The death of Honor Blackman at the age of 94 comes as sad news today. I interviewed Honor back in 1990 as the glam sixty-something grandmother in ITV sit-com The Other Half. She was charming and fun at Central TV’s London press launch for the programme – sad to say I have no surviving cutting or computer record of the encounter.
Bizarrely, what I did have for many years – until about
Two years ago – was the antique oak table she dined at during the wrap party for the series, which was held at the home of series producer Christopher Walker in the village of Kneeton, just outside Newark, where I moved in 1991.
Honor was, for me at least, the main attraction at the launch, outshining co-stars Joe McGann and Diana Weston, and I wouldn’t normally interview a sit-com’s producer – Christopher Walker in this case. The Other Half was unusual though in that it was an Anglicised version of a hit US sit-com, about an ex-baseball player (played by Tony Danza, from previous hit sit-com Taxi) turned-housekeeper for an affluent divorcee and her kids. For the UK it was changed to an ex-soccer player and Honor B played the divorcee’s lively mother.
So for once I interviewed the producer as well, asking him about the particular challenges of converting US gags and situations to suit a British audience.
Move on a year or so and I and my family move to Newark to a handsome Victorian house and we scour local antiques centres for antique furniture to fill it’s high-ceilinged rooms. Newark Antiques Centre sells us a set of chairs, and they put us on to a table for sale at a private house in the nearby village of Kneeton. We go to see it, agree to buy it (for £1,000 !!) from the wife of the household, and hire a van so that we can come back and collect it.
When we do we get chatting and I must have mentioned that I was a journalist who wrote about TV. Mrs Walker then tells us that her husband was at work but that he also was in TV – and was the producer of The Upper Hand, so that’s when I realised that I’d not only met him but had interviewed him the previous year. Small world.
Mrs W told us that the wrap party took the form of a dinner party for the cast at their home and the actors – including Honor – had sat around this very table for their supper. I did love that table, and it came with me when I got divorced in 2005. By 2018 it had been bleached by the sun and needed an expensive bit of restoration work. I would have gone for that, but partner Mary wanted a more contemporary look, so the table had to go.
‘Brown’ furniture being very much out of favour with the fashionable, I sold it along with the chairs that had cost £600 – 40 quid the lot. Two years ago you could barely give such items away. Now they are coming back into fashion, too late, alas.
For a tribute to the late Honor B, here’s a link to the Guardian’s obituary: https://www.theguardian.com/film/2020/apr/06/honor-blackman-james-bond-pussy-galore-avengers-dies-aged-94