1 9 7 7 (UK)
13 x episodes
The ITV drama department made expensive mistakes in 1977 with Love For Lydia, a 13-part serial about a jazz-age flapper and the men who loved her, based on H E Bates’s short novel.
The author had approved a television treatment before his death in 1974, and his son Richard, a freelance writer and producer who regarded it as his father’s best work, had spent seven years expanding it and producing the first three episodes for London Weekend Television.
But when LWT’s controller, Cyril Bennett, viewed the episodes he disliked them – there was too much misty Northamptonshire countryside, too little of the beautiful heroine – and he ordered them to be scrapped at a loss of £100,000. He sacked Richard Bates, passing the project to Tony Wharmby, LWT’s Head of Drama.
On top of that a director withdrew, a programme executive had a heart attack, and writer Julian Bond had to hurriedly revise scenes 48 hours after a gall-bladder operation.
Even the weather was against them. Snow, ice and heatwaves had to be created, and locations were rained off, blown away and once even set on fire.
But the drama finally reached the screen and the tale of a willful beautiful heiress in the 1920s who yearns for worldly experience and plays havoc with the feelings of four young men delighted critics, even if viewers found it too slow and whimsical at times.
Mel Martin was a spirited Lydia, but perhaps it was hard to accept that she didn’t want Jeremy Irons, Peter Davison, Christopher Blake or Ralph Arliss. Was she waiting for Tom Cruise?
Captain Rollo Aspen