ROAD TO CORONATION STREET
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Doris Speed was a cast member on a radio show called Children's Hour with a then known Tony Simpson. He wrote Annie Walker especially for her. Celia Imrie does a fantastic job in portraying her so well.
Violet Carson's character, Ena Sharples, was the last cast member to join the show. What a character! She was a real battle axe of a woman--fearless and intimidating. They had originally cast Nita Valerie for the character but she was all wrong because she was so likable. When Tony had mentioned Violet Carson's name as a possible Ena Sharples, he remembered her for trying to spank his bottom as a child. Lynda Baron is incredible in the performance of Violet Carson and Ena Sharples all at once.
Then there is the incredible and beautiful Pat Phoenix's character, Elsie Tanner, who shows up late for the audition and is on the verge of quitting the business. Thank God, she didn't!
William Roache's Kenneth Barlow is still going strong after 5 decades on television. In 2016, he will be the longest running character played by a single actor in Guinness Book of World History Record surpassing American actress Helen Wagner's Nancy Hughes on "As The World Turns" who only had 54 years.
While the casting process was difficult, Tony wanted Northern actors and actresses for the parts. He hesitated in casting Violet Carson who he described as a nightmare to work with but we're glad he did since her Ena Sharples is still one of British television's most endearing characters.
In a way, I would long for a chance to have show where characters reflected society. Coronation Street today is not the same but I still enjoy it. I still think it's wonderful that Sir Ian McKellan CBE CH would rather spend time as a character on the show when he has so many opportunities.
Coronation Street is an incredible story. Tony Warren should be knighted since there hasn't been a writer who has given so much about Northern life in television drama--not John Osborne or Alan Bennett. Tony Warren MBE is a genius and his contribution of Coronation Street to the world is still endearing and captures viewers to this day.
Coronation Street inspired other shows in the similar format like East Enders, Brookside, Crossroads, and others but none of them could match up to Coronation Street's originality, charm, raw, and honesty in it's depiction of a street life in a Northern city.
The DVD includes the short film of about 80 minutes and a second disc features the first episode ever on television.
Charles Sturridge's production is not without its anachronisms. The sets are too chintzy, their bright colors creating a never-never land of early Sixties Manchester. Some of the dialogue is resolutely contemporary; and the relationship between Tony and Harry is far closer than would have been tolerated at a time when homosexuality was still illegal.
Daran Little's script favors cardboard characterization: brothers Sidney and Cecil Bernstein (Henry Goodman) are the archetypal studio heads sitting behind desks in their expensive three-piece suits. All they need is a cigar in their mouths and they could pass for the old studio heads in classical Hollywood. Dawson's Tony Warren has the camp manners of a youthful Kenneth Williams; he develops a close relationship with Patricia Phoenix (Jessie Wallace) that acts a substitute for that of his real mother (Phoebe Nicholls).
The drama is redeemed to some extent by the quality of individual performances. Celia Imrie's Doris Speed captures some of the actress's faux gentility; but the script does not really allow her to develop her performance. Jessie Wallace makes a brave stab at Patricia Phoenix, but does not really understand the combination of down-at-heel awareness and indomitable spirit that made Phoenix such a legend among CORONATION STREET fans.
The only real star turn is Lynda Baron's Violet Carson; a remarkable person in her own right, who made a career for herself as "Aunty Vi" on radio's CHILDREN'S HOUR, Carson was brought in at the last moment to play Ena Sharples. Reputedly a difficult person to work with, she was nonetheless a remarkable performer who understood what Ena's life was about. In THE ROAD TO CORONATION STREET Baron recaptures this quality, especially when she faces the cameras for the first time and delivers Warren's script. To those of us who fondly remember Carson, this was a quite remarkable impersonation.
I remember going to Blackpool a year later to 'see' the stars turn-on the illuminations. Once I went off to college, I would only catch the odd episode when at home - and only if Elsie was in it. She had some great storylines over the years - the best were her disagreements with Ena and with the snobby Annie Walker and those with her son Dennis, once his role took on some depth.
This is a remarkable film in that the characters now playing the original actors of the programme are quite spectacular - and topping them all is the great and talented JESSE WALLACE - she IS Elsie/Pat Phoenix - she must have watched old shows again and again as she has captured the essence of both Pat Phoenix and Elsie Tanner. She is to be congratulated for her performance.
It is a tragedy that Britain no longer has a film industry as Ms Wallace is a natural for the big screen. In the past, a few films made in the UK would garland an actress of her talents a Hollywood contract and then, BINGO, she'd be a worldwide star. Sadly, today, few will know her. This is a great loss. And what are we left with? Rubbish big-budget trash from the U.S.
I recommend this DVD to everyone.