Michael J Bird Tribute Website

Tributes
from colleagues and fans
Michael Bird, modestly, once said:

"My object in life, through writing, is to entertain people and make people forget their problems."
Did he succeed ...?


COLLEAGUES

Wanda Ventham "I too rate Michael's work highly and of course after The Lotus Eaters 1972/73 we became great friends.

Michael and Ian (Hendry) were both very underrated. Their talent will be missed. Ian should have been an International star - and Michael was full of original ideas, which were never commissioned. He had some wonderful stories to tell and masses of ideas - The Lotus Eaters could have gone on for some considerable time had it not been for Ian Hendry's health."

Wanda Ventham
(Ann Shepherd - The Lotus Eaters)


Michael Sheard

"I'd not met Michael when I was cast in his The Outsider for Yorkshire TV. Only when I arrived on the set was a firm friendship twixt writer and actor made. From that moment we became firm friends, me, 'im and Olive.

There are many, like me, who will miss him very, very much. Apart from owt he and I will not be exchanging Christmas cards this year and he'll not be making that cherished film of his set on the Greek island of Koz. But I'm sure he's busy up there - wherever there is - and I trust when I next see him (but not yet awhile please!) he'll have a great part waiting for me. See Ya - not too soon - mate."

Michael Sheard
(Reuben Flaxman - The Outsider) &
(Von Reitz - The Dark Side of the Sun)
[Sadly, Sheard joined Bird sooner than he might have hoped. The actor died in August 2005 aged 65. Read the
BBC report of his death.]


"Michael was a very good friend of mine. I have known him since 1983, and we kept in touch regularly up until his death last year. I was very sad about his death. He and Olive were planning to visit Alesund again in the summer of 2001, when we were host port for the Cutty Sark Tall Ships Races."

Bente Saxon
(Norwegian Liaison - Maelstrom)


Trevor Baxter "I've been so interested to visit your website for Michael, which I think is excellent. It is good to know that he is so well remembered. I liked him very much, finding him companionable and appreciative of what an actor can contribute to the realisation of a script. He had an excellent sense of humour, dry, occasionally sardonic.

Filming Maelstrom in Norway was a delight and Michael and I had many interesting talks. He introduced me to his family (at his invitation I took the hutigruten with him down the coast to meet them when they arrived in Bergen.) He was always very good to be with: excellent company. "

Trevor Baxter
(Dr Phillimore - Dark Side of the Sun) &
(Dr Albrigsten - Maelstrom)


Peter Egan Peter Egan enjoyed working on The Dark Side of the Sun and was clearly pleased with the production. He has fond memories of filming on Rhodes where he met Michael Bird a number of times, and also Michael's wife Olive, who joined them for a holiday. Mr Egan says he found them both friendly, charming people.

He recalls the series was very well received at the time and was surprised that it was never repeated and that the BBC made no attempt to follow it up with a sequel.




Betty Arvaniti "Whoever happened to meet Michael Bird cannot help but have a very intense memory by that explosive personality. True representative of the Irish artist, a person with enormous contradictions. He was overwhelming and explosive, fierce and deeply tender, with a deep sense of humour, unexpected outbursts which were intensely theatrical, an imagination that surprised, and a charm which occasionally went over the limits. A soul which was difficult to discern its depth.

Irish people are deeply related with the Greeks. I remember discussing it with Michael. He was very fond of Greece especially Crete. He used to say that the difference between Greeks and Irish came from the rain. In Ireland it rains a lot and the roots are wetter...

I met Michael Bird when he came to Athens to cast Who pays the Ferryman? many years ago. I was asked by the Greek Film Centre to meet the author and the film director so that to be given the leading part in that series. I was very nervous, as it was the first time I had a chance to participate in a foreign production, much more in a BBC one! In Greece I was already well known as leading actress both in the theatre and cinema.

I remember my first impression of Michael Bird. I recall his eyes, which were a mixture of charm and challenge, mocking and undressing your soul simultaneously. I felt conquered and at the same time very close to him. Later, when we became very good friends, he told me that the moment the door opened and I entered he thought “This is Annika” (the name of the character I played in the series) “I wrote it for her”. In fact there was something supernatural in our first meeting.

Later on our relationship became very precious. I got to know him and vice versa very well and this friendship lasted for years. We worked together again and exchanged letters for many years. I met his family and we discussed a lot concerning his life. For me Michael Bird is not dead. He lives."

Betty Arvaniti
(Annika Zeferis - Who Pays The Ferryman?) &
(Ismini Christoyannis - Dark Side of the Sun)


Emily Richard Emily Richard still recalls the detail in Michael's script, discussions with the director, cast and producer in rather bleak hotel rooms and a boat trip to Simi with Michael. "Olive arrived ... and I remember walking with her in the small streets of Rhodes telling her about our longed for pregnancy."

"Without exception ... everyone connected with The Dark Side of the Sun was supportive and generous with their time and affection for the project. That was M.J.B.'s gift - to bring people together."



Emily Richard
(Anne Tierney - The Dark Side of the Sun)


Elizabeth Bennett "I had no idea that Michael had died and was very sorry to hear of it. I remember him very fondly - he was a charming, warm, witty person and as a writer a delight for actors as he was both approachable and flexible. Not always the case.

These days one often only meets the writer briefly at a read through but I do remember Michael being around quite a lot and being constructive and jolly ... and buying a lot of drinks."

Elizabeth Bennett
(Lady Wrathdale - The Outsider)


Viktors Ritelis "I consider Michael to have been one of the most original talents and a most interesting man with whom I spent quite a few evenings in some taverna in Aghios Nikolaos in Crete where we were filming The Lotus Eaters.

It was around 1972 and Michael was in top form. He was a born story teller and in the evening, after the other members of the crew had left, Michael and I would chew the fat, talk about scenes scheduled for filming the next day and life in general. Even if only half of what he told me were true, Michael at an earlier time in his life must have been halfway to being a "spook" a kind of James Bond. I can't quote chapter and verse now but I do remember being enthralled by his tales of cloak and dagger doings.

Michael was never overly protective of his work; he would listen to ideas, allowing a metamorphosis to occur which is why I held and still hold him in such high regard. Often discussions would end with Michael rewriting dialogue on a napkin, which I would then retype and shove under the bedroom doors of the sleeping actors. This didn't make either of us popular but it made for more imaginative story-telling."

Viktors Ritelis
(Director on both The Lotus Eaters and The Aphrodite Inheritance)


Petros Raptis "Michael Bird: a person, a friend for the Greek Film Centre

I met Michael Bird in the Spring of 1977. As producer, I had taken on the Greek part of the production of Who Pays the Ferryman? and I was with Michael, the director Bill Slater and the head of the production Colin Dudley in Crete in order to arrange the locations for filming. During the trip, as is usual for me, I tried to understand with whom I was travelling and with whom I would share my life during summer that the filming would last.

On the way from Chania to Aghios Nikolaos where we were based, I decided that in Michael I saw three different people - three different characters. At the grave of Nikos Kazantzakis, the famous Greek author, Michael had been moved by viewing the final resting place of his favourite author and he read and re-read in a whisper, in the Greek language, the phrase which was inscribed on the marble:

I believe in nothing. I am frightened of nothing. I am free.

Later, when my relationship with Michael went beyond the professional and turned into a deep friendship I saw that I had judged him correctly early on in our acquaintance.

He was a person who believed in always giving of his true self, whatever he was involved in. Although he came from a country so very far from the island of Crete, he was able to give to the scene the real character of that idiosyncratic island. This ability to really get to grips with the Cretean characteristics became obvious not only in his work but also in his interactions with the people around him, in the coffee shops, the streets, the houses and the areas where he contemplated and created his heroes.

He was always one step ahead of everyone else, even me, a Greek. Perhaps it was because he had the same ideology as Kazantzakis. I thank Michael Bird because I learned more about Greece through him. "

Petros Raptis
(Greek Production Manager on both Who Pays The Ferryman? and The Dark Side of the Sun)


David Cunliffe "I had the pleasure of working with Michael for several years and grew quite fond of this vexatious, talented, irritating, unpleasant, cantankerous, entertaining, witty, delightful, sympathetic, lying, promising, charming and difficult man.

We had started working together on a TV series entitled 'Brett' for the BBC before moving on to The Lotus Eaters. After I became Controller of Drama at Yorkshire Television we made several programmes together. After each one I said "I will never work with him again - he is impossible." But I liked him so I always did."

David Cunliffe
(Director, The Lotus Eaters and Controller of Drama - Yorkshire Television)


Michael Glynn "My relationship with Michael Bird was most amicable and I considered him to be a very professional, talented and creative writer. At times he tended to 'mix' the relationships between director, artistes and producer, which created a rather tense atmosphere. I think he felt this all helped to keep everyone on their toes and was a way of protecting his work. Occasionally he demonstrated being quite dramatic and emotional when he wanted a change in a scene or an adjustment to the interpretation of one of his characters. Nevertheless, these moments of 'off screen' drama did not affect the end product and the success his scripts so rightly achieved.

Sometimes writers deliver their scripts in an untidy state, but not in the case of Michael J. Bird. It was always a welcome sight to see a perfectly well typed, neat layout on the pages of his scripts and rarely did the content not match the high quality of the typed pages.

Overall I consider some of the highlights in my 40 year career in film and television were due to the very imaginative writing and excellent scripts Michael J. Bird so often delivered. "

Michael Glynn
(The Lotus Eaters - Associate Producer, series 1, Producer series 2)


Carol Royle "I hadn't realised that Michael had died. I'm so very sorry - he was so lovely and I enjoyed working with him enormously. I remember him telling me about how he used a word processor to do his writing. I was terribly impressed - there weren't many of them around then. We're talking 1982ish.

I so wish I had had the opportunity of working with him further - I would have loved that. He was smashing and a very natural and approachable man."

Carol Royle
(Fiona Lytton-Neave in The Outsider)


FANS

"I, like you just love Michael Bird's work. I think his stories have originality and flair, apart from being damn good tales.

I so loved Who Pays the Ferryman? . I was living in Dublin in 1977 and nursing my youngest daughter at the time. Every Friday night at 7pm, I would settle in front of the TV, my glass of wine in hand (before we became so bloody politically correct and health obsessed - my daughter loved it!!!) my husband (who can't cook) would russle up something for me to eat and then barricade the door and the telephone to all comers, so that I could just live in Crete, for just an hour.

I so loved it, Elounda and the harbour, oh hell all of it! I even developed an interest in the Andartis and the Nazi occupation of Crete in WW2."

Brenda Merrigan


"I remember Aphrodite Inheritance, Dark Side Of The Sun and Maelstrom very well; maybe the latter two weren't his best, but still better than a lot of today's so-called "classic" mini-series."

Martin Hearn


"The Lotus Eaters is a strange beast, it starts of as one thing then turns into a spy thriller, all the characters have hidden depths, the Major and his wife are the ones to look out for, their story line is excellent, as is all the characters really. I have to admit to finding Wanda Ventham gorgeous ...

My copy of The Aphrodite Inheritance is not as good quality, due to being a trade from someone else, but its still a cracking story."
Andy Jago


"I was interested to hear of your site, and wish you every success with it. I have fond, if somewhat fuzzy, memories of the Lotus Eaters (I was 14/15 at the time, but my parents were both hooked on the show). A few years later I was lucky enough to spend 6 months in and around the Greek islands and have been in love with them ever since ...

I'm afraid though that I probably wouldn't have much to contribute to your site, since the information and knowledge already in there far outstrips mine ... If you do think of anything where I might be of assistance, feel free to keep in touch."

Peter J Poole


"I'm a MJB fan since 1983 (I was 14) when I first saw his Special Branch episode Double Exposure. Last year I finally managed to get hold of a copy. Through PPS and other traders I obtained more Bird material and now I'm toying with the idea of adding a "British playwrights" section to my website."

Werner Schmitz (Germany)


"I liked your webpage and was so happy to find something out about the creator of "Maelstrom". I saw "Maelstrom" 1985 in Finland and I still remember how everyone was waiting for the last episode. It was THE TV-movie in 1980s in Finland.I am afraid that if I did see "Maelstrom" now, it would not be scary, just funny.

Even though many people hope that it will be screened again, the Finnish TV does not agree. I have tried all the Finnish chatrooms etc. to find someone who has taped the series, but of course nobody has (who did that in the 1980s ?!). But there are lots of people looking for a copy."

Satu Pelli (Munich, ex Finland!)


"Yesterday I came across the Michael J. Bird Tribute Page. I am a big fan of his series 'Maelstrom'.

I have tried for years to get some information on the show. I realize my stupidity for not having taped it when it was on TV here. The show was shown here on the Arts and Entertainment Network. I would have thought that networks kept records of the programs they aired, especially a 6-part one like Maelstrom. Do you know that, when I contacted them, they said they had no record of it!

Bente Saxon, from the Tourist Office in Alesund, did send me a map indicating key areas that were featured in the show. If I remember correctly she was the Liaison Contact for the series."

Jeff Roy (Canada)


"This is excellent. I remember watching "The Outsider" on my little black and white portable TV in my room at university (I never saw it in colour) and enjoying the story very much. How much better it was than the crap that the BBC and ITV churn out today!

I'd been a fan of John Duttine since I saw him in To Serve Them All My Days. Coincidentally, one of the girls on my course (also called Fiona - spooky coincidence) was the spitting image of Carol Royle (Fiona Lytton Neave)."

Martin Underwood (UK)


"I am a really big fan of Maelstrom. I can't explain exactly what it is: the story, the actors, Norway, the Fjords... I think, it has something to do with my childhood. Watching it again after all these years, suddenly I experienced the same feelings, I had 15 years ago!

I was born in the GDR. In 1987 - when I watched Maelstrom for the first time - I only had one dream: to go to Norway, to see everything with my own eyes, Jordals Holmen - and the island house. But I knew, because I was living in the GDR, it would never be possible. It seemed to be unreachable to me, in my life. (Okay, I wasn't sure even that the houses really existed, but I didn't care about that. I only wanted to feel very close to that "Maelstrom world")

Before 1989, many people around me said that they felt like a prisoner in our country, but until then I never felt like them, I never understood them. Then when I saw Maelstrom to the first time, and when the desire grew to see it with my own eyes, I felt like those people around me: like a prisoner.

Then, the reunion came in 1990. The wall in Berlin was falling down but by that time my whole world began to change. To much possibilities now, what to do, where to go and so on ... I remember, that I called several times to the television archive of the former GDR. It took a lot of time (months), for them to find Maelstrom in their archive. One day, it was in 1996, I got a call from them and they said that they found it and would record Maelstrom on tapes for me. I was so happy, but the fee was around 100 US Dollar for one part. Then I thought, it is time to give up on finding Maelstrom, because this was my only chance I knew, to get it."

Torsten Thierbach (Germany)


"I really enjoyed watching "Maelstrom" again.

I had a few memories of this series in my head: the ghostly island with the mysterious house of dolls and it's secret visitor, the paintings as well as all those strange and terrifying things happening to the main character. I remember it as being terribly good. Now, having it seen again in English it still is! Even though I must say it isn't as scary as it was when I saw it the first time.

The first time I saw "Maelstrom" it was in German language. You have to know that in Germany all foreign movies are synchronized. By the way, the German title of that series was "Eine unheimliche Erbschaft" which can be translated as "An uncanny inheritance". After having seen the first episode I got hooked on this series and I hardly could wait until the next episode was aired. And I still remember how I was waiting impatiently for the last episode where the mystery finally was solved. That final episode was genuinely stunning. What struck me most was that mystic and intriguing concept of the story and the end that one didn't expect. Furthermore the story is laid in a really fascinating and beautiful country. Well, I am kind of Scandinavia-addicted and I just love Norway!

I think Maelstrom is as good to watch now as it was when I saw it the first time."

Ines Baumgartner (Munich, Germany)


"Maelstrom was wonderful! It inspired us to go to Alesund and More og Romsdal the year after. Then in 1996, our son actually went to work in Stranda in the area, about 25miles from Alesund, so we have been able to locate some of the sites used in Maelstrom. It obviously made a big impression on us all!

When we went in the footsteps of Maelstrom, in 1986, we sailed on the Coastal Steamer from Bergen to Alesund, and we have a home cine film taken as we sailed into Alesund, with our children (then 11, 8, & 6) singing the Maelstrom theme tune!"

I think we were quite unusual at the time, English visitors to Aalesund, mostly tourists stayed further south, or only went to Geiranger. It's much different now, with many visitors from England. Everyone we spoke to was delighted to hear that we had come because of Maelstrom. The reaction of many Norwegians to the show was interesting, as they were not too happy with it, feeling that it portrayed Norwegians as gloomy and strange, when this is not the case at all. The fact that we had deliberately set out to visit Maelstrom country did help to alleviate their concerns.

I've seen Edita Brychta in odd dramas since, and without exception, someone in the family says 'It's the one from Maelstrom'. The dolls also made a terrific impression! I recently received a doll as a free gift, and the immediate reaction all round was that it reminded everyone of Maelstrom - we can't get away from it!!"

Judith Kay (West Yorks, UK)


"I enjoyed reading about The Aphrodite Inheritance on your Michael J Bird Tribute Website. As a child living in Cyprus, I watched the filming of this series and then followed it on Cypriot television!"

Mark Cox (Notts, UK)


"I don't think Maelstrom was as scary as it was when I first saw it, but then I was only nine years old back in 1985. The scariest part was the painting of the leading lady, as I recalled. However, I enjoyed very much watching the series after 18 years.

I'm a big heavy metal and rock fan and I was surprised when I heard one of the last lines of the series, "accident of birth". It occurred to me that a song by Bruce Dickinson (lead singer of Iron Maiden), Accident Of Birth is based on Maelstrom. The song is on his solo album of the same name (from 1997) and also on his best of collection. Below are the lyrics to the song. As you can see, there are some things that are not featured in Maelstrom, but I still think that it's quite obvious that the song is inspired by Maelstrom.

Accident of Birth
Bruce Dickinson, Roy Z

Journey back to the dark side, back into the womb
Back to where the spirits move like vapour from the tomb
The centre of the cyclone, blowing out the sun
Break the shackles of your union to the light

I might have had a brother, as I was born they dragged him under
To the other side of twilight, he's waiting for me now
Nativity was lost on me, I didn't ask, I couldn't see
What created me? What and where and how?
Welcome home - it's been too long, we've missed you
Welcome home - we've opened up the gates
Welcome home - to your brothers and sisters
Welcome home - to an accident of birth

Feel our bodies breathing, as you try to stop believing
There's nothing you can do about your shadows
You can't fight us, you are like us and your body will betray you
Lay down and die like all the others
Where are the angels and their wings of freedom?
Jesus had his day off when they pulled you through
Welcome home - it's been too long, we've missed you
Welcome home - we've opened up the gates
Welcome home - to your brothers and sisters
Welcome home - to an accident of birth
...to an accident of birth

Visions growing dim as the daylight fades away
A spinning, twisting black hole, it's your dying day

Welcome home - it's been too long, we've missed you
Welcome home - we've opened up the gates
Welcome home - to your brothers and sisters
Welcome home - to an accident of birth

Welcome home - it's been too long, we've missed you
Welcome home - we've opened up the gates
Welcome home - to your brothers and sisters
Welcome home - to an accident of birth


Rami Heikkilä (Finland)


"I became acquainted with Michael's work in 1978 when "Who Pays the Ferryman?" was shown on Dutch television for the first time and it instantly made a lasting impression on me. The superb setting in the lovely village of Elounda, the actors who portrayed Michael's characters to such perfection and of course the intriguing story with it's tragic ending leaving the viewer with the sad feeling that although he had found love, Haldane would never find peace of mind and happiness for the rest of his life.

The endings to his stories seem to have been Michael's special trademark, creating circumstances that lead to an "and they lived unhappily ever after" situation, also very much evident in "The Lotus Eaters" , "The Dark Side of the Sun", and "The Outsider".

Although I enjoyed and admire all his work, "Who Pays the Ferryman?" always was and still is my absolute favourite. But it wasn't until after the re run in 1999 on an "oldies" channel that I began to wonder about the writer. Who was Michael J. Bird, the man who created such colourful characters as Major Krasakis with his special brand of philosophy? I couldn't find a satisfactory answer to my question until I stumbled on this gem of a website with a seemingly never ending source of information about this wonderful writer and the people who worked with and surrounded him.

Nothing I read about Michael Bird really surprised me. It would take a person with a very complex and highly imaginative nature, as Michael must have had, to create the stories and characters that distinguish his work among that of other television writers."

Anna Pereboom (Holland)



Michael J Bird Tribute Website

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