Gracie Fields, Margot Fonteyn and Enid Blyton in BBC Four drama

by Lisa McGarry


Three major one-off films about the artistic careers of British female icons Margot Fonteyn, Gracie Fields and Enid Blyton will premiere on BBC Four from Monday 16 November as part of the Women We Loved season.

Richard Klein, Controller, BBC Four, says: “These films are sympathetic but frank dramatisations of women in the spotlight and how their backstage lives play out.

“Once again BBC Four is championing strong dramas that seek to give insight into some of Britain’s most famous artists, reflecting complex lives, conflicting pressures and very human behaviour.”

Ben Stephenson, Controller, BBC Drama Commissioning, adds: “The season brings together some of the country’s best actresses, writers and directors to tell the story of three very special women whose incredible body of work help defined the artistic life of a century.”

Helena Bonham Carter (Harry Potter, Sweeney Todd) leads the cast in Enid from Carnival Film & Television, in the first of three films in the season to broadcast on BBC Four. Matthew Macfadyen (Frost/Nixon, Little Dorrit) and Denis Lawson (Bleak House) also star.

One of the most recognised storytellers of all time, Enid Blyton’s charming characters and classic tales have enchanted countless generations of children all over the world for almost 80 years. She has sold more than 500 million books in 40 countries.

This one-off drama follows the woman behind the enduring and compelling stories such as the beloved Famous Five, Secret Seven, Malory Towers and Noddy series.

Enid is written by Lindsay Shapero. The director is James Hawes (The 39 Steps, Miss Marie Lloyd: Queen Of The Music Hall), and producer is Lee Morris (My Zinc Bed; The Damned United).

The executive producer at Carnival Film & Television is Sally Woodward Gentle (The Ruby In The Smoke; Whitechapel; Kenneth Williams: Fantabulosa!). The BBC executive producer is Eleanor Moran and Jamie Laurenson is the BBC Commissioning Editor.

Jane Horrocks (Little Voice; The Street; The Amazing Mrs Pritchard) is Gracie! in Nick Vivian’s (Ted And Alice, The Mystery Of Men, Dancing Queen) romantic film from BBC Drama Production about Gracie Fields, singer and comedienne from Rochdale who rose to fame in the Thirties – becoming the nation’s darling and highest-paid film actress in the world.

Renowned for her common touch, Gracie symbolised the indomitable spirit of Thirties Britain. Her mass appeal was unprecedented.

Beginning at the phenomenal peak of her career when her iconic status seemed indestructible, this one-off film examines Gracie’s potent war-time struggle between love and duty, and the staggering long-term repercussions of her relationship with Italian-born Hollywood director Monty Banks, played by Tom Hollander (Desperate Romantics).

The film opens a window on the complicated and fragile private life of a very public star who, despite everything, was determined to keep the nation laughing.

Jane Horrocks will sing a stunning repertoire of Gracie songs, including Sally, Sing As We Go and Looking On The Bright Side.

Gracie! is produced by Janet Tyler. The director is Brian Percival (North And South, Ruby In The Smoke; Shakespeare Re-told: Much Ado About Nothing).

The executive producer is Anne Pivcevic (Little Dorrit, Sense And Sensibility, Miss Austen Regrets). Jamie Laurenson is the BBC Commissioning Editor.

Anne-Marie Duff (Is Anybody There; Born Equal; The Virgin Queen) will play Margot in the Amanda Coe (Filth: The Mary Whitehouse Story; Shameless) film from Mammoth Screen, about one of the truly great dancers of our time – Margot Fonteyn – in the final film of the Women We Loved season.

Partly based on Meredith Daneman’s biography of Fonteyn, the 90-minute drama will explore Margot’s dancing partnership and complex relationship with Russian dancer Rudolf Nureyev, forged at the point in her career when everyone expected her to retire.

Instead, Fonteyn’s and Nureyev’s partnership became internationally renowned and Fonteyn danced for another 17 years. The collaboration propelled them into the stratosphere of international stardom, creating a kind of celebrity that had never existed before.