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Play of the Week: Fearless Frank or Tit-bits from the Life of an Adventurer (BBC Two 4 Oct 1978, Leonard Rossiter)

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Fearless Frank BBC 1978 Leonard Rossiter Susan Penhaligon

Fearless Frank, with a script by Andrew Davies, told the story of the infamous Frank Harris who, Casanova style, had written a memoir called My Life and Loves, a somewhat sexually explicit and more than likely fictional account of his many affairs and visits to prostitutes.

Leonard Rossiter then in the prime of his career with starring roles in both Rising Damp and The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin is perfect as Frank (the first part features Rossiter playing Frank as a child, teen, young man etc all the while looking exactly the same complete with extravagant moustache) whilst the lovely Susan Penhaligon pops up in multiple roles, mostly as Frank’s secretary who is typing the Harris memoirs but she also plays various characters in Frank’s stories. Besides Penhaligon a few of the other actors took on multiple roles.

The production favours a fantasy vibe rather than a realism one with minimal set design for much of the reminiscences.

Harris was a real life character (1855-1931) and his book was banned in the UK until 1964.

production details
UK / BBC One / 1×85 minute episode / Broadcast 4 October 1978

Series: Play of the Week Episode 29

Writer: Andrew Davies / Music: Richard Hartley / Graphic Design: Tom Taylor / Production Design: David Myerscough-Jones / Costume Design: John Peacock / Producer: Louis Marks / Director: Colin Bucksey

cast
Leonard Rossiter as Frank Harris
Susan Penhaligon as Secretary / Schoolgirl / Actress / Jessie / Kate / Enid
Donna Evans as Nursemaid / Lily Robins
Alun Lewis as Young Man Kendrick
William Russell as Headmaster / Chapman / Lord Folkestone
Donald Waugh as Shoe-Shine Boy
Hal Galili as Cowboy / Mr Clapton
Denis Lawson as Professor Byron Smith / Ernest Dowson
Elizabeth Reville as Mrs Mayhew
Pepsi Maycock as Topsy
Albert Shepherd as Waiter / Tibbett
Andrew Downie as Thomas Carlyle
Katherine Fahy as Laura Clapton
Margaret Courtenay as Mrs Clapton / Mrs Clayton
John Rhys Davies as Guy De Maupassant
Keith Jayne as Butcher’s Boy
Ben Aris as Whistler
Philip Sayer as Oscar Wilde
Sylvia Kay as Nellie Harris