Case 15: Persimmons and Dishwashers

“You need protection,” said the big fella who called on the club owner.  “I don’t,” replied the club owner.  But two days later, it seems he did need protection after all.  The club was wrecked, and the club owner beaten up.  Next time the big fella called the club owner paid up.  And that’s how the protection racket works, on violence and fear of violence.  In the Fulchester Crown Court today, we have the case of the Queen vs George and Arnold Curl.  The charges are conspiring to commit grievous bodily harm, and conspiring to demand money with menaces.  Are George and Arnold Curl the kings of Fulchester’s protection racket?

Original broadcast: Wednesday 24 – Friday 26 January 1973

Written by: David Fisher

This is Mr Fisher’s third Crown Court script.  His last was Case 7: The Medium.

Directed by: Bob Hird

This is Mr Hird’s second Crown Court assignment.  He previously directed Case 12: Whatever Happened to George Robins?

Presiding:

Edward Jewesbury as the Hon. Mr Justice Bragge

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Mr Justice Bragge was last seen in Case 13: R v Brewer and Brewer.

The accused:

Harry Fowler (1926-2012) as George Curl

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Mr Fowler is probably best known for rivalling George Cole (with whom he starred in his screen debut, Those Kids from Town in 1942) as British cinema’s favourite Cockney youth of the 40s and 50s, appearing in scores of films including Went the Day Well?Champagne CharlieHue and CryDance HallAngels One Five and The Pickwick Papers (as Sam Weller, a role he reprised for TV in the 60s).  He later spent four years as The Army Game‘s Corporal Flogger Hoskins and three as Harry Danvers in another ITV sitcom, Our Man at St Mark‘s.  He continued to appear on TV as Cockneys either chirpy or criminal into the 21st century.  Often they shared his own first name, as in his recurring role of Harry the milkman in In Sickness and in Health in the 80s and early 90s and Harry the café proprietor in the 1988 Doctor Who story Remembrance of the Daleks.  Perhaps his most unusual (and almost certainly his most regrettable) role was as a Chinese spiv in the infamous Spike Milligan sitcom The Melting Pot, only the first episode of which made it to the air.

Harry Landis (1931- ) as Arnold Curl

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Like Mr Fowler, Mr Landis was one of TV and film’s go-to Cockney ne’er-do-wells of the 50s and 60s (he racked up seven appearances in Dixon of Dock Green, where Mr Fowler only managed five), becoming better known as he aged for playing twinkly elderly Jews (most famously barber Felix Kawalski in EastEnders from 1995 to 1997).  Happily he’s still working, and has recently appeared in the inevitable Doctors as well as Friday Night Dinner and the Tom Cruise blockbuster Edge of Tomorrow.

Appearing for the prosecution:

Charles Keating as James Elliot QC

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James Elliot’s last appearance was in Case 12: Whatever Happened to George Robins?

This is the first time we’ve seen him prosecuting.

Appearing for the defence:

David Ashford as Charles Lotterby

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And the last time we saw Charles Lotterby was in Case 13: R v Brewer and Brewer.

Witnesses for the prosecution:

Michael Turner (1921-2012) as Chief Inspector Norman Crane

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A hugely prolific TV actor from the 50s to the 90s, Mr Turner’s biggest role was as the lead in the fourth and final series of New Scotland Yard (taking over from John Woodvine) in 1974.  Viewers of the original broadcast of Persimmons and Dishwashers could have seen him in recent weeks as Mr Hoggins in a BBC adaptation of Cranford and General Krebs in the LWT play The Death of Adolf Hitler.  A small selection of his many other credits: two more appearances in Crown Court, commander of The Wheel in Space in Doctor Who in 1968 and roles in The Avengers (both original and New), Big Breadwinner HogCallanZ Cars and Richard Attenborough’s Cry Freedom (Mr Turner was South African by birth and had previously appeared in the Albert Finney-directed TV movie on the same subject, The Biko Inquest).

Colin Edwynn (1933- ) as Detective Sergeant David Walsh

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If you type Mr Edwynn’s name into IMDb’s search bar, you get a description of him as “Actor, Crime Traveller (1997)”, which is perhaps not the memorial any actor would choose.  Probably his most significant role was as PC Jimmie Conway, who made various appearances in Coronation Street (most dramatically seeing his fiancee crushed under a collapsing viaduct in 1967) from 1965 to 1976.  Like many other tall actors he played lots of policemen, in his case representing law and order in Pardon the ExpressionThe Man in Room 17Raffles and Emmerdale Farm.  He could also be seen in non-police roles in A Family at WarHadleighThe Cuckoo WaltzMinderGrace and Favour and dinnerladies, among many other things.

Barbara Young (1936- ) as Sheila Telfer

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Ms Young’s vast range can be seen in the huge difference between the brassy Cockney nightclub owner’s wife (despite it being fairly well established by now that Fulchester’s in the north all the figures in its seamy side seem to be Cockney) she plays here and her (then) recent performance as scheming society hostess Anna Scherer in the BBC’s mammoth adaptation of War and Peace (both played to perfection).  Her most celebrated screen role is as Agrippinilla in another prestige BBC production, I, Claudius, though most of her TV appearances have been in less highfalutin fare.  These include regular roles in Coronation Street (as Rita’s old showbiz pal Doreen Fenwick in 2007), Last of the Summer Wine (as Stella, sister of and replacement for Nora Batty in the show’s last years), Family Affairs and Hazell.  The week following Persimmons and Dishwashers‘ broadcast she could be seen as an anxious wife engaging Frank Marker’s services in Public Eye.

Ron Pember (1934- ) as Harry Granger

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Mr Pember is pretty much the emblem of that breed of distinctive, hard working British character actor who’s just in everything (he had a regular role in Secret Army, but other that has mainly had a career of just popping up in things) that a list of credits seems pretty pointless.  It seems remarkable that he’s been off our screens for the best part of 30 years now (having retired in 1992 after a stroke).  Probably my favourite of his many turns is the completely uninterested father of would-be channel swimmer Chrissie in the classic Victoria Wood sketch.  And, as I always like to list  Doctor Who appearances I’ll note with regret that Mr Pember has never appeared in the TV version of the show but was in the 1985 radio serial Slipback.  He’s probably the only Crown Court actor (he comes back another three times, by the way) to have written a musical about Jack the Ripper.

The jury:

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Various items of interest this week: that green eyeshadow! That red polo neck! That pink shirt! Those four gents on the end who look like participants in a mildly boozy late night discussion programme! The foreman is the worried looking chap on the end in the grey suit.  He’s Mike Hayden, who often played priests (must be that troubled countenance) and was also in The DustbinmenA Family at WarCoronation Street, two Playfor Today and The Boys from the Black Stuff and gets called up for jury service at Fulchester again the following year.

The verdict (highlight to reveal): Both defendants are found guilty (on both counts) and sentenced to 12 years in prison each.

Case notes:

  • The Curls’ alleged enforcer has been nicknamed “Dangerous Dan” due to his resemblance to a children’s comic character (presumably this is meant to be the Dandy‘s Desperate Dan).

Summing-up:

David Fisher’s Doctor Who stories are celebrated for their comedy, and this is the first of his Crown Court scripts to see this element come to the fore (despite, as James Elliot is at pains to remind us, the savagery of the case at hand).  Among many other choice moments, we have a club called the Bent Banana (“I understand that surrealistic names are in vogue at the moment, my lord, Elliot deadpans),  a bungalow owner claiming to have had an accident on the stairs, Haiku washing machines, persimmons supplied to the clubs and bookies of Fulchester as a cover for the Curls’ protection racket, and Arnie Curl’s declaration that “We’d sell smoked hedgehog if we could sell it.”  And Harry Fowler’s display of  piety as the supposedly devout Georgie Curl is worth the price of admission alone.  The only possible problem with Persimmons and Dishwashers is that the verdict is a given from the off.  But then the whole joke is how flagrant the Curls the are, and there are certainly plenty of open-and shut cases in real life.

In the news this week:

Tuesday 23 January sees Richard Nixon announce a peace deal that will end the Vietnam war.

In the charts:

Little Jimmy Osmond is finally knocked off his perch at the top of the chart by the Sweet.  At number four this week, here’s Carly Simon with a song that’s definitely not about Warren Beatty.  You can see the full chart for the week here.

 

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