Brian Conley journeys through the world of television. Actress Anita Dobson and Brian take to the floor to show off their own dancing skills.
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TV - the magic box of delights.
As kids, it showed us a million different worlds
all from our living room.
-That was state of the art.
-I loved this.
Each day, I'm going to journey through
the wonderful world of telly...
-..with one of our favourite celebrities.
-We're going into space.
-It's just so silly!
-As they select the iconic TV moments...
-My God. This is the scene!
..that tell us the stories of their lives.
I absolutely adored this.
Some will make you laugh... SHE LAUGHS
Don't watch the telly, Esther - watch me.
..some will surprise... HE LAUGHS
No way! Where did you find this?
..many will inspire...
It used to transport us to places that we could only dream about.
..and others will move us.
-I am emotional now.
-Today we look even more deeply.
Why wouldn't you want to watch this?
So, come watch with us as we rewind to the classic telly
that helped shape those wide-eyed youngsters
into the much-loved stars they are today.
Welcome to The TV That Made Me.
My guest today is one of Britain's most cherished actors.
It can only be the legend that is Anita Dobson.
CHEERING AND APPLAUSE
-European! Come and sit down.
-Ah, are you looking forward to this?
-Yes, I am.
-Very much so.
Anita stepped into the limelight on 19th February 1985
on the first-ever episode of EastEnders
playing soap diva Angie Watts.
Since then, she's continued to be one of our best-loved actors
on both stage and screen.
She even shimmied her way through a nine-week run
on Strictly Come Dancing in 2011.
Amongst the TV that made her,
a man who helped kick-start our obsession with ballroom dancing...
..a much-loved kids TV show...
Don't I know you from someplace?
..and a Christmas present that shocked 30 million of us.
Happy Christmas, Ange.
-Thank you for asking me.
-Oh, it's a pleasure to have you here.
Well, I've got so many years now, that I'm so old
that reminiscing is all you can do, isn't it, really?
No, it's not.
So, do have much chance to watch TV?
I watch it when I can, and, you know, if I'm home,
but, really, I'm a film buff - that's me.
Oh, yeah, cos a lot of your choices today
are films that you watched on TV.
Yeah, cos I loved Sunday afternoon matinees
with, you know, all those Hollywood movie stars,
and the thrillers, Hitchcock,
all those black-and-white movies and science-fiction films -
I loved all of that.
Well, today is a celebration of all those things you loved.
But first up, we're going to rewind the clock
and have a trip down memory lane
and look at a very young Anita Dobson.
A true East Ender,
Anita Dobson was brought up in Stepney, East London.
Dad and Mum both worked in the clothing industry
and raised Anita and her younger sister, Jill,
in a small but cosy council flat.
Despite the modest surroundings, Anita's closeness to her parents
meant that she didn't leave home until she was 27.
After drama school, she became a jobbing actor,
starting out on children's telly.
But then came an audition for a new soap opera at the BBC
that changed everything.
Anita is married to rock god Brian May,
but she's a legend in her own right too.
So, how does it make you feel looking at that, you know?
-It makes me realise that I've...I've been around an awful long time.
And it does seem amazing, because sometimes people say,
"When did you do...?" a certain production's name,
and I can't remember any of it.
It's all become a blur.
And one day, I'd love to sit down and kind of go through, very gently,
all the things that you've been in and the time you had doing them
and all the people that you met.
-Because, otherwise, it just becomes, you know...
-Are you one for looking back, though?
I'm somebody who lives very much in the moment,
and I'm all for moving on. I think...
I don't watch myself much on TV,
unless it's something really important or very technical.
Generally speaking, if the director's happy
and the people that did it are happy
and you feel you gave 100%, onto the next. Yeah.
I don't know if that's a good or a bad thing.
You won't be watching this?
-Of course I'll watch this. Yes.
-I want to see you and all the clips all over again.
-Yes. I'm definitely watching this.
Well, let's kick off with
a little bit of your required childhood viewing.
-This is your must-see TV.
And a classic film.
Fred and Ginger.
BALLROOM MUSIC PLAYS
Theirs was an iconic dance partnership
that initially lasted from 1933 to 1939,
before they reunited in the late '40s.
Swing Time is the sixth out of ten films
of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers made together.
It was typical of the films shown in the Sunday afternoon matinee slot
on TV during Anita's childhood.
-They make it look so easy, don't they?
I so wanted to just be Ginger Rogers.
-They're like one person, aren't they?
The glamorous pair with
their incredible synchronised routines and extravagant sets
became box office gold,
with audiences looking for escapism
during The Great Depression of the 1930s.
Fred Astaire preferred the magic of their dance scenes
to be captured in one long continuous shot.
I mean, you just know that they've rehearsed for weeks
to get these routines right.
Well, apparently, every day of his life, he tapped.
-First thing in the morning.
And for hours. Even when he wasn't working.
That's why he's so good.
Did you think Ginger Rogers got the credit she deserved?
You know, cos it was always, "Yeah, Fred Astaire," but...
-Well, she wanted to act as well...
..where as he always was a dancer first and foremost.
But she was a good little actress,
and I think she kind of diversified a bit - maybe that's why.
But look how beautiful she is.
I know. And that dress.
-That was gorgeous!
-Oh, my goodness.
-Yeah. Beautiful. Makes me cry.
-Really? Why? Why is it so emotional?
Because it's so exquisite to see
-two people dance together in perfect sync...
..that it just...
And also the way they move, the beauty of it
makes me feel very emotional, yeah.
So, you would sit down on a Sunday with the whole family?
I mean, irrespective of what was on,
I would watch the Sunday afternoon matinee,
and sometimes they did have them on Saturday afternoon.
So, we'd have Sunday dinner and I'd be, plonk, in front of the box.
And Judy Garland, Rita Hayworth, whatever it was,
you know, I would be there.
Anything. I just loved the movies.
And do you think that made you want to be an actor?
What made me really want to become an actress, the clincher was
when I was a young girl, I was taken to see Julius Caesar
in which James Mason starred as Brutus.
And I remember listening to the beautiful voice that he had,
and thinking, "I want to make people feel like that.
"That's what I want to do.
"I want to have that kind of ability to move people
"and make them cry and make them feel something."
Well, we have a clip of that particular film...
-..with James Mason in.
-My goodness. I am going to cry now.
-Shall I get the tissues out?
-If there be any in this assembly,
any dear friend of Caesar's,
to him I say that Brutus' love to Caesar was no less than his.
James Mason starred as Brutus in this
1953 classic movie version of Shakespeare's Julius Caesar.
..not that I loved Caesar less, but that I loved Rome more.
So, look at that scene.
I mean, look at the amount of extras,
and he did it all in a dress.
-I mean, to be that heroic, I mean, amazing.
I just think he's awesome.
The film featured other big stars like Marlon Brando,
and its sets, like this one, were recycled from
the big epic Quo Vadis, made two years earlier.
However, the film still went on to win an Oscar for its art direction.
As he was fortunate, I rejoice at it.
Look at the photography. It's awesome, isn't it?
You know, the shadows, the detail, everything.
Yeah, I think it was a winner.
Brutus is seen here addressing an angry mob after murdering Caesar.
It's one of the last times this famous speech
was seen on the big screen.
Since then, the play has been adapted
at least nine times for television.
Who is here so vile that will not love his country?
If any, speak, for him have I offended.
I pause for a reply.
-How does that make you feel? APPLAUSE
-Thank you so much.
-Oh, no, it's an absolute pleasure.
So, we're going to move on to your home life, Anita.
What was that like?
-I was born in the East End...
-You're a true Cockney, aren't you?
-Born within the sound of Bow Bells.
-My father was born within
the sound of Bow Bells, so he was a true Cockney.
Stepney was a little further away from Bow.
We couldn't actually hear the bells.
But, yeah, I like to think of myself as a Cockney born and bred.
So, there was me, my dad, my mum and my younger sister,
and we were very, very close.
We had a little council flat, and I felt very blessed.
I was very loved as a child.
So, you know, born right in the heart of London.
-Where's that Cockney accent gone?
-Well, it's still there.
I mean, if I tell jokes, or get tiddly...
-..or get cross, it's right there.
Who makes you laugh these days?
Erm...I tend to laugh a lot anyway.
-You're very bubbly.
-I'm a fairly optimistic person...
-Which is lovely.
-..and I think you should never go through a day
-without having laughed really loudly at least once.
-That's my advice to anyone.
-Does your husband make you laugh?
He's...well, he's a very serious man.
We're very, very different, Brian and I.
He's very serious. You know, he's an astronomer,
he's a sort of absent-minded professor.
I mean, when you say, "He's an astronomer,"
you think, "Oh, bless," but he's a professor, isn't he?
-He's Dr Brian May.
-Dr Brian May.
-Isn't that amazing?
I can get an examination whenever I want.
And he's a doctor of astronomy.
He's a doctor of physics, I suppose, really, astrophysics.
And he does 3-D photography,
and he's an animal rights campaigner,
and he's a rock god.
I mean, you know, there's nothing...
He's got four careers, where most of us - if we're lucky -
may be successful at one, you know? Yeah.
And his humour's quite dry.
Sometimes he'll catch me unaware and he'll really make me laugh.
But generally speaking,
he's not kind of, you know, a knock-about funny guy -
that's not really his thing, no.
-It's more me, I suppose.
-Yeah, that's what makes you so...
It's that yin and yang, isn't it?
-Yeah, it is, isn't it?
-That's what you need.
And you've been together quite some time now,
-which is wonderful, isn't it?
Been married nearly 15 years, been together 29!
-Yeah, it does deserve a round...
It's not bad, is it?
So, your next clip is your parents' choice.
It's a show that your mum and dad really enjoyed.
I'd like to introduce the girl who usually dances with me.
Here she is, attractive Christine Norton.
-"Attractive." SHE LAUGHS
Aw, bless her. She looks lovely.
The basic step of the cha-cha-cha, you'll remember, goes...
one, two, cha-cha-cha...
Victor Silvester, a former world ballroom dancing champion,
began his lessons on the radio in 1941.
His show brought a touch of glamour to the listeners' lives
during wartime Britain.
Look at the dress. The skirt. I love it.
He moved onto our screens in 1948,
where he stayed on the BBC until the mid-'60s.
-And so this is must-see viewing for your...
-..mum and dad, yeah.
Because they used to have, not arguments,
but they used to have little moments when my dad would say,
"What are you doing? That's not a fish tail."
And I'd think, "What are they talking about?"
-But, obviously, they all have special names.
-Yeah. Oh, yeah.
One, two, three, one, two, one, two, three.
Right, well, that's all it is,
so now we'll give you a short demonstration of the cha-cha-cha.
Shall we have a go, Anita? SHE GASPS
-Are you serious?
-Come and join me over here.
Oh, my goodness.
Right, are we ready for this?
Oh, my button's undone. Hold on.
-He's getting undressed.
CHA-CHA-CHA MUSIC PLAYS
And... What are we doing, then?
-You're leading with the right.
Yes, there you go.
-One, two, cha-cha-cha,
one, two, cha-cha-cha.
One, two, cha-cha-cha,
one, two, cha-cha-cha.
-Woo! One, two...
-Ooh, hello. BOTH:
-one, two, cha-cha-cha.
-We were wasted, weren't we?
Victor Silvester's televised dance lessons
not only contributed to a boom in dance schools around the country,
it also started an obsession with ballroom which
is still in evidence to this day.
Come Dancing began
eventually evolving into a national competition
with couples from all across the UK
going head-to-head for the coveted trophy.
Hosts have included Judith Chalmers
and the much missed Terry Wogan.
Not to mention high-kicking journalist Angela Rippon
who hosted the show for three years from 1988.
we were missing the sequins and the big bands,
so with Bruce Forsyth and Tess Daly at the helm,
Strictly Come Dancing was born,
and ballroom was back on our screens with a bang.
And it hasn't left since.
With around 40 versions of the show worldwide,
the phenomena isn't showing any signs of slowing down.
Let's look at your next choice.
It is a performer,
but before we look at it,
I would like to give you a very subtle, subtle clue...
..as to who it is.
Don't know what he's doing.
I hope he's not taking his clothes off and doing something naughty.
-LAUGHTER AND APPLAUSE
# I, I, I, I, I I like you very much... #
# I, I, I, I, I, I... #
-There you go.
We're going to...we'll watch a little clip now,
and in it she plays a banana xylophone,
-so that's your big moment to shine within this.
So, here we are.
Let's have a look, ladies and gentlemen, at Carmen Miranda.
Oh, my goodness.
# I wonder why does everybody look at me... #
A Brazilian bombshell
who became one of the highest-paid female stars in 1940s Hollywood,
Carmen Miranda will always be remembered for
her outrageous fruit hats,
especially this one from the 1943 film The Gang's All Here.
It was director and choreographer Busby Berkeley's first colour film
and featured typically flamboyant dance numbers.
# ..the lady in the tutti-frutti hat
-# Some people say... #
-She was tiny.
Yeah. About four foot or something.
-They had to have little men to dance with her.
-I bet they did.
Oh, they're in a trench.
# ..because I will not take it off to kiss a guy... #
With hundreds of dancing girls and thousands of bananas,
big spectacles like this made it
20th Century Fox's most expensive wartime musical.
# ..the lady in the tutti-frutti hat... #
The psychedelic masterpiece
was seen as a Second World War morale booster.
-Your xylophone solo's coming up...
-Oh, is it?
-..any minute now, Anita.
# ..and when you're gay you dress that way
-# There's nothing wrong with that... #
-Here we go.
SHE PLAYS BANANA XYLOPHONE
She's going all the way around, look.
CHEERING AND APPLAUSE
-That was good.
-My grandfather adored her.
-And I actually got to play her.
I did a musical called Happy As A Sandbag,
and in it I played Carmen Miranda, and I sang the song,
# I, I, I, I, I I like you very much. #
And it was fantastic.
And, also, I had to come down a huge flight of stairs
and go straight into a conga.
You know, dah-dah-dah, which she did in the film,
and I remember the director was a lovely man called Philip Hedley,
and he said...the first day we went into theatre, he said,
"Anita, I want you to look at those stairs
"and I want you to say to yourself,
'One day I'm going to go down them.'"
So, every night, I used to start the song at the top of the stairs,
and by the time I got to the bottom,
I thought, "Phew, I'm on even ground."
And the night I did go down in a show
and I went straight up in the air and went smack onto my butt.
But lucky for me, the gods were with me, cos the next line was,
"And when I fall, I think I fall for you."
And I was up!
LAUGHTER AND APPLAUSE Oh, that's a lovely story.
Mad, isn't it?
-The whole company were like...
The lovely thing about Carmen Miranda,
she just used to pop up in movies,
and make these sort of cameo appearances.
Which nobody could understand because the accent was so thick.
-But the energy of the woman was wonderful, wasn't it?
-And the eyes were going. I loved her.
So, moving back to your television career.
Can you remember your very first big break?
-My big break?
Well, of course, the biggest break had to be EastEnders, yeah.
That was the thing that changed everything.
I'd kind of being knocking around for a while
and done sort of things like Partners In Crime
and, you know, sort of odd little bits.
-That was my first telly, really, Play Away.
# P-L-A-Y, Play Away way, Play Away. #
-You don't have to sing it, Anita.
-That's all right. But I like it!
Do you know why? Cos we've got it for you.
Here we go.
-This is Anita Dobson...
-..on Play Away.
Say, don't I know you from someplace?
-The name's Wild Bill Hiccup, ma'am.
Running for 13 years from 1971,
Play Away was the sister programme to Play School.
The format was aimed at older children
and was like a musical variety show with songs and sketches.
-One glass of water coming up.
-So, how old would you have been?
Oh, thank you, ma'am.
-No, ma'am, I'm afraid
they haven't done the trick.
Well, why don't you try drinking from the other side?
They say that can cure hiccups.
-Very good American accent there.
-Thank you very much, sir.
If that's what you say. Seems a stupid idea to me.
There you are.
So in character. Look at her.
-No, ma'am, still there.
-So, your time on Play Away, what was that like?
Oh, I loved it. I loved...
-Do you remember Brian Cant?
Oh, he was adorable.
How did you get the job?
I auditioned. Same as everybody else.
Yeah, went along, sang a bit, you know, chatted a bit,
read some sketches and that was it.
-Had you been to drama school?
-Yes. Yeah, I went to drama school.
Webber Douglas, which is gone now -
that's how old I am.
The weird thing was that
the drama school was in Gloucester Road, South Kensington,
and I lived in Stepney.
And when I got a grant,
cos we didn't have any money, obviously, where I came from,
so I had to apply for a grant cos I hadn't gone to university.
So, I got one, erm...and they would pay for the fees,
but I had to live at home,
which meant I didn't lose any weight because Mum was still cooking.
So, I would travel up to, you know, South Kensington...
-IN A POSH VOICE:
-..where everybody spoke like that.
And it was all a bit, "Yah. Oh, darling, how lovely."
Then I'd go home, and everyone was like...
-IN A COCKNEY ACCENT:
-"How did it go, then? Was it all right, girl?
"I bet you was fantastic today."
-And it was like being a sort of split personality.
But I think it was good for me.
-It kind of gave me two voices, if you like.
-Gave you your EastEnders voice.
-Yeah, it did.
And how did that come about?
My agent said, "Oh, they want to see you.
"The girl that's playing...that was playing Angie Watts has been sacked,
"so they're looking for someone to play the part.
"So, Julia Smith, the executive producer,
"has asked to see about six..."
I think it was six or eight actresses.
-"..of which you're one."
-So I said, "OK."
So, I went along in a little '40s suit.
-I remember it was maroon.
-I've still got it.
With a little waist and a little brooch...
-I bet you can still fit into it as well.
-I can! Bless you.
And I had my hair gelled.
And as I walked in, Julia Smith went,
"Now, that's a look. That's a good look."
And that's all she said. And I thought, "Sounds good."
And then I read about six scripts,
and I thought, "This is good."
And she said, "Take them home, and we'll call you this afternoon
"and let you know whether you've got it or not."
I got into my beaten-up old Vauxhall Cavalier
with the tartan seating
and drove home.
The heavens opened, the car broke down,
I got soaked, I had to get a cab -
I had no money in those days -
had to get a cab, got home, drenched,
walked through the door of my little council flat,
dropped the scripts down, sat in the armchair.
The phone went. My agent said, "You've got it."
So, and I often find...yeah, when adversity strikes,
-sometimes it's a good omen, strangely enough.
-So, how long was you in it for?
-Only three and three-quarter years.
-So you wasn't in it that long.
I suppose I felt I wanted to quit while I was ahead.
There's only so many ways you can play a drunk scene -
that's what I thought.
I thought, "You're going to have to go round and do them all again."
And I thought, "No, you've gone as far as you can go."
And then, of course, they divorced us,
and, for me, that was the end of the line.
I thought, "These two people work so well
"because they stay in the same house."
They war and they fight, but they stay under the same roof.
The minute you separate them,
something changes the chemistry in a way.
Shall we have a little look at a little moment from EastEnders?
Oh, my God. Which one have you chosen?
Oh, there he is.
You don't regret staying with me, do you? Don't answer.
I don't want to get morbid, today of all days.
Audience figures peaked on Christmas Day in 1986
when 30 million of us switched on
to watch Den end his marriage to Angie
in true Dirty Den style.
..like on the Orient Express,
back in the bar,
chatting up the barman.
"Oh, I've told my husband this terrible lie.
"Six little months to live."
Still got that top.
This, my sweet, is a letter from my solicitor
telling you that your husband has filed a petition for divorce.
Happy Christmas, Ange.
God, I looked all right, didn't I?
-Wasn't bad, was I?
-You still look good.
You forget...cos you're so in it, you forget, you know,
that when I left, and I watched some of the reruns,
then you realise kind of the impact you had.
But I suppose you have no idea, you know, at the time
just...what you look like and kind of how you're affecting people.
Well, it was one of the most iconic scenes
in the whole of the history of EastEnders.
It was a great part to play.
Really fantastic part. I was very blessed.
-But, as I say, I never knew what it was going to do.
It is amazing that you still have this huge energy.
You know, you're still...
Right...right the way through your career
have just kept this energy there, kept the ball up.
You know, it's a real passion,
-and obviously a love affair with acting that you have.
Thank you for putting it so nicely,
but, yes, I think you're right - it is.
Basically, I eat, sleep and drink it.
You know, if I'm not talking about it,
I'm watching it or reading about it or discussing it or...yeah.
Or talking to youngsters and helping them, you know?
Yeah, if anybody...people ask you to go and chat to people, I love it.
I love the fact that, you know, youngsters,
you want to inspire that same passion and desire in them,
you want to see their eyes light up and you want to see them fired up.
So, what's the best advice you give to a budding actor?
NEVER give up. Never give up.
If you want it badly enough, it will come,
but you have to give it everything,
and you have to believe in it, and you have to not give up.
So, you're a fan of Midsomer Murders.
I do like Midsomer Murders, yeah.
-Does it worry you, all these murders happening?
-It does seem odd.
Does seem a little odd that...
I think, "Is there anybody left...in Midsomer?"
Yeah, it's worrying, isn't it,
that people go there and die, really.
So, Anita, I give my guests the opportunity now
to pick a theme tune for us to play out on.
My head's full of Flanagan and Allen at the moment,
so I can't think of any.
But I do remember a series that I loved
and a policeman that I adored was Dixon Of Dock Green.
Oh, wow. Yeah.
-Do you remember Dixon Of Dock Green?
-Yes, of course.
-Was it Jack Warner?
-Jack Warner, yes!
And he was always so lovely, wasn't he?
With his hands around his back. "Evening, all."
Aw, lovely. Yeah.
All right. Well, you've been lovely as well.
-My thanks to you.
-Thank you so much.
-Can I have a little peck? Mwah. Mwah.
-Shall we do three?
-So, my thanks to you, Anita...
-It's a pleasure.
..and my thanks to you for watching The TV That Made Me.
-We'll see you next time.
-Bye-bye. Thank you.
DIXON OF DOCK GREEN THEME MUSIC PLAYS
-Hello, that boy with the mouth organ's back again.
Oh, well, he's...he's not a bad bloke.
HE CONTINUES TO WHISTLE
It's a bit lonely on the old beat sometimes, you know...?
Comedy legend Brian Conley journeys through the fantastic world of television with some of our favourite celebrities who have chosen the TV moments that have shaped their lives.
Actress Anita Dobson joins Brian Conley on the sofa to talk about the TV that helped make her the person she is today. With both Fred and Ginger and The Television Dancing club amongst her TV choices, it's no surprise when she and Brian take to the floor to show off their own dancing skills. The question is, what prompts Brian to produce a banana xylophone, and can he persuade Anita to play it? We get to see the seminal moment on EastEnders when Dirty Den presents Angie with divorce papers, and we find out which children's programme launched Anita's TV career.