Thursday, 2 June 2011

Al Dixon - What Walter Did In 1941

Of course, Al Dixon did not make his Emmerdale Farm debut as silent Walter of the Woolpack until September 1980, but by that time a long career in show business lay behind him. I was recently thrilled to be given this souvenir from the Summer Season 1941 at West End Pier, Morecambe. Al Dixon - light comedian and dancer - was a highlight.

With the summer season programme, came a clipping from a March 1986 newspaper:

Al Dixon, 84, who acted in Yorkshire TV's series Emmerdale Farm has died. For five years he played Walter, the character who sat in the Woolpack pub without saying a word.

Al Dixon had a very long career and appeared with many stars. It's said that his stories of his past were fascinating to hear and he often entertained the Emmerdale Farm cast with his recollections.

It was not until the early 1980s though that Al truly became a star in his own right, with the newly installed Walter becoming hugely popular. Al was delighted, but disagreed with a 1983 viewers' petition aiming at getting Walter to speak. The character wouldn't be a novelty any more, Al claimed, quite rightly.

And how did he actually land the Walter role?

"They asked me to take my teeth out, and that's how I got the part!" explained Al in 1985.

Does Emmerdale Today Link To Beckindale In The 1980s? - Comments...

A few months ago, I received an e-mail from Christian:

I find it hard to believe, looking at your Beckindale '80s blog, that Emmerdale today is really linked to those days at all. The show is so different. A lot of the stories you portray here are so mundane. Emmerdale now is a rip-roaring, decadent place, where anything goes - and usually does. And things keep burning down or getting blown up. It's like the "Emmerdale" name is simply a brand, and the product is now totally different.

I sought opinions from two old friends of this blog, Will - who loves Emmerdale old and new, and Atomic Witch, who is a fan of modern day Emmerdale with some interest in and regard for the past.

In the 1980s, many of the stories were rooted in the mundane. Has the show turned too much towards the dramatic? Does it seem like the same show?

Here's what they had to say:

Will: Well this comes up a lot doesn't it? Like you said Emmerdale hasn't changed any more than Corrie has. I find this lack of acknowledgement that Corrie too has changed drastically to be part of a rather strange bias towards Corrie in the media.

Having said that though I think this thing about Emmerdale being a completely different show these days comes from Emmerdale Farm being remembered today as something it wasn't. People remember this cosy serial about farming where nothing ever happened. To me that is not what EF was, sure there could at times be a cosy element to it but EF could be a rather grim, even gritty real show about a family who were farmers. And yet it had all the plots that fuel soaps - murder, rape, affairs and that was all just the first year!

Jack Sugden's backstory had all the makings of a dramatic soap. He gets a girl pregnant who then passes the child off as other man's! The stories in Emmerdale didn't change so much just the way in which they told them. Emmerdale became a soap, a soapy soap at much a bigger scale. And I'm not overlooking the big sensational OTT stories like the Plane Crash but what made that work was the real Emmerdale Farm characters like Annie, Amos, Seth, Turner & Jack keeping it grounded and real.

Of course television and the world has changed too. Emmerdale Farm couldn't be made today, as I much as I love it I couldn't imagine watching it now. It was of its time.

And I yes I could very much imagine Amos, Matt & Dolly in the show today. I think we have the modern equivalents of those characters and that's why Emmerdale continues. Seth after all made the transition very successfully.

Thanks, Will!

Atomic Witch: No I don't think there's as much everyday life, everything seems to be connected, one way or another, to a major issue.

There's no fete, no cricket matches, no panto. Nothing that socially involves all the villagers apart from the odd wedding and even they end in death or something dramatic. In the last producer's short reign he had a murder, a train crash, an attempted suicide, a major fire,
a rape, and coming up, an armed siege, and that's just off the top of my head, there's probably more.

Thanks, t'witch!

And Peter sent this:

Of course soaps have changed, they're far trashier now, blood, boobs, explosions. We viewers of today can't really say that Emmerdale links to Emmerdale Farm, but we have the best of both worlds. We have our sin soaked modern village, and we have the option of old episodes from the '80s - with Alan Turner and Mrs Bates, Walter and Amos, and so on, all being cosy and funny. There was a pop song in the 1980s - "I want it all! I want it all! I want it all - and I want it NOW!" Well, my generation HAS it ALL! I find really early Emmerdale very boring indeed, a show written for old folk, surely? But from the '80s it livens up a bit and I enjoy episodes from then nearly as much as now. But they would get no ratings today.

Thanks, Peter!

As I don't watch modern day Emmerdale, I'm not able to judge that well, but I must say from what I've heard most soaps seem to have turned to dramatic story-lines in a way I find hard to understand. Even The Archers "celebrated" its 50th anniversary by having poor old Nigel Pargetter fall from a roof to his death - with a terrible scream being the last sound he made.

Gives me the shudders!

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Atomic Witch's portal Pics 2

Another inspired Emmerdale Guys & Gals Porthole Pic from Atomic Witch - with more than a passing nod towards 1980s Emmerdale.

The new opening sequence to the show features a range of hills as background to the village where there were none before, and in Witchy's latest Porthole the ghost of Jack Sugden peers down to pass comment. Walter, of course, is speechless!

Clive Hornby made his Emmerdale Farm debut as Jack Sugden in February 1980 and Al Dixon became Walter in the September of that year.