Today brings the sad news that actor John Hurt has died at the age of 77. First seen by a wide audience in Robert Bolt’s classic 1966 film A Man for All Seasons, starring the great Paul Scofield as Thomas More, Hurt played the villainous and ruthlessly ambitious Richard Rich who betrays More for the reward of being appointed Attorney General for Wales. In real life, Rich later became Lord Chancellor of England and, history tells us, the – by then Baron – Rich, died peacefully in his bed aged 70. But many will regard Hurt’s BAFTA-nominated portrayal of Timothy Evans, in the 1970 film 10 Rillington Place, as his finest hour and, alongside Richard Attenborough as John Christie, it is certainly a compelling performance and one of the most impressive aspects of that film, for all its factual failings.
The third and final episode opens with a brief recap on last week’s death of Beryl Evans and a short sequence in which the Notting Hill police are pressing Timothy Evans to confess (although the official records, still in existence and held at The National Archives, reveal that the confessions were volunteered and received in an atmosphere of calm and restraint. Evans himself made no allegations against the police of any duress, undue influence or aggression).
We then start to hear the rather incongruous-seeming strains of Whispering Grass (Don’t Tell The Trees) – a popular song first heard on the radio in 1940.
There are some interesting pieces currently in the press regarding the story of how one of Beryl Evans’s siblings, Mr Peter Mylton-Thorley, now aged 82, has expressed the wish to have the mortal remains of his sister, Beryl (née Thorley), and her daughter Geraldine, disinterred from their current whereabouts in Gunnersbury Cemetery and reinterred with him in a Jewish cemetery as an act of reunion, once the time comes.
Now that the second of the three episodes of the BBC’s 2016 drama series Rillington Place has aired, it becomes clearer that the so-called ‘Standard Version’ of events – that is, the account embodied in Ludovic Kennedy’s 1961 book Ten Rillington Place – has, as expected, been used as the basis. As before, the atmospherics and portrayals are exceedingly good and make for chilling and impressive viewing – even the apparent discrepancies about Timothy Evans’s seemingly variable accent has been explained as symptomatic of his ‘chameleon’ persona and desire for acceptance, which sounds plausible although observations have been made, by those in a position to have knowledge, that his accent was indeed Welsh and, thus, this portrayal is actually erroneous.
Well, the long wait for Rillington Place is over and we can, at last, see the some of the fruits of the BBC’s labours in bringing this compelling story to a whole new audience. Tonight’s episode, the first of three in the series, centres on Ethel Christie and starts from the time of her reconciliation with husband John Reginald ‘Reg’ Halliday Christie after an eleven-year separation. Tim Roth presents a chillingly convincing depiction of the main character whilst the external scenery shots, particularly of the street itself, are also impressively authentic-seeming. The pace is slow – perhaps too slow for some – but understated in an effective way but the quietly delivered dialogue is a little difficult to follow in places.