Saturday, 5 May 2012

The Truth About Walter...

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

Late 1980: Al Dixon's Walter says nowt.

This blog has some amazing fans! No sooner had I posted the previous article on the three Walters (one and the same character?) than I got this e-mail from Sheila:

I well remember Geoffrey Hooper as Walter and liked him a great deal. When Al Dixon became the new Walter in the early '80s, I couldn't accept him as the same character because he was so silent and odd. He was nothing like the previous version. Around 1981, when it became obvious that Al Dixon's version was not going to speak, I wrote to the production team asking if the two Walters were meant to be the same character, because they seemed so different. Clive Hornby and Jean Rogers had been cast as Jack Sugden and Dolly Skilbeck in 1980, but they resembled the previous actors and the characters were the same. The reply stated that the production team, headed by Anne W Gibbons, the producer, liked the tradition of a Walter at the Woolpack, but in casting Al Dixon, they had no intention of adhering to the character of the previous Walter. They wanted to create something fresh and original and so the idea came about that he would be silent.

The letter said that viewers could use their imaginations as to whether he was the same person as the previous Walter or not, so I decided that Amos, depressed by the death of his old regular Walter, had been happy when a new Walter turned up in Beckindale (Walter was a common name amongst aged men in those days) and had taken him under his wing, not at first realising how odd he was.

I wrote to the cast and production team several times in those days and have some lovely souvenirs. I'd be happy to scan some for you. I really enjoy reading your site and am always on the lookout for updates, which are all too rare!

Thanks for that, Sheila! It's amazing!  Thanks for your compliments, too. I'm a great fan of Al Dixon's highly distinctive Walter - he was the only SILENT Walter - and I'd love to see your souvenirs! I'll be in touch.

Friday, 4 May 2012

E-Mails - The Walters And Some Praise...

Terry writes:

Were the Walters in Emmerdale Farm supposed to be the same person in real life? I know there were three and they were very different, and it is the silent Walter played by Al Dixon from 1980-1985 who is the best remembered, but were they the same person in the program?

I'm not sure about Meadows White, but the other two Walters were definitely linked. Geoffrey Hooper's Walter was a Woolpack regular who spoke. It was a lovely piece of character acting, but Walter was not a fully-fledged character in those days - more background. Geoffrey Hooper's Walter last appeared in early 1980. The actor died, but Anne W Gibbons and the production team liked the tradition of having a Walter at the Woolpack and decided to play with the concept. The new Walter was very different - the one and only silent Walter - and achieved a cult following. Some confusion followed with some people thinking that Geoffrey Hooper's Walter had been silent, but that, of course, was not true.

I tend to think of them more in terms of separate characters because they were so different and because Al Dixon's Walter became such a cult. I think the Emmerdale production team expected its audience to be somewhat sophisticated and accept the fact that the new Walter was very different from the old and leave as a mystery whether they were the same character or not (were there two Walters in Beckindale? It was perfectly possible. If so, what was their history?) and just concentrate on Al Dixon as the "Silent One".

I must say that as viewer of Emmerdale Farm from the very early days, the only Walter that registered in my memory was the Al Dixon version. I was surprised to discover later that there had been others.

I recall a friend of mine some years uploading some late '70s Emmerdale Farm onto YouTube with Geoffrey Hooper as the non-silent Walter and us all being surprised that it was not the Walter we all remembered.

In the end, no definite explanation was ever offered - so if you like to believe that Emmerdale Farm was real life you can list the Walters as the same person (despite looking different and having different personalities) or as separate locals in Beckindale. Or you can accept what was going on behind the scenes and just enjoy the Walter tradition, whether your favourite is Meadows White, Geoffrey Hooper or Al Dixon!

And an e-mail from Sandra from March - sorry it's taken me so long to publish it!

Love this blog. It's well thought out, and well written. You really are a gifted writer because you make the old stories live and you have great understanding of the characters. The article you wrote about Jackie and Jack and the difficulties they experienced in finding a way of getting on together showed so much insight. I hope that a DVD company releases many more episodes. In the meantime, I hope you keep this blog going!

Sandra you are really kind. Thank you! The blog is updated infrequently because I'm tied up with other blogs and my work and I'm shortly about to go into hospital, but it will update at times - I promise. Thank you again.

We have an exciting update on this topic - see it here.