It was 44 years ago on 18th September 1974, that the world learned that Albert had a previous career starring in a series of porn movies ....... Read our "PORN YESTERDAY" reviews
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Steptoe and Son

 

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This is a graphical insert for the Steptoe and Son Appreciation Society Website

On 24th October 1961, the BBC confirmed acceptance for the new Galton and Simpson series, Comedy Playhouse. The first show starred Eric Sykes and Warren Mitchell in a tale of a French undertaker who goes about creating a market for his skills. It was called 'Clicquot et Fils'. But by the time the boys sat down to write the fourth episode they discovered they had run out of ideas. Alan Galton remembers how they got the idea for episode four. “We had to use a technique we had when we couldn't think of anything - we'd start by saying, "Two...something or others" - two rat catchers in Buckingham Palace or whatever. Ray said, "Two rag-and-bone men walking down the street...” The duo recalled how they had once been in an eel-and-pie shop in Shepherds Bush where they had overheard some slang being used by two men sitting at a nearby table. It turned out that they were rag-and-bone men, or ‘totters’ as they were also known. They thought it would be a good idea to write a comedy using such characters but soon forgot about it.

They had in fact written about a totter in an early episode of the Hancock radio series called ‘The Junk Man’. Alan Simpson was not convinced they could sustain a 30-minute sitcom using these two characters. But, necessity being the mother of invention, the pair began to write dialogue for the two rag-and-bone men, and as a plot began to develop it became quite clear to them that one of the men would be much older than the other, too old and too frail to go out to work so he would stay back at the junk yard. Looking for more motivation as to why the two characters would stay together they hit on the idea that they had to be father and son. They went back and revised the dialogue, adding a lot of pathos, something not really tried before in a sitcom.

But they discovered that given the situation the characters found themselves in the dark undercurrents were an intrinsic part of the plot. Living in a claustrophobic existence the two men had come to resent each other over a long period of time. The father is a lazy, mean skinflint of an old man with questionable hygiene habits while his son is a social snob who has visions of grandeur. A self-appointed connoisseur of fine wines, which he has collected over the years from abandoned bottles, he is continually telling his father that one day he will leave to pursue a career more befitting his intelligence and ‘breeding’. The family business, Steptoe and Son, would have to do without him.

In the script for this particular 'Comedy Playhouse' episode called ‘The Offer’, the son has been offered the chance to leave the business for another firm. When the old man’s pathetic attempts at emotional blackmail fail he becomes bitter and begins to rubbish his son’s chances of making a better life for himself. The son gathers his meagre possessions together as he attempts to leave but in a final act of defiance the old man refuses to lend him their horse to pull the cart that contains his belongings. Determined to break away the son grabs the cart himself and vainly tries to push it out of the firm’s back yard gates, but it is too heavy for him. He breaks down and sobs, “got to get away…” and at that point the viewer knows he never will.

For the casting of this episode the writers made it quite clear that they wanted to employ dramatic actors rather than comedians. Their first choices were Wilfred Brambell as the old man, Albert Steptoe, and Harry H. Corbett as the son, Harold. The actors had worked together before, in 1959, in a televised play called ‘The Torrents of Spring’. The writers chose JG Devlin as Albert and Ronald Fraser as Harold should either of their first choices prove to be unavailable. Wilfred Brambell was the first to accept with Corbett following suit shortly after.