Location, Location, Location...
- Credit: Archant
FROM the big screen of the cinema to the small one in our living rooms, from the magic of the movies to the glories of the gogglebox...
Recently, during our look at films made in the Great Yarmouth area, I vaguely recalled that Hollywood star Joe Don Baker was once here shooting a picture but could not confirm it. Now I have been reassured that I was correct – well, almost.
The BBC signed him as a big name to front an episode in its Screen Two series of one-off television plays in 1989, reports reader David Mantripp, of Elm Avenue, Gorleston, who actually wrote an on-line review of the production, Defrosting the Fridge, for a movie website, IMDb.
David was unimpressed by the programme about a team of no-hoper football players, writing on-line: “This is one of those tedious TV films that every once in a while are made with no real point or sense of direction. We see a rather ‘out of place’ Joe Don Baker arrive in a fictional English town (it’s actually Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft) to coach a team of English student soccer players the sport of American football.
“The team are put through a rigorous training routine for a game. The Screen Two play really does lead nowhere and there are numerous continuity errors, not that it really matters for this dull affair.
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“However, fans of the sport may enjoy this, and those who live or work in Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft will no doubt recognise some of the locations.”
Mr Mantripp, now 50, is semi-retired after “a very enjoyable” 25-year career with the railways, working as a signalman at Lowestoft, Oulton Broad North and Somerleyton and Reedham swing bridges.
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Another reader, John Annison, contributes this: “I have a video of Defrosting the Fridge and it shows Joe Don Baker running along the Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft fishwharves and outside the library in Gorleston. Gorleston Cliffside Royalettes marching band were also requested to take part on the field where the game took place.
”Another film done locally was Rhythm and Greens, a publicity film for The Shadows record. It was filmed on Yarmouth’s North Beach and in Burgh Castle.”
The female lead in Defrosting the Fridge was Phyllis Logan - housekeeper Mrs Hughes in television’s Downton Abbey who married butler Mr Carson.
I also had an idea that a car chase was once filmed around Cobholm but could not remember details. One man who could was former colleague Tony Mallion who states that it, too, was not for a cinema production but for a TV programme.
He writes: “In the latter days of producing drama for the whole ITV network, Anglia Television did that superb series about an East Anglian police chief called The Chief, starring Tim Piggott-Smith, later replaced by Martin Shaw.
“In my Radio Norfolk days I did a fascinating interview with Anglia’s location manager who told me about his work which at that time included The Chief. One really spectacular episode involved an incident on an offshore gas rig which had been inspired when the manager was heading to Yarmouth on the Acle Straight to look at another possible site and noticed a gas rig clearly visible off Caister as he was driving along.
“He thought that might make a good story line – as indeed it later proved to be.
“But the police car chase around Yarmouth appeared in another episode which was very action-packed, although for those of us who are local it seemed a bit bizarre when the chase hurtled around Howard Street North near the back of Woolworth (now Poundland), then turned the corner which miraculously took them into Cobholm.
“Amazingly, there were no traffic lights or bridges to stop them! This may well be the occasion you recalled.
“For years Anglia made Tales of the Unexpected with all manner of locations in the area, famously Somerleyton Hall, but also among them a Dickensian scene which used Yarmouth’s George Street. To complete the shots and hide one modern building, a false old frontage was constructed next to Stonecutters Way. The end product was convincing.
“On the other side was Malcolm Ferrow’s antiques shop and he loaned Anglia some pictures for this sequence. As it happens I have one of them – an ornate Bible verse – which has on the back of the frame a little label which confirms it was ‘hired to Anglia Television’.”
My recollections of the only occasion in the late Sixties when Mrs Peggotty caved in to friends urging her to take in “on spec” bed-and-breakfast Gorleston visitors in high summer – two women who went out for a stroll but then could not remember where they were staying - touched a figurative chord with Tony Mallion.
He tells me: “My mum also took in visitors (as did everyone else in the 1950s and 1960s) and I too remember finding waifs and strays driving round in their car as it was getting dark on a Bank Holiday evening. It was late and they didn’t have any accommodation organised.
“I was on my bike on Lowestoft Road when they pulled up to see if I could help. Though my mum was already full up, I said I was sure she could squeeze in a few more – which probably resulted in me having to sleep on a put-you-up bed in the garage that night!
“Good job it was warm and summer time...”
Still on films and TV, I was pleased to glimpse EX1945 in the promotional trailer for the final episode of Downton Abbey on Christmas Day. The 1926 AC Six tourer with the historic Yarmouth registration, originally owned by Violet Beazor, daughter of a wealthy Yarmouth fish merchant, had an important plot-line role in 2012 when its driver (Matthew Crawley) “died” in a collision with a lorry while hurrying to hospital to see his wife (Lady Mary) and new-born baby.
The car is now owned by a Gloucestershire collector.