Orphaned Episodes: The Scarlet Letters (Inspector Morley Late of Scotland Yard) and Another Appeal
The introduction to this series of posts can be found here.
Another post about an orphaned episode and another emotional flip for me - this time to the feeling you get half way through a three year degree. You've started it for perfectly good reasons are in danger of getting tired of it and would jack it in if you had a career to go to. I won't comment more at this point because I have a longer post planned for when these are over, including about how it's been such a wild ride emotionally.
A trip back to the fifties today, when Britain was a bastion of moral uprightness and integrity. We were a beacon of hope to the entire world. If you ignore our empire, slavery, rape, pillage and frequent genocide that is. Honestly, you look at Boris and I don't know why anyone's surprised. I might be feeling rather negative. Anyway, I did have a point which was to say that 1950s TV really does take us into an alien world, with alien conventions. There is the imaginary Famous Five Britain, obviously. But Inspector Morley also takes us back to a more melodramatic age in entertainment.
It is also the oldest actual made for TV show I have written about here. I was wondering why when I searched for it I found a lot of stuff about films, and here's why:
DISCOVERY 117: Inspector Morley, Late of Scotland Yard, Investigates – The Scarlet Letter tx: untransmitted in the UK.Written by John Gilling, directed by Victor M. GoverWith Patrick Barr, Tucker McGuire and Tod Slaughter.Made in 1952 in the UK, this TV series could find no network so some episodes were turned into B-movies (Murder at the Grange, King of the Underworld and Murder at Scotland Yard) and the B-movies are repeated on channels like Talking Pictures and BBC2. Finding the original episodes is a far harder task and it’s great to find an example of the series.16mm film. Source
It is wild to be writing about a TV show made seventy years ago which was never broadcast on TV until it was rediscovered after being missing presumed wiped.
To be brutally honest I am not surprised this made a film. It feels like a film. It looks like a film. I don't know how representative of early fifties TV that was, but it is noticeably different from the other fifties TV I have seen. Another reason is how melodramatic it is. I mean, seriously, it's got Tod Slaughter in it so we're already in melodramatic territory. His scenes are notable for feeling like the scenes in silent films where the baddie overdoes the acting. He contrasts to everyone else in fact! Please don't get thinking that this is a criticism, it's incredibly sweet and makes this so perfect. In fact if people threw their arms around dramatically more often, it may help!
Of course you're guaranteed melodrama with a name like Slaughter, and I love it. I am delighted to discover that when appearing in Sweeney Todd, Slaughter would go to the bar in the interval still wearing his bloody apron, not speak to anyone, order a drink and just sit in the corner looking creepily at people. What a legend!
Other ways in which this is old fashioned include naturally everything. I particularly like a bit where children are playing in the street. The lady involved in this is approaching Inspector Morley because she has been indiscreet and is being blackmailed with her letters stolen by a new servant. She doesn't want publicity because her husband is in the new year's honours list. How things have changed!
Try as I might I haven't been able to find out why Inspector Morley left Scotland Yard, kept the title as if he'd come out of the RAF and set up as a private investigator. This is 2022 and I need to know! I may well find out with watching the other available episodes. Of course if this had been made in the seventies he would be an alcoholic divorcee and we would know all about it.
The shows are in quite poor shape as far as I can see, but worth watching purely for the period charm and Tod Slaughter.
I was hoping not to do this again but these are not normal times and the government hadn't tried to hang on after being convicted of turning Downing Street into the scene of thirty crimes then. For the love of God, if you can vote in the UK, get out there on the 5th of May and vote. What I am appealing to you to do is vote tactically. Yes this isn't a general election and won't change the government but if you have had enough of Tory corruption give them a humiliating loss by voting for the next most popular party in your constituency. Do not waste your vote voting for minority parties, it won't do it. If the next most popular is Labour, vote Labour, and so on. Yes, I don't really want a Labour government but I'd rather have them than this crowd, doing this will not change the government but will give them a good kicking.
Update: since writing this I have found that several episodes of this show, including this one are available on commercial DVD so aren't actually orphaned. Still, I've enjoyed watching it and finding out about it. So there.
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Chicago Calling (and if this one doesn't surprise you ...):ReplyDelete
On my Olde DVD Wall, I have several collections of feature films that have fallen into Public Domain: the copyrights expired, and anybody can put out recordings of them.
Many British flix have found their way into these sets: I'll talk here about one of them: Legends Of Horror, which features movies from all over the world, but I'm looking at no fewer than six (6) of Tod Slaughter's Greatest Hits!
These are from the '30s, 0f course: I'm fairly sure that they never quite got any bookings in the USA, either in theaters or (later) on television.
Still, it can be an experience to show these to American friends who've been brainwashed by years of PBS into thinking that British Actors are several levels above us Grubby Yanks.
Some while back, I was surprised to learn that Tod Slaughter had lived long enough to dip his toe into TV: some of his bits turned up on YouTube (the Inspector Morley shows), and they serve as an education to TV Anglophiles I know (who were thrown badly enough by things like The Crimes Of Stephen Hawke, with its musical interlude by Mr. Flotsam and Mr. Jetsam (I'll let you explain that to your readers - if you dare).
Anyway, I note that Tod Slaughter's last credited appearance was in an episode of The Count Of Monte Cristo, a British-American co-production that played here in the States from 1956; Mr. Slaughter apparently went unbilled, but I would like to check it out all the same.
Sidebar: in this series, the Count was played by George Dolenz, building a bankroll for his wife and kids (his son Micky found his own TV success as one of The Monkees, but that's another story).
As part of my due diligence, I looked up Tod Slaughter's career (that was his real name, by the way - Norman Carter Slaughter; I think he might have taken "Tod" from a certain legendary barber), and was caught short learning that he was only 70 years old when he died (that's a year younger than I am right now).
Think about it - if he'd lived to his 80s, Tod Slaughter might have made it on to The Avengers...
All the best from the Great Midwest!
(And we all hope that you in GB have better luck with your Guy With Funny Hair than we seem to be having with ours ...)
Mike, I think you should know that I was brought up on Flotsam and Jetsam because they were favourites of my grandmother! I won't explain them, the readership of this blog is quality and will know...Delete
My mother had me quite late in life (three of my grandparents were born in the nineteenth century) so I was brought up on all sorts of old fashioned stuff and can even understand old money.
I am overdoing my reaction of joy to your taste for Tod Slaughter as we speak, clutching my heart and making strange movements with my mouth!
And you know what Slaughter would have been perfect in the Avengers - thank you so much for that image!
Chicago Calling (an update of sorts):ReplyDelete
I have recently taken delivery on a Region 2 DVD set of The Count Of Monte Cristo - the TV Series.
As noted above, this was a British-American co-production; the first thirteen episodes were made in Hollywood, with George Dolenz as the Count, and Nick Cravat as his mute sidekick Jacopo.
After the first set, the production was moved to England, along with Dolenz and Cravat; the casts and crew were all GB, for a grand total of 39 half-hours, which ran in US syndication for years afterward.
One of the British-made episodes is "The Talleyrand Story": this is the one in which Tod Slaughter is supposed to have made his final appearance on film, in an uncredited role as an innkeeper.
Today (June 29), I watched this episode, checking it against some old Slaughter films - and I have to say as an American non-expert ... it sure does look like a 70-year-old Slaughter: the innkeeper has only a few lines, and he's a bit more congenial than the usual Slaughter character would be, and as mentioned earlier the actor and character aren't mentioned in the closing credits ... so there we are.
Anybody reading this who can shed further light on all this, please feel free to join in.
This DVD set is from Network, and I have to say that they did one helluva restoration on the films; for '50s vintage film TV, these really look great, so there's that ...
Well, that's my take from 21st Century Chicago; if you ever decide to write up The Count at your end, I can say safely that you'll get a few surprises ...
Let me know, when and if.
Ooh interesting, I'll have to look out for that. Although gut feeling would be that surely a role where you aren't sure whether it's Tod Slaughter because of the absence of melodrama would be uncharacteristic to say the least?Delete