Friday, 15 June 2018

RIP Leslie Grantham

EastEnders legend Leslie Grantham has died at the age of 71 following a short illness.

I must admit this one's knocked me a bit. As a child of the '80s, Leslie Grantham was huge - both for his success at creating arguably the finest character in EastEnders history, Den Watts, and for his own personal notoriety of being a convicted for murder before he became an actor - and he was something of a favourite of mine; a laconic hardman who seemingly always overcame the odds. When I was fifteen years old in 1995, I entered an arts competition in The S*n 'newspaper' that was celebrating EastEnders' 10th anniversary by asking for drawings and paintings of some of its iconic characters; my drawing of Grantham was published and I won £50. I subsequently wrote my first 'fan letter' to Grantham, including my artwork and received a signed photo I still have to this day.

Many tributes today will mention Grantham's best remembered role of the Queen Vic landlord 'Dirty' Den, but for me his best role was that of the South London criminal kingpin and family man Danny Kane in Murray Smith's brilliantly quirky The Paradise Club. The show ran for two series in 1989 and 1990, with Grantham starring alongside Don Henderson as his brother, the priest-in-crisis, Father Frank Kane. When UK Gold repeated the series in 1997 I was utterly hooked. I wanted to drink in The Paradise Club, rubbing shoulders with these good guy villains. For Grantham, Dirty Den was history and he spent the '90s starring in the aforementioned The Paradise Club, as undercover cop Mick Raynor in 99-1 and as an alien invader living in the body of a police officer in the sci-fi thriller The Uninvited, written by Peter Bowker from an original idea of Grantham's own, The Stretch, which reunited him with Anita Dobson, as well as many guest appearances on various shows. But despite how good these series and his performances were, Grantham could never really escape the shadow of Den Watts, a character he had intended to firmly kill off the year The Paradise Club made its debut, when he could beat the odds no longer and ended up face to face with a silencer pistol hidden behind a bunch of flowers on a canal towpath. Newspapers and the general public were always asking would he ever return, seemingly from beyond the grave, to the show and they got their answer in 2003 when Grantham accepted a reported £500,000 a year contract to play Den Watts once more. Over 17 million viewers tuned in to see his return, where it was explained Den cheated death and fled to Spain where he had lived in hiding for fourteen years. The Queen Vic had its king once more it seemed...

A year later however and Grantham was the victim of a sting set up by the News of the World. He had been conducting internet webcam sessions with an undercover reporter known as 'Amanda' and the paper claimed he had masturbated before her and insulted many of his co-stars on the soap. Grantham immediately apologised and donated a sum to charity but the scandal proved too much and his time of the show was over. Dirty Den was emphatically killed off for good in February 2005, watched by over 16 million. 

I always found it strange myself how the public, the BBC and the press at large could accept Grantham as a murderer, but not as someone who pleasured himself. It was a clear case of the media building someone up only to knock them down and Grantham's career never really recovered. In last thirteen years that have followed, Grantham's marriage failed and he had attempted suicide a number of times. He wrote his autobiography and, more recently, a children's fantasy novel, but his acting career mainly consisted of a few stage tours and straight to DVD films - including a forthcoming Krays biopic in which he plays detective Nipper Read. His only major role was in the Bulgarian drama, The English Neighbour, which Grantham claimed reinvigorated his love for performing. He also found a love for Bulgaria too, and resided there until this week when a so far undisclosed medical condition saw him return to the UK.  Grantham passed away this morning with family and friends at his bedside.


Monday, 11 June 2018

The Mercy (2017)

Faced with the task of reviewing The Mercy for The Geek Show, I was tempted to just pretend I’d watched it and then posted a review  on here that was so wildly falsified that my inactivity would become apparent to all before leaving the review incomplete…

I feel it is what Donald Crowhurst would have wanted.

Thankfully, I didn't: I watched it all and I really enjoyed it.

See my full review at The Geek Show

Out On Blue Six: The Beautiful South

Because we all know one...

It now reminds me of this book cover I recently shared

End Transmission

Saturday, 9 June 2018

RIP Eunice Gayson

Eunice Gayson, who played the first James Bond girl, has died at the age of 90.

The actress portrayed Sylvia Trench in the first two Bond films, Doctor No and From Russia With Love, opposite Sean Connery. In both films, her voice was dubbed by voice over artist Nikki van der Zyl as was the then common practice for all the actresses in those early Bond films. Away from the Bond franchise, Gayson appeared the classic Hammer horror, The Revenge of Frankenstein, along with many cult TV shows in the 1960s including Danger Man, The Avengers and The Saint. On the London stage, Gayson starred for several years as Frau Schrader in The Sound of Music at the Palace Theatre.