BBC Arts has lined up three new Arena films for the festive season, from Passion Pictures, Fragile Films and Bohemia Films. Plus, a Christmas special about the Kanneh-Mason family from MaLarty Brown Media and Wag Entertainment and a production of the Peaky Blinders ballet Rambert and North South Production.
For Arena, Passion Pictures’ 70-minute film Caroline Aherne: Comedy Queen features unseen photographs and contributions from a cast of her lifelong friends and colleagues, including Steve Coogan, Jon Thompson, Craig Cash, Sue Johnston and producer Andy Harries. Caroline Aherne – Comedy Queen was commissioned by BBC Arts. The executive producer for Passion Pictures is Hamish Fergusson and the commissioning editor for the BBC is Mark Bell.
Feature length film Mad About The Boy: the Noel Coward Story examines the man who would become one of the most celebrated actors, playwrights and songwriters of his generation, told in his own words, music and extraordinary home movies. Narrated by Alan Cumming with Rupert Everett as the voice of Noel Coward the film features appearances from Laurence Olivier, Maggie Smith, Harold Pinter, Frank Sinatra, Lauren Bacall, Michael Caine and Lucille Ball.
Mad About The Boy: The Noel Coward Story was commissioned by BBC Arts. The executive producer for Unigram is Gregor Cameron and the commissioning editor for the BBC is Mark Bell.
Being Kae Tempest features rare insights into Tempest’s life throughout a period of profound personal and artistic change. The Director os Emily McDonald and Producer Todd Austin.
BBC Arts is also releasing its Christmas special about Britain’s most gifted classical musical family, Nottingham’s Kanneh-Masons, who visit Salzburg to walk in the footsteps of Austria’s most famous musical family, the Von Trapps – the inspiration behind Hollywood’s The Sound Of Music.
The Hills Are Alive With The Kanneh-Masons is a MacLarty Brown Media and Wag Entertainment production for BBC Two and BBC iPlayer (1x 60 check). The producer is Len Brown for MacLarty Brown Media, Executive producer for Wag Entertainment is Bridget Boseley and the location director is Ian Denyer. The Commissioning Editor for the BBC is Stephen James-Yeoman
The Peaky Blinders ballet will also feature on the BBC Arts slate. Filmed on the Birmingham Hippodrome stage, Rambert’s performance of their hit stage show Peaky Blinders: The Redemption of Thomas Shelby comes to BBC Four. It marks ten years since the first episode of Peaky Blinders aired on the BBC.
Rambert Dance in Peaky Blinders: The Redemption of Thomas Shelby is a Rambert and North South Production for BBC Four and BBC iPlayer (1 x 105). It was commissioned by BBC Arts. The executive producers are Helen Shute, Steven Knight, Caryn Mandabach, Emma Cahusac and Fiona Morris, and the commissioning editor for the BBC is Stephen James Yeoman.
To celebrate the release of the new Arena films, the BBC is bolstering the Arena archive available for audiences. BBC iPlayer and BBC Four will make available over 50 films from this BAFTA-winning arts series, many unseen for decades.
Mark Bell, commissioning editor for Arena at BBC Arts said: “The Arena archive is a treasure house of the best in creative documentary over nearly five decades and continues to be extraordinary. This year so far has been exceptional, with films that range from The Stones and Brian Jones to The Mysterious Mr Lagerfeld and with more on Kae Tempest, Caroline Aherne and Noel Coward coming up. I am delighted to have the opportunity to celebrate these classics alongside some wonderful new films.”
Caroline Aherne: Comedy Queen
The unique life and talent of Caroline Aherne is celebrated in a new Arena film, featuring unseen photographs and contributions from a cast of her lifelong friends, including Steve Coogan, John Thomson, Craig Cash and producer Andy Harries.
Aherne’s pioneering representation of working class and family life in The Royle Family won her three Baftas and changed comedy writing forever, while her alter-ego Mrs Merton’s question to stage performer Debbie McGee – “So what first attracted you to the millionaire Paul Daniels?” – is considered one of the greatest comic one-liners in British TV history.
The film traces Aherne’s life from childhood in Wythenshawe, Manchester, through her early adventures as a (rare) woman on Manchester’s alternative stand-up scene and the breakthrough moment when the BBC commissioned The Mrs Merton Show, when she fast became a national icon and surreptitious satirist-in-chief of mid-90s’ celebrity culture.
As the 90s entered its final years Aherne, with Craig Cash, conceived, wrote and starred in The Royle Family. Co-writers Henry Normal and Phil Mealy, and fellow cast members Sue Johnston, Ricky Tomlinson and Ralf Little recall the remarkable writing and acting talent at the heart the series – a sitcom playing out in near-real time, devoid of studio laughter, punchlines, or anything much happening at all – but that built huge audiences and garnered multiple awards.
As her star rose, the realities of living with her own fame came to define Aherne’s life, as she became a fixture of tabloid speculation about her personal life, something she would struggle with throughout her career.
Tragically Caroline died of cancer in 2016. Her friends recall not just the lasting cultural and creative legacy she left behind, but of the joy she found in human life, her inimitable sense of mischief and the happiness she brought those closest to her.
Produced and Directed by Claire Whalley and Hannah Lowes.
Caroline Aherne – Comedy Queen is a Passion Pictures production (1 x 70) for BBC Two and BBC iPlayer. It was commissioned by BBC Arts. The Executive Producer for Passion Pictures is Hamish Fergusson and the Commissioning Editor for the BBC is Mark Bell.
Mad About The Boy: The Noel Coward Story
There’s only one man in the world who’s described as The Master.
Born in a shabby London suburb at the turn of the 20th century, Noel Coward would become the most celebrated actor, playwright and songwriter of his generation. This is his remarkable journey, told in his own words, music and extraordinary home movies, in a new film for Arena.
Coward left school when he was only nine years old. “I was trained when I was very young as a show-off and I’ve continued triumphantly until this moment,” he told a tv interviewer.
A maverick, pioneer and pathfinder, by the age of 30 he was the highest-paid writer in the world and a star on the Broadway stage, writing, directing and acting in some of the finest plays and movies of all time, including Private Lives, Blithe Spirit, Brief Encounter and In Which We Serve.
Queer in a very straight world, Coward became one of the most successful artists of the 20th century, defining an era and leading an extraordinary life. He discovered John Gielgud, Laurence Olivier and David Lean; was a spy in the Second World War and a world-renowned songwriter and performer, of whom Frank Sinatra said, “If you want to hear how a song should be sung, go see Mr Noel Coward.”
Narrated by Alan Cumming with Rupert Everett as the voice of Noel Coward and appearances from Laurence Olivier, Maggie Smith, Harold Pinter, Frank Sinatra, Lauren Bacall, Michael Caine and Lucille Ball. Adam Lambert sings the title track.
Directed by Barnaby Thompson.
Mad About The Boy: The Noel Coward Story is a Fragile Films production for BBC Two and BBC iPlayer (1×90). It was commissioned by BBC Arts. The Executive Producer for Unigram is Gregor Cameron and the Commissioning Editor for the BBC is Mark Bell.
The Arena Archive
The range of the BBC’s Arena archive is demonstrated in the breadth of subjects it’s been willing to tackle over the years, from Colm Tóibín, Anne Enright and others exploring James Joyce’s Ulysses to looking at the king of rock’n’roll through his dietary habits in The Burger and the King, Arena has explored the world of art, music, film and culture with fresh, challenging eyes.
Delving deeper into the archive, BBC Four will resurface 1976 classic Peter Shaffer, Dire Straits from 1980 and Louise Brooks, the latter unrepeated since its premiere in February 1986. As well as more recent classics, such as Oscar nominated and BAFTA winning I Am Not Your Negro, based on James Baldwin’s unfinished manuscript, and Amy Winehouse: The Day She Came to Dingle showcasing Winehouse’s performance at the Other Voices festival shortly after the Back to Black album release.
The collection includes the BAFTA winning Many Lives of Richard Attenborough, celebrating the life and career of Richard Attenborough including touching footage of him visiting his childhood and reminiscing with his brothers, and the BAFTA and RTS winning docudrama Wisconsin Death Trip directed by James Marsh. The season will give viewers the opportunity to view again No Direction Home: Bob Dylan by Martin Scorsese and in the 60th anniversary year of Doctor Who, Delia Derbyshire: The Myths and the Legendary Tapes.
The Arenas brought back will include favourites that have been delighting television audiences since their production such as Ken Dodd’s Happiness, Screen Goddesses and The Everly Brothers: Songs Of Innocence And Experience as well as unearthed treasures, including several films not transmitted on the BBC since their initial release including Billy, How Did You Do It? which is unseen since 1992 and Have you Seen the Mona Lisa? from 1981.
The full list of Arenas available now or to be made available shortly:
According to Beryl
All the World’s a Screen – Shakespeare on Film
Amy Winehouse: The Day She Came to Dingle
Armistead Maupin is a Man I Dreamt Up
Bergman: A Year in the Life
Bette Davis: The Benevolent Volcano – planned
Billy, How Did You Do It?
Cindy Sherman #untitled
Delia Derbyshire: The Myths and the Legendary Tapes
Desert Island Discs
Dylan Thomas: From Grave to Cradle
Everything is Connected – George Eliot’s Life
Fela Kuti: Father of Afrobeat
Frank Sinatra: The Voice of the Century
Hank Williams: Honky Tonk Blues
Have You Seen the Mona Lisa?
I Am Not Your Negro
Into the Limelight – Tribute bands
James Joyce’s Ulysses
Ken Dodd’s Happiness
Masters of the Canvas
Miller Meets Mandela
No Direction Home: Bob Dylan
Oooh Er Missus! The Frankie Howerd Story
Paris is Burning
Rudies Come Back: The Rise and Rise of 2-tone
Searching for the Wrong-Eyed Jesus
Six Days in September
Tales of Rock n’ Roll: Peggy Sue
Tales of Rock ‘n’ Roll: Heartbreak Hotel
The Brian Epstein Story
The Burger and the King
The Changin’ Times of Ike White
The Everly Brothers Reunion Concert
The Everly Brothers: Songs of Innocence and Experience
The Many Lives of Richard Attenborough
The Orson Welles Story
Tony Bennett’s New York
Voices from the Island
Wisconsin Death Trip
Noël Coward (Image: BBC/Fragile Films Ltd./Unigram Media Ltd./Noel Coward Estate/Mark Swain)
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