1 9 9 3 (UK)
6 x 70/80 minute episodes
Lipstick on Your Collar is a 1993 British television serial written by Dennis Potter, originally broadcast on Channel 4. It is also notable for being Ewan McGregor’s first major role.
The main story is set in a stuffy British Military Intelligence office at the War Office in Whitehall during 1956, where a small group of foreign affairs analysts find their quiet existence disrupted by the Suez Crisis.
Ewan McGregor plays Mick Hopper, who is doing his National Service as an interpreter of Russian documents. Bored with his job, Hopper spends his days creating fantasy daydreams that involve his work colleagues breaking into contemporary hit songs.
Louise Germaine plays Sylvia Berry, the beautiful blonde wife of the violent Corporal Pete Berry (Douglas Henshall). Sylvia is an object of desire for Mick’s fellow clerk Private Francis Francis and a middle-aged pipe-organist named Harold Atterbow (Roy Hudd).
Unlike the street-wise Hopper, Francis (Giles Thomas) is a gauche and inept Welsh intellectual whose academic career has been interrupted by his army call-up. The appearance of the bookish niece of a seconded American officer enables the two conscripts to pair off with suitable partners, after initial mismatching.
Some of the side themes include the influence of American Rock ‘n’ Roll on English society, the gulf between the senior analysts, who are regular army officers, and the conscripted other ranks, the work of Russian playwright Chekhov, and the appreciation of opulent theatre pipe organs.
The unusual context – a military culture transplanted into a civil service office environment – reflects Potter’s own National Service during the 1950s.
It is viewed by some critics as being the final entry in the musical trilogy Potter began with Pennies From Heaven (1978) and The Singing Detective (1986). The serial was the last production of Dennis Potter during his life. He died of cancer in 1994, having written two works which were produced posthumously.
The series was nominated in 1994 for two BAFTA-awards, in the categories “Best Make-up” and “Best Sound”.
Many reviews at the time emphasised the sexual attraction of new “stunner”, Louise Germaine. More than one newspaper review pictured her, with her ample breasts clasped in the hands of an actor embracing her from behind. (“Gripping Stuff” was the Mirror’s headline).
Private Mick Hopper
Corporal Pete Berry
Private Francis Francis
Colonel Harry Bernwood
Major Wallace Hedges
Major Archie Carter
Major Johnnie Church
Lt Col ‘Truck’ Trekker