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Hadleigh - 1970s TV Series

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  • Hadleigh - 1970s TV Series

    As a youngster in the ‘70s, I could never understand what my father saw in programmes such as Hadleigh, popular though it was - to the tune of some 17 million viewers, apparently. For us schoolboys, the series seemed an excruciatingly dull waste of the familiarly aquiline actor we'd last seen falling through that scary doorway as Adam Adamant. The Tony Hatch theme music was memorable, though.

    Nostalgia made me curious to reassess, but only recently did an opportunity arise to obtain the box set at a bargain price (rather than wait patiently for it to turn up on Talking Pictures TV). Having sat through several episodes, I can better comprehend the parental appreciation. Series Three in particular makes for oddly riveting - and occasionally hilarious - viewing. (If memory serves, Clive James once penned an article to similar effect.)

    While Gerald Harper’s hyper-smooth Hadleigh can be almost as much fun to watch as his contemporary, Peter Wyngarde’s Jason King (and Sutton is one of the most entertaining manservants this side of Jeeves), it’s the character of Hadleigh’s capricious, mercurial, alternately passionate and petulant young wife who really makes this third series stand out. Well, for this viewer at least.

    The guiltily rich Jennifer is continually blowing hot and cold, torn between the socialist principles absorbed from her aunt and the equally powerful appeal of this most eligible of bachelors. It’s difficult to decide whether Hilary Dwyer simply does her best to interpret the character as written; or whether she's stuck with a caricature of ‘flibbertigibbet’ femininity conjured up by male scriptwriters; or to what extent her emotional rollercoaster of a performance reflects, or was amplified by, her own alleged discomfort with the role and/or on-set antagonisms.

    Intriguingly, there are indications of the latter from co-stars and producer in the making-of documentary, along with tantalising hints that there’s more to this behind-the-scenes story than they’re prepared to tell. Whatever the case, by keeping both Hadleigh and the viewer perpetually on edge, she certainly does bring something special to the proceedings. It’s a pity she couldn't be there to help complete the story arc in the fourth series, showing up in the divorce court after sharing a bed with a rumpled Shane Rimmer.

  • #2
    Welcome to the site Danvers. (The name and avatar are familiar but I can't quite place them ... care to answer?)

    I have all the series on DVD and I enjoyed it very much. Hilary Dwyer is great in her role, though series 3 almost total exclusion of anything outside the marital troubles might seem a bit suffocating after the first two series. I also live just down the road from Hadleigh Hall.

    If you liked it I'd recommend another Yorkshire TV production of the same era, The Main Chance.

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    • #3
      My Dad loved Hadleigh at the time. I should really ask him, but I suspect the air of poshness was part of it.

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      • #4
        Many thanks for the kind welcome, agutterfan.

        I’ve dropped in once or twice before, and was a member of the previous site in times past, under another guise. My present nom-de-keyboard refers to a (fictional) BBC newsreader from a current audio project.

        As for Hadleigh, I suppose he’s a little like a latter-day Lord Peter Wimsey, with a faithful manservant and a rather difficult romantic relationship - but no murders to solve. The overriding strategy of the last couple of series seems to be to put him through the wringer, with entertaining results.

        I’ve vague recollections of John Stride in The Main Chance - although for some reason it’s mixed up in my memories with Man at the Top. I’ll certainly give it a look.


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