Case 3: R v Bryant

On July the 6th of this year, four masked men snatched £30,000 which was being transferred to the Frampton branch of the British United Bank.  Wearing balaclava helmets and wielding pickaxe handles, they threw ammonia in the eyes of the bank staff, and got away with the money, none of which has been recovered.  After intensive inquiries, only one man has been arrested, and today, 35 year old Harry George Bryant stands trial, charged in connection with the raid, with robbery with violence, and with assaulting the police.

Original broadcast: Wednesday 1-Thursday 3 November 1972

Written by: Tony Hoare (1938-2008)

The first Crown Court writer to have actually been involved in the kind of crime his script focuses on, Mr Hoare had been a getaway driver for a gang of bank robbers, for which he was sent to prison.  When the great Alan Plater gave a lecture there, Mr Hoare showed him a novel he’d written, and Plater encouraged him to write radio scripts drawing on his first hand experience of crime.  This eventually led to a successful career writing for New Scotland YardWithin These WallsHazellThe SweeneyThe Gentle Touch, Minder (for which he wrote 20 episodes), London’s Burning, and various other shows.

Directed by: Alan Bromly (1915-1995)

By this stage in his career, Mr Bromly had a very extensive list of TV credits as both producer and director, notably on the BBC’s thriller serials of the 60s and sci-fi anthology Out of the Unknown.  Future assignments as director included Coronation Street and two Doctor Who stories – 1973’s The Time Warrior and 1979’s Nightmare of Eden.  On the latter, he clashed with star Tom Baker and other members of the crew to the extent that he eventually stormed off, leaving producer Graham Williams to direct the rest of the serial.

Presiding: Richard Warner as the Hon. Mr Justice Waddington

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Mr Justice Waddington was last seen in case 1: Lieberman v Savage.

The accused: Mark McManus (1935-1994) as Harry Bryant

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Mr McManus’s Glaswegian accent is so well known from the role of detective Jim Taggart, which he played from 1983 to his death (the series, perhaps bafflingly to new viewers, continued on for many years afterwards, still bearing his character’s name), that the Cockney(ish) accent he adopts to play Harry Bryant sounds utterly wrong.  On the first day of Regina v Bryant, telly viewers would also be able to see him attempting an Australian accent in an episode of Thames’ World War 2 RAF drama Pathfinders (and might also have seen him pop up a couple of weeks earlier in the first episode of another WW2 series, BBC 1’s Colditz – he was Scottish in that).  He would go on to pre-Taggart fame starring in The BrothersSam and Strangers.

Appearing for the prosecution: Bernard Brown (1933- ) as Andrew Logan QC

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Mr Brown would have been familiar to viewers as one of the stars of the BBC’s The Regiment (the title’s pretty self-explanatory), which was in between its two series when Regina v Bryant was broadcast.  His other TV roles include a recurring character in May to December and the voice of Anthony Eden in Dennis Potter’s Lipstick on Your Collar.  His debut appearance as Andrew Logan is distinguished by his managing to fluff his very first line.

Assisted by: John Alkin as Barry Deeley

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Barry Deeley was last seen last week in R v Lord.  In fact, he’s been in every episode of Crown Court so far.

Appearing for the defence: Dorothy Vernon as Helen Tate

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Helen Tate was last seen in Lieberman v Savage.  She only appears briefly in episode 1 of R v Bryant as Harry Bryant swiftly decides to dismiss her and conduct his own defence.

Witnesses for the prosecution:

Paul Alexander as Alfred Mason

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Mr Alexander’s first TV role was as one of the menacing toy soldiers in the 1968 Doctor Who story The Mind Robber.  His other assignments include appearances in Upstairs DownstairsZ CarsCasualtyA Touch of FrostHeartbeat and The Bill.  In recent years he has appeared in Steven Spielberg’s War Horse and directed a low budget film about St Francis of Assisi.

John Malcolm (1936-2008) as Mr Rohan

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Mr Malcolm regularly popped up on TV in smallish roles throughout the 60s and 70s, and in 1978 landed the regular role of Oberleutnant Kluge in Enemy at the Door, LWT’s drama about the occupation of Jersey in World War 2.  This ensured him regular employment as Nazis in various international productions for the rest of his career.

Glynn Edwards (1931- ) as Inspector Collins

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Like many of the most familiar screen faces of the 60s and 70s (including his former wife Yootha Joyce), Mr Edwards’ career had been launched by Joan Littlewood’s theatre workshop.  In the 80s he became known to millions as Dave the barman in Minder, but before that was already one of British film and TV’s most omnipresent faces, doing “gruff” better than just about anybody else.  Inspector Collins is just one in a long, long line of policeman he played throughout his career.

James Berwick (1929-2000) as Sergeant Harold Fisher

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Irish actor James Berwick’s real name was James Kenny, and he used that name when working in the US for the early part of his career.  He changed it to James Berwick on coming to work in the UK in the early 60s as there was already an actor working in Britain called James Kenney.  Whose real name (entirely coincidentally, it would seem) was Kenneth Berwick.  So that’s all quite confusing.  His most prestigious screen role was a major supporting part in the 1966 Henry Fonda/Joanne Woodward film A Big Hand for the Little Lady.  He was a familiar character actor on British TV until 1995, when he bowed out with an appearance in Father Ted.  His wife was glamorous ice skater and (for a short while in the 40s and 50s) Hollywood star Belita.

John Graham as Inspector Wooley

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As well as actor appearing in everything from Dr Finlay’s Casebook to Hammer’s Quatermass and the Pit to General Hospital to Wombling Free (actually he didn’t appear in that, he voiced a Womble – which is more than any of us can say), Mr Graham was a prolific playwright, mainly of the kind of gentle farces popular with amateur dramatics companies.  He wrote a few scripts for British TV (including a one-off comedy for Yorkshire TV called Margie and Me starring the formidable combination of Arthur Mullard and Betty Marsden), and many more for radio, but his greatest popularity as a writer is in Germany, where his plays are constantly running and several have been made into films.

Witnesses for the defence:

Diane Keen (1946- ) as Pauline Bryant

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A few years after this appearance in the witness box, Ms Keen would become a much-loved star of sitcom (The Cuckoo WaltzFoxy Lady, Rings on Their FingersThe Shillingbury TalesYou Must Be the Husband), bonkers kids’ show (The Feathered Serpent), drama (The SandbaggersInspector Wexford), and coffee advert.  Younger readers may remember her from the hundreds of episodes of the BBC’s afternoon drama Doctors (a show I hope someone one day writes a blog like this about) she appeared in from 2003 to 2012.

The jury:

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I think my favourite this week is the man biting his nails (throughout the whole trial he’s either doing this or burying his head in his hands).  You may have your own.  This week’s foreman (the man on the left in the top pic who looks like he’s been stamped on by a horse) is Harry Shiels, a music hall comedian who specialised in pantomime dames.  The only other credit for him on IMDb is as the queen in a panto based on “Old King Cole” shown on the BBC in 1956 – however there’s a publicity photo of him on the Alamy website that suggests he played a barman in Crossroads in 1964.

The verdict (highlight to reveal):  Guilty.

Case notes:

  • This was the third Crown Court case to be broadcast, but the sixth to be made (not including the untransmitted pilot).
  • Richard Colson makes his first appearance as Clerk of the Court.

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  • Fulchester still hasn’t been established as the location of this Crown Court.  The events in this case took place in a town called Frampton.
  • SWEARWATCH: Bank security guard Mr Rohan calls Bryant a bastard.
  • A fine example of casual 1970s homophobia occurs when Inspector Collins says he accompanied Bryant into his bedroom and an unidentified voice from the back of the court pipes up “Ooh, where else, dearie?” Mr Justice Waddington’s threat to have the culprit charged with contempt of court provides a slightly odd end to act one of part two.
  • At one point, Andrew Logan makes a pointed reference to Britain’s then-current economic woes.

Summing upRegina v Bryant illustrates the problem a jury consisting of members of the public provides writers with (sorry, I’m going to discuss the verdict here, so look away if you don’t want to know).  It’s clear that Tony Hoare’s story is meant to be an indictment of police corruption and victimisation, (still quite new and risky territory for TV in 1972), and our sympathies are nudged toward the defendant more than would become the norm.  However, a group of ordinary viewers’ decision that the defendant made it all up tends to suggest that a lot of the show’s audience wouldn’t have been very receptive to that.  Perhaps later in the decade, when the TV schedule was littered with bent coppers, their decision might have been a bit different.  Despite the dodgy accent Mark McManus is brilliant, and the choice to have him defend himself gives these episodes an enjoyably different feel.

In the charts: Lieutenant Pigeon’s reign at the top of the hit parade continues.  Here’s Gilbert O’Sullivan with “Clair”, a love song to a three year old girl that probably sounded very different to the listeners who propelled it to number 2 in the charts (it’ll be number 1 next week) than it does to 21st century ears scarred by certain things we’ve since learned about the 1970s.

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