Tuesday, 9 June 2015

It's A Great Day (1955)

Another gem unearthed for Talking Pictures TV which I'd almost forgotten about! It's A Great Day is a film I do recall watching on days off school - back when BBC2 would regularly show old and overlooked films - and relying on my grandparents to actually tell me all about The Grove Family whilst I tried to correlate that the child actor Christopher Beeny appearing here was in fact the same actor who played Thora Hird's henpecked son in the sitcom In Loving Memory.

Generally regarded as the first British TV soap opera, The Grove Family was a BBC series that ran from 1954 to 1957. The titular family, an average upper middle class clan hailing from suburban Hendon, was named after the BBC's Lime Grove studios and was created by father and son scriptwriting team Roland and Michael Pertwee and their producer (and director here) John Warrington.  A huge hit in its day attracting 9 million viewers, many would write in asking for head of the household and self employed builder Bob (Edward Evans) to come round and give them a quote on work that their own homes needed, whilst the Queen Mother herself was said to be an avid viewer who visited the set during its heyday. 

Due to the BBC's then policy on wiping programmes to free up space, very little of The Grove Family actually survives now - indeed only 3 full episodes of the 148 made exist in the archives. Therefore, this movie spin-off, It's a Great Day made in 1955 serves as a valuable example of the series. Its wonderfully quaint stuff, a world away from what modern day viewers expect when they think of the soap opera genre. The Grove Family seems more content to offer a public service, mirroring the lifestyles, ideals and occasional minor moral dilemmas that the viewers at home may face. This big screen version follows the same format with Bob in a pickle when he can no longer obtain the supplies he needs to complete work on a new council estate that is to be opened by royalty. His son Jack (Peter Bryant - who would move behind the cameras in the following decade) puts the family business in touch with the local spiv (Victor Maddern) for help which soon blows up in their face when it is revealed the supplies he managed to get them were stolen. The spotlight of suspicion falls on ordinary decent Bob Grove but not for long and things are more or less amicably resolved with the Groves being chosen to meet the visiting princess at the end of the film. 

The girl who takes centre stage on the poster you can see at the top of this post is actress, cabaret star and model Vera Day in the role of Blondie, Victor Maddern's trophy girlfriend. She would go on to appear in The Prince and The Showgirl and Hell Drivers before dropping off the radar until 1998 when she took the role of cardsharp Tanya in Guy Ritchie's debut Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. 

Another interesting Grove Family curio is a 1991 update, made to commemorate the closing of Lime Grove studios which took one of the old scripts and brought it to life by the then current day soap stars including Leslie Grantham, Anna Wing and Nick Berry (EastEnders) Sue Johnston (Brookside) Sally Ann Matthews (Coronation Street - to which she has now returned after several years absence) Paul Parris (Grange Hill) and Kellie Bright (now a star of EastEnders but I think at the time she was largely known for sitcom The Upper Hand and perhaps maybe The Archers on the radio) As far as I know, this has never been repeated.

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