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Glittering Prizes, The (1976)

Courtesy of BBC

Main image of Glittering Prizes, The (1976)
BBC, 21/1-25/2/1976
6 x 80/75 minute episodes, colour
DirectorsWaris Hussein
 Robert Knights
ProducerMark Shivas
ScriptFrederic Raphael

Cast: Tom Conti (Adam Morris); Barbara Kellermann (Barbara Morris); Leonard Sachs (Lionel Morris); Angela Down (Joyce Hadleigh/Bradley); Mark Wing-Davey (Mike Clode); Roger Hammond (Ronald Braithwaite); Jeremy Child (John Cadman)

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Adam Morris, a Jew, wins a scholarship to Cambridge University, where some of his assumptions about class and religious faith are tested by the fellow undergraduate who shares his rooms.

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By the time Frederic Raphael wrote his 'novel for television' for the BBC, he was an established novelist as well as a successful, Oscar-winning screenwriter.

The Glittering Prizes (1976) - the title is ironic - was a landmark in television drama, chronicling the lives of a group of friends who first meet as students at Cambridge in the early 1950s. It was a characteristically sharp, witty and satirical portrait of a generation which went on to run the media 20 years later. Raphael has always denied that the character of Jewish writer Adam Morris is autobiographical, although Adam does share Raphael's mocking wit, his success as a writer, and his obsession with being a Jew in a gentile society.

Adam leads three of the six plays, which see him facing a series of events and relationships which are intended to impact upon his development as a person. Some critics felt that Raphael had let him off lightly by involving him in no real conflict, thus depriving his personality of drama. Others expressed disappointment that later episodes did not fulfil the promise of the first. Samson Raphaelson, himself a Jewish dramatist of an earlier generation, admired Raphael's cleverness but regretted his ambiguous attitude towards his Jewishness.

In the first, and possibly best play, 'An Early Life', many of Adam's views on class and religion are challenged by the short life of his college roommate, Donald Davidson, and he learns a useful lesson in self-denial. In the third and possibly weakest play, 'Past Life', Adam has already published one novel to acclaim and begun to write screenplays. At the start of the 1960s, he is asked by an old Cambridge chum, now a TV producer, to interview Stephen Taylor, one of Britain's leading fascists in the 1930s, only to find he has become a ranting madman. In the final play, 'Double Life', Adam is discontent despite his success, his marriage breaks down and he discovers that one of the brightest stars in his Cambridge firmament is now a helpless alcoholic. The remaining plays chart the love lives of Adam's circle, the rise of the media, and disillusion with university education in the 1960s.

The six 75 minute play format enabled Raphael to explore a range of contemporary issues, such as sexual politics, abortion, class, religion, racism, homosexuality, the ascendancy of the media, yob culture, the erosion of prewar values and the legacy of fascism.

Janet Moat

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Video Clips
1. Introductions (3:48)
2. A philosophical disagreement (4:45)
3. Dinner confrontation (3:29)
Complete first episode (1:20:56)
Havers, Nigel (1949-)
Hussein, Waris (1938- )
Margolyes, Miriam (1941-)
Raphael, Frederic (1931-)