(This post was originally posted by Graeme N on the Coronation Street Blog in December 2015, reposted with permission.)
As we are well on the way to Christmas now I thought I would take a look at Christmas in Corrie back in the day. One particular Christmas episode always sticks in my memory (and not because I was around to watch it when it was shown!) The 1972 festive episode is a cracker.
Back in the days before regular murder and mayhem, Coronation Street took a more traditional, community-minded approach to the festive season. The '72 episode is a perfect example and although there are touches of drama in the background, the main event is a talent show in the Rovers Select.
We can deal with the drama first. The main thread going through part one is Alan Howard's descent in alcoholism. Elsie is obviously concerned, so much so that all she has managed to cook for Christmas dinner is a pan of boiling water. Thankfully Betty's sister Maggie Clegg is on hand to share advice from her own troubled marriage. The scenes between Elsie and Maggie are well written and honestly played.
The other serious storyline focuses on the arrival of a rather strange Irish woman at the community centre who appears to have had a hand in the previous abduction of Ena's grandson Jason. The young woman is played by a very young Frances Tomelty who went on to have a very successful acting career. The main thing I noticed about all these scenes is the pace, it's so much slower than the Corrie produced today.
Anyway, back to the main event. Billy Walker is master of ceremonies and many of the Rovers regulars are putting on turns for a bunch of rather dodgy looking extras and one Stanley Ogden (I have no idea where Hilda had disappeared to). The Select always looked to be a massive barn of a place, which was completely disproportionate with the size of the pub from the outside. I think they call that artistic licence...
While most of the acts cover old music hall turns most modern viewers have long since forgotten (or never knew in the first place), the great joy of these scenes is seeing so many classic characters doing something a bit different. It also allows many of the actors to demonstrate their versatility and use skills developed in local theatre and variety, often many years before Granada came calling. Ernest Bishop (the late Stephen Hancock) is at the piano as he often was while the likes of Ray Langton, Alf Roberts and Jerry Booth perform.
There are two highlights for me. The first is the joyous threesome of Betty, Bet and Norma Ford (anyone remember her and her strange obsession with Ken Barlow?) The ladies perform as the Andrews Sisters and it's great to see Betty Driver actually sing in the show. They are obviously having a whale of a time and Julie Goodyear hams it up as only she could!
We also get a young Barbara Knox, or Rio Rita as she was known in those days, doing her Marlene Dietrich act complete with trench coat, beret and cigarette holder! It doesn't get any camper than that! Fair play to her though for having a go!
Sadly we don't get to see Emily's Carmen Miranda routine as she has a mishap with her bananas...Perhaps Eileen Derbyshire can give that a go before she departs on New Year's Day?
Anyway, if you fancy a bit of seventies Corrie nostalgia, some lovely person has uploaded this episode in two parts.
You can check out part one here and part two is available here
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Deirdre: A Life on Coronation Street - official ITV tribute to a soap icon. Available here.
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