Friday, 25 April 2014

Britain is no longer a country for and says "Goodbye" to an old tv drama producer called Richard Broke

Richard, who produced and script-edited some of the most significant and politically controversial television dramas in the last century has died at the age of 70.

What you possibly didn't know about Richard, that he :

* was born in Marylebone, London during the Second World War in the winter of 1943, into a Norfolk 'county' family with a penchant for amateur dramatics and from the age of 11, educated at Eton Boys' Public School until he left at the age of 17 in 1960.

* got his first job at the age of 18 in 1961 at Frank Hauser's Oxford Playhouse and his second at the Chichester Festival Theatre under Laurence Olivier at a time when he was working with Joan Plowright, Michael Redgrave, Sybil Thorndike, André Morell, Lewis Casson, Joan Greenwood, John Necville and Keith Michell and kept as a 'treasured possession' the 1962 programme of 'Uncle Vanya', signed by them all.

* next, after a short stint in London on the Lionel Bart musical, 'Blitz!', decided the world of theatre was precarious and joined the BBC as a trainee and in his twenties, worked on a wide range of  programmes from the cult drama series, 'Adam Adamant Lives!' to a forerunner of Top of the Pops.

* experienced a life changing accident when in 1970 at the age of 27, while driving up the A1 near Sandy in Bedfordshire, veered off the road, hit a bank and thrown forward without a seat belt, suffered multiple trauma, broke his spine and was treated at Stoke Mandeville Hospital.

* determined not to allow his confinement to a wheelchair restrict his work, returned to the BBC in 1971, became a researcher on the Dennis Potter serial, 'Casanova' and then, after being steered into script editing, worked on 'Thirty-Minute Theatre' and made his first of four productions in 1973 in the Centre Play Series with 'Places Where They Sing' starring Gordon Jackson.

WINSTON CHURCHILL: THE WILDERNESS YEARS* got his big break at the age of 38 in 1981 with his first major drama, the eight part serial, 'Winston Churchill: The Wilderness Years' starring Robert Hardy with Siân Phillips, Nigel Havers, Tim Pigott-Smith, Peter Barkworth and Eric Porter, on which he worked for two years and later said : “I am still very proud of that, it was a landmark for me.”

* in 1985, made a rare excursion into screenwriting, when he adapted Graham Greene’s last novel, 'Dr Fischer of Geneva' to provide James Mason with his final film role, as the titular misanthropic tycoon who had the unusual hobby - to expose human greed and see how much humiliation his fellow men endure enticed by valuable presents?

 * courted controversy in a production of a study in deception with Paul McGann as Percy Toplis, a deserter in the First World War in a tv series, 'The Monocled Mutineer', written by Alan Bleasdale, screened as a 'real life story'.

* caused furore amongst critics, politicians and military historians with Norman Tebbit, then the Chairman of the Conservative Party, declaring that the drama was further evidence of a Left-wing bias in the BBC with Richard forced to defend the 'examples of dramatic licence' incorporated into the script but also seeing the series win 'Best Single Drama' in the Bafta Awards.

Colin Firth in Tumbledown* produced a more recent conflict with 'Tumbledown' a BBC film about the Falklands War starring Colin Firth as Robert Lawrence, MC, a real-life Scots Guards officer, left partially paralysed after the Battle of Mount Tumbledown.

* courted controversy again by showing the apathy by Government and Army officials to those wounded in the War and whose objective, was according to director, Richard Eyre, to be “deeply political”, denied by Richard saying :  “Tumbledown is not meant to be a documentary. It’s a play acted by actors” and once again seeing it gain a Bafta Award for 'Best Single Drama'.

* in 1991, with Director John Schlesinger, was executive producer of the award winning, 'A Question of Attribution', based on Alan Bennett's stage play about another study in deception, the Russian spy and 'Surveyor of the Queen's Pictures', Sir Anthony Blunt played by James Fox, with Prunella Scales as the Queen.

Cold Comfort Farm* Three years later, collaborated again with John for a television take on Stella Gibbons’s novel 'Cold Comfort Farm', scripted by Malcolm Bradbury and starring Ian McKellen and Eileen Atkins and during the rest of the Nineties and into the Noughties continued to work on single dramas and popular series, including 'Where the Heart Is', 'The Murder Room' and 'Messiah: The Rapture'. 

* campaigned fiercely for better wheelchair access in theatres and supported efforts to improve the portrayal of disabled people on television, citing 'Ironside', the American detective in a wheelchair played by Raymond Burr, as the most positive role model and said in 1995 : "The Americans are years ahead of us on this A disabled character was at the centre of a popular entertainment without making a great issue of it."

* took his Christian Faith seriously, was an active member of St Michael and All Angels Church in Chiswick, West London, read the lesson, competed fiercely on quiz nights and suggested fundraising ideas for a new organ which will provide the accompaniment for his memorial service on 1 May.

*  once said : "I never set out to make controversial drama and I would fall flat on my face if I did so," but according to friends, relished the controversy and loved it when the Daily Mail attacked one of his.

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