Michael E Briant
A TALE OF TWO CITIES
This production was really different for me.
The novelist who had been contracted to dramatise this wonderful book for a 6 part television production had real problems with sticking to the storyline that Mr Dickens had so powerfully created.
When the production started the scripts he offered, were disappointing, to say the least. The producer in desperation got old Constance Cummings scripts from the original BBC production out of the library but they were of course rather dated. I persuaded him to let me do the adaptation and I sat down and returned the dramatisation, to the very words and scenes, of the novel. All I did was to use the language and construction of Mr Dickens and we ended up with some excellent scenes. The deal was I wrote it under the name of PIETER HARDING.
It is of course a wonderful novel that stands up even today - romantic adventure at its best. Well worth a read if you have the time. The video versions are still available from Amazon.
The show got an EMMY in the USA and considerable recognition in the UK.
This was in no small way due to Paul Shelley's superb performance.
I had worked with Paul on Secret Army and was convinced he would make a wonderful Charles Darney and Sydney Carton.
He was wonderful. Once again my casting only the most creative and intelligent actors available paid off.
Judy Parfitt and Steven Yardley were wonderful as Mr & Mme Defarge. Nigel Stock, Vivien Merchant, Ralph Michael and David Collins, Morris Perry together with the lovely Sally Osborn, were a pleasure to work with and made rehearsals a joy as well as lots of fun.
In those days Directors did all the casting themselves.
The casting directors of to-day did not exist so every part, large or small had to be thought about and actors remembered or interviewed for the role. It was a very challenging aspect of directing drama for the BBC. Directors tended to have rep companies of actors they had previously worked with and used them over and over again.
We shot the location filming in Jersey as the BBC budget system made filming in France impossible. Jersey has French chateau and the Elizabeth Castle just outside St Peter Port was also built by the French.
A production to be pleased and proud of.
You can find copies of this production at
http://uk.imdb.com/name/nm0108468/ This should go to my IMDb page