The Curse Of Steptoe

LIFE behind the cameras is often not what you might expect.
Actors are real human beings, with all the flaws and insecurities that go with that.
Never make the mistake of confusing performers with the characters they play on screen.
It is all, quite literally, an act.
Never more so than with Steptoe and Son.
Manchester-raised Harry H. Corbett and co-star Wilfrid Brambell were loved by millions.
But they became trapped together by the very success that made them national treasures.
Whatever your plans for tonight, do not miss The Curse Of Steptoe (BBC4, 9pm).
It’s a brilliant drama about the tragedy of Harry and Wilfrid, with marvellous performances from Jason Isaacs and Phil Davis.

You can read more in the online version of today’s MEN TV feature here.
As tonight’s drama begins, we see Harry starring on stage as King Richard II.
He was destined for the sort of career that Salford-born Albert Finney ended up having.

But the massive popularity of Steptoe and Son left Harry typecast, shattering his dreams of a wider career.
The BBC4 drama also told me something I didn’t know before.
Wilfrid had already, of course, starred as Paul McCartney’s grandfather in the 1964 Beatles’ film A Hard Day’s Night.
The following year he told the BBC he was quitting Steptoe to appear in Kelly The Musical on Broadway.
TV executives were aghast. They had a huge hit on their hands and did not want to axe the show.
Re-casting “the old man” was out of the question – no-one could re-capture the on screen chemistry with Harry.
So writers Ray Galton and Alan Simpson decided to kill Albert off.
Episode one of the next series was to be called: “The Funeral Of Albert Steptoe.”
The characters of Galton and Simpson outline the scene in tonight’s drama.
“Harold stands by his father’s grave, weeping. He goes home and can’t face being on his own. Everything reminds him of his old man.”
Then, they wrote, a young lad aged 19 or 20 knocks on the door, possibly to be played by, then, rising star David Hemmings.
This boy is Harold’s long lost son – he’s no longer alone.
It’s Steptoe and Son all over again, but with the roles reversed.
Harry saw it as an exciting progression for his character.
And then Kelly The Musical closed after just one performance.
The old man was back.
A Tale Of Rags To Riches?
Steptoe And Son: The Official Appreciation Society
Ray Galton and Alan Simpson Official Website
Jason Isaacs: A Wizard Ambassador