20 February 2010

EastEnders 25th Anniversary - Post 4

The original Beale family in 1985 - Pete (Peter Dean), Kathy (Gillian Taylforth), Lou (Anna Wing) and Ian (Adam Woodyatt).

So, EastEnders 25th anniversary has come and gone.

I never usually watch modern soaps, but last night I tuned in, out of curiosity, to see how the occasion would be marked. This was a live episode, the action centred on the resolution of a murder mystery, and I was impressed. Featuring lots of heavy emotional scenes - and a live stunt where a character fell off the roof of The Queen Victoria pub - I thought that the cast and production team had no reason to reproach themselves by the episode's end.

Well done to all concerned!

I had read that the 25th anniversary episode was going to be firmly rooted in the present - it was pointed out that the show's characters had no idea that this was the 25th anniversary, so lots of references to the past would seem highly contrived.

But there was a small nod towards those of us who desired a link to the show's beginning: Ian Beale produced a "time capsule" that he and some of the other teenage characters had made back then. Amongst the contents were a Madonna vinyl single and a video tape - a home video Ian had made in 1985.

Dot Branning (June Brown) (always "Dot Cotton" to me!) insisted he played it, and there, between fuzz, crackles and picture break-ups, were glimpses of some of the Square folk of 1985 - Arthur and Pauline Fowler (Bill Treacher and Wendy Richard), Ethel Skinner (Gretchen Franklin), Den and Angie Watts (Leslie Grantham and Anita Dobson) and Michelle Fowler (Susan Tully), amongst others.

The footage was, of course, actually taken from early episodes, but I still enjoyed the gesture and empathised with Dot and Ian who were both moved by glimpses of old friends and family.

Then the tape broke. And the link to 1985 was also broken.

The Queen Vic in the mid-1980s.

Following-up the 25th anniversary live episode was a glimpse behind the scenes - The Aftermath - which featured Leslie Grantham, the original Albert Square bad boy, "Dirty" Den Watts.

Mr G was on fine form - asked what he thought made Den such an iconic character, he gave his considered opinion that it was his "charm and good looks"!

Screen capture from a trailer for EastEnders, aired before the show began in early 1985.

Leslie Grantham said of his time in the show:

"... to work with Anita Dobson, who played Angie, was just phenomenal. We just bounced off each other. So, it was great - I could abuse her one week, she could abuse me the next..."

I found Den and Angie's relationship completely electrifying!

Ali Osman (Nejdet Salih) has been in a scrap - the make-up lady paints in the damage.

Fierce old battle axe Lou Beale prepares a Christmas stocking in 1985. Anna Wing only appeared as Lou from 1985 to 1988, but the character really made her mark. Miss Wing was awarded the MBE in 2009, aged 94. She said: “As a child, I’d cling to the railings of Buckingham Palace, never thinking one day I’d be decorated by the Queen.”

This is the site of Albert Square in early 1984 - the "Lot" at the back of the Elstree Studios, then most recently used for Auf Wiedersehen, Pet. The layout of the Square was influenced by the presence of the tower block of flats. It was decided that if the flats could be clearly seen from the Albert Square exterior set, it would add to the show's inner city "feel". The flats' on-screen name was "Walford Towers" and Pete, Kathy and Ian Beale lived in one of them in the 1980s.

Later in 1984, and Albert Square is really taking shape.

Hugh Miller wrote a series of books based on EastEnders in the mid-1980s. Each one was set in the Square, pre-1985, so we could find out about some of the past goings-on - during the Second World War or in the "swinging '60s" for instance.

Or, in the case of the book pictured above, a far more recent time...

As she left Angie gazed at the empty doorway for a moment, then glanced at the brewery calendar on the wall. 10th October, 1981. Her mind shifted abruptly. 10th October. That made it a week now since she had found out. She had looked at the calender every morning since she discovered the little note on the floor beside Den's bed. She felt in the pocket of her robe and took it out again. The handwriting was firm, with bold forward-slanting strokes that denoted a lot of confidence.

Den -

I haven't run away. Make yourself a cup of coffee. I'll be back in about half an hour.

There was no signature, just one big cross. A kiss that wounded Angie's heart every time she looked at it...

Members of the Beale and Fowler clan in the mid-1980s. Michelle brought shame on the family when she became pregnant in 1985. She kept the name of the father - one Dennis Watts of The Queen Victoria public house - very quiet indeed. And she also kept the baby.

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