Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Leave your worries on the doorstep

"...a heart-warming and a joyfully camp tribute to a national treasure." - The Telegraph

We watched a rather splendid tribute to an eternally revered [especially here at Dolores Delargo Towers] star last night, a so-called "biopic" of the kind that British telly, and the BBC in particular, does so well. Following on from similar panegyrics such as that on Dame Shirley Bassey, and the masterful performance by Sheridan Smith as Cilla, this time it was the turn of... Barbara Windsor!

Now in her 80th year, it was fitting that the lady whose best-known roles were as the shimmying, chesty sexpot of the Carry On films and the matriarch of TV soap Eastenders should be treated to a dramatic exploration of her less well-known history. For not may people realise that, had she not chosen a path whereby her "assets" would forever be better known than her acting skills, the artist formerly known as Barbara Deeks might have had a far more - ahem - reputable acting repertoire by which she may have been judged.

I use the word "judged" carefully, especially as the usual "journalism-free" reporting in the aftermath of the drama-documentary [and by that, I of course refer to the fact that most so-called "newspapers" these days would rather report on what brainless twats on Twatter have to say about a telly programme than actually employ a genuine reviewer] has produced a slew of articles slating the programme as "confusing". In my opinion it was fabulous. If people are too stupid to understand that not everything that appears on screen has to be explained by endless exposition, then in my opinion they should be barred by law from having access to any form of media. Especially the "social" kind.

Babs was not - by any stretch of the imagination - a "straightforward", linear, biography. Starting at an odd crossroads in her life (the early 1990s, when Miss Windsor's "career" was somewhat limited to "end-of-the-pier" regional theatre and panto), the drama revolved around the contemplative Babs and the "ghost" of her father, through whom she revisited a series of disparate chapters of her past life - from early wartime childhood, to her first forays into drama school (The Sunny Side of the Street became her anthem even in the early days), to being trapped (painfully) in the middle of her parents' divorce, to the blossoming of our familiar "giggling, wiggling" blonde bombshell with a penchant for "bad boys", her choice to have an abortion, and the wide and varied progress of her career.

All these stages were played by different actresses, and all of them were excellent! As the Guardian said:
"It’s the Barbaras who make it. Samantha Spiro as end-of-the-pier Babs is all sad eyes and flashes of sauciness as she reminisces with her dad (Nick Moran), appearing as a charismatic figment of her imagination to backchat her through the past 50 years. Jaime Winstone is delicious as the younger Babs: sweet and self-knowing with an up-do so outrageous it looks less like a bun and more like a giant round loaf rising atop her head. We first encounter her backstage, being instructed to strap up her chest because “the director says your tits are too big”. Which induces a perfect Babs laugh, deep and dirty as a drain."
Particular highlights in the drama - apart from the sometimes challenging interplay with the cruel and heartless "Dad" that Babs always looked up to, despite being abandoned by him - were the unbridled joy of her first cabaret shows at Ronnie Scott's, and the appearance of the estimable avant-garde theatre impresario "Joan Littlewood" (played to perfection by Zoe Wanamaker). We (unlike some viewers) enjoyed the "flick-flacking" between timelines, the fact the producers wisely decided not to concentrate too heavily on the Carry On years, and (by placing the narrative a decade before she landed the role) didn't feature her late-stage stardom in Eastenders.

Babs is, after all, more than that.

In all, this was an excellent televisual feast, and highly recommended!

Babs - a treasure, indeed.


  1. Ooh! Thanks for the tip off. I shall queue this up from Aunty Beeb forthwith!

    1. You'll be perfecting that wiggle before you know it! Jx

  2. Long may she reign. Enjoying her here in the US on Eastenders. The show is hopelessly behind by about ten years. Wendy Richard is still alive. That's how far behind it is here.

    1. Heavens. Miss Richard's been dead for eight years...

      Anyway, in the words of Peggy Mitchell: "Get Outta My Pub!"


  3. Speaking of Wendy Richard, she'll be with us forever as the same channel that broadcasts Eastenders also shows Are You Being Served! I don't know how many episodes were originally made but that show has been on for years and years.

    1. It ran between 1972 and 1985, and had ten series - 69 episodes in total. You're unlikely to run out of repeats... Jx

    2. Hang on...Wendy Richard died?!!! đŸ˜«

    3. P.S. I'm way too excited to know that this TV movie exists...I loved the Shirley Bassey one! Will definitely keep an eye out on Oz TV!

    4. Sadly yes, Miss Richard has long departed for Fabulon... Jx

      PS You'll love Babs!


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