Left-wing British film and television producer Tony Garnett dead at 83

Garnett’s career spanned 50 years, but he is identified above all with one of the most significant and creative periods in the history of television drama in the UK.

The highly respected film and television producer, writer and director Tony Garnett died on January 12 after a short illness, aged 83.

Garnett was born Anthony Edward Lewis on April 3, 1936, into a working-class family in Birmingham. His mother died when he was just five years old, of septicaemia two days after a backstreet abortion during the Second World War. His father, a munitions worker, committed suicide 19 days later.

Tony Garnett
Tony Garnett

Garnett’s career spanned 50 years, but he is identified above all with one of the most significant and creative periods in the history of television drama in the UK.

Originally an actor, he appeared in television’s The Boys (1962) and Z Cars (1962) and played several small parts in An Age of Kings (1960), the BBC’s influential production of Shakespeare’s history plays.

He moved behind the camera when he was hired as an assistant story editor at the BBC working on The Wednesday Play, which ran from October 1964 to May 1970 and aired more than 170 plays.

This famed series, which addressed social issues before an audience of millions, included the likes of Up the Junction (1965, about abortion), Cathy Come Home (1966, about homelessness), The Lump (1967, about casualised labour in the building industry), In Two Minds (1971, about mental illness as a social problem) and The Big Flame (1969, about a workers’ revolt on the docks), all produced by Garnett. During this period he began long associations with writer Jim Allen, dramatist David Mercer and, most notably, director Ken Loach.

His producing credits include Loach’s Kes (1969), After a Lifetime (1971), Family Life (1971—the film version of In Two Minds), Days of Hope (1975), The Price of Coal (1977) and Black Jack (1978), as well as Roy Battersby’s The Body (1970), Mike Leigh’s Hard Labour (1973), Julien Temple’s Earth Girls Are Easy (1985), Roland Joffe’s Fat Man and Little Boy (1989) and Hettie Macdonald’s Beautiful Thing (1996).

Garnett came into contact with Gerry Healy and the Socialist Labour League, the British Trotskyists, in the late 1960s. Although he never joined the Trotskyist movement, he was instrumental in organising discussions among actors, writers and directors, including Loach, Mercer, Roy Battersby and Corin and Vanessa Redgrave, that led to important gains within these circles. Playwright Trevor Griffiths depicted those meetings in his play, The Party (1973).

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Ken Loach – all his films ranked! 

From his groundbreaking dramas of the 60s, through the early-90s resurgence to the unexpected box office successes of recent years, we assess the director’s output

My Name Is Joe (1998)

Loach didn’t exactly discover Peter Mullan, who had been bobbing about for years – and had even played one of the builders in Riff-Raff (see below) – but he gave him a tremendous showcase in what turned out to be the finest of Loach’s Scotland-set films. Mullan plays the classic Loachian male: struggling with demons, hoping to be redeemed by love but dragged down by misplaced loyalties. It’s Mullan’s charisma that puts this one over the top, both ferocious and tender as the film requires it [ . . . ]

See all 1-50 at THE GUARDIAN: Ken Loach – all his films ranked! | Film | The Guardian

‘If We Don’t Understand Class Struggle, We Don’t Understand Anything’

Filmmaker Ken Loach on populism, the gig economy, and the importance of transnational solidarity in his movies and beyond.

The British film director Ken Loach is one of the most celebrated cinematic voices of our time. A deeply engaged artist and one of a handful of directors to have been awarded the prestigious Palme d’Or twice, Loach’s work often takes up social and political themes. His oeuvre has spanned the Spanish civil war (Land and Freedom), the Los Angeles janitors’ strike (Bread and Roses), the occupation of Iraq (Route Irish), the Irish war of independence (The Wind That Shakes the Barley), and the coercive side of the welfare state (I, Daniel Blake). While the so-called “populist revolt” has triggered much debate on the role of economic inequalities and social exclusion, Ken Loach has been one of the greatest narrators of working-class consciousness and its transformations under neoliberalism.

In this conversation with Italian writer and political activist Lorenzo Marsili, Loach looks at the role of art in moments of political transformation, the evolution of the working class, the meaning of class struggle today, and the left’s failure to inspire radical change.

The interview was recorded during the shooting of DEMOS, a forthcoming documentary in which Lorenzo Marsili travels across Europe investigating transnational solidarity 10 years after the financial crisis [ . . . ]

Continue at THE NATION: ‘If We Don’t Understand Class Struggle, We Don’t Understand Anything’ | The Nation

Thatcher’s Legacy In British Culture

As regular readers will know, I have been following the footsteps of British writer and director Bruce Robinson in recent weeks. His name is not well known, but he is the creative genius behind cult 80s movie Withnail & I, its ‘follow-up’ How To Get Ahead in Advertising and, more recently, Jennifer Eight and The Rum Diary. The latter saw him coming out of exile at the request of producer Johnny Depp, who remembered Withnail and wanted him for Hunter S. Thompson’s memorable story about a journalist in Puerto Rico. In fact, my Robinson journey began with the fabulous but long book about Jack The Ripper.

What I realised yesterday evening, while chuckling through How To Get Ahead In Advertising, is that Robinson belongs to a group of 70s and 80s British creatives which includes people like Roger Waters and Ken Loach. What they all share is an instinctive disdain or even hatred for Margaret Thatcher and her vision for Britain. As a child of the 80s, I can only say that Thatcher was a peripheral figure at home. Appearing on the news, invariably to cries of ‘that bloody woman’ from the men in whichever house I was watching TV in, she was our most popular leader, yet absolutely nobody admitted to ever voting for her. This is not a piece about Thatcher, but about Thatcherism. [ . . . ]

More: Thatcher’s Legacy In British Culture | The Z Review