The Wednesday Play ran on BBC Television between 1965 and 1969. Ken Loach directed ten in total, including perhaps the two most talked about and memorable: Up The Junction in 1965 and Cathy Come Home the following year. These thought-provoking documentary style dramas helped establish Loach as a filmmaker (they didn’t look like plays in the traditional sense) bringing social issues – including abortion, poverty, unemployment and homelessness – to greater prominence and generating further debate. Three Clear Sundays (1965) looked at capital punishment and In Two Minds (1967) dealt with schizophrenia and mental health. These four plays and more are available, in their entirety, on YouTube posted by Ken Loach Films and – like, of course, Poor Cow and Kes - are essential viewing; still powerful after all this time.
However, tucked amongst these is The End Of Arthur’s Marriage. Written by Christopher Logue and Stanley Myers, filmed in May and June of 1965 and broadcast on 17 November (two weeks after Up The Junction, incidentally much grittier and bearing little resemblance to the film version which came later) it’s something of a curio in Loach’s collection. Although it pokes a stick at the class divide, the generation gap and consumerism, it’s more light-hearted in manner and tone and mixes narration, music, realism and fantasy to create an engaging film. Loach would later suggest the result was “a total cock up” but it was an adventurous project and if for nothing else other than to record some of the best footage of Mods I’ve seen, it was nothing short of a success.
The story centres on Arthur (played by Ken Jones, best known as Ives in Porridge) whose in-laws hand over their life savings of four hundred pounds to put a deposit on a house for him, his wife Mavis and daughter Emmy. When Arthur fails to secure the property he treats his Emmy to a day of extravagance in London, swanning around the West End buying everything she wants; beginning with sweets and ending with something far larger.
There are three notable “Mod scenes”, starting with Arthur’s elderly in-laws sat in front of the television watching young Mods dancing to a Long John Baldry song on a Ready, Steady, Go! type programme. Dad can’t work his new Japanese “armchair channel selector” so they are lumbered but their loss is our gain as these sharp dressed individuals show off their clothes, shoes, hair and dance moves. It’s a brilliant sequence of Mods at arguably their peak; looking young, fresh, stylish, carefree and modern; in contrast to the old order and values enshrined by Arthur’s in-laws who scrimped and saved, never setting foot abroad or even visiting the cinema. Later, Arthur and Emmy, in a rather random scene in an abandoned gas works, encounter a Mod couple on a GS playing “Kinky Dolly” by Samantha Jones on a portable radio and towards the end a whole herd of Mods appear on scooters and foot to party with Arthur and Emmy on a boat winding through East London on the Regent’s Canal.
Mods or no Mods it’s an interesting watch with lots of sharp satire and social commentary but for all Mr. Loach’s passionate work in championing the working class, the underdog, the downtrodden, who doesn’t get a kick out of kids embracing continental styling and riding around on Lambrettas?