An Englishman's Castle
BBC 1978
TX : 5th June 1978

Publicity : More And More - An Englishman's home may be his castle but it would be very different if Germany had won the Second World War. Philip Mackie's three plays rest on this disturbing assumption and portray a television producer's life under a strictly controlled regime. Kenneth More, who plays the writer and producer, talks here to Madeleine Kingsley about the part:

One ought, of course, to doff a metaphorical tweed cap in tribute to such characters as the Admirable Crichton and Ambrose Claverhouse, joy-rider of Genevieve. Yet in the mind's eye it is invariably in wartime uniform that Kenneth More appears, exhorting "Come on chaps" as he battles against Jerry with tireless patriotism, stoically concealking private grief behind a furrowed British brow. Without his name on the credits Zanuck's The Longest Day and Saltzman's The Battle Of Britain would have been less stirringly fought on celluloid, the Bismarck less convincingly sunk. It was, after all, as the RAF's legendary tin-legged pilot, Douglas Bader, that More first made his screen reputation in Reach For The Sky twenty-two years ago, and so, in popular imagination, he has tended to remain: ever the dogged, likeable, unassumingly gallant hero. It's true, agrees More, full of native good cheer, though looking a little more raffish in his checked open-necked shirt, sports trousers and sockless slippered feet than ever the mind's eye prefigured.

"The public does still link me inextricably with Bader. Since Reach For The Sky there has never been any question of playing a thorough-going villain - fortunately the acting profession is perfectly well-endowed with its Christopher Lees and Donald Pleasances - because the public wouldn't swallow it. If they saw me knife someone in the back they'd laugh. Just as they would never accept my being cast as an Italian or a Spaniard. I can't escape my British face. But the advantage of growing older (combined with the current trend for dramatic naturalism) is that I'm now playing far more interesting, more rounded, compassionate parts. Jolyon Forsyte in The Forsyte Saga was the role that marked the end of my being typecast as a one-dimensional ageing juvenile and I thank my lucky stars for it, because you do reach a stage where you begin to look less convincing yelling "Come on chaps" than you might quavering "Go on boys".

But such is the power of his heroic past that it still comes as something of a shock to see More revealed in the opening play of An Englishman's Castle as a convincingly jaded present-day television producer, Peter Ingram, who seems a lot less interested in patriotic ideals than in the personal success and material comforts his top-rating soap opera has brought him. His show happens to be one of those ongoing family epics set in the Second World War and therefore conveniently full of high domestic tension and national uncertainties for Ingram, as the scriptwriter and producer, to play upon. Will young Sally jilt conscientious objector Bert in favour of his brave soldier brother Frank? Will Frank die for his country? How will his mother manage to cope with the soldier newly billeted on the household?

Commonplace enough cliffhangers you may think, except that the billeted soldier happens to be a German … "Philip Mackie's new plays," explains More, "have given history a very clever, novel twist. Here's an England that actually lost the war thirty years ago and is now like the rest of Europe, a German satellite. My character's a producer in a state-run monopolistic television channel whose soap opera is specifically designed to lull the population into quiet acceptance of the political status quo. Each week his show goes out with a strongly beamed author's message, a sort of videotaped bromide, "Better live dogs than a dead lion …". The most important thing in the world is survival, simply survival". But surely his unique and privileged position as a pro-Nazi propagandist makes Peter Ingram simply a traitor? "Oh, no". More is emphatic. "You wait and see. It's easy to understand him if you're of my generation and have been through the war. I might have gone the same way so easily myself. Certainly Ingram fought a brave war and joined the resistance after the German invasion. He even took part in what we document as the rising of 1947, which one imagines was something like the Hungarian revolution of 1957, and just as inevitably doomed".

But then, says More, "Churchill was killed and when a general amnesty was proclaimed Ingram saw no purpose in fighting on. We were getting older and more peace-loving and we wanted to see our wives again," he says. And remember that thirty years have gone by. There's now nothing so blatantly Fuehrer-like as swastikas or jackbooted Gestapo men lining the streets. We've assumed that having once imposed their New Order by force the Germans set out to woo, remain on their best behaviour, just as we know they did when they actually occupied the Channel Islands". (Radio Times, June 3, 1978 - Article by Madeleine Kingsley).

TX : 12th June 1978

Synopsis :
Peter Ingram, producer and author of An Englishman's Castle, the soap opera which has brought him fame and fortune, is confronted by difficult decisions of conscience…

TX : 19th June 1978

Synopsis :
Peter Ingram is faced by appalling alternatives both in his home life and in the state television service in which he works. "Prison, blood, death, create enthusiasts and martyrs, and bring forth courage and desperate revolutions" (Napoleon The First).

Portrayed By
Peter Ingram
Kenneth More
Anthony Bate
"Sally" / Jill
Isla Blair
"Mrs Worth" / Connie
Noel Dyson
"Frank" / Arthur
Anthony Stafford
"Bert" / Adrian
Rob Edwards
Brian Peck
"Mr Worth" / John
Peter Hughes
Henry Ingram
David Meyer
Mrs Ingram
Kathleen Byron
Mark Ingram
Nigel Havers
The Head Waiter
David Roy Paul
Fiona Gray
Derrick Gilbert
Derek Holt, Edward Kalinski and Dyfeed Thomas
Jonathan Newth
Philip Bond
Ian Munro
Suzanne Roquette
Frederick Treves
"The German Officer" / Heinz
Louis Sheldon
The Commissionaire
Norman Hartley
Jonathan Kydd

The series was created and written by Philip Mackie. The series was produced by Innes Lloyd and directed by Paul Ciappessoni. The series was script edited by Giles Foster.

Imagine a world where the Albert Square of EastEnders featured as its prominent landmark not the Queen Victoria Public House, but the Adolf Hitler Drinking Establishment. Consider a United Kingdom which proudly functioned under a German flag…where unforgettable cinematic outings such as The Battle Of Britain and The Great Escape had never reached celluloid…a Europe which had been dominated by the superb tactics of the Nazi war machine, had surrendered to Hitler's advancing forces, and were now under German rule. A world of high control and even higher regulations, in which every movement, every thought, every action, every word, every television programme, every film, every piece of music and every written or spoken word was monitored and assessed in the interests of the all powful totalitarian state.

The end of the Second World War saw Germany emerge as the victors, with the Western powers comprehensively swept aside as the Nazi's powered their way through Europe. The United Kingdom has become a German satellite, and its populace are a shadow of their former selves. This was the premise upon which Philip Mackie's three-part entry into the highly-successful Play Of The Week series took its basis.

An Englishman's Castle concerned itself with a fictional soap opera, the title of which was the same as the programme itself, and focused on the ageing and harassed scriptwriter and producer of the Second World War themed serial, Peter Ingram (Kenneth More, turning in what would prove to be his final television appearance with an considerably emotive performance). Ingram is a man obsessed with his high-rating vehicle (which was nothing more than a facade for the delivery of social messages decreed by the German authorities depicting such surprising scenarios as English families taking in German-billeted soldiers during the war, and how proud these families were to be supporting the German war effort), and soon comprehends the true power of his serial which, conceived in collaboration with the state-controlled television executives, could deliver more than the prescribed social message and be subverted as a means of ending the domination of the Reich (now beyond the use of swastikas and jackboots, but nevertheless an ordered, dehumanising bureaucratic machine determined to stamp out subversion and free will - should that free will oppose the current system).

Mackie used Ingram as a vessel through which all the potential "what if?" nightmares of this alternate history could be played out, explored and tinkered with in such a way as to provide audiences with a nightmarish insight into a world which could, had it not been for the British courage, spirit and determination during the Second World War, have become a terrible reality. Undeniably gripping and of such a high-calibre that the serial is still recalled some twenty-five years after its original transmission, An Englishman's Castle was produced by the legendary Innes Lloyd and directed with customary aplomb by Paul Ciappessoni. The three-part series offered notable supporting performances to Isla Blair, Anthony Bate, Noel Dyson, Nigel Havers, Jonathan Newth, Frederick Treves and Norman Hartley. The series was globally exported, but has never been released on video or DVD anywhere in the world, and was a final testament to the power of More's acting capabilities and the wonderful scripting of Philip Mackie who, barely a year earlier, would deliver the popular Raffles series for ITV

Text © Matthew Lee, 2004.