A previously unreleased TV drama from War and Peace writer Andrew Davies is set to become available online after almost 50 years.
The acclaimed screenwriter, who turns 80 this Tuesday, 20th September, will be celebrated in a new collection on BBC Store, the BBC’s on demand archive.
His earliest available BBC drama Is That Your Body, Boy?, originally broadcast on BBC2 in May 1970, is now available to watch online, along with other series The Water Maiden (1974) and Fearless Frank (1978).
Davies started as a screenwriter in the 1960s after working as a schoolteacher. He went on to become famous for his supposedly “sexed up” adaptations of Pride and Prejudice, House of Cards and Vanity Fair.
His first ever BBC drama, Who’s Going to Take Me On? from 1967, is believed to be missing from the BBC archive, but the new collection, available on the BBC Store from Tuesday 20th September, will be the first time much of his early work has been made available online.
“I’m delighted and proud,” he said. “They were written by a much younger Andrew Davies. But most of all I’m thrilled and very interested to see what people make of them.”
Davies will be in conversation at a special Radio Times event at the BFI this Wednesday, 21 September, to look back on his career in television, and preview his latest project, a (non-musical) adaptation of Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables.
“We were all in Cannes last year celebrating selling War & Peace across the world,” he told Radio Times recently. “And Harvey [Weinstein, legendary US producer] says, ‘D’ya wanna do Les Mis? Let’s do it! Tagline is ‘Nobody Sings!’
“Of course that might back fire terribly with people expecting all the songs, but we think there’s so much more to the novel that never got into the musical.”
Andrew Davies: Originals is available to buy online via BBC Store. The full list of dramas available is below.
Is That Your Body, Boy? (1970)
Former teacher Davies penned this taut drama which was broadcast as part of BBC2’s Thirty Minute Theatre slot. It starred Ron Moody as a domineering PE teacher while Michael Kitchen made his TV debut as one of his pupils.
The Water Maiden (1974)
One of six plays commissioned for the Bedtime Stories strand of dramas inspired by fairy tales. At least two of the series are now believed to have been wiped from the BBC archive. It stars Jeff Rawle (Drop the Dead Donkey, Hollyoaks) and Cheryl Hall (Citizen Smith) in a tale about a young man who ‘can’t be bothered with lots of girls’ and waits in hope of one true love.
Fearless Frank (1978)
Davies subtitled this Play of the Week about Irish author and raconteur Frank Harris ‘Tit-Bits from the Life of an Adventurer’. Leonard Rossiter played Frank with Susan Penhaligon taking on numerous roles as his many lovers, as Davies examines sexual behaviour and society’s reaction to bawdiness. Praise for it at the time included ‘best comedy seen on television this year’ (The Times) and ‘Leonard Rossiter turns in one of his brilliant performances in a part that suits him perfectly’ (Sunday Times).
Bavarian Night (1981)
This single comedy drama was broadcast as part of Play for Today on BBC1 and tempted director Jack Gold back from working on movies to direct it. Set at a Bavarian themed fund-raising night at a school, Davies builds his comedy around the middle classes losing their inhibitions.
Heartattack Hotel (1983)
This comedy drama gave viewers the first glimpse of character Dr Stephen Dakar and his girlfriend Lynn, who later became the central characters of A Very Peculiar Practice. As the couple book into a luxury hotel they soon find all is not what it seems at their weekend get-away.
A Very Peculiar Practice (1986-88) & A Very Polish Practice (1992)
Davies’ dark comedy drama series set in a failing University medical practice won huge acclaim and a BAFTA nomination for Best Drama Series. Peter Davison stars at Dr Stephen Daker in this surreal and funny look at sexual politics, medical malpractice and academic rivalry which was broadcast at the height of the Thatcher era. The spin off series A Very Polish Practice, broadcast as a Screen Two in 1992 is also included as Stephen sets up a new life in Poland.
Inappropriate Behaviour (1987)
Andrew chose this rarely seen Screen Two drama to represent his original work and be screened at the BFI on 21st September. The drama follows a US behavioural psychologist who is drafted into a rural school in the UK and becomes fascinated with one particularly charismatic problem pupil. As dark secrets of the girl’s home life emerge, behaviour on both sides begins to change. Davies creates a complex, nuanced psychological web that mystifies and intrigues as it progresses to a cataclysmic climax. It stars the late Charlotte Coleman in a memorable performance.
Ball Trap on the Cote Sauvage (1989)
This comedy drama was transmitted on BBC1 as part of the Screen One strand and directed by Jack Gold. Set in Brittany in the Cote Sauvage it stars Jack Shepherd, Zoe Wanamaker and Miranda Richardson. Davies writes about a middle class who are seething with desire under the surface.
Filipina Dreamgirls (1991)
A comedy drama broadcast in the Screen One slot, following the antics offive men from Wales who book a package tour to the Philippines, hoping for romance and possible marriage with Filipina women. The cast includes Bill Maynard, Charlie Drake and David Thewlis.
Getting Hurt (1998)
A dark thriller about sexual obsession and murder, that was based on Davies’ own novel. It opened BBC1’s Obsessions season of films about people who have been driven to passionate extremes. Ciaran Hinds take the lead as a lawyer who embarks on a passionate affair with the wife of one of his clients in this study of tortured male and female sexuality.
Speaking in the Radio Times at the time Getting Hurt was broadcast Andrew Davies said “Nothing compares to the hit you get from seeing something you’ve created from scratch to screen. I also intend to continue writing about sex. As I enter my declining years I probably write about it more than I do it.”