Patrick Hamilton's classic trilogy, Twenty Thousand Streets Under the Sky on BBC America
Twenty Thousand Comes to BBC America
A story of unrequited love set against the background of the grimy streets and bars of 1930s
Revolving around The Midnight Bell, a pub off London's landmark Euston Road, Twenty Thousand Streets Under the Sky follows the painful pursuit of love from three different perspectives: Jenny, forced into prostitution through circumstances and now struggling to keep her head above water; Bob, a young barman with actor's looks and ambitions to be a writer, who yearns for Jenny and his colleague Ella, torn between the attentions of an older, wealthier man and her secret desire for Bob. Together their stories create a fascinating and emotionally gut-wrenching study of infatuation, betrayal, and missed opportunities.
Twenty Thousand Streets Under the Sky is a little-known classic of English literature, and a window into a world full of cruelty and kindness, comedy and pathos, wasted dreams and lost desires. Patrick Hamilton was hugely acclaimed in his heyday but died in relative obscurity in 1962. He also wrote the haunting stage thrillers Gaslight and Rope, both of which were made into
The stars include Bryan Dick (Viva Blackpool, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World) as Bob, Zoë Tapper (shortly to star on the big screen with Lauren Bacall and Anjelica Huston in These Foolish Things) as Jenny and Sally Hawkins (Layer Cake, Vera Drake) as Ella. Phil Davis (Vera Drake) also features as Ella's admirer, Mr. Eccles.
Executive producer Gareth Neame says: "Patrick Hamilton was one of the truly great British novelists of the 20th Century, but his extraordinary contribution has all too often been overlooked. His famous psychological thrillers such as Rope, Gaslight and
"The highly autobiographical Twenty Thousand Streets Under The Sky doesn't involve murders or darkened streets, but instead the intensely painful subjects of unrequited love, ambition and disappointment. It observes the minutiae of ordinary life and it gives us a unique insight into the emotionally wrecked life that Hamilton himself lived."
CAST AND PRODUCTION CREDITS
Bob Bryan Dick (Viva
Jenny Zoë Tapper (These Foolish Things)
Ella Sally Hawkins (Vera Drake, Layer Cake)
Ernest Eccles Phil Davis (Vera Drake)
Governor Tony Haygarth
Governor's Wife Jacqueline Tong (Upstairs Downstairs)
Violet Kellie Shirley (Wimbledon)
Screenplay Kevin Elyot
From the novels by Patrick Hamilton (The Charmer, Gaslight, Rope,
Director Simon Curtis (Man and Boy, David Copperfield)
Producer Kate Harwood
Executive Producers Gareth Neame/Richard Fell.
WHAT THE BRITISH PRESS SAID:
"Beautifully acted and lovingly filmed, these hypnotic morality tales neither preach nor judge. It is unmissable." The Times
"Outstanding ... excellent adaptation ... captures Hamilton's world in all its compelling, tarnished glory." The Observer
"Twenty Thousand Streets ... is a melancholy story, with no redemption for any of its characters. But it's far from depressing. It's well scripted, well acted, and beautifully made ... not to be missed." The Independent On Sunday
"A magnificent portrait of the renting twilight class of 1930s London ... Beautifully filmed and acted, this masterly production showed how Hamilton's genius turned his nihilistic outlook into a coherent and uncomfortably convincing artistic vision." The Daily Telegraph
"...nigh-on perfect dramatisation of Patrick Hamilton"s 1930s trilogy..." The Daily Mirror
"...understated and bittersweet. That these are pinched, difficult, even tragic lives is never in doubt, but we're also offered glimpses into the characters' hopes and dreams ... excellent performances from Bryan Dick, Sally Hawkins, Zoë Tapper and Phil Davis." The Guardian
Part One: The Midnight Bell - Bob's Story
The Midnight Bell pub in 1930s London Soho is a sanctuary for the dissolute and lonely. Barman Bob saves his money and dreams of bettering himself - he would like to be a successful writer. Handsome, bright and ambitious, he is full of hope and prospects until he falls for Jenny, one of the regulars at The Midnight Bell. Jenny is a former ladies' maid who has fallen on hard times and now works as a prostitute. She is shallow, unreliable and out for what she can get, but Bob is besotted. Oblivious to the timorous advances of his obviously smitten fellow barmaid Ella, Bob goes all out to win the beautiful blonde hooker's heart and steer her onto the straight and narrow. Despite a string of broken promises, un-met assignations, and a rapidly depleting bank balance, his faith in her somehow holds out.
A much-anticipated holiday to Brighton sees Bob at Victoria train station, once again waiting for her. As the hours pass reality finally begins to hit home. We next find Bob slumped in a doorway on the Strand in central London, drunken and penniless.
Premieres Saturday, February 11, 2006, 8p.m. ET/9 p.m. PT.
Part Two: The Siege Of Pleasure - Jenny's Story
Tearful because she backed out of meeting Bob at Victoria train station, fickle Jenny goes back to the streets, where she picks up a John who seems oddly familiar. At the hotel room, she realizes that she has encountered her client, Andy (Neil Stuke), before.
Flashbacks reveal the part he played in her fall from respectability. Three years ago, she was a loyal domestic servant of the Chingford's in a wealthy London neighborhood, where she worked as a maid to a doctor and his elderly sisters. But a giddy night out after work with her prostitute friend Violet proved her undoing. They were entertained and flattered by low-life crooks, Rex (Ryan Cartwright) and Andy, who plied Jenny with drink and promised her a job as a model. Naïvely, she fell for their story. A gentleman acquaintance joined them, and they were driven away in Andy's car for a night of adventure, until a tragic accident put an end to the gaiety. Jenny woke to find herself in the house of the "gent', her first client. A flash-forward reveals that Jenny's raddled and impotent client is Andy.
Premieres Saturday, February 11, 2006, /
Part Three: The Plains Of Cement - Ella's Story
Ella's only crime is to be born plain. Sharing an apartment upstairs in The Midnight Bell with Bob is a kind of torture. Through the walls she hears his comings and goings, but has only the faintest of hopes that she could be a significant part of his life. Instead, she is besieged on a daily basis by pub regular Ernest Eccles, a boorish and slightly sinister man of 52. He presents himself as romantic, but to Ella, a girl with a humble background, a sickly mother and a drunken father, he's a fallback to financial stability. Confused, she agonizes over whether to go ahead and marry Mr. Eccles, a man she's not attracted to but who would give her a secure future, or whether she should hold on in the hope that Bob will come to love her.
Suddenly, a potential job offer as a housekeeper in India and the prospect of an inheritance from her dying father presents Ella with options. She's also thrilled to be asked to the movies by Bob. But the job falls through, her father recovers and she watches Bob disappear in a new suit on his fated rendezvous with Jenny.