A massive coronary last year robbed British industry of one of its most colourful figures, Sir Tom Crittenden. Knighted in 1966 for his services to industry, Sir Tom laid the foundations of his fortune mining for copper in the Belgian Congo. His will left half his assets to his wife, Lady Dorothy, the other half to be divided equally between his children, Bernard and Kate. But in the December following his death, a young man turned up in London also claiming to be Sir Tom’s son by an early marriage in Africa. Today, however, in Fulchester Crown Court, that same young man, Raoul Lapointe, stands accused of obtaining money by deception. Miss Helen Tate, prosecuting, is attempting to show that he is an impostor, who set out to derive financial benefit by representing himself as Sir Tom’s son.
Original broadcast: Wednesday 4 – Friday 6 April 1973
Written by: Bruce Stewart
This is Mr Stewart’s fifth Crown Court script. His last was Case 21: Freak-Out.
Directed by: Bill Podmore (1931-1994)
Mr Podmore is best known as a major figure in the history of Coronation Street, producing the show from 1976 to 1988 and making the show a huge success again after its mid-70s slump (he became known as “the Godfather” due to his ruthlessness in killing off characters, including Renee Roberts, Ernest Bishop and Len Fairclough). He also worked as a producer on Nearest and Dearest,
Presiding: William Mervyn as the Hon. Mr Justice Campbell
Mr Justice Campbell was last seen in Case 20: An Act of Vengeance.
The accused: Derek Griffiths (1946- ) as Raoul Lapointe
Young children who happened to catch these episodes (and maybe even their parents) would of course have recognised Mr Griffiths as one of the presenters of Play School, on which he served from 1971 to 1981 becoming about as adored as it’s possible for someone to be by a generation. His other children’s TV work included Play Away, Cabbages and Kings, Look and Read, Heads and Tails, SuperTed and Bod (for which he composed all the music and played all the instruments). Other viewers might have recognised him from a memorable conversation about race with Alf Garnett in the 1972 Till Death Us Do Part Christmas special. Later in 1973 he could be seen in a Play for Today and the Archers spoof The Cobblers of Umbridge. The following year he was Spanish waiter Carlos in the On the Buses spin-off Don’t Drink the Water (his ethnicity was always pretty elastic as far as casting was concerned – see also his turn as an Arab sheik in the Are You Being Served? movie). In recent years he’s been increasingly feted as a serious actor, serving a year-long stint in Coronation Street and, as I write, appearing at the National Theatre directed by Patrick Marber. And of course his voice, one of the most reassuring there is, still whisks viewers of a certain age back to their childhood every time they see one of those Amigo Loans adverts.
Appearing for the prosecution: Dorothy Vernon as Helen Tate
Helen Tate’s last appearance was in Case 23: Love Thy Neighbour.
Appearing for the defence: Terrence Hardiman as Stephen Harvesty
The last time we saw Stephen Harvesty was in Case 18: Crime in Prison.
Witnesses for the prosecution:
Carleton Hobbs (1898-1978) as Wilfred Bowers
Carleton Hobbs is such a perfect name for an aged thespian that it’s hard to believe there actually was one with that name. And yet here he is. He’s best known for his many decades of radio work (his first broadcast was in 1925), especially playing the BBC’s Sherlock Holmes from 1952 to 1969. Many of his screen roles were judges (including appearances in The Scales of Justice, The Pallisers, The Main Chance, Pennies from Heaven and a recurring role in Justice, in which he last appeared the week before Wise Child was broadcast), so it seems almost perverse that in his only Crown Court performance he plays a solicitor.
Helen Cherry (1915-2001) as Lady Dorothy Crittenden
A classical actress especially famed for her Rosalind in As You Like It in the 40s, Ms Cherry is best known for her stoicism in the real life role of long-suffering wife to hard-drinking, perpetually womanising Trevor Howard. She was a regular in British films of the 40s and 50s in officers’ wives type roles, had a starring role in the early ATV sci-fi serial The Strange World of Planet X in 1956 and turned up in the likes of The Adventures of Robin Hood, The Invisible Man, Danger Man, All Gas and Gaiters, Hadleigh, The Cedar Tree, The Professionals and Miss Marple. Rather splendidly, she could be seen the week after her Crown Court appearance in another Granada show, as an elocution teacher coaching Annie Walker for her new role as Lady Mayoress of Weatherfield.
Nigel Havers (1951- ) as Bernard Crittenden
It’s hard to believe that the gawky youngster we see here would mature into one of the great smoothies of British acting, but he did. This was one of his earliest TV appearances, which would be sporadic until he made his name as the BBC’s Nicholas Nickleby in 1977 and went on to A Horseman Riding By the following year. After that, Chariots of Fire, A Passage to India, The Charmer, Don’t Wait Up, love interest to Audrey Roberts and Sarah Jane Smith, and just being famous for being Nigel Havers. And wouldn’t we all like to be?
Witnesses for the defence:
Earl Cameron (1917- ) as Antoine Mbula
The duration of Mr Cameron’s first Crown Court appearance is slightly less than three minutes, which is a terrible waste of a legend. His first screen role, in Ealing Studios’ Pool of London in 1951 made him one of the first black actors to play a lead role in a British movie, and he continued to be prominent on film and TV well into his 90s. He can boast a James Bond (Thunderball) and a Doctor Who (1966’s The Tenth Planet) on his CV, as well as five appearances in Danger Man and one in The Prisoner. His most recent major film role was in The Interpreter with Sean Penn and Nicole Kidman in 2005 and he had a cameo in Christopher Nolan’s Inception in 2010. And fabulously, he’s still here and still regularly talking about his work at over 100.
Jenny Twigge (1950- ) as Kate Crittenden
Ms Twigge made her name on TV as General Hospital‘s Dr Cathy Waddon in the mid-70s, and went on to regular or recurring roles in Rooms, Hadleigh, The Onedin Line, Grange Hill (as Zammo McGuire’s mum), and Byker Grove. She’s also been in Dixon of Dock Green, New Scotland Yard, Z Cars, Blake’s 7, The Professionals and The Bill. Her outfit here is really quite something:
Norman Shelley (1903-1980) as Rev. Auguste Van Helm
Mr Shelley’s appearance here on the same bill as Carleton Hobbs is immensely pleasing as he played Watson to Hobbs’ Holmes on radio in the 50s and 60s (and, oddly enough, they also both appeared in the previous week’s edition of Yorkshire Television’s Justice). Mr Shelley is also fondly remembered for playing Winnie-the-Pooh on radio in the 50s. He was also well known for an incredibly accurate impersonation of Winston Churchill’s voice, and it is believed by some that on many of the recordings of Churchill’s most famous speeches it is actually Mr Shelley speaking (the extent to which this is true seems to be shrouded in mystery – as the most prominent proponent of the theory is holocaust denier David Irving it’s perhaps best not to attach too much credence to it).
Also: Jenny Austen as Nurse
Ms Austen is credited as she gets a couple of lines. This appears to be her only credited screen appearance. There’s an estate agency called Jenny Austen in Norwich, though, and I suppose it could be the same one.
What an embarrassment of riches we have this week. I’m especially agog at that trio of gents in the front row, whose haggard countenances contrast so shockingly with the vivid hues of their shirts. And the man in purple obviously deserves a TV show of his own. Added to that we have a mini Mary Whitehouse, Mary Quant peeping out from behind and a displaced hippie. The gentleman on the end pulling the face is our foreman, and he goes by the appropriate name of Kenneth Law. He only has a handful of other screen credits, including an episode of The Man in Roon 17 and a few Granada plays.
The verdict (highlight to reveal): Not guilty.
- The case’s title is taken from the proverb “It’s a wise child that knows his own father,” which first crops up in The Odyssey and was later used by Shakespeare in The Merchant of Venice.
Another cracking script from Bruce Stewart, though the swiftly disposed of idea that right-on Kate Crittenden is supporting Raoul simply to annoy her family might have been more interesting to spend time on than the doddering Reverend Van Helm, whose appearance proves to be entirely pointless as well as over-extended. And even with a French accent Derek Griffiths is far too lovable for us to believe for an instant that he could be a fraudster. But then I suppose that’s how fraudsters work.
In the charts this week:
The teenage girls (and maybe a few teenage boys) of Britain have ensured that Donny Osmond is number 1 for a second week with “The Twelfth of Never”. Meanwhile, this is at number 3: