1 9 7 8 (UK)
13 x 60 minute episodes
This adaptation of R.F. Delderfield’s novels The Dreaming Suburb and The Avenue Goes to War took a look at life in a London suburb during the turbulent years between the end of the First World War and the start of World War II.
It was an era which began hopefully with soldiers returning from the trenches to the promise of a better life. It was an era of gaiety: wild fads, jazz and ragtime, dances like the Charleston and the Turkey Trot, and talking pictures from romantic Hollywood. But it was an era which ended with a dismal slide into another raging war.
The 13-part series was set in The Avenue, in a fictional South London suburb. Through the Avenue’s residents, we saw how ordinary families lived after the Kaiser’s war but before Hitler’s. How they were affected by the General Strike in the 1920s, the Depression in the early 30s and the rise of Mussolini and Nazism in Europe.
We saw how people shaped their lives and loves – their work, worries, and entertainment.
Jim Carver (Jim Norton) was a tough WWI veteran who returned home only to face unemployment. His wife had died in a flu epidemic, leaving him to bring up five children. An unskilled man, Jim found that the country had little to offer old soldiers, and he turned towards socialism.
His eldest son, Archie (John Duttine), was ruthless. His interests were money and women. A delivery boy at Coolridge’s store, he married a grocer’s daughter to get a partnership in the business, but he fiddled the books and continued to add to his list of girlfriends.
His sisters Judy (Sharon Wells and later Zuleika Robson) and Louise (Linda Goddard) were conscientious girls. Louise was domesticated and reliable and stayed home to raise the family. Judy was devoted to a local boy, Esme Fraser (Sam Bodie as a youngster, and later Peter Machin), but he rejected her.
The young twins, Berni (John Fowler and then Phil Davis) and Boxer (Keith Williams and then Karl Howman), were inseparable. They were the terror of The Avenue and went on to become speedway riders.
Eunice Fraser (Jennifer Daniel) was an attractive war widow but a romantic and hopelessly impractical. Her officer husband’s death brought her financially down in the world, and after the war, she moved into The Avenue.
Her son Esme was also a romantic who cherished the memory of his father. He loved reading about romantic adventures and became a writer when he grew up. He fell in love with Elaine Frith (Arkie Whiteley as a youngster, and then Carol Frazer) with disastrous results.
Harold Godbeer (Derek Seaton) was a timid solicitor’s clerk who took over the running of Eunice’s affairs after her husband’s death. He was devoted to Eunice and a tower of strength to her, but Esme resented him and aimed to discourage their growing friendship.
The Cleggs – Miss Edith (Shirley Cain) and Miss Becky (Mary MacLeod) – were middle-aged spinsters. Edith earned a living as a music teacher and accompanist to the silent films at the local cinema. Becky – known as the “dippy” sister and prone to chasing her wandering cat in her nightdress – suffered a breakdown after running away with her lover, who ditched her.
Their lodger was Ted Hartnell (Miles Anderson), an easy-going man with ambitions as a jazz musician. Edith found him a job at the cinema.
Edgar Frith (Michael Lees) worked in an antique shop and genuinely loved old and beautiful things. He married Esther (Barbara Shelley), who was revolted by sex and insisted on separate bedrooms for her and her husband after the birth of their children, Elaine and Sydney (William Smoker as a youngster and then Colin Higgins). Esther turned her interests to religious fanaticism, and Edgar tamely accepted her tyranny in the home. But later, he met and fell in love with a woman who shared his interests.
Elaine was openly defiant and saw sex as a way of achieving marriage and, through it, the freedom she wanted. Her first conquest was the idealised Esme Fraser, who was no match for her.
Sly and devious in his revolt against his mother, Sydney turned towards fascism.
Toni Piretta (David Healy), a former seaman from Naples, settled in England and eventually opened the corner grocer’s shop on The Avenue. He ran the store – a centre of local life and gossip – with his daughter, the plain Maria (Rosemary Faith).
As a means of marrying her off, he offered Archie Carver a partnership in the shop.
Young Judy Carver
Young Boxer Carver
Young Berni Carver
Young Esme Fraser
Young Elaine Frith
Young Sydney Frith
New Lives | The Odd Families | The First Lessons in Love | Strike | Breakout | More Lessons in Love | Hungry Men Are Angry Men | Re-Arrangements | Fresh Fields | The Biter Bit | Happy Returns | Another War | New Alliances