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Helen Mirren The Apple Cart Helen Mirren The Apple Cart


The one off world of Helen Mirren



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.

Helen Mirren The Changeling

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.

Helen Mirren The Apple Cart

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.

Helen Mirren Caesar and Claretta

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.

Helen Mirren The Philanthropist

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).

Helen Mirren The Little Minister

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.

Helen Mirren The Country Wife

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.

Helen Mirren Blue Remembered Hills

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.

Helen Mirren Mrs Rheinhardt

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.

Helen Mirren Soft Targets

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.



Kick-Ass TV Heroines: Xena – Warrior Princess




Xena Warrior Princess

What was not to love about Xena? As Lucy Lawless says: “Xena is a bad-ass, kick-ass, pre-Mycenaean girl.” Evildoers, clearly, must stand down, but not only bad guys (and girls) have Xena-phobia. Even heroes quake when she swings her broadsword.

Originally created as a syndicated complement to Kevin Sorbo’s Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, Xena pretty much kicked Herc to the curb. It was like when the Bionic Woman made us lose interest in the Six Million Dollar Man–only more so.

Unlike Lindsay Wagner’s early half-woman, half-machine, Xena wasn’t prone to frailty. Nor did she need robot parts. In fact, the Warrior Princess never lost. If she’s down, it’s not for long.

Plus, she was in touch with the dark side: This big-boned bruiser had definite moments of blood lust, as well as lust of some other varieties. Garbed in a leather miniskirt and armed with her trademark razor-edged, boomerang-action chakram, we watched Xena single-leggedly kick down entire platoons of Roman soldiers.

Sure, there were murmurings about Xena and her softer female sidekick, Gabrielle (actress Renée O’Connor). So what if they liked to conserve bathwater by doubling up? And what’s wrong with close friends frenching once in a while?

Then again, maybe it was true–and there’s anything wrong with that.

Actress: Lucy Lawless
Show: Xena: Warrior Princess
Character: Xena

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Classic TV Revisited: McMillan And Wife




McMillan And Wife

Starring Rock Hudson and Susan Saint James, McMillan and Wife was a super cute crime-solving saga from the 1970s made for the NBC’s Mystery Movie series.

Who were they?
Hubby was the debonair San Francisco police commissioner Stewart McMillan.

And wifey?
Sally was a foxy, rather scatterbrained dame with a knack for finding corpses.

Worked down the morgue did she?
Hardly. Sally’s finds were usually in some glitzy mansion which the couple were frequenting for a weekend cocktail party. She also had a habit of getting her life threatened or being kidnapped.

Who was in it?
Tragic Hollywood star Rock Hudson no less. He took on Stewart McMillan in his first TV role, after years as a matinee idol with movies such as Giant.

Fans of the lantern-jawed star were dismayed when he went public about having Aids. He had long kept his homosexuality secret. He carried on working in ’80s glam drama Dynasty, but make-up could not disguise the deterioration of this once-statuesque man. He died in 1985, aged 59.

What about Sally?
That role fell to raven-locked Susan Saint James. The Ali MacGraw lookalike was previously in shows such as Alias Smith And Jones and The Name of the Game.

Other characters
A vital ingredient to McMillan And Wife was sharp-tongued housekeeper Mildred, played by Nancy Walker. Somebody needed to keep the place tidy while they gallivanted about solving crime.

Famous guest stars?
Kim Basinger

The couple’s conception?
Like Hart To Hart, the idea was borrowed from Dashiell Hammett’s Thin Man books of the ’30s.

Gritty crime drama?
Hardly. These were cosy whodunnit cases, where the brutality of murder was never portrayed. The show was more about the interplay between McMillan and Sally.

Had viewers arrested?
Certainly in the US. It was the fifth highest-rated show in 1972 and 1973.

Fate of the golden couple?
Susan Saint James quit in 1976 over a contractual dispute. Nancy Walker also packed away her duster as housekeeper Mildred.

The dame’s exit was a fatal blow?
Certainly for the character of Sally – she was killed off in a plane crash. But Rock soldiered on with new assistant Sgt Steve DiMaggio (Richard Gilliland). The show became McMillan.

A winner?
Audiences dwindled and the plug was pulled.

Distinguishing features?
Cosy pillow talk, cocktail parties, Rock Hudson, pyjamas and numerous corpses.

Do say
Let’s go to bed. Turn the light out, darling.

Don’t say
Must you eat toast in bed, darling. Apologies, but I’ve got terrible flatulence. Separate bedrooms.

Not to be confused with
My Wife Next Door, Harold Macmillan, The Merry Wives Of Windsor and Mr And Mrs.

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Classic TV Revisited: The Royal




The Royal

The Royal was an ITV drama commission and was inspired by its sister programme Heartbeat.

The lowdown: This nostalgic family drama is set in the swinging 1960s and centres on the staff of a cottage hospital in Yorkshire. Newly qualified doctor David Cheriton (Julian Ovenden) is determined to make a difference to the world and arrives at St Aidan’s Royal Free Hospital in Elinsby full of big ideas. But he clashes with the hospital’s secretary TJ Middleditch (Ian Carmichael) who is determined to run things his way. Then there is the Matron (Wendy Craig) who rules her nurses with a rod of iron and tries in vain to stop them being distracted by the handsome arrival.

Memorable moments: Watch out for former Heartbeat favourite Bill Maynard who crosses dramas and continents as Claude Jeremiah Greengrass. Greengrass has returned from a Caribbean holiday with a mystery illness but that doesn’t stop him trying to earn a fast buck. It doesn’t take long before Claude attracts Matron’s ire.

Trivia: The Royal is a family affair for real life husband and wife Robert Daws (Ormerod) and Amy Robbins (Weatherill). No fewer than seven members of their clan have appeared in the series including their daughters and stepson.

Michelle Hardwick, who played receptionist Lizzie, says her favourite moment in the whole series didn’t come on screen but in the actors’ green room. She says: “I was sitting in there with Wendy Craig and Honor Blackman and we were having a lovely conversation. I sat back and thought ‘Wow, this is great, I can’t wait to tell my gran’.”

A modern day set version called The Royal Today aired 7 January – 14 March 2008.

First broadcast: 2003

Starred: Wendy Craig, Ian Carmichael, Michael Starke, Robert Daws and Julian Ovenden

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