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My Father’s House (ITV Drama, Judy Holt, Terrence Hardiman)



In seven part ITV period drama series My Father’s House, it is the late 1950’s and teenager Anna Blake (Judy Holt), living between her divorced parents, discovers that their world isn’t all it is cracked up to be.

The TV Times of 6 March 1981 had a two page feature tying in with the series: It featured an interview with author Kathleen Conlon (the series was based on her novel) she said of Anna “”Anna does all the things people do today, but the difference is that there were ground rules to break. Now, no one would bat an eyelid. There have been fundamental alterations in responses to sex and divorce. Then, domestic environments imposed impossible standards, most of them imaginary. What shakes me now are women’s clothes. When I saw the first episode of My Father’s House, I thought people didn’t really dress like that. But they did. I did. And looking at them brings back the feelings of the time. I don’t suppose we’ll ever go through such rapid social changes again. I have great difficulty in remem- bering myself then. I just have a picture of a person who is related in some way, but wouldn’t think of her as being me.” The rest of the feature saw six well known names looking back at the period. These were Honor Blackman, John Mortimer, Jean Shrimpton, Alan Whicker, painter John Bratby and Caroline Blakiston.

Linton Mitchell in The Reading Evening Post (Friday 6 March 1981) featured a preview of the first episode and a profile of Judy Holt: IT IS the spring of 1959. Fifteen-year-old Anna Blake (Judy Holt) is happily established at her convent school in a quiet northern seaside resort. But a call one day to the Reverend Mother’s study brings shattering and traumatic news. Her older brother Maurice (Steven Mann) waits with news that their mother Celia (Helen Ryan) has been rushed to hospital after collapsing in the street. As the two children wait to hear of her progress. Anna begins to realise how she is surrounded by secrets

Granada’s new seven-part serial My Father’s House, beginning on ITV at 9pm, is the story of Anna’s exploration of the past and her way of dealing with the present. Twenty-five-year-old Judy Holt is making her television debut as Anna. In the course of the serial she ages from a 15-year-old schoolgirl to a knowing 18-year-old in the years from 1959 to 1962, before the revolution of the Swinging Sixties. And that called for dresses and hairstyles that were all the rage when she was a three-year-old. “I remember the style of some of the clothes I had to wear from family photo albums,” she says. Judy was born in London’s Shepherd’s Bush. But with a father in the RAF, she had a variety of homes in this country and abroad including Hong Kong and Cyprus – from an early age. After spending three years at Manchester’s Polytechnic School of Theatre, Judy spent a year without an Equity card and filled in the time by working as a waitress, barmaid, washer-up and auxiliary nurse. Finally she joined the Tyne Wear Theatre Company in Newcastle, where her first role with the main company was as green haired punk stoat in Toad of Toad Hall.

Ann Pacey in the Sunday Mirror of 1 March reviewed the first episode: Highly promising start to a new seven part drama series. Anna (beautifully played by Judy Holt) is jolted out of her quiet convent school existence in a Northern seaside town when she learns that her mother (Helen Ryan) has been rushed to hospital. Neurotic mum turns out to be alright but the shock of her illness leads Anna to probe further into her mother’s separation from the father she has not see for five years. Dad (Terrence Hardiman) is now cosily shacked up with a high class mistress in London. Anna decides on a reunion.

The Liverpool Echo of Saturday 14 March 1981 featured an interview with Judy (it may well have been part of the PR release for the drama, one of the quotes is the exact same as featured in the Reading Evening Post piece: “I couldn’t get work because I hadn’t got my [equity] card. And I couldn’t get my card because I hadn’t done any professional work,” says Judy. “So I started a series of temporary jobs, including four months as an auxiliary nurse a job I had done during earlier holidays.” Luckily for Judy, producer June Howson had already seen her at drama school and remembered her when looking for someone to play the main role in Granada’s dramatisation of Kathleen Conlon’s novel. And by this time Judy had her Equity card. Since last August Judy has virtually lived with the character of Anna, who appears in nearly every scene of the seven-part serial. “After I’d read all the scripts, I just told myself ‘You’ve got to stick with it.’ I’d never done any television or filming work before, but I wasn’t conscious of different techniques. I just got on with the job. But there was on advantage. In the theatre I’d always been told to speak up because my voice didn’t carry. But in the studio the mikes could pick up the slightest sound. They certainly did when I was playing a love scene with my boyfriend in the story and the bed broke.”

There was a brief mention by Hilary Kingsley in The Daily Mirror of Saturday 7 March: FRIDAY’S new ITV family saga, MY FATHER’S HOUSE, looks a goodie — even if a touch slow. But I rather think our children are too intelligent. Newcomer Judy Holt as schoolgirl Anna is a talent to watch.

The Daily Mirror of Friday 27 March 1981 had a short piece about Rosy Clayton: TONIGHT’S the big night for Rosy Clayton, who plays Bernice in MY FATHER’S HOUSE (ITV, 9.00). She marries Maurice Blake (Steven Mann) in this episode, and Rosy says: “It’s all very exciting.” Much more exciting than a recent job — when she worked in the sunbed department of a store and failed to sell one in a month.

Cast: Helen Ryan (Celia Blake), Terrence Hardiman (Alec Blake), Judy Holt (Anna Blake), Simon Shepherd (Jake Staveley), Steven Mann (Maurice Blake), Chloe Salaman (Rachel Conway), Rosy Clayton (Berenice Blake), Anne Reid, Angela Morant (Olivia Murray), Rosemary Martin (Tassie)

Writer: Paula Milne / Novel: Kathleen Conlon / Production Design: James Weatherup / Executive Producer: Michael Cox / Producer: June Howson / Director: Alan Grint

UK / ITV – Granada / 7×50 minutes / Broadcast 6 March – 17 April 1981