Friday, September 16, 2011

Justice Starring Margaret Lockwood

In the United States it was not unusual for once popular movie stars to appear in their own television series. Jimmy Stewart starred in his own sitcom, The Jimmy Stewart Show, and in the mystery series Hawkins. Doris Day found herself starring in The Doris Day Show only a few years after she was the top star at the box office. It was not only in the United States that once popular movie stars headlined their own TV programmes, however, as it was also true of the United Kingdom. Margaret Lockwood, the top box office star in Britain in the Forties, starred in two television shows. The first was The Flying Swan with her daughter Julia. The second and more famous of Miss Lockwood's series was Justice. Justice ran from 1971 to 1974. Three series were made for a total of 39 episodes.

The origins of Justice can be found with two television programmes that aired on ITV in the late Sixties. One was the anthology series ITV Playhouse. On 14 July 1969 Margaret Lockwood starred in the teleplay "Justice is a Woman." Miss Lockwood played barrister Julia Stanford, who must defend a young man accused of murder. "Justice is a Woman" would serve as the inspiration for Justice. The other series that would lead to Justice was the programme The Main Chance. The Main Chance starred John Stride as solicitor David Main, who leaves London to set up his own practice in his hometown of Leeds. Produced by Yorkshire Television, the show proved very popular. In fact, it was so popular that Yorkshire Television's head of drama, Peter Willes, decided to gamble on another legal drama. He assigned legal consultant John Batt, writers Edmund Ward and James Mitchell, and directors John Frankau and Christopher Hodson, to the new Yorkshire Television legal drama, Justice.

Although inspired by the teleplay "Justice is a Woman," Justice was not a continuation of it. On Justice Margaret Lockwood played Harriet Peterson, who must work as a barrister for a living after her husband is sent to prison. Like David Main on The Main Chance, Harriet worked the northern court circuit in the first series of Justice. Romantic interest on the series was provided by Dr. Ian Moody, played by Miss Lockwood's real life partner John Stone.  For the second series of Justice she moved to London and the cast of the programme grew as well. Added to the show were empty headed secretary Rose, clerk bill, and head of chambers Sir John Gallagher. The third series would see one more character added, that of barrister James Elliot.

While each episode saw Harriet defend someone accused of a crime, her clients and cases could vary greatly. One week she might defend someone accused of drunk driving, while the next week she might have a case involving international espionage. Her clients ranged from average, middle class Englishmen to Greek shipping magnates. Her relationship with Dr. Ian Moody, very much on again and off again, provided subplots running throughout the series. By the final episode Harriet had been made a Queen's Counsel. She also finally accepted one of Dr. Moody's marriage proposals.

Justice has been repeated a few times since its original run went off the air in 1974. In the Nineties it was rerun on Carlton Select and Bravo. Sadly, it has never aired in the United States. In fact, I rather suspect most of Miss Lockwood's fans have never seen any of her work on British television. I know I would very much like to, particularly Justice. Sadly, Justice has not yet been released on DVD. If it is ever released on DVD, I rather suspect it will only be available in Region 2. Having never aired in the United States, it is very doubtful that it would be released in Region 1.

Regardless, Justice was a bit of a last hurrah for Margaret Lockwood. Following the end of the programme's run, Miss Lockwood would appear only one more time on screen, playing the stepmother in the film The Slipper and the Rose: The Story of Cinderella (1976).  In some respects it would be fitting that Justice would be her last well known work. From all reports in many ways Harriet Peterson was very much like the roles Miss Lockwood had played on film: strong minded, independent, and intelligent.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Margaret Lockwood 95th Birthday Blogathon.

Today is Margaret Lockwood's 95th birthday. To celebrate, A Shroud of Thoughts is hosting a blogathon. I'll be adding the links to the posts from various blogs in the blogathon throughout the day. Also, if you want to participate, it is not too late to do so. You can post on any aspect of Maggie's career. You can discuss one of her movies, her television work, or even just give an overview of her career. And here I must say that if you simply want to post pictures, that is fine as well!

Here at A Shroud of Thoughts I wrote an overview of Margaret Lockwood's career, "Margaret Lockwood's 95th Birthday." Over at True Classics Brandie has an excellent review of Miss Lockwood's film The Stars Look Down (1940). Again here at A Shroud of Thoughts is a summary of the show Justice starring Margaret Lockwood, published tomorrow.

I want to thank everyone who participated. I realise that this blogathon didn't have many participants, but then I do not think that there can be any argument that while the quantity of posts may have been low, the quality was quite high!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Margaret Lockwood's 95th Birthday

(Since tomorrow is Margaret Lockwood's birthday and A Shroud of Thoughts is hosting the Margaret Lockwood 95th Birthday Blogathon tomorrow, I thought I would do my entry for the blogathon tonight.)

It was 95 years ago today, on 15 September 1916, that English actress Margaret Lockwood CBE was born Margaret Mary Lockwood Day in Karachi, British India (now a part of Pakistan). Her father was a clerk for a British railway company.  Her mother was a rather strict, domineering woman of Scottish descent.  She was three years old when she and her brother Lyn moved with their mother to London. Given her mother's temperament, it should be little wonder that young, shy, and sensitive Margaret Lockwood would escape into the make believe world of the theatre. Indeed, as history shows, Miss Lockwood would make a very good living at what had begun as mere escapism.

Indeed, at the height of her fame in the Forties, Margaret Lockwood was the top grossing star at the box office in the United Kingdom. While in the United States Miss Lockwood was merely a British star of some fame, in the UK she was a veritable phenomenon. At personal appearances throughout Great Britain in the Forties it was not unusual for Margaret Lockwood to draw the sort of mobs that Frank Sinatra did in the United States at the time or The Beatles would twenty years later in both the U.S. and the UK. It was little wonder that the dark haired beauty was called "the Queen of British Hearts."

Margaret Lockwood began her path to stardom while still very young. She attended the Italia Conti Academy in London as a young girl. She made her stage debut at age 12 as a fairy in a production of A Midsummer's Night Dream at the Holborn Empire. In 1933, at the age of sixteen, she enrolled in the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. She was at the Royal Academy performing in a production of Hannele when she was spotted by agent Herbert de Leon. From there Miss Lockwood got a screen test and not long after that the role of Annie Ridd in Lorna Doone (1934).

For the next few years Margaret Lockwood would appear primarily in ingénue roles in films such as The Beloved Vagabond (1936) and Doctor Syn (1937). It would be two films that would change the course of Miss Lockwood's career. The first was Carol Reed's drama Bank Holiday (1938). While the character of nurse Catherine Lawrence was not too different from the ingénues Miss Lockwood had been playing, the movie was very successful in the United Kingdom and established her as a star. The second film would have an even greater impact on Margaret Lockwood's career. That film was Alfred Hitchcock's The Lady Vanishes (1938). In the film Miss Lockwood played Iris, a young woman who was independent, strong willed, intelligent, and resourceful. Indeed, it would be Iris who would suspect a conspiracy when elderly Miss Froy (played by Dame May Whitty) disappears. The film would not only cement Miss Lockwood's stardom in the United Kingdom, but establish her fame in the United States as well. Indeed, in the United States, Margaret Lockwood may be best known for The Lady Vanishes (1938).

With the success of The Lady Vanishes Margaret Lockwood would find herself in Hollywood. Sadly, Hollywood not treat Miss Lockwood well. The first film she made there was a Shirley Temple vehicle, Susannah of the Mounties (1939), in which she got third billing to Miss Temple and Randolph Scott. In Frank Lloyd's Rules of the Sea (1939) Miss Lockwood was at least the lead actress. Unfortunately the film was rather forgettable and Miss Lockwood's part not particularly remarkable. After only two pictures Miss Lockwood left Hollywood for the greener pastures of England and Gainsborough.  It was perhaps the best career decision she ever made.

Indeed, the first film she made after her return to England was another Carol Reed movie. In The Stars Look Down (1940) Miss Lockwood played selfish, manipulative Jenny Sunley. The role was a departure for Miss Lockwood and arguably the first truly wicked character she ever played. She would follow The Stars Look Down with another Carol Reed movie, this one a thriller. In Night Train to Munich (1940) Miss Lockwood played the daughter of a scientist who finds herself in a Nazi concentration camp. If there was truly a turning point in Miss Lockwood's career, however, it was perhaps the Regency period piece The Man in Grey (1943).  In the film Margaret Lockwood played the scheming Hester Shaw, a woman so amoral that she even betrays her best friend (played by Phyllis Calvert).  The Man in Grey inaugurated the era of the Gainsborough Gothic, melodramas that sometimes pushed the envelope with regards to sex and sin.

In fact, what may have been the most famous of the Gainsborough Gothics may also be Margaret Lockwood's most famous film besides The Lady Vanishes. In The Wicked Lady (1945), Miss Lockwood played Barbara Worth, a nobleman's wife who takes up a life of crime as a highwayman. It would be one Gainsborough Gothic which proved rather too hot to handle for Hollywood's Breen Office. The Breen Office ruled that the actress's costumes showed far too much cleavage (even though they were based on actual Restoration fashions) and also demanded changes to dialogue which the Hollywood censors thought a bit too risqué. Because of the demands of the Breen Office, Miss Lockwood actually had to postpone a vacation in order to re-shoot whole scenes before the movie could be released in the United States. Regardless, the film would prove incredibly successful in the United Kingdom, with an estimated 18.4 million people going to see it (this places it at #9 in the top ten biggest films in the UK according to the British Film Institute). The Wicked Lady  would not see such spectacular success in the United States, but it would do respectably well there. In the wake of the success of The Wicked Lady, Margaret Lockwood would be at the top of the United Kingdom's box office for the following five years.

Quite naturally Margaret Lockwood would play more femmes fatales after The Wicked Lady, most notably a serial poisoner and black widow in Bedelia (1946).  Eventually she would drift away from the wicked ladies for which she was known to other roles. She played a gypsy servant accused of murder in Jassy (1947), the warden of a home for wayward girls in The White Unicorn (1947), and a British Embassy employee in Rio de Janeiro who marries the wrong man in Look Before You Love (1948). 

Unfortunately, as the British cinema declined in the late Forties and early Fifties, so too did Margaret Lockwood's popularity. This may well have been complicated by some bad choices on her part. She turned down an offer from Hollywood to star in Forever Amber (1947) and later the film adaptation of Terence Rattigan's play The Browning Version (1951). In the Fifties Miss Lockwood would not see the success on the silver screen that she had in the Forties. Her only remarkable film from the era would be Cast a Dark Shadow (1955), in which she co-starred with Sir Dirk Bogarde. It would be one of her best performances.

Miss Lockwood would return to the stage. She would play the title role in Peter Pan, star in Noel Coward's Private Lives, play Eliza Doolittle in Pygmalion, and other plays ranging from Oscar Wilde's An Ideal Husband to Agatha Christie's Spider Web (which Miss Christie wrote for Margaret Lockwood). She would also appear on television, on such series as ITV Play of the Week, ITV Playhouse, and Whodunit. She would appear alongside her daughter Julia in the series The Flying Swan. Miss Lockwood's most famous television work may have been the series Justice, which ran from 1971 to 1974. The series featured Miss Lockwood as barrister Harriet Peterson. Miss Lockwood would make her last appearance on screen in The Slipper and the Rose: The Story of Cinderella (1976). 

Margaret Lockwood was dubbed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1980. She died on 15 July 1990 at the Cromwell Hospital in London. 

Margaret Lockwood would be the last wholly English star to dominate the British cinema. What is more, she was an actress who attained a modicum of fame in the United States without appearing in Hollywood movies. To some degree it is very easy to understand why Miss Lockwood would be so successful. There can be no doubt that she was beautiful. She was of the same class of brunette beauties as Vivien Leigh and Gene Tierney, women so stunning it was hard not to stare at them. And there can be no doubt that she was talented. Although Miss Lockwood is now best known for playing femmes fatales, she played a variety of roles throughout her career and did so convincingly. She played everything from a music hall star (I'll Be Your Sweetheart-1945) to fatally ill pianist (Love Story-1944) to a serial killer (Bedelia). It must be pointed out that in British cinema of the Forties there were other actresses who were fantastically beautiful and other actresses who were extremely talented as well. Why then was Margaret Lockwood the centre of such devotion in the United Kingdom in the Forties that she became a phenomenon?

Part of this could be explained by the nature of British cinema in the Forties, as well as possibly Margaret Lockwood herself. In 1946 62% of the British movie going audience was female. This means that the majority of Miss Lockwood's fans at the time could well have been women. While most of Miss Lockwood's fans may have been female, Gainsborough producer Edward Black said, "Margaret Lockwood had something with which every girl in the suburbs could identify." It would seem then that most women could identify with Miss Lockwood, and this is reflected in many of the roles she played. While perhaps prettier, more intelligent, and more resourceful than most, Iris Henderson in The Lady Vanishes is essentially an average girl from the upper middle class. Similarly, Catherine Lawrence in Bank Holiday was an average working class girl in a profession common to women at the time--she was a nurse. Although very beautiful, Miss Lockwood was very adept at playing the "average" woman.

That having been said, it would seem that Miss Lockwood's appeal had to go beyond the average woman being able to identify with her. Indeed, it is hard to see how any woman could identify with Barbara Worth from The Wicked Lady, let alone Bedelia in the movie of the same name. It would then seem that in addition to playing roles with which the average woman could identify, she could also play roles in movies that were pure escapism for the average woman. This is particularly true of the Gainsborough Gothics, costume melodramas with often lurid plots that sometimes pushed the boundaries of what was acceptable. Margaret Lockwood played these roles as convincingly as those of the "average" women she played, putting her at an advantage over many actresses of the era, who were often typecast in one sort of role or another.

So far I have only discussed Miss Lockwood's appeal to women. Speaking as a man, I must say that she must have appealed to men as well. Miss Lockwood was obviously beautiful and well shaped. There is no doubt that she was appealing to the male eye. What is more, many of her films were so blatantly sexual that they pushed the envelope of what was acceptable at the time. Indeed, in the case of The Wicked Lady the Breen Office in the United States thought Gainsborough had gone well beyond what was acceptable. In real life Margaret Lockwood may have been an average (if extremely beautiful), middle class woman, but on screen she could absolutely ooze sex appeal. Combined with the sometimes racy scripts of the Gainsborough Gothics, I would rather be surprised if Miss Lockwood was not the object of sexual fantasy for a few British men in the Forties.

While women may have identified with Margaret Lockwood and men may have wanted her, there could be a reason that both women and men in the United Kingdom of the Forties adored Margaret Lockwood. With but few exceptions, Margaret Lockwood played intelligent, independent women. In fact, her two most famous roles are examples of this. In The Lady Vanishes Iris Henderson knows something is wrong when Miss Foy vanishes. What is more, she sets out to investigate what has happened and lets nothing stand in her way as she does so. In The Wicked Lady Barbara North not only seduces Sir Ralph Skelton into marrying her, but launches herself into a successful life of crime as a female version of  Dick Turpin. Many of Margaret Lockwood's characters shared these qualities of intelligence and high spirit with Iris and Barbara. From music hall star Edie Storey of I'll Be Your Sweetheart to Lucy of The White Unicorn, whether good or bad, Miss Lockwood's characters were always intelligent and they were never pushovers. Both women and men could appreciate characters who were bright, independent, and strong willed. 

Regardless, Margaret Lockwood would be the queen of the British box office in the Forties and perhaps the last fully English star to dominate British cinema. Furthermore, she has maintained popularity worldwide, even in the United States where Hollywood movies have tended to predominate. I rather suspect that the qualities which made her popular in the Forties have maintained her popularity since that time and will continue to do so in the future.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Spartacus Star Andy Whitfield Passes On

Andy Whitfield, who starred in the Starz series Spartacus: Blood and Sand, passed on 11 September 2011 at the age of 39. The cause was non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

Andy Whitfield was born in Amlwch, Wales on 17 July 1972. He studied engineering at the University of Sheffield and moved to Australia where he worked as an engineer in Lidcombe, New South Wales. In 1999 he moved to Sydney where he attended Screenwise Film and TV School for Actors. He made his television debut in an episode of the Australian TV series All Saints in 2004. He made his movie debut playiing the lead role in the Australian dark fantasy film Gabriel (2007). He would go onto appear in the TV series The Strip, Packed to the Rafters, and McLeod's Daughters. His last film was the Australian thriller The Clinic (2010). Mr. Whitfield would become famous in the United States for playing the title role in the Starz series Spartacus: Blood and Sand. He had taken a temporary leave from the show in the hope that he could recover to do a second season. Sadly, Mr. Whitfield never recovered. It is said that he died in the arms of his wife Vashti.

I must say that I am truly saddened by Andy Whitfield's passing. As the star of Spartacus: Blood and Sand, he was central to the show's success. Mr. Whitfield played the legendary Thracian warrior with a pathos rarely seen in previous portrayals of the historical figure. He brought humanity to the character of Spartacus, tormented by the loss of his wife and the loss of his freedom. At the same time, however, one could see in Mr. Whitfield's performance the steel inside Spartacus which would lead him to spark the most successful slave revolt in Roman history. Andy Whitfield was a fine actor who could well have gone to a highly successful career had he not developed cancer. Brief though his career was, he will be remembered.

Monday, September 12, 2011

The Monkees Turn 45

Today is a very significant day for me.  It was 45 years ago today, at 7:30 Eastern/6:30 Central that The Monkees debuted.  Ever since childhood The Monkees has been my favourite sitcom and my favourite American show. What is more, The Monkees remain one of my favourite bands, right up there with The Beatles and The Who. No matter how depressed I am, I can always put a Monkees episode on my DVD player or a Monkees song on my CD player and I will feel better.

For those few of you who have never heard of The Monkees, the show centred on a down and out rock group (Mike Nesmith, Mickey Dolenz, Peter Tork, and Davy Jones) who would have adventures that ranged from thwarting crooked dance studios to fighting gangsters to saving the world from an alien invasion. It was like no other sitcom before or since, blending elements of The Marx Brothers' movies, The Beatles movies (A Hard Day's Night and Help!), Warner Brothers cartoons, and even French cinema. While the average Monkees episode might contain a stock Hollywood plot in which the boys fought spies, gangsters, pirates, and even The Devil himself, the series itself was actually quite unique at the time. The show moved at a rapid fire pace with sight gags, non sequiturs, one liners, comic inserts, and various surreal film techniques (solarisation, slow motion, fast motion, distorted focus, so on and so forth).

Music naturally played a central role in the show, and each episode featured one to three songs. The songs were worked into Monkees episodes in what were called "romps." Most often the romps were an integral part of an episode, with a song playing as The Monkees ran from or fought the bad guys. Other romps might simply consist of The Monkees playing at a dance or club within the context of the episode. Often romps would resemble the promotional films of the time or the music videos of today, pertinent to the theme of the episode (for example, an episode in which Davy falls in love--which sometimes seemed like every other episode--might feature a romp with clips of Davy spending time with his current sweetheart). Other romps might take the form of a performance clip performed outside the context of the episode.

For myself, I cannot remember a time when The Monkees was not a part of my life. In fact, both the show and the band have been a part of my life so long that not only can I not remember when I first saw The Monkees, but I cannot remember if I heard their music or saw the show first. Either is possible. My much older sister owned The Monkees' first two albums, which would be played to death by my brother and I on our stereo. As to the show itself, while The Monkees aired from 1966 to 1968 on NBC, it would receive a new life in reruns on Saturday morning on CBS and later ABC from 1969 to 1973. Afterwards it would enter syndication and air on cable channels from MTV to TV Land.  From when I was a very young lad, I had plenty of time to watch The Monkees.

As to why I loved the show as a child, I think that in part could be summed up by Michael Nesmith's commentary on one of the episodes on the DVD sets released by Rhino years ago. Mike put forth the idea that The Monkees probably appealed most to ten year old boys. After all, most episodes of the show were of the sort that ten year old boys tend to enjoy, episodes that featured gangsters, spies, mad scientists, cowboys, and even pirates. It was the plots of these episodes, then, that probably attracted me as a lad. After all, on what other sitcom could one see four madcap boys fighting gangsters one week and alien invaders the next? And to a large degree it is this aspect of The Monkees that still appeals to me. I can sit down and watch The Monkees and suddenly I am ten years old again.

Of course, if The Monkees appealed only to ten year old boys (and the 10 year old boy inside of all men), then I don't think I'd be writing about it 45 years after its debut. In addition to 10 year old boys, I think the show has probably always appealed to young, college age men. Indeed, I remember back in the Eighties when MTV picked up the series, my friends and I identified with The Monkees. After all, here we were, young, non-conformist twentysomethings, not unlike The Monkees on the show. Granted, we never battled spies or gangsters, but we shared the same sort of camaraderie The Monkees had amongst themselves and tended to view the world as one big playground much as The Monkees did. In this respect The Monkees operated on much the same level as the British show The Young Ones, another show about young, twentysomething men.

Even then, as I am no longer a 10 year old boy or a college age young man, one would think The Monkees would lose its appeal for me. The plain fact is that it has not. Much of this is the simple fact that then, as now, The Monkees  was downright subversive. The show broke television rules at the time, not only in centring on four men in their early twenties with no adult over thirty in sight, but in its very structure. Although the show has often been accused of plagiarising A Hard Day's Night and Help!, in truth it went a good deal further than either movie in terms of surrealism. Not even Laugh In, which would debut in the latter half of The Monkees' last season, moved at the pace which The Monkees did. Jokes, one liners, and sight gags came so swiftly on the show that it is sometimes hard to keep up with them. Indeed, that the occasional drug reference slipped by, it is clear that NBC Broadcast Standards did not keep up with the show's rapid fire delivery. The show also utilised techniques that had so far only been used in the French and British New Waves and few other places: solarisation, distorted focus,  comic inserts, fast motion, slow motion, and other techniques that had never been used on television, let alone in a sitcom.

Perhaps the most subversive aspect of The Monkees, however, may have been in the fact that it centred on four college aged youths with no adult to supervise them. It was not a simple case of The Monkees wearing long hair (a fact that caused some consternation among NBC affiliates at the time), but the fact that the show featured four young men who, in the course of having fun, turned the tables on much older villains. The Monkees fought a crooked dance studio, a crooked gym, gangsters, spies, and mad scientists, most of who were older than they were. While The Monkees episodes themselves contained no overt political statements, there was a subtext in those episodes that young people could change the world. After all, if four young long haired men could defeat a scientist trying to control the world with a giant plant, what could young people in real life be capable of? Of course, in the interviews that sometimes followed episodes The Monkees themselves could get political. In these interviews The Monkees commented on The Vietnam War and the Sunset Strip Riot of 1966 (which would later inspire Mike Nesmith's song "Nightly Daily").  The idea of four young men defying authority to be themselves is one that goes beyond ten year old boys and college age men. It is an idea that appeals to anyone of any age who has ever wanted to simply express themselves.

Of course, The Monkees was a show about a band, so that music always played a role on the show. Exposed at an early age to power pop bands such as The Beatles, The Who, and Paul Revere and The Raiders, it was a given that I would love The Monkees' music as well. After all, music producers and songwriters Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart intentionally patterned The Monkees' sound after British bands such as The Who and The Kinks, but with an American twist. Having loved power pop since birth, I would naturally love the songs of The Monkees. If I love Cheap Trick, The Knack, and The Posies, then, I do not simply owe a debt to The Beatles and The Who, but to The Monkees and Boyce and Hart as well.

In the end, it would seem that The Monkees was and is the perfect show for me. It is a show that was truly funny, with a slightly subversive message that all one has to do to change the world is to be oneself. It had some great scripts, great direction, and a look that was wholly its own. The Monkees was and is a show that appealed to ten year olds and the ten year olds still within us all. The show still airs in reruns on television and DVD  collections of its two seasons are still available. I know I am not unique in my love for The Monkees. I know there are many others and suspect that there always will be.

Sunday, September 11, 2011


Ten years ago on this date, on 11 September 2001, I awakened to horror. The morning started as it usually did. I woke up and turned on the television to watch Today. It was on Today that learned two planes had struck the twin towers of the World Trade  Centre. The news would only grow worse as the day progressed. The towers collapsed, taking the lives of all within the towers and the surrounding area. Another plane crashed into the Pentagon. A fourth plane, United Airlines Flight 93, crashed in Somerset County, Pennsylvania. The passengers of Flight 93 had learned of the attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon, and chose to resist rather than allow the terrorists to take more lives. In the end the 9/11 attacks were the worst terrorist attacks in the history of the United States. The death toll surpassed that of even the attack on Pearl Harbour. Approximately 2996 people died that day as a result of the attacks.

Like many in the United States and around the world, 11 September 2001 was indelibly etched in my mind. It is a day that I can remember almost as vividly as if it had happened yesterday. And like many the pain I felt that day is still fresh, the wound is still open. I still feel the horror and sorrow at the deaths of so many, some of them children. And I still fail to comprehend how anyone could be so cowardly, so evil, as to hijack a plane with the intent of crashing it into buildings and murdering innocent, unarmed men, women, and children. I still cannot help shedding tears for the victims of those attacks, the heroes who died on that day in the line of duty,  and their families. It is then on this day, the 10th anniversary of those attacks, that I am remembering them and thinking of them.

Of course, this blog is dedicated to pop culture and I would be lax in my duties as this blog's author if I did not discuss the impact that the 9/11 attacks had on Anglo-American pop culture. Like the attack on Pearl Harbour in 1941, the 9/11 attacks would not only alter American society, but make significant changes to American music, movies, and television series as well. The sheer enormity of the attacks were such that they could not help but have huge and far reaching effects on pop culture. In fact, many of those effects are still felt to this day.

Sadly, the 9/11 attacks would have an effect on one still popular television show even as United Airlines Flight 11 crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Centre. Aboard that flight was television writer and producer David Angell and his wife Lynn Edwards Angell. Mr. Angell had written for such shows as Archie Bunker's Place and The Pursuit of Happiness. He was both a writer and a producer on Cheers and Wings. He was one of the creators of Frasier, as well as a producer and writer on the show. Both Lynn and David had founded The Angell Foundation to help those in need. The murders of David and Lynn Angell left Frasier without one of its creators for its last two years. It was in memory of David Angell that on the show Niles and Daphne Crane's son was named "David." In memory of David Angell and in tribute to his philanthropy, The American Screenwriters Association established the David Angell Humanitarian Award.

Other than the murders of the Angells, the most immediate impact that the 9/11 attacks had on Anglo-American pop culture was the pre-emption of television programming for news coverage of the 9/11 attacks. In fact, for the American television networks this meant the delay of the start of the 2001-2002 television season. The series Crossing Jordan had been set to debut on NBC the very night of the attacks. It would not debut until 24 September 2011. In the United Kingdom both BBC and ITV would suspend their usual programming for coverage of the attacks.

Another immediate effect was that the television, movie, and radio industries took steps to insure that they did nothing to cause further pain or grief as a result of the attacks. The Simpsons episode, "The City of New York vs. Homer Simpson" was withdrawn from the show's syndication package. A good part of the episode had featured the World Trade Centre. In the past few years the episode has been returned to syndication, although its content has been edited. The Cartoon Network postponed the airing of specific episodes of Dragon Ball Z, The Powerpuff Girls, Grim and Evil, and Cowboy Bebop.  The Cartoon Network outright cancelled Mobile Suit Gundam as not being suitable at the time. Fox postponed the debut of 24, a series which dealt extensively with terrorism, from October to November. The series' pilot episode would also be edited.  Even awards ceremonies would be postponed due to the 9/11 attacks, including 53rd Annual Primetime Emmy Awards (due to air on 16 September, it was delayed until 4 November) and the 2nd Annual Latin Grammy Awards (scheduled for 11 September, the awards were not given out until a press conference on 30 October).

 While the episodes of some shows were postponed or removed from circulation entirely, specific episodes of some shows were either re-written or re-edited. Episodes of Friends, Married..With Children, Neighbours, Spongebob Squarepants, and The Family Guy were either re-written or re-edited as it was felt that they had material which could be considered objectionable in the wake of the attacks. The openings of several shows were changed. The opening of Futurama had featured the Planet Express crashing into a television screen. This was edited out after the attacks. The openings of Sex and the City, Law and Order: Criminal Intent (just debuting that season--its original opening never aired), The Sopranos and Power Rangers Time Force were all edited to remove images of the Twin Towers.

One unexpected by-product of the 9/11 attacks is that older shows at the time, such as Friends, Frasier, and Everybody Loves Raymond, performed better in the ratings than they had in years. In fact the 2001-2002 television season may have been the first in which the phenomenon of the "comfort show"--old favourites that people watch in times of stress for comfort--was recognised. Related to the phenomenon of the comfort show and the need for individuals to return to simpler times in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, the networks debuted shows that were at least set partially in "simpler" times during the 2002-2003 season. The most successful of these shows may have been American Dreams, a drama set in Philadelphia in 1963. Fox debuted its own shows set in the "simpler" time of 1962. The sitcom Oliver Beene  centred on an ll year old living at that time. Both Do Over and That Was Then dealt with men given the chance to relive their lives in the Eighties. Not all shows created in the wake of 9/11 were meant to provide escapism for Americans. The F/X series Rescue Me, centred on a group of New York City firefighters, grew out of the attacks. Among the issues it addressed was the trauma experienced by many firefighters following the attacks.

The phenomenon of the comfort show may also explain the success of the police procedural CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, the espionage series 24, and similar shows. These were series in which, for the most part, the good guys won and the bad guys lost. Indeed, it is notable that CSI: Crime Scene Investigation was the smash hit of the 2001/2002 season and that, along with the Law and Order franchise and Crossing Jordan, it started a cycle towards police procedurals that lasted much of the decade. While the 9/11 attacks may have created renewed success for some shows and created cycles towards certain shows, they also altered the storylines of shows already on the air. The West Wing, JAG, Law and Order and Third Watch would all have to deal with the events of 11 September 2001 during their runs. In fact, a planned crossover event between Law and Order, Law and Order: Special Victims Unit, and Law and Order: Criminal Intent that dealt with terrorist attacks by the Taliban on New York City had been scheduled to start shooting in September 2011. After the 09/11 attacks, the crossover event was cancelled.

The related media of radio and music would also feel the effects of the 9/11 attacks. Not long after 11 September 2001, Clear Channel issued a memo to its 1200 stations  containing a list of 165 songs which it considered questionable following the attacks. At the time Clear Channel denied the memo even existed, although it later came to light that it did. That having been said, these songs were not banned from Clear Channel stations, it was simply suggested by Clear Channel that its stations avoid playing these songs following 9/11/2001. Even at the time it seemed ludicrous to think some of the songs on the list could have caused anyone offence in the wake of the attacks. Among the songs Clear Channel suggested its stations avoid were "Imagine" by John Lennon, "The Worst That Could Happen" by Brooklyn Bridge,  and "A World Without Love" by Peter and Gordon. While Clear Channel was suggesting to its stations that they not play certain songs, there was an upsurge in airplay of patriotic songs. The song "God Bless the USA" by Lee Greenwood had been released years earlier, but in the days following the 9/11 attacks it was played more than it ever been.

Not only were older patriotic songs being played more than they had been in years, but new patriotic songs were written in the wake of the attacks. This was especially true of the very conservative genre of country music. The year following the attacks saw the release of such songs as "Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)" by Alan Jackson and the very controversial "Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue" by Toby Keith. Country music may have produced more patriotic songs in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, but they were not alone in doing so. In 2001 Sir Paul McCartney wrote "Freedom" as a tribute to the United States. Lynyrd Skynyrd released "Red, White, and Blue" in 2003.

Bruce Springsteen would go a step further than many musical artists in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. His album The Rising, released 30 July 2002, dealt with Springsteen's reflections on the attacks. The title track dealt with the New York Fire Department's rescue operation at the World Trade Centre. "Lonesome Day" dealt with an individual who lost his beloved on 9/11/2001.

While patriotic songs were performed increasingly after the 9/11, various music artists saw to it that nothing they released added to the pain caused by the 9/11 attacks. Jimmy Eat World changed the title of its upcoming album Bleed American to Jimmy Eat World and the title of the song "Bleed American" to "Salt Sweat Sugar" so the titles would not be misinterpreted. Arrogant Worms would never perform the song "Worst Seat on the Plane" live as the album that it was on, Idiot Road, was released only a week after the attacks.

Like television and music, movies also felt the effects of the 9/11 attacks. Several movies that could possibly be considered disturbing following the attacks had their releases delayed. The comedy Big Trouble (2002) dealt with a nuclear device being smuggled aboard an aeroplane. Set for release on 21 September 2001, it was not released until 4 April 2002. When it was released it was promoted very little and disappeared from theatres swiftly. The Arnold Schwarzenegger film Collateral Damage (2002) had been scheduled for release 5 October 2001. Dealing as it did with terrorism, it was not released until 4 February 2002. Even movies that did not deal with terrorism in any way, shape, or form, were delayed because of the 9/11 attacks. The comedy View From the Top dealt with a flight attendant. Due to the attacks its release was moved from the holiday season of 2001 to April 2002. In the end it was not released until summer 2003. The Jackie Chan movie Nosebleed, which dealt with a window washer at the World Trade Centre who stops a terrorist plot, never even entered production.

Promotional material, such as movie trailers and posters, were also affected by the 9/11 attacks. The teaser trailer for Spider-Man (2002) had featured the World Trade Centre prominently. It was withdrawn after the attacks. A poster for Spider-Man, which featured the World Trade Centre reflected in Spider-Man's goggles, was also withdrawn. The original poster for Sidewalks of New York (2001) had also featured the Towers. It was altered before the film's release. 

Even movies themselves would be edited following the 9/11 attacks. The World Trade Centre was removed from the films Serendipity (2001), Zoolander (2001), and People I Know (2002). Some films were either rewritten or re-edited so as not to be reminiscent of the attacks. In Lilo and Stitch (2002) a scene in which Stitch took a 747 for a joy ride was re-edited so that he was seen zooming around mountains rather than skyscrapers. A scene in The Incredibles (2004) in which Mr. Incredible took his stress out on an abandoned building was changed entirely. The climax of Men in Black II (2002) was reworked so that it involved the Statute of Liberty instead of the World Trade Centre.

While the World Trade Centre was edited out of some films, it would remain in others. Troma producer Lloyd Kaufman reasoned that audiences would be able to see the World Trade Centre without being traumatised and left it in the opening narration of Citizen Toxie: Toxic Avenger IV. It was released 2 November 2001. Reportedly, the audience cheered at the sight of the Twin Towers. The World Trade Centre also remained in the films Spider-Man, Gangs of New York (2002), and Vanilla Sky (2002). 

Of course, the fact that the World Trade Centre could no longer be seen in the New York skyline created problems for movies set any time between 1973 and 2001. While some films immediately following the attacks removed the Twin Towers, there would be other films in which they had to be added. Miracle (2004), which dealt with the United States hockey team in the 1980 Olympics, had the World Trade Centre digitally restored to the New York skyline. The World Trade Centre was also restored to the New York skyline for Watchmen (2009), which was set in the Eighties, albeit in an alternate history. The 2005 movie Munich, set in 1973, also included the Twin Towers.

The 9/11 attacks would also provide the basis for feature films. Stairwell: Trapped in the World Trade Centre (2002) may have been the first feature film to deal with the attacks. It centred on a group of people trapped in one of the sub-basements of the World Trade Centre after the North Tower collapsed. United 93 (2006), released on 28 April 2006, was a dramatisation of the hijacking of United Flight 93 and the passengers' resistance against the hijackers. Oliver Stone's World Trade Centre was released a few months later on 9 August 2006. The film dealt with two Port Authority officers trapped under the rubble of the Twin Towers following the attacks. Reign Over Me (2007) dealt with a character who had literally lost everything in the 9/11 attacks. The 9/11 attacks would also play a role in the film Remember Me (2010).

While very few motion pictures would deal directly with the 9/11 attacks or even acknowledge the events of that day, the attacks on 11 September 2001 would have an impact on the sort of movies one would see in the next ten years. While X-Men had met with success in 2000 and other superhero films (in particular, Spider-Man) were already planned before 11 September 2001, it seems quite possible that the cycle towards superhero movies that dominated much of the Naughts was a direct reaction to the attacks. Indeed, it seems significant that Spider-Man would be the third biggest box office film of 2002 and the most successful superhero film up until that time. Just as in the comic books, the city of New York played a central role in the film. The city would play an even larger role in the film's sequel, Spider-Man 2 (2004), particularly in a scene in which average New Yorkers are willing to fight Doctor Octopus to protect an injured Spider-Man.  Following Spider-Man would be other superhero movies, including X2 (2003), Daredevil (2003), Hellboy (2004), Batman Begins (2005), and others. While Spider-Man was phenomenally successful, it seems likely that much of the reason for the cycle towards superhero movies was the need for escapist entertainment following 11 September 2011. In superhero movies, the good guys always win.

Superhero movies would not only dominate the Naughts, but escapist films in general. For the most part the highest grossing films of the decade would be escapist fare. The Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, the Shrek movies, the Harry Potter franchise, and Avatar all transported audiences to a different time or a different world. Much of the reason for these films' success could well be the need to escape the reality of a post 9/11 world. To a degree many of these films, particularly those dealing with established characters such as Batman and Harry Potter, operated on the same level as the comfort shows of television. They served to comfort individuals by reminding them of simper times in the days before the 9/11 attacks. The need for "comfort movies" could also be the reason why the Naughts would see so many remakes. Over the decade Alfie, 3:10 to Yuma, Death Race 2000, Freaky Friday, Halloween, The Longest Yard, and many others would be remade. Beyond Hollywood's persistent idea that a familiar title means money, there could have been the same principle at work as comfort shows on television. Hollywood sought to provide audiences with reassurance and comfort by giving them familiar titles and familiar plots in an updated form.

In the end the attacks of 11 September 2001 would have a lasting impact on pop culture. Many of these effects would last throughout the decade of the Naughts. Perhaps because of the 9/11 attacks, television would see a cycle towards police procedurals and other similar TV shows in which the good guys generally won. The storylines of several television shows would be forever altered, while new shows (NCIS, for one) would be forced to deal with the realities of the war on terrorism. Movies would see cycles towards superhero movies and escapist films that took audiences away from reality. Movies based on familiar properties and remakes of older films would become common. While many of these events may have happened had the 9/11 attacks never occurred, it seems likely that most of them would not have.

The simple fact is that pop culture does not exist in a vacuum. Pop culture does respond to the major events in society. The Great Depression would have an impact on movies from King Kong (1933) to My Man Godfrey (1936). World War II would result in comic book heroes battling the Nazis as patriotic movies filled the screens of cinemas everywhere. Pop culture would then respond to the 9/11 attacks, the enormity of which could not be ignored. That pop culture is still affected to some degree by the events of 11 September 2001 can be seen not simply in the sheer media coverage of the 10th anniversary of that day, but in the raw emotion still felt by many of us on remembering the atrocities committed on that day. There are some events so terrible, so incomprehensible, so evil, that they should never be forgotten. It would seem, then, that the events of 9/11 will affect American pop culture for a long time to come.