Wednesday, 2 January 2008

Tragedy For Matt And Dolly...

Soaps, by Marsha Hanlon, TV Times, 23-29 November 1985.

This was the second child lost during pregnancy for Dolly. The first loss had occurred in early 1980 - and had also marked a change of actress in the Dolly role. When she was last seen before the tragedy, she was played by Katharine Barker. When she returned from hospital, Jean Rogers had taken over.

The reason for the 1985 miscarriage lay behind the scenes: actress Helen Weir, who played Jack Sugden's wife, Pat, and was the real-life wife of the actor behind Jack, Clive Hornby, announced she was pregnant after the start of the Dolly pregnancy storyline. It may have been possible to ignore this fact on screen - the 1980s American sit com Kate & Allie got round the pregnancy of actress Susan Saint James with some very creative storylines and camera angles. But the Emmerdale Farm production team opted to write Helen's real life condition into the plot and it was felt only one baby could be coped with on set.

So, tragedy knocked at Matt and Dolly's door.

They say that a miscarriage is a terrible trauma for a woman, but on this occasion I had to wonder how Matt, in particular, coped. This poor man had been positively battered by fate.

He'd already lost his first wife, Peggy - she had died suddenly in 1973. In 1976, the most awful tragedy befell the man when his infant twins, Sam and Sally, and Aunt Beattie, were killed in an accident at a level crossing.

Then, in 1980, came the loss of Matt and Dolly's much anticipated first baby, at an advanced stage of Dolly's pregnancy, and in 1985 their second sad loss.

Despite all this (and being accused of murder in 1986) Matt managed to plod on, sturdy and dependable. Some TV critics declared the character "boring", but, personally, I liked Matt. Life wasn't so frantic in soaps back in those days and Matt fitted the country setting perfectly.

Matt (Frederick Pyne) as he appeared on the front cover of the 1981 "Emmerdale Farm" novel "False Witness".

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