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Now and Then: Roy Castle (1968)


Main image of Now and Then: Roy Castle (1968)
23 February 1968
16mm, colour, 15 mins
Production CompanyAdanac Productions
ProducersBernard Braden
 Barbara Kelly
PhotographyRichard Bayley

Bernard Braden interviews entertainer Roy Castle.

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A bona-fide 'all-round entertainer', with abundant talents disguised by an unassuming North-of-England demeanour, Roy Castle sang, tap-danced, acted, composed and played numerous instruments (notably the trumpet). First seen on television in the 1950s, he was, by the time of this unbroadcast interview with Bernard Braden, a familiar face with the British public. Less well known abroad, he had recently appeared on stage in the USA, notably playing Sam Weller to Harry Secombe's Pickwick, and hoped to be able to capitalise on his international success.

Castle, born in Huddersfield in 1932, and, as he mentions here, proud of his unpretentious Yorkshire background, had been a variety entertainer since the age of 15, making his name with what Braden describes as the "versatility [that] has stood in your way". It was true that on stage, in films and television, producers - and Castle himself - had struggled to focus his diverse talents in one specific direction.

Braden is sceptical of the established British entertainment tradition that would see a performer follow a hit London show with a seaside summer season, and draws comparisons between Castle and Anthony Newley (also interviewed by Braden in this series), another 'all-round entertainer' whose talents were difficult to categorise, and, arguably, remained under-exploited in Britain. Newley had found greater success, and acceptance as a serious performer, in America with the hit show Stop the World, I Want to Get Off. Braden's suggestion that Castle, like Newley, might somehow export his distinctly old-fashioned talents to the States seems optimistic in retrospect, but reminds us of the mid-60s vogue for 'swinging' British entertainers overseas.

Castle appeared in various British comedy films around this time, and played few serious roles. Contrary to the ambitions Braden coaxes him to express, Castle continued to utilise what he refers to here as his 'Mr. Showbiz' persona for the rest of his career, becoming increasingly familiar as a television presenter. The interview catches Castle just before his career changed direction - away from attempts to find international success, or domestic acclaim as a more serious performer, and towards an acceptance of the "versatility [that] has stood in your way", which he ultimately embraced and enduringly utilised as the indomitable have-a-go host of the 1970s BBC children's programme, Record Breakers.

Vic Pratt

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Video Clips
Complete unedited video (15:57)
Castle, Roy (1932-1994)
Now and Then (1967-68)