With it’s script from Andrew “Saucy” Davies, To Serve Them All My Days was a big success on its broadcast in 1980, making the name of John Duttine, who headlines, in the process. This 13 part drama series is heavy on period charm, made following the success of A Horseman Riding By, a serial of a similar nature and also based on a doorstop of a novel by R.F. Delderfield.
When the series begins the First World War is drawing to a close and David Powlett-Jones has been invalided out of the army following a bout of shell-shock. Powlett-Jones manages to secure himself a job teaching at Bamfylde public school where he soon overcomes his wartime experiences to become a major influence on the boys at the school, the series progresses over quite a few years as Powlett-Jones, marries, faces tragedies and the like.
Shot all on video To Serve Them All My Days has a certain touch of class about it, writer Davies is on understated form here compared to some of his later adaptations and the serial is all the better for it. Duttine is very good as the tired and worn Powlett-Jones who comes to bloom under the caring eyes of Bamfylde.
The large supporting cast is fantastic too featuring as it does such names as Frank Middlemass, Belinda Lang, Neil Stacy, Kim Braden, Norman Bird, Charles Kay, Susan Jameson and Peter Arne whilst Nicholas Lyndhurst appears as one of the older schoolboys.
The serial evokes quite a melancholic mood and is very watchable with its depiction of an era that has gone forever, an interesting chronicle of middle class England at a time when it was struggling to find it’s identity.
UK / BBC One / 13×50 minute episode / Broadcast 17 October 1980 – 16 January 1981
Writer: Andrew Davies / Novel: R.F. Delderfield / Music: Kenyon Emrys-Roberts / Producer: Ken Riddington / Directors: Ronald Wilson, Peter Jeffries, Terence Dudley
JOHN DUTTINE as David Powlett-Jones
FRANK MIDDLEMASS as Algy Harries
BELINDA LANG as Beth
KIM BRADEN as Julia
SUSAN JAMESON as Christine
NICHOLAS LYNDHURST as Dobson
PHILIP FRANKS as Blades
NORMAN BIRD as Blunt
JOHN ALKIN as Chetwynd
CHARLES KAY as Alcock
DAVID KAY as Barnaby
NEIL STACY as Cater