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The Good Companions

The Good Companions“Yorkshire Television’s marvellous
  series The Good Companions, adapted
  by Alan Plater from J B Priestley
  classic 1929 novel, makes its welcome
  debut to home entertainment in 2011...”

A MAINSTAY OF ENGLISH LITERATURE since its initial publication in 1926, The Good Companions is the defining work of J B Priestley and is the book that established the author as a national figure.

In 1980 Beiderbecke writer Alan Plater's definitive adaptation of J B Priestley's acclaimed novel about a struggling concert party between the wars was brought to the screen by Yorkshire Television with a pool of acting talent gifted enough to carry off the comedy and song-and-dance routines and sensitive enough to handle the more serious issues that beset The Good Companions.

Dominated by his wife (Barbara Young), disappointed by his football team and made redundant by the company to which he had devoted much of his life, gifted joiner Jess Oakroyd (John Stratton) burns his national insurance card and disappears from the Yorkshire town of Bruddersford into the night.

Having lost the war of words with his wife over son Leonard (Ian Sharp), who wants his friend Albert Tuggridge (Denis Lawson) to move in as a lodger, he tells neighbour Sam Oglethorpe (Colin Douglas) that he "wants to see what he wants to see" before he gets too old — maybe even Canada, where his daughter Lily lives. When Sam tells Jess that his nephew makes regular trips to Nuneaton, Jess decides that it is as good a place as any to start his journey.

With a few pounds in his pocket, courtesy of a drunken George Jobley (Paul Luty), Jess jumps on board the lorry he believes belongs to Sam's nephew. But he is surprised to find he is in the company of the villainous Fred and Nobby, who rob him of his money.

Broke but unwavering, on his travels Jess meets Joby Jackson (Alfred Lynch), who sells goods at fairs and markets. Joby takes him on to the next part of his journey, where fate takes a hand.

As luck would have it, while making his way down a country lane Jess happens upon a damsel in distress. Miss Elizabeth Trant (Judy Cornwell) is on her way to deliver a box of props to a touring company, The Dinky Doos, but her car has broken down and Jess is able to lend a hand. It is a fortuitous meeting that soon sees Jess at the ragged edge of show business working with a concert party.

The Dinky Doos has the good fortune to have three exceptionally talented performers among the band of entertainers — former teacher and songwriter extraordinaire, Cambridge-educated Inigo Jolliphant (Jeremy Nicholas); singer and extraordinary dancer Jerry Jerningham (Simon Green) and beautiful, gifted singer Susie Dean (Jan Francis). But the troupe has fallen on hard times as their manager has run off with pianist Marjorie Maidstone and the takings.

However, a happy event awaits them. Not only is Jess able to offer his services but the wealthy Miss Trant has a trick or two up her sleeve and the newly-named The Good Companions sets out to conquer seaside towns, industrial cities and rural backwaters in a search for stardom and success.

Not everything is plain sailing as the past has a habit of catching up with those who thought they had left it well behind, including Jess. And someone is out to sabotage the show at one of the venues, with serious consequences.

Can The Good Companions overcome these difficulties and come out on top? Will Susie and Jerry find the fame they dream of and Inigo — who with Jimmy Nunn (Frank Mills) learns the finer points of creative composition — the success he deserves? Miss Trant has found fulfilment with the troupe, but will she ever find her lost love?

First filmed in 1933, this series is a fun, frivolous, amusing and thoroughly enjoyable adaptation of J B Priestley's classic novel The Good Companions.

The Good Companions also features: Bryan Pringle as Morton Mitchell; Vivienne Martin as Elsie Longstaff; John Blythe as Joe Brundit; Jo Kendal as 'Mrs Joe' Courtney Brundit; Patricia Brake as Millie Mason; Patrick Durkin as Nobby; John Savidant (Coronation Street) as Pobbleby; Bill Dean as Ridvers; Nanet Mahoney as Mamie Potter; Roy Kinnear as Alfred Nott; Anne Stallybrass as Hilda; Ann Way as Miss Thong; Harold Innocent as Lawrence Memsworth; Margaret Courtney as Lady Partlit; Meg Johnson as Effie; John Comer as Herbert Dulver; Bill Simpson as Dr Hugh McFarlane; and a guest appearance by Nigel Hawthorne.

The Narrator is Leslie Sands; Costumes by Brian Castle; Stunts Arranged by Peter Diamond, who also played Tulley; Original Music is by David Fanshawe; Executive Producer is David Cunliffe; Produced by Leonard Lewis; and Directed by Bill Hays and Leonard Lewis.

Yorkshire Television's brilliant The Good Companions: The Complete Series, adapted by Alan Plater from J B Priestley's novel, is released on DVD, courtesy of Network Releasing, on 29 August 2011. Total Running Time: 450 Minutes Approximately | Discs: 3 | RRP: 24.99 | Catalogue Number: 7953583.

"a fun, frivolous, amusing and thoroughly enjoyable adaptation of J B Priestley's classic novel The Good Companions"
Maggie Woods, MotorBar