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Bluebell (BBC Drama, Carolyn Pickles, Philip Sayer)

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Bluebell BBC Drama Carolyn Pickles

Period BBC drama series Bluebell told the true story of Margaret Kelly (Carolyn Pickles) who rose from a poor background to found her own Bluebell Dance Troupe in Paris. The 8 parter began in Liverpool in the 1920’s when times were hard. Kelly, living with her Aunt Mary (Carmel McSharry) was advised by her doctor to take up dancing to toughen her up and before you can say Hollywood musical she is touring Europe eventually finding a home at the Folies Bergere in Paris.

World war II breaks things up though especially when her Jewish husband Marcel (Philip Sayer) is interned in a concentration camp (although he does manage to escape and goes into hiding).

An atmospheric series with plenty of musical numbers, it could have had the potential to run on but the story was in effect told. It was popular with male viewers too thanks to the plentiful topless scenes of the Bluebell girls in action.

The theatre scenes were filmed at the Civic in Halifax. Producer Richard Bates got the idea for the series after reading a Sunday Times supplement article by George Perry.

Over 60 dancers featured in the series recreating classic routines from the 1930’s and 1940’s. All of the dancers were former real life Bluebell girls.At the time of filming the real life Margaret Kelly was still running Bluebell girls at venues all over the world and acted as an advisor on the series.

Cast: CAROLYN PICKLES as Margaret Kelly; PHILIP SAYER as Marcel Leibovici; ANNIE LAMBERT as Helen; MICHAEL N. HARBOUR as Paul; GERALDINE NEWMAN as Emily; CARMEL McSHARRY as Aunt Mary; IAN THOMPSON as Alfred Jackson; PETER REEVES as Maurice Chevalier; GILLIAN WINN as Tess; JOHN ARNATT as Pierre; THELMA RUBY as Mistinguett; MIRANDA COE as Lucy; ANTHONY HERRICK as Guy; ALAN DOWNER as Lefebre; ANN HEFFERNAN as Mme Reynard

Creator: Paul Wheeler / Choreography: Anthony Van Laast / Music: Ilona Sekacz / Executive Producer: Richard Bates

UK / BBC-1 / 8×50 minute episodes / Broadcast 12 January – 2 March 1986