A massive thank-you to Kaleidoscope for granting us access to their script archive and making this possible.
The summer of 1970 was an interesting time for Coronation Street. June Howson was settling in as producer and the traditional cast shake-up was underway; Irma Barlow was already back on our screens, Alan Howard was soon to become the third Mr. Elsie Tanner, Julie Goodyear would shortly begin her 25-year stint as Bet Lynch and the axe had fallen on most of the younger cast, namely Sandra and Bernard Butler and the somewhat lifeless Dickie and Audrey Fleming. But it was the sad passing of Arthur Leslie on 30th June that affected the programme the most. As well as a much-loved member of the cast, as Rovers landlord Jack Walker he played a pivotal role and without him the show would fundamentally change, triggering Annie's ascendance to licensee and the return of Billy. Throw in a technician's strike at Granada that halted production for a month (well, it was the 70s) and you have a period that's bound to have changed a great deal from script to screen. Surely?
That was my thinking anyway. In particular, it was the question of how Corrie dealt with Arthur Leslie's sudden death that made me look over the original story outlines to find out just how far ahead the story team worked and if there was any Jack material in the pipeline that we never got to see. What I found was that the outlines for the period I checked, while broadly following the plots of the transmitted episodes, had at least one major change in each episode, and often more. Here are my findings.
The episodes I read over were 980 to 1005, broadcast 18th May to 7th September 1970. I will take it one storyline at a time, mentioning only the stories that were in some way changed. In each case, I'll start by summarising the storyline as it was broadcast. Note that these comparisons are based on story outlines, and not full scripts.
The Ogdens and Dave Smith
- Transmitted: Recently widowed Irma Barlow has been going out with Dave Smith, ignoring Bernard Butler's obvious interest in her. Stan isn't keen either; Dave holds the deeds to their house, and so they can't afford to upset him. As Dave is rich, Hilda pushes him him and Irma together, but the relationship soon fizzles out. Meanwhile, Bernard leaves Weatherfield to work in Saddleworth after Irma dashes his hopes for romance, and Bet Lynch returns to the area after bumping into Irma and Dave at a club.
I started from Ep. 980 for a few reasons. Firstly, the episodes immediately before this, in which the Flemings depart the Street, the events seem to have played out more or less as originally planned. Secondly, this is one that fans will be familiar with as it is on the Network DVD, and was the first time we saw Bet since 1966 - at least, in the finished episode it was. In the story outline, the woman Irma and Dave meet is named "Julie Ganley", manageress of the local launderette. It's likely the change was made when Julie Goodyear was cast and writers decided to make it the same character she played four years earlier.
Bernard's exit in the final version of Episode 984 comes after a rather sad scene where he hints to Irma that he'd stay in Weatherfield for her. It's obvious that Irma can't give him what he wants and it's a poignant moment when he slips away from the Rovers without anyone noticing. This compares favourably with the original plan in which Bernard told Minnie Caldwell that he was leaving to look after his mother, with no lead-up or closure on his feelings for Irma.
The central plot of Irma and Dave was mostly unchanged except in Episode 984, where Dave wines and dines the Ogdens in a posh restaurant. In the finished episode, an off-screen Stan spends all of his "scenes" either getting ready upstairs or in the toilet, so it's really no surprise that he was supposed to appear and this was a last-minute rewrite, probably due to illness on Bernard Youens's part although we don't know for certain. Irma would then have decided to stop seeing Dave in Episode 986 after he propositioned her, in a scene which seems to have fallen by the wayside with Dave completely absent from the recorded episode. More on this episode later.
- Transmitted: Susan Barlow is rushed into hospital with acute appendicitis when Ken gets a second opinion on her stomach pains, revealing that she was misdiagnosed by the first doctor.
This storyline was curtailed, with all being well after Susan's operation. In the original outline, there was more discussion concerning Doctor Crawford's negligence, including a debate in the Rovers over the fact that doctors are protected from public criticism. Meanwhile, a lad named Paul Isherwood came looking for Ken to tell him that he'd ruined his life (which would have served as the cliffhanger to Ep. 986). We would have found in the next episode that Paul's father had pulled his son out of Granston Technical College based on a bad report from Ken, his teacher. Based on this, Ken would have decided to let Dr. Crawford off with his mistake. None of this is in the finished episode and the storyline ends rather abruptly.
As an aside, it's never stated that Susan is the one who is ill, rather she and Peter named as "Barlow twin" and "other Barlow twin" throughout.
Elsie gets married
- Transmitted: Alan Howard returns to the scene in order to affect a reconciliation with Elsie, however he finds her cold and bitter. It's only when he gives up and prepares to move on that she changes her mind and they finally become a couple. The pair decide to marry in secret, telling only Len and Val, but word gets out and the regulars throw them a surprise reception at the Rovers. While they're on their honeymoon, Ray makes some calls and finds out that Alan owes a lot of people money. Word gets around that he can't pay anyone, especially after his cheque to Fairclough and Langton bounces, and his creditors demand he settle his bills. Alan only narrowly avoids being declared bankrupt, with Len convincing his creditors to enter into a moratorium agreement with Alan instead. Instead of living the high life in Bramhall, Alan and Elsie are forced to remain in Coronation Street for the time being.
The main thread of this block of episodes, kicking off in 986 where Alan comes back and discovers that Elsie has let herself go. As originally storylined, we'd have spent a couple of episodes living with Elsie in her gin-fuelled depression before Alan re-surfaced in the cliffhanger to Episode 987, with Elsie turning down an invite to the Isle of Man by Dave Smith in the meantime. Effectively, two episodes' worth of plot were compressed into Ep. 986 and the remainder of the storyline - while closely following the outline in terms of plot progression - played out an episode ahead of what was planned. It's not until Episode 1001 that the two versions match up, and that's only because the broadcast episodes jump straight to 1001 from 999, with no Ep. 1000. Ep. 987 is credited to two writers, Brian Finch and Susan Pleat - which is unusual for the time - leading me to suspect that the technician's strike is the cause of the lag.
There are some minor differences between the two versions - instead of Alan hearing that Elsie is looking for him and turning up at No.11, Elsie would have sought Alan out herself at his garage in Ashton-under-Lyne. In the wedding episode, the residents were meant to find out about the nuptials after intercepting a telegram from Dennis (which Jack reads), Bet isn't with Len when he surprises Elsie and Alan at the registry office, and Violet Carson wasn't originally present, meaning that we nearly missed out on a brilliant moment where Ena tells Elsie she'll clout 'er 'ear-'ole if she messes this one up (while I'm on it, there's no Handel Gartside in this or any subsequent episodes - a late addition, perhaps?).
- Transmitted: Bet and Irma move into the Corner Shop flat. Sandra Butler has become friendly with the pair, and joins them on an outing to Alderley Edge. Meanwhile, the Howards have been hinting to Sandra that she's in the way at No.11. On a night out with Bet and Lucille Hewitt, Sandra goes off with ex-con Judd Johnson and leaves Weatherfield in the middle of the night to go to London with him, despite Elsie's best efforts to stop her.
A storyline that bears only a passing resemblance to the original outline. Judd and his buddy Frank Bradley - Bet's on/off boyfriend throughout the early 1970s - are completely absent from the story breakdowns, including their earlier appearance where they stole one of Ernie's expensive cameras and tried to blame it on Ray Langton. Their characters were almost certainly conceived after Arthur Leslie died, and intended to fill a hole left by an aborted storyline involving the Walkers and Lucille (see below).
In the original plan, we'd have had a few extra episodes' worth of Sandra drama. It would still have begun with Sandra going to a house party with Lucille and Bet, but instead of Judd she'd have met a man in his mid-30s called Harry Slater. Hardened after Ray cheated on her with Audrey Fleming, Sandra would have thrown herself at Harry no questions asked. Smelling a rat from the moment she clapped eyes on Harry, Elsie would have had it confirmed by Irma, during a heated row in the Corner Shop, that Harry was a married man. However, this wouldn't have put Sandra off, with some home truths exchanged between her and Elsie. Harry's wife would then have come looking for Sandra, with Elsie actually ensuring that Sandra was present for the confrontation so that she would have to face the consequences of her actions. Sandra would then have learned her lesson and broken it off with Harry, returning to her mother's shortly thereafter, leaving the programme.
Quick note: the girls' excursion to Alderley Edge was a change from their original destination of perennial Corrie favourite, Blackpool.
Some storylines now that never made it to the screen at all.
- Annie has come to the conclusion that if she can't realise her aspirations herself, she'll have to do it through Lucille. However, Lucille doesn't want to go to nightschool to take a short-hand typing course, which Annie says she must do to get on in life. Annie thinks she's found the cause of Lucille's rebelliousness when she introduces her to her new boyfriend Robert, who's long haired, bearded, wears a flower-shirt, and takes pills with his tea. Before she has the chance to meddle, Lucille drops Robert, as he's a smug bore who supported Annie's ideas for her. She already has a new man, Desmond Burke, a young executive type with very good manners. Annie approves and invites him to a bar lunch, personally prepared by her. But Des isn't all that he seems either; when Annie brings up the typing course again, he suggests to Lucille that they get Annie to pay for the course and a typewriter and splash out with the money. Lucille eventually admits to Jack that she knew Desmond was no good and only paraded him in front of Annie to show that she shouldn't judge on appearances.
This would have been shot around the same time that Jack's death was written into the programme in the final version.
- A pigeon flies into Albert's back yard which he names Fred. He decides to race it and has a pigeon loft installed. Tommy Deakin then joins the scheme as a partner, telling Albert that he's a pigeon-racing expert from way back. The pair decide to release Fred from Alderley Edge and set Minnie up with a stop-watch to see how long it takes the bird to fly home. When they do so, Fred flies off in the opposite direction, but Tommy isn't worried - it'll be a short-cut. After a missed train home, the men find only Bobby waiting for them, Minnie having deserted her post after waiting for an hour; in Albert's words, leaving Fred at Bobby's mercy. Fred is never seen again.
Not really sure why this wasn't filmed but a similar storyline involving Albert and Stan Ogden aired in January 1975.
- Val is struggling to cope with the salon and running a home and packs in her job. It's only afterwards that Ken announces that he's bought a mini and they'll be relying on her wages to keep the car. In desperation, Val gets taken on at the Corner Shop while Maggie is away.
This takes us up to Episode 1005 after which the storylines change to reflect Arthur Leslie's passing so we'll never know what the storyliners had planned next. In the episode shown, Ken does buy a mini but the storyline is quite different, with the car breaking down and Alan repairing it at the Canal Garage for free, setting up an argument between him and the gaffer, Billy Walker.
Bits and bobs
A few other things to mention. As we know, Kenneth Farrington returned to the programme not long after Arthur Leslie's death. I had always assumed that the two things were linked but the outlines show otherwise - Eps. 1004 and 1005 were set to feature both Jack and Billy, and the storyline with Billy buying the Canal Garage would have proceeded exactly as it did in the show.
Some wonderful Stan Ogden material was present in the recorded episodes which was missing from the outlines, such as Episode 996 when he helps out a short-handed Emily at the Rovers and, constantly drinking, by the end of his shift he owes the till six shillings, and an epic double or quits battle between Stan and Albert from Episode 1001 in which Albert's winnings reach thousands of pounds before Stan voids the results due to Annie not having a gambling licence.
The original Episode 1005 would have been a good 'un for an Albert fan like myself. On his 75th birthday, Albert would repeatedly try and fail to interest the neighbours in marking the event. Ray suggests that no one's bothered because he never pays his round - a comment which offends Albert so much that when Ray offers to buy the pensioner a drop of rum to make it up to him, Albert refuses the drink. In the end, Minnie invites Stan into the snug to drink with Albert, and Stan eagerly accepts, expecting that Albert'll foot the bill as it's his birthday. Round after round goes by with Stan waiting patiently for Albert to put his hand in his pocket...
In the same episode, Emily would have given Bet and Irma a dressing down for leading Sandra Butler astray. The cliffhanger would then have seen Irma suggest that Emily join her and Bet on a night out to see what they really get up to, and being knocked for six when Emily replies 'yes'. The outline for Episode 1006 is the first one which reflects Arthur Leslie's death, and unfortunately the Emily storyline was dropped at this stage, so what happened next will have to be left to our imaginations.