Splendid! Thanks Mrs Peel! I have on video somewhere a TV drama about the Munich crash made a few years ago. Poignant stuff!
BBC2 ... Sunday 24th April 2011 ... 9.00-10.35pm
United is based on the true story of Manchester United's legendary 'Busby Babes', the youngest side ever to win the Football League, the 6th February, 1958 Munich Air Crash that claimed eight of the their number and the extraordinary spirit of a city that rebuilt the team in the wake of the disaster.
David Tennant stars as coach Jimmy Murphy, alongside Jack O'Connell (Skins, Dive) as Bobby Charlton and Sam Claflin (Pirates Of The Caribbean, Any Human Heart) as star player Duncan Edwards. Manager Matt Busby (the source of the team's nickname) is played by Dougray Scott. The film draws on first-hand interviews with the survivors and their families to tell the inspirational story of a team and community overcoming terrible tragedy.
The Munich Air Crash killed 23 of the 43 passengers onboard, including supporters, journalists and embassy staff.
Simon Heath, Executive Producer, World Productions, says: 'Chris Chibnall has written an authentic and moving version of this heartbreaking story, which with the help of a great cast, we hope will be a fitting tribute to those who survived and those who lost their lives at Munich.'
Peter Salmon, Director, BBC North, says: 'This was a tragedy that touched the lives of many people in Manchester both directly and indirectly. With its superbly talented cast and powerful script, I am proud that BBC North has supported this project.'
United filming took place in and around the North East of England and Cumbria.
Written by Chris Chibnall (Law & Order: UK, Camelot) and directed by James Strong (Dr Who, Hustle), the film is produced by Julia Stannard (The History Boys, The Government Inspector) and executive produced by World Productions Simon Heath (Larkin: Love Again, Hancock & Joan) and Polly Hill for the BBC. Commissioned by Ben Stephenson, Controller, BBC Drama Commissioning and Janice Hadlow, Controller, BBC Two.
United is backed by Lip Sync Productions, Content Films, BBC North and the BBC.
Sources: DigiGuide/BBC Press Office/YouTube
David Tennant talks United on BBC North West News (1/2)
David Tennant talks United on BBC North East News (2/2)
Newcastle Journal ... 24th January 2011
United in grief by Busby Babes air disaster
by Barbara Hodgson
Dougray Scott talks to Barbara Hodgson on the set of a new drama about the Munich air disaster filmed in the North East.
It was a defining moment in football history. When a plane carrying Manchester United players crashed on its third take-off attempt on a slush-covered runway in Munich on 6th February, 1958 it brought to a tragic end the best team the great Matt Busby was ever to manage.
Most people know about the tragedy in which eight of the young, hugely talented players – nicknamed the Busby Babes – died.
But what most people are less familiar with is the story of its aftermath: the survivors’ struggle with guilt and terrible injuries and a lack of desire ever to play football again.
A young Bobby Charlton was among the survivors, as was Busby himself, and now their side of the tragedy is the focus of a new feature-length BBC drama, United, made in the region with the help of £150,000 investment from Northern Film & Media.
The television film stars Dougray Scott – who’s made quite a name for himself in America with roles in Mission Impossible ll and Desperate Housewives – as Busby, and former Dr Who David Tennant as trainer Jimmy Murphy, while talented young Skins actor Jack O’Connell joins the Scotsmen in a lead role as Ashington-born Charlton.
When I caught up with filming in Durham, O’Connell was in a hospital bed for a scene set the day after the crash, when Charlton first learns the roll-call of victims, their names read to him from a newspaper by a German patient.
It’s a moment Charlton himself has written about in his autobiography and here it’s a quiet, intense scene, shot in the former psychiatric hospital in North Road … the drama of the crash having already been filmed, though not dwelled upon in the drama.
That part of story is well- documented, while its aftermath isn’t … says producer Julia Stannard and director James Strong.
'We made this a character study. It’s not a disaster movie,” says Strong, on a break from the shoot. But the human angle is every bit as dramatic.
Busby ... himself left fighting for his life in hospital, alongside star player Duncan Edwards who was to die 15 days afterwards ... was plagued with guilt.
'I’ve been looking at Matt Busby interviews on DVD and YouTube and was struck at how candid he was about his feelings of guilt about what happened and how he couldn’t get over it,' says Dougray Scott who, with hair slicked back and wearing a heavy overcoat, looks typically 1950s. 'He said he wanted to die.'
He adds: 'This is a simple and moving story of what happened.'
During Busby’s two-month hospital spell, trainer Jimmy Murphy pretty much held the club together, its eventual return to success the result of the men’s long, painful re-building process.
The chance to play Busby was always going to appeal to a football fan like Fife-born Scott, a keen supporter of Hibernian Football Club.
'He’s an iconic figure, such a famous figure in football,' says the 45-year-old.
This drama is as much about his story, the development of the club and relationship with the Babes.
'I’m such a big football fan and I had a close connection with football as a boy, so I was drawn to the story,' says Scott. 'It’s such an important part of the history of Manchester United.'
As for the suggestion this recaptures a very different type of football and footballer to players of today’s huge-salaried game, Scott reckons the overpaid label is nothing new.
'It makes me laugh ... I thought the same myself.
'But if you look at history and what older people say about football, their perception of the game is the same as it was 30-odd years ago.'
The actor, who played the villain in Mission Impossible ll ... hand-picked apparently by Tom Cruise himself ... and Terri Hatcher’s love interest in Desperate Housewives, has just made another film in the US.
In My Week with Marilyn, he plays Arthur Miller in the story of the playwright’s relationship with siren Monroe (Michelle Williams).
In real life, he retains his Scottish accent but has, by all accounts, got fellow Scot Busby’s voice off to a tee.
'It’s not often I get a chance to play Scottish.
'You don’t want to do an impression of someone, but have something recognisable that people can relate to ... and with him it was the voice.
'With Arthur Miller it’s his voice as well ... and there’s something physical about him. With Busby, it’s a particular speech pattern and facial expression.'
The naturally exuberant O’Connell, meanwhile at 20 - the same age as Charlton was at the time of the crash - has been reining himself in to play the more reserved nature - typical of the 1950s - of football legend-to-be Charlton.
World Productions’ 90-minute drama covers Charlton’s return to Northumberland, where the man who was to become the hero of the 1966 World Cup began to come to terms with his trauma.
Keen to get the sensitive subject matter just right, director James Strong interviewed as many survivors as possible ahead of filming. Cast also visited the Old Trafford ground and spoke to people who’d known the Babes. Sir Bobby, still so closely connected with Manchester United, understandably didn’t want involvement, but sent a nice good luck letter, says Strong.
Back-to-back houses in his home town of Ashington feature, as does the Swan Hunter shipyard - for the exterior of Old Trafford plus interiors of Busby’s office and boardroom – and Carlisle training ground.
Of course, the Northern Film & Media investment – through the creative content fund managed by Northstar Ventures - is what secured the Manchester United drama for the Newcastle United-mad North East, but it was the next obvious choice considering Charlton is such a big part of the story.
And it turned up ideal locations, doubling as 1950s Manchester and Germany, says producer Julia Stannard.
Made on a £2m budget in just a month in the run-up to Christmas, cast and crew were faced with some of the worst weather on record.
'It’s already a challenge to make a feature-length film in four weeks, but add on the problems of filming in snow and trailing a crew around in difficult conditions!' laughs Stannard.
It was so bad that a crucial day’s filming on the training ground had to be abandoned, leaving one scene to be shot back in London.
And, ironically, on the one day that snow would have helped them, it turned milder.
Stannard says: 'The Munich air crash happened largely because of weather conditions, so the scene set around that time would arguably have benefited from the weather.' But, frustratingly, when they came to shoot Munich runway, the snow thawed and they had to bring in a snow machine!
Final touches will be made to United in March and it’s hoped the BBC commission will screen at Manchester Festival in the summer. Stannard would also like to see a special screening at Tyneside Cinema in Newcastle, where the cast watched Pathé film reels featuring the real Busby Babes.
The sky was laden with snow when the plane carrying the high-spirited Busby Babes … the team ready to take on the world ... including the mighty Real Madrid, stopped off for re-fuelling in Munich, West Germany, on its return from the European Cup Quarter Final match against Red Star Belgrade in Belgrade, Yugoslavia.
United had won the first leg at home … Manchester United 2 Red Star Belgrade 1
The result of the second leg of the match on Wednesday 5th February 1958 was …
Red Star Belgrade 3 Manchester United 3
Thus the United Busby Babes were through to the Semi Finals of the 1958 European Cup.
Their opponents in the Semi Final would be either … Hungarian champions: Vasas Budapest, Italian champions AC Milan or Spanish champions and European Cup holders, Real Madrid.
The youngest ever side to win the Football League, they were set on becoming only the third club to win three successive league titles. 6 points behind Wolverhampton Wanderers, with 14 games to go, they were due to face the Wolves on their return. And time was a pressure. Under new league regulations, any team competing in Europe had to be back in England 24 hours before their next championship game.
The build-up of slush on the runway is said to have caused the plane to plough through a fence and into a house as it attempted take-off for the third time. Of the 44 people on board, 23 people were to die. Aside from the eight players, the victims included journalists, supporters and crew. Manager Matt Busby was gravely ill, was in an Oxygen Tent and was twice given the Last Rites.
The Manchester United XI who played together in Belgrade for the final fateful time were …
Harry Gregg (Survived)
Bill Foulkes (Survived)
Roger Byrne (Died)
Eddie Colman (Died)
Mark Jones (Died)
Duncan Edwards (Survived crash ... died 15 days later in hospital)
Kenny Morgans (Survived)
Bobby Charlton (Survived)
Tommy Taylor (Died)
Dennis Viollet (Survived)
Albert Scanlon (Survived)
David Pegg (Died)
Liam (Billy) Whelan (Died)
Geoff Bent (Died)
Among them was South Shields-born trainer Tom Curry, who’d played wing-half for Newcastle United in the 1920s.
And of the survivors, there were others, besides Bobby Charlton, with North East connections.
Ray Wood: the goalkeeper who signed from Darlington, was from Hebburn, having started his career as an amateur with Newcastle United. Albert Scanlon: the badly-injured player recovered enough to continue playing league football and was sold to Newcastle United in 1960 for a reported £16,000. Margaret Bellis: a young stewardess from Whitley Bay, George (Bill) Rodgers: a radio officer, from Wallace Street, Houghton-le-Spring.
One of the fatalities of the 6th February 1958 Munich Air Crash was the brilliant Duncan Edwards who survived the crash, but died 15 days later, after a heroic fight for life, from his terrible injuries aged just 21 ... Bobby Charlton has said Duncan was the greatest player he has ever seen, and that included George Best and Pele.
Edwards was a magnificent, colossus of a player ... constantly and powerfully driving forward from midfield, he had tremendous pace, a ferocious shot with either foot, was very good in the air and was a superbly accurate and creative long and short passer of the ball. He could beat opponents with a mixture of dazzling dribbling skills and sheer thundering power and was a terrific tackler. Edwards was a goal scorer and defender … he could play in any position and would have made an outstanding England captain.
Contemporaries of Edwards have been unstinting in their praise of his abilities. Bobby Charlton described him as 'the only player that made me feel inferior' and said his death was 'the biggest single tragedy ever to happen to Manchester United and English football.'
Terry Venables claimed that, had he lived, it would have been Edwards, not Bobby Moore, who lifted the World Cup trophy as England captain in 1966.
Tommy Docherty stated that 'there is no doubt in my mind that Duncan would have become the greatest player ever. Not just in British football, with United and England, but the best in the world. George Best was something special, as was Pelé and Maradona, but in my mind Duncan was much better in terms of all-round ability and skill.' In recognition of his talents Edwards was made an inaugural inductee to the English Football Hall of Fame in 2002.
Sources: DigiGuide/BBC Press Office/BBC North West News/BBC North East News/Newcastle Journal Wikipedia/About Man Utd/YouTube
An extremely poignant, heartbreaking tale of a remarkable young team cut short in their prime, and of one player of sheer genius, who, as with all the others, died too young.
Last edited by mrs_emma_peel; 17-04-11 at 03:44 AM.
Splendid! Thanks Mrs Peel! I have on video somewhere a TV drama about the Munich crash made a few years ago. Poignant stuff!
I watched this BBC drama for the first time on sunday,what a pointless waste of time! It didn't seem to have any direction and the acting was terrible IMO. I've read a few books on the Munich Air Disaster and this drama was very loosely based on eye witness accounts-in fact it seemed only vaguely based on the recollections of hero Harry Gregg. Apparently,the son of Sir Matt Busby wasn't too happy with the portrayal of his father and i'd imagine that Bobby Charlton wouldn't have been too impressed with his 'character' if he'd have watched it.(which i doubt) The BBC responded to complaints by stating that 'United' was a drama and not a docu-drama which makes me wonder what the point was in making it in the first place?
Regardless of whether it is a docu-dram or a drama it was still pretty poor. Tennant was awful (as were most of the cast) and the script was all over the place. The whole thing was like one of those cheap historical re-enactments that appear on Yesterday.
i was confused as to whether tennant was playing jimmy murphy or brian clough as his accent regularly shifted from welsh to north eastern! the only decent part of the drama was the CGI reconstruction of 1950s Old trafford-yes,the drama was that poor that i'm giving credit to my hated CGI!
Oh dear. As someone from North Manchester I do feel duty bound to watch this, and it is sitting on my Sky+, but I won't watch with high hopes after seeing your views.
Have to disagree with you guys I thought it was sensitively done and quite moving.
If you were going to consider the relatives of victims, no drama based on actual events would ever be made.
There was nothing outrageous to upset any family member of any of the victims during this film apart from the actual disaster itself which was hardly blood spattered in this film.
As for Busby being a cardboard cut out I disagree, but he was only a minor player in the context of this particular chapter of this tragic story, as it was about Jimmy Murphy making sure the club survived after the crash.
We'll just have to disagree about it.
OK, I watched it.
I agree with jay that the blood in the snow (and the burnt bodies lying dead) were rather unnecessary. However I enjoyed Jack O'Connell's portrayal of Bobby Charlton - uncomfortable though that he did not cooperate with this drama - and even David Tennant was impressive as Jimmy Murphy.
Some oddities in the story though - why not mention Roger Byrne who was at the time of the crash team captain? Why have Mark Jones smoking his pipe nearly all the time (although it didn't bother me per se, it was as much of a character trait as they could develop in 90 minutes). And didn't Duncan Edwards die a couple of days after the first United match with the scratch team was played?
Sir Matt Busby I felt was portrayed well - I can understand his son's concerns but I really don't think he came across badly. A dour Scot in the Ferguson mould, although, fair point, he never appeared in a suit as manager and was very much hands-on ...
The music was a little mawkish and I didn't particularly like the crash sequence (although the fade to black and pause was tastefully done).
I would have liked to have seen more character development - even Edwards was a bit of a cardboard character - but with the time limitations, they did OK. And it wasn't at all offensive or tasteless, really. And yes, there was a lump in my throat at the end. A standard trick to get the emotional effect, but that's fine.
I wonder why Harry Gregg wanted his name taken off the credits? Perhaps he just doesn't wish to be reminded of what must have been an awful experience.
maybe gregg was unhappy with changes made to his role or input,or it could simply be that it's something he wants to put behind him like bobby charlton? i personally thought that charltons portrayal was caracature-like and sir matt busbys role was virtually non existant and can see why people involved and relatives didn't like it at all!
didi,you seem to know a lot about the munich air disaster and the team-are you a united fan?
“The film portrays us as a pub team,” he said. “To me that is a terrible insult to the great footballers of that generation, the likes of Roger Byrne and Tommy Taylor.
“If that’s the way the United team of that time is portrayed, what does it say about other great players of that era, like Billy Wright, Dave MacKay or Danny and Jackie Blanchflower?
“The film gives a totally false picture of football at that time, which is what angered me the most. In the film, Mark Jones [United defender who died in Munich] is smoking a pipe in the tunnel before a game. I know there’s poetic licence, but that’s ridiculous.”
Last edited by batman; 27-04-11 at 01:25 PM.
Can't comment on how football really was in the 1950s - I'll leave that to those who have longer memories. It had always been my understanding though that it wasn't the big money-spinning industry it is today and being a footballer was not a celebrity job. It is harder to say whether the great players of the past are better than those we see on the pitch today.
cheers bats! a fair point from gregg!
I enjoyed it but do have a couple of questions as I'm no expert on the incident or football.
1. Did Bobby Charlton really end up outside the plane still sitting in his seat next to another player similarly placed??
2. Was Alan Hardaker really the cold fish he was made out to be...ie "You'll be docked a point if you're not back from your jaunt in Europe to play your next match!!