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Program Title

Based On
Original material by Roy Clarke

Adapted By
Roy Clarke

Number of Episodes:

Arnold Cole's Travelling Bioscope Theatre is a shoestring affair. Through it, the frustrated Arnold taps the Edwardian public's growing interest in moving pictures. Arnold, however, is ambitious--he wants to make comedy films instead of traveling around the provinces renting shops and village halls in which to show them. His meeting with the fiercely critical Maud is an explosion that reshapes both their futures...

Original broadcast date

Cast Characters
Bob Hoskins Arnie Cole
Frances de la Tour Maud Cole
Fraser Cains Llewellyn
Sherrie Hewson Letty
Dickie Arnold Corky Brown
Valerie Holliman Cora Brown
Graham Saxton Max Legendre
Philip Madoc Jack Brewer
Sheila Reid Lily Brewer
Joanna Foster Clara Brewer
Teresa Codling Dotty Brewer
Stephan Chase
Andrew de la Tour Clive
Jim Hooper Percy
Joe Dunlop
Tom d Cotcher Hector
Arnold Peters
Sheri Shepstone Vi
Peggy A Wood Nanny
Ralph Nossek Mr. Crane
Maxine Audley Gwendoline Harper

Executive Producer: David Reid
Producer: Joan Brown
Director: Cyril Coke

FLICKERS/Episode 1/Intro by Alistair Cooke

Good evening, I'm Alistair Cooke. Tonight we make a rollicking change of pace, a drastic change from high drama to farce: Flickers. Between about 1910 and 1920 the word flickers--flicks in England--the pictures were magic words to children. They were also a cause of groaning and lamentation to their parents who saw in the arrival of the motion pictures the end of Western civilization as they knew it and what they called the good old values.

Now of course in the theater and in the movies we've seen parodies of the early days of Hollywood. Hollywood was a California sheep town without a post office, where immigrant glove salesmen and rag and bone merchants set up rudimentary rooms in fields and filmed ten-minute epics with hand-cranked cameras. But before that they had small studios in Long Island and New Jersey and before that they'd made a lot of money enticing people into empty stores and villainous basements to peer into slot machines at a nickel a peak. At these slot machines you saw about a hundred still pictures flop over rapidly from a rack to represent a train puffing into a station, or a lady seen through a keyhole undressing--almost--in ten seconds flat.

But we are not going to go into the dinosaur days of Hollywood. Our story is about the earliest days of films projected on a screen, in and about London between 1910 and 1912. By that time the peep show business was all over, thanks mainly to Edison's kinescope, a machine that projected pictures onto a screen by running strips of celluloid between a magnifying lens and a lamp. And this business attracted an entrepreneur who shot very, very brief hundred-foot films: comedies and family rows and fire engines--anything that moved fast. Now the middleman between the filmmaker and the audience was the film renter. And more than anything this is the story of a film renter--Arnie Cole--a jumpy, spontaneous, vulgar, indestructible Cockney who I think of as coming from the more immoral creations of Charles Dickens. We find him with his lady friend and his Welsh assistant, stuck without a train ticket on a railroad station.

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