enchanting little scene, especially the bits inside the car, with enormous, blurry close-ups of the actors, which have a genuine feel of the home movie to them (Sandra Gough adds to the informal theme by sticking two fingers up at Jean Alexander at one point).

Irma reluctantly returns to the shop afterwards, and she and Albert promptly have a row.  But they blur into the background as the camera focuses on Florrie's anguished face, their voices becoming equally blurred until they're just indistinguishable noise.  It's a tremendously realised effect.

Stan returns home, sheepishly revealing that a combination of dog hair, cigar smoke and mud from Albert's allotment gave his use of the car for his own pleasure away, and he's been sacked as a result.  "You know, it's uncanny about me and work, isn't it?" He muses.  "We've never got on, have we?" I feel much the same.

Charlie, meanwhile, has met up with his friend Norman Phillips (Ray Brooks), a slick London talent scout keen to sign up Lucille after her talent show triumph.  Rather wonderfully, she turns out not to be interested in a showbiz career at all.  "I think you've got something lacking if you want to stand on a stage and sing," she tells Norman, possibly thinking of her Auntie Annie.  Charlie's stunned: "I wish I'd had a mother like that.  I'd've probably been a bank manager by now."

Unlike her alter ego, actress Jennifer Moss did have a stab at a pop career, with Joe Meek producing a few numbers for her.  Sadly, unlike her fellow Street star Christopher Sandford, she failed to trouble the charts.  Here's the sweetly endearing "Hobbies".

Back at the shop Florrie's still scaring away her customers.  Her latest target's Len Fairclough, who makes the mistake of asking if she's heard anything from her old flame Frank Barlow.

Irma's had enough of her employer's bizarre tantrums, and walks out on her (Dennis Tanner pops his head in and very swiftly out again once he sees the pair at it hammer and tongs).  As Irma leaves, we get a clue to the anxieties that are making Florrie act so strangely, as she cries out "Nobody's young forever, you know!"

Irma's parents, meanwhile, are considering the adjustments they'll have to make now Stan's out of work again: "While I'm on the dole I'll knock down on the beer.  I won't knock it off completely.  There's no sense in making everybody miserable, is there?" There's a fantastic bit of misdirection here, with Hilda's manner and her very serious facial expression leading the audience to think she's suffused with anger at her husband's fecklessness, and ready to explode.  It turns out her thoughts are actually elsewhere entirely - she's thinking about what to cook for tea.  And far from being annoyed that her husband's out of work she's quite pleased about it: "I like having you around."  The Ogdens have by now changed from the troublemakers they threatened to be when they first appeared to soap's most loveable and uxorious couple, as they would remain.  It's hard to imagine a shiftless, almost permanently unemployed character in a soap today being treated with the same indulgence and lack of judgement as Stan is.

Back at the shop Florrie's going full-on berserk, chucking one can through a window and finally collapsing into a sobbing heap in a display of others...

And on Monday you'll be able to find out what happens next.

1 comment:

  1. Wednesday September 9th 1964,Granada Television Serving The North of England & Lancashire(Mondays to Fridays),(Weekdays) for Coronation Street.

    The late Betty Alberge is best remembered as the shopkeeper Florrie Lindley is The Original Cast Member and she stayed for the last five years in June 1965.

    Florrie's temper always snapping at the customers in the corner shop with Irma Ogden,Len Fairclough,Dennis Tanner,Ena Sharples,Minnie Caldwell and Elsie Tanner,also when she smashes the post office window with the tin of peaches and on her knees and she had a breakdown in tears crying her heart out and the great original performance by the late Betty Alberge.

    Sadly Betty Alberge passed away at the age of 69 years on Saturday May 18th 1991.

    The Memories of The Great Original British Actress icon is The late Betty Alberge as Florrie Lindley in Coronation Street from Friday December 9th 1960 to Wednesday June 2nd 1965.

    Terry Christie,from Sunderland,Tyne & Wear.