A Brief History of Walford’s Doctors

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Dr. Legg set the bar for Albert Square’s medical profession from Day One

By Nicholas Pascale

From his very first scene Dr Harold Legg (Leonard Felton) firmly planted himself in the community of Walford.

His first dramatic episode was the unforgettable “Who killed Reg Cox?”. From then on, we saw a doctor that lasted in our hearts from 1985 to 1997.

A Holocaust survivor, Dr Legg showed care, concern and compassion for all who inhabited

Albert Square. No doctor that followed him had the longevity of Dr Legg. He rented the two flats above his to Ethel Skinner and Mary with her baby Annie. In 1988 we were introduced to his sister’s son, Dr David Samuels (Christopher Reich), after his sister visited him and convinced him to bring her son into his practice. They came from Israel. The two doctors butted heads on many occasions.

Dr Samuels represented the new approach to medicine, whereas Legg was the old world. Dr Samuels has an argument with his uncle, Dr Legg, over failing to correctly diagnosis Vicki Fowler’s meningitis, which causes Dr Legg to retire and leave the practice to David. Since the character of David was not well received, the writers had his girlfriend Ruth talk him into going back to Israel with her!

For years after, Dr Legg was slowly written out, and we had a string of doctors to replace him. Of this string Dr Fred Fonseca (Jimi Mistry) became the next doctor to occupy the surgery. He was Asian as the producers felt they needed another Asian to replace the Kapoors.

He was not as compassionate as Legg, he would never listen to his patients’ complaints after hours and took a holistic approach to medicine. He was the writers’ way of introducing homophobia to Walford.

His receptionist Josie, who was a born-again Christian, would often chide him about being gay. When her daughter, Kim, who was confused about her sexual identity, consulted Fonseca, Josie accused him of trying to recruit her to the “gay cause”!

He stands out, a doctor that was trendy, handsome and struggling with being gay! He lasted from 1998 to 2000. He was followed by Dr Alex Harrison (Ian Shaw), Dr Daniel Rodford (Howard Saddler),

Dr Steven Khan (Hari Saijan) and Dr Anthony Trueman, played by Nicholas Bailey (son of one of main characters, Patrick Trueman). He lasted for three years, from 2000 to 2003, and provided us with many interesting story lines. One of which was

dating both mother and daughter, Kat Slater and her daughter Zoe. He came back for his father’s wedding to Yolande and his brother Paul’s funeral. He now lives in Cambodia.

And although he only lasted for one season, Dr Oliver Cousins could never be forgotten. From being locked out of his apartment wearing nothing but a bath towel that slipped off

to finally standing up for Little Mo and proposing to her once he got over being shy gave us our 2006 Walford doctor! All the doctors that worked in Albert Square lived above the surgery!

An interesting note: on a plaque outside the surgery a list of three doctors, whom we’ve never seen nor met, are listed: Dr Paige Luxton, Dr Sam Burnett and Dr Dale Lockey. And during 1985 to 2006 we’ve seen nurses as well.

Andy O’Brien who was tragically run over and died, and Sonia Jackson Fowler and her lover Naomi Julien. Now we have to wait to get to meet some interesting doctors that will arrive in the years following 2006: Dr May Wright whom the American audience will be meeting later this year and Dr Yusef Khan who arrives in 2011 in the UK. As you can see, none of the doctors that followed Dr Legg could ever hold a candle to the lovable Dr Legg!

 

Pauline’s Bloke on EE Was a Kitchen-Sink Lothario in the Mid-’60s

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Ray Brooks with Carol White in ‘Cathy Come Home’

By Dr. Charles P. Jenkins

You could have knocked me down with a feather when I discovered that Ray Brooks had joined the cast of EastEnders! Why, you may ask? What is the big deal? Isn’t he an actor? He is not someone special.

Well, Ray Brooks WAS someone special at one time and had an ‘avant garde’ past. During the early and mid 1960s, Ray Brooks was a young actor and had made a big splash with his first films.

In the early 1960s, English (not British) plays were riding high: writers like John Osborne and Arnold Wesker were the toast of the West End and Broadway. The wrote about ‘The Angry Young Man’ – people who had come of age following the Second World War; who had done their national service in the army; had gone to university; and now found that promises being made by the Conservative Government were not quite bringing happiness and a sense of fulfillment to the populace. These men snapped and snarled and found solace in drink and by making others unhappy.

Although Ray Brooks’ characters were not exactly typical of ‘Angry Young Men’, however in 1962, he appeared in a film, called ‘Some People’, which was about ‘youths’ with no sense of purpose who were saved through their trying out for the Duke of Edinburgh Award. This award was introduced in 1956 and recognises adolescents and young adults for completing a series of self-improvement exercises and which has now spread to 144 nations (the U.S. never became involved). Mr. Brooks played a youth in need of ‘direction’. He had a menacing look that appealed to young girls of the time. He was dark and had his hair cut and groomed very much in the ‘Teddy Boy’ tradition, which was long (for the times) and swept back at the sides and raised high at the front. The film had a song, which was successful at the time, was directed by Clive Donner who went on to make a number of major films.

Although this film was successful, it was his next film based on the play, The Knack ……. and How to Get It that received much attraction and brought acclaim to the actors and director. The film was awarded the ‘Palme d’Or’ at the Cannes Film Festival, 1965 and brought Michael Crawford (‘The Phantom of the Opera’) and Rita Tushingham (‘Dr. Zhivago’) to public attention. This film was made in the midst of the ‘Swinging London’ mayhem and dealt with young men and sex. The film was directed by Richard Lester who had recently completed The Beatles first film and used many of the cinematographic techniques that had been fresh and well-received in this film.

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Ray Brooks in The Knack….

Brooks played a ‘womaniser’ who had ‘the knack’, which Michael Crawford, a paranoid teacher lacking in confidence, wanted to have. They, and an artist, compete for the affection of Rita Tushingham, a young naïve girl who wanders into their world.   This film was filled with ‘dolly birds’ dressed in mini-skirts and with long blonde hair and saw the film debut of Jacqueline Bisset, Charlotte Rampling and Jane Birkin.

Mr. Brooks was obviously ‘riding high’. He followed his successes with a television play produced by the BBC in 1966 that set the country talking and Parliament ‘on its ear’! At that time, the BBC produced a series named ‘Wednesday Play for Today’, which dealt with ‘social issues’. I was in college at the time and was ‘far too sophisticated’ to watch television, but I always watched these plays! The play in question was called, ‘Cathy Come Home’ and brought to the attention of the public the lack of adequate and affordable housing in Britain.

The story revolved around a young couple, Cathy and Reg, played by Carol While and Ray Brooks. They got married and soon had a child and moved into a modern home with ‘all mod cons’ (i.e., all modern conveniences) and seemed to be leading a charmed life. Reg gets injured and loses his job. They have no savings and are soon evicted from their home. And so begins their descent into poverty.

Reg cannot find work and the family spends time in shelters and eventually have to ‘squat’ in derelict buildings. Reg finds a job outside of London and leaves with the promise to return. At first he sends money, but this stops and Cathy is left alone with her children. You watch as she deals with Social Services and various charitable organisations, and slowly, but surely, she is worn down by the bureaucracy associated with her situation. Her family is unable to help her since they are also in a sorry state. Eventually she is told that she has to be separated from her children. This she cannot tolerate and takes the children and runs off. Of course, she has nowhere to run. The last scene is remarkably powerful. Cathy is seen holding on to her children while sitting on a bench in a railway station. Suddenly the Officer from Social Services appears along with several henchmen. They surround Cathy who is screaming and crying as she refuses to loosen her grip on her children who are also weeping copiously. They grab her hands and pry her fingers free and take the children.   They are led away leaving Cathy totally broken.

A couple of years ago, ‘Turner Classic Movies’, invited the actor, Tim Roth, to be a guest presenter. He was allowed to choose the films shown and he and Robert Osborne discussed them following their emission. Mr. Roth asked if he might choose the Television Play, ‘Cathy Come Home’. Following its showing, Robert Osborne was physically disturbed by the play and asked a hundred questions about the situation that had led up to Cathy’s treatment.

The Play was written by Jeremy Sanford who had been brought up ‘with money’. He married the writer, Nell Dunn, and together they gave up their ‘charmed life’ to live amongst ‘the poor and downtrodden’ and both wrote about the people around them. The play was directed by Ken Loach who had also filmed ‘Up the Junction’ (1965), written by Nell Dunn, and featured the filming of an abortion, illegal at the time, for the BBC’s ‘Wednesday Play’ series.

The writer, producer and director of ‘Cathy Come Home’ were socialists, but were also ‘social realists’ and worked to bring attention to a number of projects, such as the labour rights, mental illness, capital punishment and alienation. Great pieces of work, but perhaps not the fare for an evening of relaxation in front of the television set!!!

‘Cathy Came Home’ caused ‘questions to be asked in the House (Parliament)’. Although ‘Britain had won the War’, people wanted to know why Germany had built more homes for its working class than Britain etc etc etc.

Most of the ‘hype’ surrounded Cathy, Carol White, who went to Hollywood, but did not do well and eventually committed suicide. Ray Brooks remained in Britain, had married in 1961 and next worked on a television series with the comedian, Sid James, about a taxi service, which was reasonably well-received. He never appeared in any major films and spent much of his career playing guest roles in various series, doing ‘Voice Overs’ and as the narrator of the well known animated children’s programmes. In the 2000’s, Mr. Brooks was, for a few years, the voice of the person informing passengers of the ‘next stop’ on the London Tramline system.

Apparently, Mr. Brooks is no stranger to British soap operas. He had appeared on Coronation Street before, in 2005, joining the cast, as Joe Macer, on EastEnders. I must admit to being shocked when I suddenly saw him in his first episode: gone were his thick black luxuriant hair and arrived was the look of age. Well, he was 66 years old at the time, so I suppose this was natural.

Sadly, I cannot say that I am overly impressed with his character, but I think that his friendship with the odious, Bert Atkinson, probably adds to this. However, what surprised me most was his marriage to Pauline Fowler. I still find it hard to believe that this took place. Still, ‘it takes all sorts to make this funny old world’, as we say in the East End.

Dr Charles S.P. Jenkins is the proprietor of the fine websites http://stories-of-london.org and http://eastend-memories.org

 

On EastEnders, He Couldn’t Save Demi’s Leo

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Dr Kay informing Leo’s dad the patient didn’t make it

By Larry Jaffee

Will Barton acted in one episode of EastEnders, as the ER doctor unsuccessful in saving Leo (Demi Miller’s boyfriend) from fatally overdosing. Viewers can see the scene, which was broadcast originally in the UK on 12 August 2005 at http://tinyurl.com/hp75gk9 and within the past year on US public TV episodes.

Two years ago Barton was in Fings Ain’t Wot They Used T’Be at the Theatre Royal Stratford East, where he performed with Jessie Wallace (Kat Slater). (See Wallace talk about the production at http://tinyurl.com/zmm8q3w)

“Barbara Windsor (Peggy Mitchell) came to the press night with Paul O’Grady, the chat show host in Britain,” says Barton. “Babs [as she’s known in British show biz] was lovely. She seemed to enjoy it. “

Windsor was in the original production of the musical, also at that same venue in 1959 before moving to the West End, where the Cockney musical comedy played for 886 performances. “Barbara played the innocent girl who’s forced into prostitution, and Jessie played the madam of this whorehouse at the end of the 1950s.”

Wallace was moonlighting between Fings Ain’t Wot and EastEnders at the time.

“Jessie, when I worked with her, was absolutely fantastic, and always on time. She’d sometimes have to have a morning off to film [at Elstree]. The play would work round her EastEnders schedule. They were really nice because they wanted to keep her. She would juggle the two, and was very well organised.”

Of EastEnders, he says he used to watch it, but he preferred Brookside. “In 1985 the drama was so amazing. Then I did get into EastEnders. When I had kids I stopped watching soaps altogether. And I don’t really watch EastEnders or Coronation Street at all any more. I know that they’re good dramas.”

So how did Barton end up being in EastEnders as the ER doctor not able to revive Leo? “It was literally my agent calling up and saying, ‘Hello darling, I’ve got an interview for you. EastEnders. Go down to Elstree studios, two days’ work. I’ll send you the script.’ I learned the piece, got the job. Then you’re on set being a surgeon. I had to be told what was happening because I hadn’t been watching it. I didn’t know Demi and Leo’s Romeo and Juliet was so big.”

 

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