Quite rightly regarded as one of the finest actors of her generation Helen Mirren has a long pedigree of classic performances, not just on the big screen but also television, especially at the BBC where during the 1970’s she appeared in many one off plays and dramas.
Check out the following and you’ll see what we mean.
Back in the 1970’s The BBC would quite often show three or four plays and one off dramas every week and every fourth week saw a big budget Play of the Month, usually based on a classic work and it was several of these that Mirren made a name for herself in and they all offer a chance for Mirren to shine in a diverse range of roles.
The Changeling is a Jacobean tragedy that co-stars the legendary Stanley Baker and has been very well remembered down the years, it’s powerful stuff that still resonates today.
The Apple Cart from 1975 is based on George Bernard Shaw’s futuristic tale of a government cabinet out to turn Britain into a constitutional monarchy. Nigel Davenport is the lead and Helen actually has quite a small part in this as his mistress but she does look very sexy in it in a slinky white dress.
Caesar and Claretta is an original work by Jack Russell and is an intriguing glimpse into the life of Benito Mussolini (Robert Hardy) and his 24 year old Mistress (Mirren), it’s a story with a tragic end and both Hardy (best known these days for his long running role as Seigfried Farnon in All Creatures Great and Small) and Mirren work the finally touching material well.
In The Philanthropist (also from 1975) Mirren has the female lead of Celia in this excellent production by Christopher Hampton about a group of middle class university campus types. The rest of the cast is excellent and includes James Bolam, Ronald Pickup and Jacqueline Pearce (later to be Servalan in Blake’s Seven).
The Little Minister (1975) is an adaptation of a vintage J.M. Barrie play about a young gypsy girl (Mirren) who manages to spark a Luddite style riot in Scotland in the 1840s. Ian Olgilvy co-stars.
The Country Wife, from 1977, is another period piece by William Wycherly abot a rake (played by Anthony Andrews) who is out to seduce as many well to do married women of London as possible but he meets his match when he takes on innocent newlywed Margery Pinchwife (Mirren), a fine Restoration comedy this and again full of brilliant performances from the likes of Jeremy Clyde, Amanda Barrie, Bernard Cribbins, Ciaran Madden and Adrienne Corri.
Blue Remembered Hills is Dennis Potter’s masterpeice from 1979 about a group of children at play one summer afternoon in 1943 in the Summer of Dean. Events build up to a tragic end in this unforgettable story that features a star cast of adults in the role of the children, including the likes of Colin Welland, Michael Elphick, Robin Ellis, John Bird and of course Helen.
Mrs Reinhardt (1981) is something of a mood piece which sees Mirren on the run from her adulterous husband in the South of France and eventually finds herself responding to the attention of a young holidaying American.
Finally Soft Targets is another superb production from the pen of Stephen Poliakoff, made in 1982 it stars Ian Holm as a Russian journalist who, whilst in the UK, convinces himself that a conspiracy is being worked against him. Mirren plays Celia Watson who draws Alexei into her world. The fine cast also includes Nigel Havers, Thorley Walters, Celia Gregory, Julian Sands and Rupert Everett.