Saturday 17 December 2022

The Noele Gordon Collection - DVD Box Set


PREVIEW: RELEASED JANUARY 2023

As a fan of Crossroads there are times when nothing eventful happens for what seems like ages... That's hardly surprising I suppose, considering that the programme ended in 1988...

But in 2022 we've had TWO huge announcements.

The first was the filming of Nolly for ITVX.  As you might know, I was lucky enough to visit the production in Manchester, way back in July – and I promise to share some of my photos with you soon…

The second piece of news came out of the blue just a couple of weeks ago – and my goodness it was VERY welcome indeed. It was the announcement from that NETWORK would be releasing a brand new box-set containing all surviving Noele Gordon episodes of Crossroads – including her much anticipated return in 1983.

Noele Gordon - The Queen of Crossroads!


Now you know that I love the previous Crossroads releases from Network – I still believe that the “Motel” shaped box-set they released for the 45th anniversary is one of the most beautifully designed pieces of TV merchandise I have ever seen. You can check out my previous review from 2016 HERE.

That set contained every episode that was known to exist from 1965 up to around May 1979 and has been one of the centre-pieces of my collection for ages.  I know from talking with other fans online that having the opportunity to own the episodes and revisit the motel was fantastic – and really appreciated by those of us old enough to remember Crossroads the first time round.

As I discussed in my previous review, the box-set actually became something of a collectors item, with copies being sold online for rather more than the original price!

The announcement of the new box-set from Network is definitely a welcome one – especially as the price-tag of £130 makes it a lot more affordable –and with over 14,000 minutes worth of footage, extremely good value in my opinion – Put it this way – I had to think for all of 10 seconds before putting my order in!

But what will I be getting for my money? Is it worth paying out when I’ve already got the previous set?

As a fan, the answer has to be YES.

Firstly, and perhaps most importantly, I’ve been waiting to watch the continuation of the May 1979 storylines for years now. The 1960’s and 1970’s are considered by many to be the golden years of the show – and the chance to see more of these is definitely welcome.

Secondly – the May 1979 to December 1981 episodes have NEVER been available to buy before and have NEVER been repeated on British television. UK Gold started showing episodes from January 1982 way back in 1997 so most of these have been unseen for 40 years – it will be like having brand new episodes to watch.

I’ve actually got a DVD containing edited clips from 1981 that has been handed round fan-circles for years - but I’ll be honest with you – it’s basically an hour and a half of unrecognisable figures walking around in what looks like fog – The thought of watching the (nearly) complete run of episodes in clear picture quality is very exciting – especially as the late 1970’s early 1980’s contains my favourite “sitting room” colour scheme – you know – when Meg decided to ditch the brown curtains and sofa – and go yellow!

No more foggy pictures!

With Nolly due to be available on ITVX from February 2023, it will be rather poignant to watch the episodes broadcast in the run-up to Noele’s sacking. We’ve all seen the fire and the QE2 episodes – but what led to Meg’s decision to leave? Were there hints at what was to come in the months before? Had her character been side-lined in storylines?

Honestly – it’s going to be amazing.

Then – as if that wasn’t enough, Network have also included what appears to be a wealth of extra features – including the TV Times awards ceremony from 1975. It is difficult to imagine now just how popular Noele Gordon was back in the day – but the fact she KEPT winning the award for Most Popular personality year after year really should be remembered AND celebrated. 

On a personal level, I’ve been wanting to watch the Sun Television Awards from 1974 for a while as I am lucky enough to own the award that Nolly collected that year. It also features another outing for “THAT” fabulous rainbow-spotted dress of hers…

The 1974 Sun Television Awards


The box-set also contains unused takes and behind the scenes footage from the QE2 episode. It will be interesting to see what the atmosphere was like on-set that day – and I’ve often wondered whether ATV actually filmed any more of the Queen Mary suite on-board the ship as the finished scenes make it look rather cramped.

Obviously a box-set containing 94 discs is going to be noticeable on the shelf – but from what I’ve seen of the promotional images it is definitely going to take pride of place. 

Network have also announced that there’s going to be a collectors booklet included too – containing loads of rare photographs. It really feels as though Crossroads is being given the release and respect it deserves. 

Noele was sacked in 1981. It was heart-breaking for her – and for the viewers that considered Meg Mortimer part of their lives. But here we are – over 40 years later celebrating not only Nolly, but the fabulous legacy she left behind. I wish she could have known…

Yes – Crossroads was a teatime soap that never quite made it to “prime time” in the eyes of the critics – but my goodness it was adored. It really was…

I love hearing stories of mums shouting through from the kitchen to get updates from their children while they cooked the egg and chips for tea – or about people who “never watched it” – but always knew what was going on. When people find out I’m a Crossroads fan they’ve always got a memory or a story they want to share.

This box set from Network is sure to be snapped up by collectors and aficionados such as myself but I rather suspect that the Nolly drama will pique the curiosity of many other viewers too. It has certainly been interesting following the announcements of the box-set and of the drama – as many more “viewers of a certain age” seem to be admitting to having a soft-spot for Crossroads - which is definitely worth celebrating.

The thing that strikes me when I watch Crossroads is that it is the storylines and characters that I care about - The relationships - The ‘drama’ in the truest sense of the word.  I think that Crossroads remains just as relevant and engaging today as it was back in the day.

I’m not sure how many other people will sit in recreations of Meg’s Sitting Room to watch their copies – well actually I know of at least one other person who is already planning on doing just that – but it is definitely not essential.

I think I might cook myself egg and chips and eat it off my knee whilst watching some of the episodes too - to capture that “teatime” experience. 

On second thoughts….would Meg approve? Maybe I’ll just have a sherry…


Crossroads: The Noele Gordon Collection 
Release Date: 30 January 2023

You can visit the Crossroads section of the Network site HERE

Saturday 24 September 2022

PREVIOUSLY - ON CROSSROADS



MOTEL RADIO - REPLICA

As you can see – the item I’m looking at today isn’t really a Crossroads item at all – it’s just a common transistor radio. In fact it’s a Dansette DTR 36 if you’re interested. So why am I looking at this? Well it features in a really important episode of Crossroads and performs a vital role…

Exposition and recap.

In episode 3531 – the one after the motel fire, the action begins in the motel office. I say action – what actually happens is a lingering shot on a radio while Stewart White (an ATV continuity announcer) becomes a radio-news reporter and fills-in the audience on previous events…


“And two people are missing – feared dead – in a fire, which last night gutted the main reception and first floor of the Crossroads Motel, King’s Oak. The missing people are Meg Mortimer, the founder / director of the motel and Sam Hurst – said to be Sam Norton, the artist who mysteriously disappeared nine years ago after a fire in which his wife and two children died.

Firemen fought the motel blaze for more than three hours. This morning they were still damping-down the debris and searching for the bodies.

An eye-witness said that Mr Hurst dashed into the blazing motel in a vain attempt to rescue Mrs. Mortimer.

The motel’s other two directors, Mr David Hunter and Mr Adam Chance refused to comment on allegations that the fire was started deliberately. Fire brigade chief, Owen Turner said, “We’re sifting through the evidence and we may have an answer later today.

Meantime the motel continues to do business on a makeshift basis….”

Clearly there are benefits of doing this – firstly, any new viewers attracted by the news that the motel has gone up in flames would have very little chance of watching the previous episode – there was no “on demand” streaming back then – and few people had video recorders. 

Secondly – the fact that we’re TOLD about the events mean that we don’t actually have to SEE the events – very important for a cost – conscious production. There is only a slight glimpse of a couple of firemen carrying gas cylinders in the office. I actually think that the exposition works quite well here- even if the radio presenter is remarkably well informed!

Ironically – the motel fire is now perhaps one of the most viewed episodes in the entire series. It featured on two VHS releases, a DVD release, is currently available to stream on ITV Hub and Britbox and even made it onto the ITV website at one time.

The ITV Website had episodes available to watch in the early 2000's

Crossroads was no stranger to the art of exposition. Jane Rossington often recalled the pages and pages of dialogue that she had to learn to re-cap storylines for viewers - e.g. "Oh that's right - he was the man who was involved in.... And didn't he..... Do you remember....?"

One of my favourite things about the early years of Crossroads is the sheer audacity of the programme. Take for instance the character of Mrs. Cherry.

Who is Mrs. Cherry? Well – to put it bluntly – she appears to have been a bit of  a busybody – possibly a motel guest, who seemed to have a handle on EVERYTHING that was going on at the motel. At the start of each episode, before the titles, a mystery woman would be seen knitting - or perhaps crocheting a variety of brightly coloured items. Well…. her hands would be seen – but not her face. The mystery woman – Mrs. Cherry, would provide a catch-up for viewers – filling them in on recent events. Not afraid to add her own opinions, she would often comment on the events as well. Kind of like your nan having a gossip over the garden gate.

Script extract from the Crossroads Appreciation Society

We are fortunate that two examples of this exist in the archive – episode 1192 from November 1969 and Episode 1304 from May 1970. There is also an audio clip of a “Black Magic” storyline from May 1970 that features Mrs. Cherry questioning whether the local vicar will have the “strength to put a stop to it.”

How does she know? That's what I'd like to know!

Mike at the Crossroads Appreciation Society revealed an extract from the script of the wedding of Tish and Captain Hope from June 1970 (above) that suggests that they intended for a knitting woman (face unseen) to be at the wedding. Alas, as the episode is missing, we may never know whether this made it to screen.

It appears that the character of Mrs. Cherry rather caught the imagination of the viewers – especially since her identity remained unknown. In February 1973 Noele Gordon answered a question about her in "New Reveille" . She revealed that the hands belonged to Ann George (Amy Turtle) and that she provided the voice.

Who was Mrs Cherry?

Now Nolly was something of a master when it came to trailers and exposition and there are a couple of examples that spring to mind…

PRE-LAUNCH TRAILERS (1964)

Pre-Launch trailers

In these specially shot trailers, Meg is interviewed about life at the motel. She introduces herself, sets the scene for the arrival of “Senora” Carlos Raphael and talks about her children. There is also a discussion about the difficulty of finding staff and getting a drinks licence. Meg also pops-off and buy some lobsters – all of these events are linked to story-lines in episodes 1 and 2. They were definitely intended to help potential viewers to get to know the characters when the series started.

WEDDING CATCH-UP (1975)

In 1975 Crossroads was shown in all ITV regions but not all regions were at the same point in the story-line. Thames, for example, had stopped showing the series for a short while and were several months behind. 

Clearly the wedding of Meg and Hugh (episode 2301) was a big deal, and it was decided that all regions should be at the same point. To facilitate this, a specially recorded scene was played out before episode 2299 on 1st April 1975.

Good news for Crossroads fans. From tonight viewers throughout the country will be right up to date with goings on in the long running serial…

… But from tonight all ITV regions will show the latest episode of the serial. At the beginning of the programme, Meg (Noele Gordon) will tell London and Granada viewers what has been happening at the Crossroads motel over the period they have missed.

THE SUN – 01.04.75

Recently a clip has been uploaded to YouTube, which I believe is possibly part of the catch-up. It certainly contains a little exposition  for the wedding…

Meg receives a phone call….

Meg:  (to operator) Yes – yes I’ll hold on.

Meg: (to viewer) You’ll never guess – its Bruce Richardson ringing from Singapore. Of course you know he’s out there now doing research into tropical medicine.

Meg:  (to operator) Yes. Yes I’ll hold on….

Meg:  (to Sandy) What time do you suppose it is out there?

Sandy:  Now don’t start all that again!

Meg Laughs.

Meg: (to viewer) Well, if you’ll excuse us, we’ll really have to leave you now because we’ve got a million things to do for the wedding – Oh – and in addition - my elderly grandmother is down from Scotland and she’s decided that she disapproves of the marriage – and so she’s going home – but we’ll see you all later.


THE ITV STRIKE (1979)

Noele Gordon welcomes viewers back to ITV and the Crossroads Motel

In August 1979, ITV technicians staged a walk-out which took the channel off the air for several weeks. Episode 3198 was shown on 9th August.  Episode 3199 wasn’t broadcast until 24th October. When the channel returned, Nolly was on-hand to help viewers catch-up…

Hello, and welcome back!

No doubt you’ve been wondering what’s been going on at the motel during the last few weeks…

Well let me remind you of what was happening when you were last here.

First there was Alison Cotterill – the  young girl with the scar. She lives with her Uncle Reg, who won’t allow mirrors in the house because he believes they pander to human vanity. And of course, Benny has bought her a powder compact – with a mirror.

Then there’s Richard Lord, who some time ago was dismissed from his job as a school teacher because he had a love affair with one of his pupils, a young girl. David Hunter was instrumental in getting him dismissed, and while David was away on holiday, Lord reappeared in the area and I gave him a part-time job looking after the accounts.

Then of course, there’s Jill, who’s been seeing her lawyer about the divorce proceedings, which will decide on the custody of Sarah Jane, and of course also decide on the property…

Well I think that just about brings us up to date. Gosh – look at the time. Must go! I’ll see you soon…

Goodbye!

GREEK PROMOTIONAL TRAILER (1978)

Greek Promotional Trailer 1978

One truly brilliant trailer was made especially for the Greek market, when Crossroads was sold overseas. Nolly, as Meg, walked new viewers around the motel reception and into David’s office – via the hallway. She informed viewers about Kate Hamilton, her daughter Lucy, estranged husband Rick and boss Tony. She also explained how Sandy came to be in a wheelchair. It is available to watch on “Volume One” of the Crossroads DVD’s from Network and is a really interesting piece of motel history.

So there you go - the importance of exposition and re-cap to a serial drama - especially when you had just one chance of watching each episode. Who'd have thought a transistor radio could be so interesting?

* * *

While I'm on the subject of re-caps I should probably also mention....

PREVIOUSLY ON CROSSROADS (2003)

Previously - On Crossroads (2003)

In 2003, many programmes on ITV featured a short compilation at the start of each of episode. 

CROSSROADS CHECK-IN (2015)

Crossroads Check-In

When Big Centre TV re-ran some of the early episodes in 2015, Lee Banister produced a special programme that would re-cap the previous week's episodes, and preview what was coming up. A modern-day Mrs. Cherry - without the knitting. This was very useful indeed, as with many episodes missing from the archive, he was able to fill in some of the storyline gaps. I also seem to recall Glen Allen had a bit of an issue with the original Mrs. Cherry.... Check out the episodes on YouTube...

THE STORY SO FAR (TV TIMES - EARLY 1980's)

The TV Times was  great source for catching up with missed episodes back in the day - although their re-cap would only cover the previous week....

The Stories So Far...




Monday 31 January 2022

CHINESE FIGURINE - REPLICA

 


A VERY LARGE CHINESE FIGURINE - A LOT OF RESEARCH!

I’ve had enough of porcelain figurines for a lifetime. They are dust magnets and there’s always a worry that I’m going to break them when the Mr. Sheen comes out.

I’ve talked in previous blog posts about the trials of searching for Meg’s ornaments – THIS one in particular – but the one I am talking about today has proved to be elusive – to say the least…

Back when I started collecting replicas – with an eye to one day recreating the sitting room, there was one item that intrigued me – as I had no idea what it was. I couldn’t find a decent photograph of it, and the screen captures I managed to get didn’t really provide enough detail.

I thought for a while it was a porcelain figure of a “Gordon” highlander – maybe an in-joke about Noele’s surname – but despite some early suggestions from helpful fans, this particular avenue of investigation led nowhere…

…eventually I was sent a couple of decent photographs by Mike at the Crossroads Appreciation Society and it became clear that it was actually a Chinese looking figurine. Now, I don’t suppose you’ve ever searched for Chinese figurines on ebay but there are literally hundreds of the things – often mass-produced and all of a similar style – but not quite what I was looking for. ..

Meg and Lloyd - figurine in the background with damaged hands?

And there was another problem, even with photographs, it wasn’t actually conclusive evidence of what I was looking for as the figurine appeared to change at some point between the surviving 1960’s episodes and the early 1970’s ones….Not completely… but enough to suggest that something had happened to it.

In the mid 1960’s the figurine was actually holding a little yellow box, and it’s hands were clearly defined…

Figurine in the late 60's - holding the little yellow box

Figurine in the mid 70's - no yellow box and different hands

Still there in 1982 - almost the last appearance

It was that little yellow box that led me to eventually narrow down my search –I was looking for Chinese figurines on Google Image Search and one that suggestion that came up was the following image from Christie’s auctioneers…


It describes the item as follows…  

“GREEN, YELLOW AND AUBERGINE-GLAZED BISCUIT FIGURE OF GUAN PING
KANGXI PERIOD (1662-1722)

The smiling figure is modelled wearing a cap, a jacket, and an overskirt layered over armoured trousers. He holds a seal case in front of him wrapped in yellow fabric.

You can see the page on the Christies website HERE

Once I found out that it was “Guan Ping” it enabled me to narrow down the search on ebay – and once I had looked at a few lots, ebay’s clever algorithm selected “similar” items for me to view. You can see a handful here…

A variety of Chinese figurines holding yellow seal cases

Now, to cut a long story short, I knew the “type” of figurine that I needed, and I managed to gather a selection of screenshots and photographs to use to help me locate the correct one…

Screen captures and photos collected over the years

The two “black and white” photos show very clearly the difference between the hands over the years, and I was also inclined to think that the face had been altered too. I guess that during the production of Crossroads, the figurine got damaged and the props department made replacement parts.

Oddly, there are no close-ups of the figurine during the surviving episodes – which is a shame. I haven't been able to find any published colour photographs showing any detail of it either, except for this one, which is blurred but does show the vibrant colours...

Vibrant colours but a bit blurred - Meg and Tish

One positive thing that I did discover during my image gathering was that during the “Christmas Episodes” where the fourth wall of the sitting room is seen – often the cameras would be positioned “behind” the drinks table, and it afforded excellent views of the back of the figurine. Very useful!

Over the last few years  I have bought a few “near misses” as temporary place holders, including one which was pretty close (but a little short)...

Near miss - close colours but much too small


A few weeks ago I did another Google Image search of the near miss above using the “Lens” feature on my phone and I was surprised to see a figurine come up that looked pretty close. It was in Miami of all places…

Miami Nice


Although the colours were wrong, the shape was a pretty good match for the screen captures that I had made over the years, so I arranged to buy it – and waited…Actually not that long as it happens – just a week!

As you can see in the image at the top of this page, I soon pained the sleeves and tunic a green colour to match the screen captures I had collected.…and then finally I painted the collar and lower legs a pink colour and added some detailing back in…

I KNOW that this is a terrible thing to do - so I apologise to all of the porcelain figurine purists out there...



On the left you can see the (damaged) original figurine with replacement hands and the missing seal case. In the middle you can see my figurines – and on the right you can see Meg’s as it originally looked in the programme – holding the seal case.

So how close have I got the figurine looking? – well – judge for yourself….



The Sitting Room Recreation takes shape