Crown Court – Lieberman v Savage (Part Three – 20th October 1972)

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Mrs Savage’s maid – Florence Ferguson (jean Faulds) – is next in the witness box. Giving off a very Scottish air of respectability, she initially provides strong support for Mrs Savage but is then somewhat picked apart by Helen Tate. Possibly just enough of a seed of doubt has been sown in the mind of the jury by this point – was Mark really sleeping on the sofa all night or could he have been canoodling with Mrs Savage and her radiogram?

We’ve waited long enough and now finally Mark Lieberman gets a grilling. Jonathan Fry has made it back into court and takes charge of the cross examination. I get the feeling they don’t have a great deal in common (Fry begins by pondering about “the lifestyle of the younger generation” with a faint air of distaste and things career downhill from there).

I can’t play the Doctor Who game with Trevor Adams but he racked up a fair number of interesting credits during the seventies. There’s a role in Fawlty Towers but he’ll no doubt be best known for playing Tony Webster in The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin.

Although still very early days, the Crown Court formula is now very firmly in place. This one was a decent enough story, although even with the tinges of sex and scandal (cue reporters in the gallery frantically scribbling in their notebooks) it’s still not terribly memorable.

The Verdict

Once again I find myself disagreeing with the verdict. Maybe next time I’ll be in sync with the Fulchester jury.

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Crown Court – Lieberman v Savage (Part Two – 19th October 1972)

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Lieberman’s private detective, Sidney Abbott, is called to the witness stand. He’s played by David Webb, although with a character name like that surely Sidney James should have been given the role.

When watching Crown Court or indeed any archive series of a similar vintage, I like to play a little game of ‘Which Doctor Who story has this actor appeared in?’. Wolfe Morris and Barbara Shelley were pretty easy but David Webb (possibly because his name’s rather nondescript) gave me a little more trouble. But I got there in the end – he was Leeson in Colony in Space. Well, it’s the sort of game that keeps me out of mischief …

Mr Fry has popped out (to powder his nose maybe) so Helen Tate stepped in to ask Abbott a few questions. Although since Barry Deeley handled the cross examination maybe that’s an indication that Abbott wasn’t a prime witness.

That the case isn’t being taken totally seriously can be inferred from the fact that Abbott used to work for P.E.E. (Piccadilly Enquiry Agency).

The focus now turns to the defendant. Delia Savage catches the attention of those watching in the public gallery (especially one old dear with a pair of opera glasses!).

Another time honoured courtroom chestnut occurs when Mrs Savage mentions a popular best combo, The Kitchen Sink. Cue the Judge looking confused and a swift helpful explanation (“a rock group, M’Lord. A musical ensemble, M’Lord”).

Crown Court  rarely went in for camera tricks or flourishes, but there is a split screen used here (Mrs Savage on the left, Leiberman on the right) which works rather well.

She’s a convincing witness, cool under pressure, although whether she’s telling the truth is another matter. Jonathan Fry does his best to paint her as an unscrupulous gold digger though.

Mmm, both parties are exchanging lingering looks. I’ve a feeling that a reconciliation might be on the cards (depending on the verdict of course).

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Crown Court – Lieberman v Savage (Part One – 18th October 1972)

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Crown Court had plenty of humdrum cases (which nevertheless were often fascinating) but they also liked to chuck in a bit of spice from time to time. Lieberman v Savage certainly falls into the latter category …

Emmanuel Lieberman (Wolfe Morris) is attempting to evict his former fiance Delia Savage (Barbara Shelley) from his luxury London penthouse apartment. His ardour for Mrs Savage was somewhat dampened when he returned home to find his son, Mark (Trevor Adams), naked in the flat with her. Crumbs.

Given how good David Neal was as Jonathan Fry in the unscreened pilot, it’s very surprising that he never came back to the series. Instead, Bernard Gallagher took over the role of Fry (remaining with the series until 1984).

Charles Keating and John Alkin return as James Elliot and Barry Deeley whilst Helen Vernon debuts as Dorothy Tate. Richard Warner sits in judgement as Mr Justice Waddington.

Distant Hills is present and correct for the first time and we also see the debut of the jury – twelve bewildered souls plucked off the streets of Fulchester. Or in reality, eleven members of the public and one actor (since the foreman was a speaking part, an Equity member was required).

That each case would actually be judged helps to give the series an extra level. Although as time goes on, I’m sure I’ll be scratching my head at some of the bizarre verdicts handed out …

£200,000 for a luxury penthouse flat in London? Cheap at the price.

Jonathan Fry begins the case by waving a great many documents around. This is a little low on excitement but things soon pick up as he outlines the relationship between his client (Lieberman) and Delia Savage. Whilst Fry is opening the case, the camera lingers on Mrs Savage. She has a very nice hat.

And into the witness box goes Emmanuel Lieberman (Wolfe Morris). As he begins to give his evidence, his son saunters into the court. With his dark glasses and general slouching air, Mark is so hip and happening it hurts.

We quickly get to the nitty gritty – Lieberman returning home unexpectedly to find his son (stark naked!) emerging from his fiance’s bedroom. There’s a definite ‘oooooo’ reverberating around the courtroom at this point.

The flaw in Lieberman’s case is pretty obvious. As soon as he clapped eyes on his naked son he stormed out without demanding an explanation. If Mark had been innocently spending the night there (sleeping on the couch say) and then wanted to use the bathroom, he’d need to pass through the bedroom first to get to it. Mind you, having only one bedroom and one bathroom in a luxury penthouse seems like something of a design flaw.

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Crown Court – Doctor’s Neglect? (Part Three)

Dr Warner’s still in the witness box and still wilting under a barrage of volleys from Jonathan Fry QC. James Elliot attempts to repair the damage – Mr Simpson’s own impatience to leave the hospital (in order to keep an appointment) is something which helps to strengthen the defence’s case.

We then pop outside for a brief heart to heart with Dr Warner and Nurse Dowling in a scene which helps to humanise them both. I can see why moments like these were swiftly dropped (although they returned much later) as it’s better that the viewers at home receive no more information than those in the courtroom.

The last witness is Mr Frost (George Waring), representing the hospital’s management. An interesting subtext running throughout this story is the suggestion that Mr Simpson was failed by systematic shortcomings (both medical and financial) at the hospital.

These days it’s difficult to imagine a hospital drama not tackling the topic of funding but I’d assume it wasn’t so dominant back in the seventies (certainly not in the episodes of, say, Angels I’ve seen anyway).

With Fry having nipped out of court for twenty minutrs, Frost’s cross-examination is left in the hands of Derek Jones (David Ashford). As Charles Lotterby, Ashford would become one of Crown Court‘s most familiar barristers but poor old Derek Jones is somewhat more hapless. Frost is able to angrily rebuff Jones’ allegations, leaving Jones looking rather small and humbled.

The Verdict

I won’t reveal the verdicts on each case, instead I’ll simply comment whether I agree or disagree with the finding. Today I disagree, although there were well balanced arguments on both sides so it was a tricky one.

Crown Court – Doctor’s Neglect? (Part Two)

We saw his long face in the first episode, but now Dr Warner (Jeremy Bulloch) takes to the witness stand. He comes across as reasonably convincing but there’s also an air of unease about him. This feeling is exacerbated when Nurse Dowling (Jacqueline Stanbury) is then cross-examined.

Jacqueline Stanbury would later be a short-lived regular on Dixon of Dock Green (only one of her episodes – Sounds – now exists). Bulloch’s credits are too numerous to list but they include Doctor Who, James Bond, Star Wars and Robin of Sherwood.

Interesting that Jonathan Fry gave Dr Warner a fairly easy ride before opening both barrels on Nurse Dowling. It was the right course of action though as she quickly folds like a pack of cards and admits that Warner could be rather hot-headed and impulsive at times.

The defence is now rocking, but did Simpson overhear Warner’s angry comment that he should discharge himself and go to another hospital if he wanted better treatment? That becomes a key question.

So Warner goes back into the witness box. There’s something deeply ominous about the way Fry slowly circles around Warner before unleashing his assault. Fair to say that the defence aren’t doing very well for witnesses so far.

Crown Court – Doctor’s Neglect? (Part One)

This first Crown Court serial feels somewhat different to what would come later. For one thing, the familiar theme music (Distant Hills) is noticeably absent.

There’s also a fair amount of whispered chat in the courtroom as Mr Frost (George Waring) has a good old natter to Barry Deeley (John Atkin). He helpfully explains to Frost (and the viewers) various bits of procedure. This was dropped from the series as presumably it was felt the audience would be able to understand how the court functions without these prompts.

Mr Simpson, one of Fulchester’s leading chartered accountants, died after walking out of hospital (he had previously been involved in a car accident). His widow (played by Petra Davies) is suing the hospital for damages.

Mrs Simpson is the very model of middle class respectability and it’s easy to see that Mr Justice Waddingham (Ernest Hare) is rather taken with her. After James Elliot QC (Charles Keating) asks her a somewhat awkward question she appeals to Waddingham and the question isn’t pressed. This seems a little off.

Mrs Simpson comes across as a perfect witness. A little too perfect for me ….

The hawk-like Jonathan Fry QC (David Neal) is representing Mrs Simpson in her quest for damages and next calls an expert witness – Dr Sissons (Basil Dignam). Dignam would return to Crown Court – albeit as the top dog (he’d later play Mr Justice Poynter).

Another unusual aspect of this first serial is the way the action moves outside the courtroom every so often. This wouldn’t happen again in the early stories as they were firmly (and claustrophobically) courtroom bound.

Armchair Theatre – Office Party (17th August 1971)

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Fay Weldon’s Office Party might not be the sharpest ever AT, but it’s still of interest – partly since it’s a good example of the studio-bound ITV play (something which would gradually disappear from the schedules) but also because Weldon’s script offers up plenty of food for thought regarding gender politics (even if the problems she creates are resolved rather neatly by the end).

The setting is a bank, after hours, where the staff have convened to wish their manager (played by George A. Cooper) a fond-ish farewell.  Cooper plays to type as a plain-speaking man who is well aware that he’s not particularly loved (or even well liked) but still condones the party. Perhaps he likes receiving presents.

Also slotting into a familiar role is Peter Barkworth as his number two, Dickie. Barkworth seemed to spend most of his career playing buttoned-down types who had a distinct code of old fashioned honour.  At first, Dickie seems to regard his secretary, Julia (Angharad Rees), with nothing but contempt, but by the end of the play he’s mellowed considerably.

Rees exudes an undeniable sexiness – especially when she arrives at the party wearing a somewhat revealing dress. This inflames the passions of some of her colleagues (Giles Block and Peter Denyer both give good turns in this respect).  Roy (Block) seems somewhat put out when he tells Julia that he’s placed her top of his list of most desirable office females (she fails to respond in the manner he expects).

If Rees is vulnerable at times then Ray Brooks is rather boorish as Dave (Julia’s boyfriend). He exhibits little loyalty towards her, even after learning that she’s pregnant, and seems much more interested in squiring another young lady round the party and telling Roy all about his liaisons with Julia in the stationery cupboard. Dave is an alpha male – friendship with his male buddies comes first, a relationship with his girlfriend is a distant second.

The clash between Julia and Dave midway through is clearly one of the play’s key points. At this stage it looks as if any sort of relationship between them will be impossible (marriage is certainly out of the question). There’s a happy ending though as the pair reconcile in the last minutes which means that everything seems to be settled. Although given that both have rather volatile natures, possibly we’re invited to not expect them to live happily ever after ….

Elsewhere, I did enjoy the confrontation between Barkworth and Cooper late on. Julia is, once again, the topic of conversation, with the outgoing manager insistent that she be sacked whilst Dickie shows a more compassionate side to his nature by standing by her.

That Dickie, when learning of Julia’s pregnancy, offers her a chair feels exactly like the sort of thing you’d expect a character played by Barkworth to do. Julia remains passive as the men debate her fate (at one point turning her bare back on them) but she does eventually speak up.

Office Party has some good comic moments, along with a first rate cast to play them, and overall it still stands up well. As I’ve said, it maybe doesn’t entirely satisfy, but there are far worse ways to spend fifty minutes.

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