Public Eye – Paid In Full

paid in full

When one of his colleagues, Arthur Wilson (Maurice Good), has his pay-packet stolen, Frank Marker is the obvious suspect.

The legacy of his criminal record and how it colours other people’s opinions of him is the main thrust of this episode.  Although his criminal past should have been a secret at the firm (only the owner, Kendrick, knew officially) somehow it’s public knowledge – which places him firmly in the frame.

While the police, in the form of Detective Constable Broome (Leslie Lawton), are making enquiries, Frank is totally oblivious to the oncoming storm.  He’s enjoying an afternoon off and has decided to do some shopping.  He passes by an antiques shop and is rather taken with a china figure he sees in the shop window.  It’s absolutely the last thing you would expect Marker to be interested in, and his reason for being drawn to it allow us to explore some previously unknown facets of his character.

He tells the shop’s owner (Susan Richards) that his family had something similar when he was a child.  “Must have been the only thing we had that was worth anything.”  She presumes that it must have been a happy family, since he has an attraction to this object.  Frank tells her, matter-of-factly, that no, they weren’t particularly happy and he’s not able to articulate fully the reason why this figurine appeals to him.  This is a lovely character moment for Marker and it seems to exist in the story purely for this reason – to shine a little light on this incredibly private man.

Frank has a visit from Broome who accuses him of the theft.  Marker vehemently denies it.  “And I’m favourite?  Yes, of course.  Well go on, search the place.  Take the bed apart, take the carpet up.”  The indignity of being visited by the police and having his room searched obviously affects him (he eats little at dinner time).  It’s then interesting to see how Mrs Mortimer and Enright (who, like Marker, is an ex-con lodging with Mrs Mortimer) react.

L-R - William Moore, Leslie Lawton & Tania Trude
L-R – William Moore, Leslie Lawton & Tania Trude

When Broome calls, Frank is out and although Mrs Mortimer agrees he can wait, it’s clear from her tone that she views the police officer with hostility.  Enright turns down Frank’s offer of a drink at the local pub, claiming he’s got some work to do, but since he’s coming towards the end of his probation no doubt he’s reluctant to get involved with anyone who’s attracted the attention of the police.

Later, Mrs Mortimer brings Frank a whisky in his room.  They then have a heart-to-heart discussion, which is a major step towards developing their friendship.  She tells him that she believes he’s innocent and goes on to explain that contrary to Frank’s surmise, she isn’t a widow – her husband is alive and (sadly for her) well.  Frank, as he so often is, is more of a listener than a talker, but it’s another well crafted character-based scene from Roger Marshall.

Next day, Frank has to face the accusing stares of his work colleagues.  He approaches Wilson and tells him that he didn’t steal his money and although Wilson says he believes him, from the tone of his voice it’s apparent there’s still considerable doubt.  Alfred Burke, once again, is on great form here, crackling with anger as he faces down Wilson.  “You lost eighteen quid, I could lose eighteen months.”

He does have some supporters though.  Kendrick’s secretary, Jenny (Tania Trude) believes him and she does assist in clearing his name.  Wearing a selection of ridiculously short skirts, Trude was a very appealing presence in both this and the previous story.  She only has a handful of television credits, of which Public Eye was her penultimate one.  Where she is or what she’s doing now is something of a mystery, but she’s one of those actresses that managed to light up the screen and therefore leaves you wondering why she didn’t have a much longer career.

Thanks in part to Jenny, the truth eventually comes out.  Wilson’s money was stolen by his friend Starkie (Brian Croucher on fine form as a loud-mouthed yob).  Starkie says he only took it as a joke, in order to teach Wilson a lesson (Starkie’s miffed that Wilson never wants to go out anymore, instead he prefers to stay at home with his family).

That should be that then, but Kendrick is forced, reluctantly, to let Marker go.  He says he doesn’t want to, but he’s been advised that Frank’s continued presence would be a “disruptive element”.  Again, Burke’s first-class here, railing against the injustice of it all.  But it’s all to no avail, and so the episode ends with Frank walking out of the yard for the last time.

Public Eye – My Life’s My Own

my life's my own

After three very Marker-centric episodes, My Life’s My Own offers a change of focus – as somebody else’s problems take centre-stage.

Early on, Frank has a meeting with his probation officer, Jim Hull (John Grieve).  There’s the possibility of another labouring job, but it’s clear that Frank’s heart isn’t really in it.  He tells Hull that eventually he’ll probably return to his old job as an enquiry agent although he admits that it’s never going to earn him a fortune.  “Often, the big chunks of money can be for something quite trivial.  I mean a couple of hundred quid for finding out who’s stealing in a factory.  What, two day’s work.  And then you can spend a week or more putting the whole world straight for somebody, for a tenner.  Because that’s all they can afford.”

The possibility of doing a great deal of work for little or no reward is also the theme of this episode.  Shirley Marlowe (Stephanie Beacham) unofficially becomes a client of Frank’s after a failed suicide attempt (although no money ever changes hands).  His motivation for attempting to help her is characteristic of him (and maybe he sees something of him in her – they both appear to be loners operating on the fringes of society).

Shirley turns up at the boarding house looking for a room.  Mrs Mortimer’s away (looking after a sick relative) and Frank’s initially reluctant to let her in.  When she tells him she simply can’t walk the streets he agrees to let her have a room.

There seems to be something odd and off-key about her, although Frank either doesn’t pick up on it or maybe he considers that it’s not his problem.  Is the fact he didn’t spot the signs of her distress a motivation for his involvement afterwards?

She’s fond of her transistor radio, which blares out the latest pop hits.  But when it’s still playing at three in the morning, Frank’s concerned – and he breaks her door down.  He finds Shirley unconscious, with a glass containing the dregs of a cocktail of drugs nearby.  Whatever else he is, he’s good in a crisis and he drags her to the bathroom, forces her to vomit and waves some smelling salts under her nose.  He also shakes her violently and slaps her hard across the face several times, which may not be in the first aid manual!

This eventually brings her around, although she’s still very groggy.  When Mrs Mortimer returns she asks Frank why he didn’t call an ambulance.  He doesn’t have a particularly good answer, merely that he thought he could cope.

But as events later seem to spiral out of control, he begins to question his judgement – maybe he decided to take charge because he’s been used to dealing with people’s problems for so long or possibly it was to spare her family the distress of the publicity and the inevitable official enquiries which would follow.

Frank takes her out and walks her up and down Brighton seafront (a nicely atmospheric sequence).  As it’s three in the morning this attracts the attention of a passing police car, but luckily they don’t stop.  When she’s more recovered, Frank’s able to tease her story out of her – and it seems to revolve around a married man called Chris.

Frank finds a letter addressed to a Dr C Nourse (Gary Watson) and goes to visit him and his wife.  Dr Nourse confirms that Shirley used to work for them, as a nurse for his wife, but she recently left.  He seems unmoved by Shirley’s suicide attempt (claiming that it wasn’t serious – if it had been then she wouldn’t have left the radio on for Frank to hear).  His wife seems much more upset, and the penny only drops as he leaves – her name is Chris, his name is Charles.

This is a fairly progressive theme for a mainstream late 1960’s drama and it’s handled subtly and well.  The episode is largely a two-hander between Alfred Burke and Stephanie Beacham, both of whom give fine performances.  Burke is his normal, excellent, self – excelling in the scene where Marker frantically tries to bring Shirley round, for example.

Roger Marshall’s script also provides a meaty role for Beacham.  It means she has to be disheveled and distinctly unglamorous for most of the story – but she’s certainly game for this and turns in an affecting performance as a vulnerable girl who’s prone to sudden changes of mood.

There’s two possible endings to this story – a happy or an unhappy one.  Either she makes another suicide attempt and succeeds or she gets on with her life.  It’s slightly surprising that her decision is taken off screen and therefore is reported second hand to Frank at the close of the story – but I suppose this allows the focus to be put back on him. And although this denies us a final scene between Burke and Beacham, it does bring My Life’s My Own to a decent conclusion.

Public Eye – Case for the Defence

case for the defence

Helped by the sole writer on this series, Roger Marshall, there’s a strong sense of continuity between the stories – so that at times it feels more like a serial than a series.  This is evident in Case for the Defence, which harks back to events and characters first seen in Paid in Full.

During Paid in Full, Marker tangled with Detective Constable Broome (Leslie Lawton) who was convinced that Frank had stolen a colleague’s pay-packet.  Eventually the true culprit is caught and Broome returns here to try and make amends for the injustice Frank suffered (losing his job at the builder’s yard).

Frank’s now got another job, stacking supermarket shelves, but it’s obviously far from satisfying.  Broome tells him that there’s a position vacant at a local detective agency.  It’s a tempting possibility – although it would mean the fiercely independent Frank would have to work with others (which isn’t always his strongest point).  But the chance of returning to what he knows best is irresistible, so he accepts the offer of the agency’s owner, Joe Rylands (Stanley Meadows).

His first case involves gathering evidence for the defence concerning the forthcoming trial of Barry Osborne (Billy Harmon).  This is another link back to Paid in Full – as Marker encountered Billy during that story at the police station (Marker was in another interview room, discussing the wages theft).  It’s an undisputed fact that Billy killed a garage owner, Flockton, by stabbing him with a screwdriver.  There seems to be no reason for this, which is even more baffling when you consider that Billy comes from a wealthy family and has received every privilege.

His father, Ben Osborne (William Lucas), is keen to impress on Marker that he wants his son to get off, by whatever means possible.  It’s a powerful performance from Lucas, portraying a single-minded wealthy man (who’s made his money by being the main meat supplier for the county) used to buying whatever or whoever he wants.  This is going to place him on an inevitable collision course with Marker, who prizes the truth highly and will refuse to be cowed or intimidated by him.

Frank is able to establish that Flockton had gone to prison a decade earlier for GBH.  Osborne is delighted – it gives them a chance to craft a plea of self defence.  Together, Osborne and Frank visit Flockton’s victim, Mr Jackson (Richard Bird). but a series of strokes has rendered him virtually unintelligible.  Osborne’s pressurising of the sick old man disgusts Frank, who exits the house.

By now, Frank’s seen more than enough to be convinced that Osborne will do anything, including bribery, to ensure that he can produce witnesses to support his line of defence (that Barry was attacked by Flockton and inadvertently caused his death whilst defending himself).  Frank corners Rylands and lets him know what’s been going on.

MARKER: I think you ought to know that you could be letting yourself in for a great deal of trouble.
MARKER: Friend Osborne and his cheque book is going around getting at witnessess. Bribing them, getting them to perjure themselves.
RYLANDS: Strong words.
MARKER: Well you’d better hear them now than in the dock.
RYLANDS: Any proof?
MARKER: Not yet.
RYLANDS: Well I’m glad you let me in on this, Marker. Yes, they’re very pleased with you, you know. I’m delighted.
MARKER: Well I don’t want another job to fold up underneath me.
RYLANDS: You’re quite right. But you must remember Marker, when you’re paid to turn up stones, you mustn’t get too queasy at what you find underneath.
MARKER: I’m not queasy, but I just don’t want to be there when he offers the judge fifty quid and a years free meat.

In the end, Barry decides to plead guilty, despite his father’s protestations.  Exactly what happened at the garage is never established, and never will be.  It’s possible that Barry was defending himself, but equally it could just have been a motiveless murder.  Later in the story, Frank talks to a friend of Barry’s, Dorry Milner (Pauline Challoner).  She’s convinced that the blame for Barry’s current situation can be firmly laid at his father’s door.  “He screwed up Barry pretty efficiently.”

There’s no pat resolution to this story.  Marker was paid to do a job, which he did to the best of his ability.  Barry’s decision to plead guilty manages to negate most of Frank’s investigations – so what we take away from Case for the Defence is the unscrupulous nature of Ben Osbourne and his assertion that the truth can be bought.

Marker’s rarely in the position to be able to pick and choose his clients and his conflicts with them, when he comes to realise that their aims are ones he is morally unable to respect, will fuel the drama of many of the episodes to come.

Public Eye – The Comedian’s Graveyard

comedian's graveyard

The Comedian’s Graveyard boasts a wonderful performance from Joe Melia as Billy Raybold.  Raybold is an end-of-the-pier entertainer, who is seen at the start of the story holding auditions for his latest show.  When Judy Blackburn (Tessa Wyatt) turns up, his attention is immediately drawn to her, since she’s young, nervous and very attractive.  He does his best to calm her nerves by telling her that they’re not here to eat her (“I wouldn’t mind” mutters his sidekick Arthur Mack, played by Leslie Dwyer).  So the scene seems to be set for Raybold to take advantage of the naive girl, but it doesn’t quite work out like that.

Raybold is always performing, even when off-stage, cracking corny jokes – but there’s plenty of opportunity to view the real man behind the greasepaint (and he’s someone who’s well aware of his mediocrity).  This is clearest at the end, when he tells Judy that “I could stand being a has-been, but a never-was, that takes some swallowing.”

Frank’s still working for Joe Ryland’s detective agency (although not for long – by the end of the story he’s resigned, finally worn down by the endless form-filling and his personal dislike of Ryland) and has been given the case of locating Judy.  There’s a clear difference of opinion between Frank and Ryland – Ryland is happy to take the client’s money, but Frank feels they’d be better off going to the police.  “I’m one man.  With one pair of eyes and one pair of feet.  The population of Brighton and Hove is something like 240,000, not counting the tourists.  I”d have to get very, very, lucky.”

Eventually he agrees with Judy’s aunt, Mrs Reid (Mona Bruce) that he’ll spend a few days looking for her.  And since this is television, he does manage to find her fairly easily.  Frank spies her on the pier, handing out leaflets for Raybold’s show.  This brings Frank into conflict with Raybold, since he showed him Judy’s picture earlier in the day and he claimed not to have seen her.  Frank’s suspicious of Raybold’s motives, but the comedian tells him that “I don’t want any trouble, I’ve done nothing wrong.  All I want is some decent trade, bit of fishing, little money to show for it at the end.”

Earlier, Raybold confessed to Mack that he wasn’t getting anywhere with Judy, and he’d decided not to.  His reputation as a womanizer in the past was well known, but he now admits he’s “too old for the chase, the lies, promises, chat.”

As I’ve said, Melia’s riveting as a third-rate comedian, hiding the pain of his mundane existence behind the false bonhomie of the professional comic.  It’s a familiar character (think of Archie Rice in The Entertainer) but it works just as well here.  Tessa Wyatt is appealing as the seventeen year-old Judy, who dreams of stardom but finds that the reality is somewhat different.  Leslie Dwyer (later to be a regular in the early series of Hi-De-Hi!) offers solid support as Arthur Mack, who seems keen to move in on Judy, since Raybold isn’t interested.

Another thread developed in the story is the continuing relationship between Frank and Mrs Mortimer.  Together they take Mrs Reid to see Judy perform in the show.  Although it’s essentially a professional trip (after Judy’s performance, Mrs Reid confronts her and pleads with the girl to come home) it could also said to be virtually a date for Frank and Mrs Mortimer.  Certainly as they reach home, they’re both still in high spirits – and even though Raybold has never topped the bill at the London Palladium, he’s still able to put on a good show which they both seemed to enjoy.

Over a nightcap, the conversation turns to Frank’s long-term plans.  He confesses that he doesn’t see himself staying with Rylands much longer.  Mrs Mortimer tells him he should set up on his own again, but Frank knows that’s easier said than done.  “There’s a little item buzzing around Parliament called the private investigators bill.  The bit that caught my eye said ‘agents would have to satisfy a judge of their competence and honesty.’  And here am I, still on parole.  You’d also have to deposit a one thousand pound bond before you could set up shop.”

Mrs Mortmer offers without hesitation to provide the bond.  Frank refuses (“finance and friendship, like oil and water”) and the fact he mentioned friendship is picked up by Mrs Mortimer (“coming out of your shell, aren’t you?”)  It’s a far cry from the start of the series, where Frank was an isolated character with no friends at all.

The end of the scene does imply that Mrs Mortimer would like to be more than friends though.  But since series five would see Frank relocate again (this time to Windsor) their relationship is already on borrowed time.  Had Frank stayed in Brighton, it’s intriguing to wonder exactly what would have happened to the pair of them.  But maybe it was the fear that he was getting too domesticated that caused the programme-makers to move him on again.

Public Eye – A Fixed Address

a fixed address

The first noticeable thing about A Fixed Address is that it’s in colour.  The original broadcast, back in 1969, was in black and white, but the programme was recorded in colour as a test for the forthcoming switchover.  It takes a little getting used to, as after six episodes of moody, black and white stories it’s something of a jolt.

The story opens with Frank and Mrs Mortimer working together on the dishes.  It’s another example of how comfortable he’s become with her – he’s now essentially one of the family.  The only guests staying are a young couple – Peter (Barrie Rutter) and Rosemary (Deborah Grant).  Peter is rather oafish and irritating whilst Rosemary is quiet and polite.  They don’t seem to be enjoying themselves especially and Frank wonders why.  This allows Mrs Mortimer to demonstrate her detective skills for once.  She tells Frank that they’re not married (she knew this when Peter didn’t know whether Rosemary liked kippers!) and this explains why they don’t quite seem at ease with each other.  She tells Frank that apart from enjoying love-making “they’ve nothing else in common.  They’re going to make themselves very miserable.”

It’s a nice moment that forges the bond between Mrs Mortimer and Frank a little tighter, although we’ll see upcoming events threaten this.  Frank’s looking to start up on his own again, as an enquiry agent, and he’s searching for offices.  When his probation officer, Jim Hull, calls round, she lets slip this information – which comes as a surprise to him.  He then offers Mrs Mortimer a word of advice (“Marker’s a very lonely man, I mean he’s a lone wolf.  Don’t make too many plans involving him.”)  Needless to say, this doesn’t go down well.

Events then take an unexpected turn when Mrs Mortimer’s estranged husband, Denis (Philip Brack) appears on the doorstep.  This provides the meat of the episode as he enjoys several spiky encounters with Frank as well as some memorable sparring matches with his wife.  He’s a charmer – but he walked out of his marriage seven years ago and it’s clear that his presence isn’t welcomed by her.  But why has he come back?

Eventually it becomes clear.  He offers her the chance to travel to Malaya with him.  It’s a three year trip and there’s plenty of benefits.  “House servants, change of air three times time a year.  Free travel, Siam, Penang, Hong Kong.”  It sounds tempting, but it’s obvious that the offer wasn’t made out of love or affection – as Denis’ company favours married employees, rather than single ones.  Mrs Mortimer has great pleasure in telling him no and her refusal means he doesn’t waste time hanging around.

Rosemary and Peter’s relationship also founders, so this isn’t the best episode for relationships.  Unless we count Frank and Mrs Mortimer?  Series four of Public Eye was essentially the story of Frank Marker’s journey back into society. At the start, he’d just come out of prison and was something of a drifter, with no home or friends.  By A Fixed Address, he has a friend (and she clearly wants to take things further) and a home, plus the chance to start his business again in Brighton.

But series five would see all of this jettisoned in favour of a move to Windsor.  This may have been down to a change in the production team.  Series four was entirely written by Roger Marshall, but he didn’t contribute a single script to the next series.  Presumably the new producer (Michael Chapman) decided that the Brighton location had run its course and decided to move Frank on again.  This is something a of shame, since there was still areas that could have been developed (for example, Mrs Mortimer’s guest house would have been a rich source of potential clients and problems for Frank).

But notwithstanding this, series four of Public Eye saw the series hit a consistently high standard – thanks to the scripting of Roger Marshall and the fine casts, headed by the incomparable Alfred Burke.