Wednesday, 1 July 2009

STOP PRESS: GEOFFREY HOOPER - A TALKATIVE FIRST WALTER!

1980: Geoffrey Hooper's Walter chats to Amos Brearly (Ronald Magill) in The Woolpack.

Sometimes people ask me: "Why have you dedicated your blog to Emmerdale in the 1980s? Why the 1980s in particular?"

The fact is that was when I enjoyed the show most.

And all my regular visitors (bless you both!) know that I was a particular fan of Al Dixon - he played Woolpack Walter, from 1980 to 1985.

But regular visitors also know that there were two Walters - Geoffrey Hooper being the first.

Geoffrey Hooper appeared in the show from around 1974 to, I originally thought, 1979. Al Dixon became Walter around September 1980.

Indications were that Geoffrey Hooper's Walter was not always silent - he sometimes spoke. But I imagined him as being very like the Al Dixon Walter, and thought that in his later years he was silent.

Watching some episodes from February 1980 today, I was startled to see Geoffrey Hooper on-screen as Walter at the start of the new decade. Al Dixon's debut was still months away.

I must be honest - although I remember the first Jack Sugden and the first Dolly Acaster/Skilbeck, I don't remember the first Walter at all, so I was fascinated to see him - and to note the fact that he bore no resemblance to Al Dixon.

There he was, in early 1980, with Amos chuntering away to him and about to pull him a pint...

And then it happened!

"'I'll just 'ave an 'arf, Amos," said Geoffrey Hooper's Walter.

"But you never drink 'arfs, Walter!" cried Amos.

"Well, 'appen it does no 'arm to cut down," said Mr Hooper's Walter.

And there it was. Geoffrey Hooper was speaking in a way I could not imagine the 1980s Al Dixon creation speaking.

In his early days, I think I heard Mr Dixon mutter "Thank you," once when Mr Wilks served him. And he laughed out loud when Amos got into a twist over an attempt at DIY plumbing in 1981. But apart from that - silence. In the Al Dixon Walter years of 1980 to 1985, it appeared that the character never spoke - in fact it became something of an in-joke, with viewers in 1983 campaigning for him to speak.

Occasionally, other characters reported things that Mr Dixon's Walter had said, but he never uttered a word on-screen.

However, Geoffrey Hooper's Walter did speak - just how rare an occurrence it was I don't know, but he did speak!

And I've heard him!

And I'm flabbergasted!

I'm also surprised at just how different the two Walters were from each other facially.

I have to say, in my humble opinion, that apart from the way they dressed and their name, it is as though they were two completely different characters.

And if they were regulars in a real boozer, there is no way you would mistake one for the other.

I'll be up-dating the rest of this blog's Walter info over the next few weeks.

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