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The Curse of Steptoe (2008)

In the early 1960s aspiring stage actor Harry H. Corbett jumps at the chance to play junk-dealer Harold Steptoe in a television comedy show 'Steptoe and Son'. However, the show's success ... See full summary »

Director:

Michael Samuels

Writer:

Brian Fillis
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2 wins & 2 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Roger Allam ... Tom Sloan
Jason Isaacs ... Harry H Corbett
Zoë Tapper ... Sheila Steafel
Clare Higgins ... Joan Littlewood
Elspeth Rae Elspeth Rae ... Young Blonde Actress
Burn Gorman ... Ray Galton
Rory Kinnear ... Alan Simpson
Phil Davis ... Wilfrid Brambell
Ken Oxtoby Ken Oxtoby ... Costume Designer
Ben Parr Ben Parr ... Wilfrid's Young Blonde Man
Peter Hamilton Dyer Peter Hamilton Dyer ... Director (as Peter Hamilton-Dyer)
Sophie Hunter ... Maureen Corbett
Julian Forsyth Julian Forsyth ... Clive Goodwin
Jamie Lennox Jamie Lennox ... Plain Clothes Policeman
Scott McNess Scott McNess ... Boy Outside Theatre
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Storyline

In the early 1960s aspiring stage actor Harry H. Corbett jumps at the chance to play junk-dealer Harold Steptoe in a television comedy show 'Steptoe and Son'. However, the show's success proves to be a poisoned chalice for him, type-casting him and thwarting his stage ambitions. Wilfrid Brambell, the actor playing his father, is marginalized in a different way. He is a gay man in an England where homosexuality is still illegal. The show runs for several years, incorporating film spin-offs but both, in their own way, feel that they have invoked the curse of Steptoe. Written by don @ minifie-1

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Genres:

Biography | Drama

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Details

Official Sites:

BBC Four [UK]

Country:

UK

Language:

English

Release Date:

19 March 2008 (UK) See more »

Also Known As:

The Curse of Steptoe and Son See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Stereo

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.78 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Although the film depicts the 1962 arrest of Wilfred Brambell on a homosexual charge, it fails to make clear that Brambell was exonerated and the charge dropped. See more »

Goofs

Directly after the 1962 awards ceremony, Corbett does his impersonation of Harold Wilson with reference to his White Heat of Technology speech. Wilson did not become Prime Minister for another two years and the White Heat speech was even later. However, the writer made this 'error' quite deliberately. He took dramatic license. Dates were fudged throughout the piece, so though the award ceremony was in fact held in 1962, the film avoids placing it in time. Harry's party trick was his Harold Wilson impression; that was the most appropriate moment in the piece to give him the chance to do his thing. See more »

Connections

Featured in Screenwipe: Review of the Year 2008 (2008) See more »

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User Reviews

Great writing and delivery across the board
25 May 2008 | by bob the mooSee all my reviews

As part of broadening his acting experience, stage actor Harry Corbett signs on to take part in an one-off BBC comedy drama about a rag-and-bone man and his father, to be played by Wilfred Brambell. As "Britain's answer to Marlon Brando" Corbett enjoys the experience but quickly plans to move back to the stage whenever it transpires that the one-off was popular enough to get a series – "Steptoe & Son". Both actors accept and the show is an instant success, running into several seasons. However the success plays on the two actors in different ways; Corbett becoming increasingly frustrated at the dominance of Steptoe in his career, while Brambell struggles with his own self-loathing, loneliness and sexual tastes.

The usual foul up with Sky's auto-tune service (no wonder so many people throw in the towel and get Sky+) meant that I missed the first five minutes of this film but it didn't seem to matter so much because the quality here was consistent and high enough to engage even with one short scene. To many I'm sure the film will be a matter of common knowledge in its portrayal of the careers of Brambell and Corbett but for me it was all new. Of course I have seen Steptoe & Son myself and before that had the accepted wisdom of it as a classic but I was not aware of the behind-the-scenes stories. What this film does so expertly is to not really get into the very specific events (although these are part of the story) but rather play the story out within the characters themselves.

What I mean is, rather than Brambell's arrest being interesting because it happened, it is interesting in regards how it affected him. This is an important approach within the material because key to the film is the "happening" of Steptoe, and the fact that it kept happening. As an event it is done in the early stages but as an impact it is the whole story. It was interesting to see this played out and it points clearly to the main selling point of the film – the two leads. Isaacs is really good. At first I didn't see how he would do it but he not only pulls off a great "impression" of the Corbett we know but also finds a real person within that he can deliver. It is tragic to watch fame extinguish his hopes and aims over the course of years and his performance gets this sense of decline just right and there is not a flick of a switch to do it. Davis is just as good with a typically pained and tragic turn even if, for Brambell, there was the suggestion of more of a "happy" ending in the film. Allam, Kinnear and Gorman play the writers/producers well but the former is lumbered with a really bad beard, perhaps to try and stop the "oh look its him offa Torchwood" effect. Samuels' direction of his cast is excellent and he also benefits them with good shots but Fillis deserves a lot of praise for this script.

Overall then this is a great film that goes past the events to see the pain and the change within the two famous characters. It is not a hard watch by any means, but it is not a fun one either. A superior drama that deserves to be given a bigger platform than it got on BBC4.


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