We are delighted to announce that the guests at this event will include actors Mike Berry, Lorraine Chase and Jeremy Austin Bullock.
With renewed interest in Worzel Gummidge thanks to Mackenzie Crook’s brilliant re-imagining of the stories, this is an ideal time to revisit the late-70s ITV version, where the loveable scarecrow was portrayed by Jon Pertwee. New copies have been made from the original camera negatives, and we’re delighted to debut these pristine restorations (three episodes), prior to a future HD release from Fabulous Films on Blu-ray.
‘He says and does the things that all of us would like to do, but are too shy, self-conscious and respectful to. Being rude to those in authority, being selfish… there is something of Worzel in all of us.’ So said Jon Pertwee of the character he most loved to play, scarecrow Worzel Gummidge.
The character first appeared in the novels of Barbara Euphan Todd, became a radio star in the 1940s and briefly came to television for the serial Worzel Gummidge Turns Detective (BBC, 1953). After the death of Todd in 1976, screenwriters Keith Waterhouse and Willis Hall bought the rights, hoping to make a movie version and attracting Pertwee to the idea of the lead. With British moviemaking in the doldrums, the team took the concept to television, where it quickly became a hit.
The series invented Worzel’s Zummerset dialect Worzelese and his interchangeable character heads, also replacing Worzel’s written love interest Earthy Mangold with Aunt Sally (Una Stubbs), a snobbish coconut-shy with delusions (she had been Worzel’s real aunt in the books). The fated relationship between the two formed the heart of the series – Worzel always kind and considerate and she thoughtlessly spurning his advances unless there was a cup o’ tea an’ a slice o’ cake in it for her.
The series was broadly a comedy of cake fights and falls into rivers with guest stars ranging from Barbara Windsor to Billy Connolly, but it – and Worzel himself – always possessed a humanist nobility. It was shot entirely on film and possessed an occasionally macabre visual sense.
Ending after four successful series, Worzel returned six years later in a New Zealand co-production, Worzel Gummidge Down Under (Channel 4, 1987-89) but failed to catch the imagination as before, airing in a Sunday morning slot inaccessible to family audiences.
Alistair McGown, BFI Screenonline, screenonline.org.uk
WORZEL GUMMIDGE: Very Good, Worzel / The Jumbly Sale / The Return of Dolly Clothes-Peg
Director: James Hill
Production Company: Southern Television
Executive Producers: Lewis Rudd, Al Burgess
Producer: James Hill
Script: Keith Waterhouse, Willis Hall
Camera Operator: Wolfgang Suschitzky
Editors: Alan Waller, Roderic Cooke, Michael Hunt
Designer: Hazel Peiser
Jon Pertwee (Worzel Gummidge)
Norman Bird (Mr Braithwaite)
Jeremy Austin (John)
Charlotte Coleman (Sue)
Megs Jenkins (Mrs Braithwaite)
Sarah Thomas (Enid Simmons)
Joan Sims (Mrs Bloomsbury-Barton)
Una Stubbs (Aunt Sally)
Hilary Mason (Miss Fogg)
Beatrix Mackie (Lady Partington)
John Le Mesurier (Baines)
Clifford Parrish (the vicar)
Cherry Morris (vicar’s wife)
Mike Berry (Mr Peters)
Geoffrey Bayldon (Crowman)
Michael Ripper (Mr Shepherd)
Ted Carroll (Gypsy Joe)
Norman Mitchell (PC Parsons)
Barbara Ashcroft (Mrs Mountjoy)
Lorraine Chase (Dolly Clothes-Peg)
Gordon Rollings (postman)
Dave Carter (removal man)
ITV tx 1980-81
Total running time: c130 mins
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Programme notes and credits compiled by the BFI Documentation Unit
Notes may be edited or abridged
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