|The Dark Side of the Sun|
Harry Brennan - Godfrey James
Von Reitz - Michael Sheard
Bodyguard Max - Mark Barratt
Bodyguard Simon - Brian Attree
Peter Egan describes Lavalliere as "the very devil himself" and his portrayal of the charismatic aristocrat clearly owes a debt to Christopher Lee's Prince of Darkness. Lavalliere's "death" scene could have been lifted from any of the Hammer Dracula films.
Egan had worked previously with both director David Askey and producer Vere Lorrimer and was much in demand. He is best remembered as smug, suave smoothy Paul Ryman - next door neighbour to Richard Briers neurotic Martin Bryce in the sitcom Ever Decreasing Circles , which aired the following year.
A fan of Egan's kindly scanned some of her collection of cuttings for me. They are not directly related to The Dark Side of the Sun but fans of the series may be interested in reading more about the actor so I found them a home in a corner of the site.
And Peter Egan has an excellent website of his own that is well worth a visit. He speaks very fondly of The Dark Side of the Sun.
Colonel von Reitz
"Dietrich Von Reitz is a squarely and solid built man in his early forties with restless, searching eyes and brisk positive movements. Despite the immaculate suit he is wearing Von Reitz has an unmistakeably military air about him."
Superficially Sheard's character is a stereotypical Nazi flunky, fawning and simpering after Lavalliere - the "Maitre". His persistent urging of caution irritates the younger man, who treats his aide with appalling disdain.
Bird gives the 'wisdom of age reigning in impetuous youth' an ironic twist when the "younger" man turns out to be considerably older than his looks. We also discover hidden depths to Von Reitz when, in the closing minutes of the story, he delivers a stirring speech to the brotherhood and assumes command. It is a defining moment for the character yet Sheard says Bird wrote the scene only after finding that the script was running short. Its absence from Hugh Miller's novelisation, which would have been written from the original script, supports Sheard's claim that it was written for him on the spur of the moment. Necessity was truly the mother of invention.
Sadly Sheard died in August 2005, aged 65. In his autobiography "Yes, Mr Bronson", published in 1997 Sheard recollected his time working with Bird on both The Outsider and The Dark Side of the Sun.
"Tierney is thirty-four. He is well built, sinewy and athletic looking. His face is interesting rather than handsome and there is a determined, slightly belligerent set to his jaw but he has alert, good-humoured eyes and he smiles easily.
Although he has travelled widely and moved a long way from his origins in thirty-four years Tierney, born within a quarter of a mile of Clapham Junction and a product of local schools, still has traces of a South London accent and, proud of the fact, makes no attempt whatever to cloak it."
Bird had written for Mower's series of Special Branch and knew the actor's work. The infamous "Mower smile" is much in evidence and serves his dual role quite well, alternately conveying affection and menace.
Tierney's wife, Anne, is played by Emily Richard:
"Anne Tierney wasn't born anywhere near Clapham Junction.
Her father was a career diplomat and mother the youngest daughter of a
minor, hereditary peer and Anne, their only child, was delivered by the
resident obstetrician of the British hospital in Delhi in 1952. Eleven
years later both her parents were killed in an air crash.
Anne Tierney drifts through most of the series as though in a trance. It is hardly surprising since the character spends most of the time grieving for her dead husband, suffers one, possibly two, nervous breakdowns, and is alternately haunted by a ghost or courted by a man who plays tricks with her mind.
Carol Royle, who had played Fiona Lytton-Neave in Bird's YTV series The Outsider earlier that year, says that Bird originally wanted her for the role of Ann. She did read for the part but the Director opted instead for Emily Richard. (Bird didn't always get his own way!)
Richard still remembers "the entire production team and a cast of actors with whom I would willingly work again" and the laughter they shared. She also recalls walking with Olive Bird in the small streets of Rhodes and telling her how she and husband Edward Petherbridge longed to have a baby, and then discovering a few weeks after filming had started that she was pregnant. It was a longed for child - since Richard had suffered a still-birth whilst with the RSC in Nicholas Nickleby.
"Harry Brennan is a thickset man of about fifty-five.
James and Bird were old friends, and for a time had lived in the same Cambridge street. Olive Bird told me that in his younger days James had been a professional singer ("a very good one"). This was born out when I spotted some sheet music from 1960 for sale on E-Bay! It features a very young (but still recognisable) Godfrey James on the cover.
Other "returnees" included leading Greek actress Betty Arvaniti, who had starred in Who Pays The Ferryman?, playing Lavalliere's nemesis, psychiatrist Ismini Christoyannis.
Although Baxter cannot be certain, the issue of a second contract suggests his reappearance in episode six may have been the result of Bird extending the part. "I had joked with him at the first reading how envious I was of the other actors, off to a hot location and said all he needed to do was to add to the scene description 'Dr. Phillimore's clinic,' the words ' in the South of France.'" Bird didn't take him up on it, but two years later he wrote Maelstrom's Dr. Albrigsten for Baxter and the actor got to film in Norway.
Baxter recalls an amusing postscript to his work on Dark Side of the Sun, which further illustrates the hectic way in which the series was pulled together. Producer Vere Lorrimer rang in early August, during post production editing, and asked Baxter if he would do a voice over on the final scene, which he was not in, to improve clarity. Baxter obliged.
"Thinking the script was repetitious I suggested one or two cuts (actors are prone to do this) to which Vere agreed. Needless to say, Michael was not there. I recorded and went home. I'd not been in ten minutes when Vere was on the phone, panic stricken, saying that between us we had cut the plot! So I had to go back and do it again - cuts restored. To Vere's chagrin too much time had elapsed between the first and second recording for it to be considered one studio session so I had to be paid two recording fees!"
Like Trevor Baxter, Scoular would return in Bird's next
Michael Theodorou was born in Famagusta, Cyprus. He came to live in the UK, at the age of 6, in 1952. He worked as a professional actor - under the name of 'Michael Chesden' - from 1973 to 1989 and appeared in a variety of television programmes including ‘Play for Today’, ‘Star Cops’, ‘Suez’, ‘Confessional’ and ‘Bergerac’. He also appeared as a guest artist in a number of popular comedy series including ‘Pig in the Middle’, ‘Duty Free’ and ‘Whoops Apocalypse’. His film appearances include ‘Green Ice’, ‘The First Olympics’ and ‘Eleni’.
In 1989 he joined the staff of Wells Cathedral School as Head of Drama and subsequently wrote and directed many productions which were taken to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. He has his own website at http://michaeltheodorou.weebly.com
Michael is currently working on a play about Bela Lugosi’s 1951 British tour of Dracula. A two-hander featuring the characters of Bela and Lillian Lugosi, the play explores the couple’s relationship as Bela’s almost total dependence upon Lillian pushes it beyond breaking point. You can read an interview with Michael about the production.Michael told me:
"After filming The Dark Side of the Sun - I only got to Glasgow, not Rhodes - and having had some rather interesting chats with Michael Bird on the flight up to Glasgow I realised that here was a really exceptionally interesting man and decided to contact him after the filming had finished to see if he would like to come to a party my wife and I were giving in Henley on Thames - where we lived at the time.
I rang him and he said he'd be delighted to come along. We discussed dates and times and he said yes he would be free. I'd invited a number of people who were interested in the occult and had seen the series and enjoyed it. My wife even made a 'mask of Asmodeus' and stuck it on the door on the day of the party - careful to avoid the prying eyes of a vicar who lived a few doors away.
Anyhow, all the other guests turned up and were having drinks and chats but no Michael. I knew he was coming all the way from Cambridge so I didn't worry too much, it was a long way, he might be a little late I explained to the other guests. After about an hour and a half I was getting a bit worried so decided to ring up his home to make sure everything was alright. His wife answered the phone and I explained that we were expecting him but he as yet hadn't turned up. She said ' Oh, he's in the bath!'. Somewhat bemused I said something like 'But he should be here in Henley on Thames'. To which she replied 'Oh, I wouldn't worry about him, he's very absent minded. It's not the first time this has happened. I'll get him to ring you'.
Quarter of an hour later the phone rang and very apologetic Michael explained that it had gone clean out of his mind and offered profuse apologies.
We all had a bit of a laugh about it when I explained to the others what had happened! Anyhow, I never saw Michael again. It wasn't that I was offended or anything like that but somewhow we never managed to get together again. A great shame, I'm sure he'd have liked to meet some of the people there, there was even BBC producer Guy Slater there whom Michael had never met and I'm sure would have got on.
Ah, well, these things happen, don't they? God bless him!"
|Michael J Bird Tribute Website|
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