Case 17: Portrait of an Artist

Martin Emsworth, one of Britain’s best known and most controversial painters, was 67 when he died last September.  For many years he’d lived in picturesque Pond Cottage in the village of Kettleworth, near Fulchester.  The inhabitants looked on him as a wayward genius of markedly eccentric habits.  He shared the cottage with two women: his manager, Brenda Kingsley, who arranged the sale of his pictures to the leading art galleries throughout the world, and Rose Messiter, a village girl who became his favourite model.  During the last months of his life, the painter made two wills: the first in August, leaving everything to Brenda, and the second in September, leaving everything to Rose.  Today in the Crown Court, Brenda is bringing a civil action against Rose, seeking to get the second will put aside.  Her counsel is Miss Helen Tate.

Original broadcast: Wednesday 7-Friday 9 February 1973

Written by: Peter Wildeblood

This is Mr Wildeblood’s third Crown Court.  His last was Case 11: Criminal Libel.

Directed by: Richard Doubleday (1924-1975)

Mr Doubleday’s other work for Granada included producing A Family at WarCoronation Street and Adam Smith (all of which he also directed episodes of), and working as a director on Judge Dee and Sam.  Before that he was at Associated-Rediffusion, where he directed CraneNo Hiding Place and Our Man at St Mark’s.

Presiding: Edward Jewesbury as the Hon. Mr Justice Bragge

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We last saw Mr Justice Bragge in Case 15: Persimmons and Dishwashers.

The plaintiff:

Moira Redmond (1928-2006) as Brenda Kingsley

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Ms Redmond started her showbiz career in the 40s as a Windmill girl, and had a first success as an actress after emigrating to Australia with her husband.  When the marriage broke down she returned to the UK, auspiciously starting her stage career as understudy to Vivien Leigh in Peter Brook’s Titus Andronicus.  She also carved out an impressive screen career in glamorous but usually hard-hearted roles, most prestigiously as Alice Keppel in Edward VII and Domitia in I, Claudius.  In the cinema, she appeared in lots of British crime films of the early 60s and had a starring role in the Hammer shocker Nightmare.

The defendant:

Mary Healey (1942- ) as Rose Messiter

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Not only is Ms Healey the sole member of this week’s cast who’s still alive at the time of writing, but she’s still frequently on TV, having most recently appeared in Line of Duty and Houdini and Doyle.  In fact, 2018 is her 50th year of appearing on our screens.  Along the way she’s had regular roles in The Duchess of Duke StreetThe MallensKing & Castle and Mulberry, and been in everything from Z Cars to Gimme Gimme Gimme.  In 1988 she appeared in Doctor Who as the “killjoy” who falls foul of The Happiness Patrol at the beginning of that story.

Appearing for the plaintiff;

Dorothy Vernon as Helen Tate

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Helen Tate last appeared in Case 14: Sunset of Arms.  Here is a pic of her in the amazing specs she dons for her final speech to the jury:

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Appearing for the defendant: Charles Keating as James Elliot QC

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We last saw James Elliot in Case 15: Persimmons and Dishwashers.

Witnesses for the plaintiff:

Edward Harvey as Mr Pascoe

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I’ve got most of my information about Mr Harvey from IMDb, which gives him a lifespan of 1895-1975, but I think it’s likely they’ve confused a couple of Edward Harveys, as this one certainly doesn’t look like he’s pushing 80.  In the months prior to his Crown Court appearance he’d been in The Edwardians and Upstairs Downstairs, and in a few weeks would be seen in the children’s thriller serial The Jensen Code.

Charlotte Mitchell (1926-2012) as Heather Wynne

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During the whole of Crown Court‘s run to date, Ms Mitchell could be seen on Saturday (or Sunday, depending on your ITV region) afternoons as housekeeper Amy in The Adventures of Black Beauty.  Her major claim for posterity is probably being the only woman to provide voices for The Goon Show (in the episodes “Ye Bandit of Sherwood Forest” and “Tales of Montmartre).  Other highlights (for me at least) from her long career include roles in the classic horror films Village of the Damned and Blood on Satan’s Claw, regular roles alongside Wendy Craig in both Not in Front of the Children and And Mother Makes Five, and the other wife of Emily Bishop’s bigamous husband Arnold Swain in Coronation Street.  She was also the mother of actors Christopher and Dominic Guard.

Witnesses for the defendant:

Tony Haygarth (1945-2017) as Walter Colley

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An omnipresent TV face from the 70s right through to the early 2010s, Mr Haygarth’s CV covers the whole breadth of TV comedy and drama in those decades – everything from Nigel Kneale’s sitcom misfire Kinvig to Our Friends in the North, from the hastily axed Hardwick House to a brief run as a regular in Emmerdale.  Notable film performances include Renfield in the 1979 Frank Langella Dracula and the voice of the farmer baddie in Chicken Run.

The jury:

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My faves this week are those two prematurely greying young men, who have expressions guiltier than those of anyone I’ve seen in the Crown Court dock.  Our foreman this week is the balding gentleman.  His name’s James Lynch and he later played another jury foreman in an episode of The Main Chance, as well as a Clerk of the Court in in Margaret Lockwood-starring courtroom drama Justice.

The verdict (highlight to reveal): The jury finds for the defendant.

Case notes:

  • As explained to us, the art of Martin Emsworth (religious subjects in modern dress using residents of the village where he lived as models) and his presence in the village as a cherished eccentric, is clearly inspired by Stanley Spencer (who died at 68, where Emsworth was 67).
  • Brenda Kingsley is the first Crown Court witness to have a whole episode devoted to her, with Part One concentrating solely on her testimony and cross-examination.
  • Brenda is supposed to have recognised local plumber Wally Colley in a sketch of Emsworth’s but it certainly doesn’t look anything like Tony Haygarth from what we’re shown.
  • Although it’s been established by now that Fulchester is near Manchester, Rose and Wally, who have supposedly lived all their lives in the nearby village of Kettleworth speak with a generalised “rustic” accent and a mildly Scouse one respectively.

Summing up:

Peter Wildeblood’s best Crown Court script so far.  The characters are all beautifully drawn (even Emsworth, dead before the beginning of the case feels like a fully realised character) and superbly brought to life by the cast, and the unconventional living arrangements at Emsworth’s cottage seem totally real.  Moira Redmond in particular gets the space to build a brilliant characterisation of smug, calculating Brenda Kingsley, and her reaction shots to the rest of the trial are golden (the lack of a shot of her when the verdict is revealed is a glaring omission).

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Charlotte Mitchell is also hugely entertaining as the ludicrously jolly local vet, and this is certainly one of the funniest Crown Courts to date.   Helen Tate’s decidedly bitchy attitude toward Rose Messiter is perhaps not the most progressive portrayal of a female barrister, but Dorothy Vernon certainly plays it to the hilt.

Elsewhere on TV this week:

This week sees the beginning of new children’s animation The Wombles on BBC 1, as well as the end of two popular ITV sitcoms that had been going since the late 60s, Father, Dear Father and Nearest and Dearest.

In the charts:

It’s still the Sweet at number 1 with Blockbuster.  Up to number 3 this week it’s the Strawbs, having it both ways with a song that can be read as either an endorsement of the then-highly prominent militant union representatives or a withering attack on them depending on your particular bent.  You can see the full chart for the week here.

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