‘Hattie’ DVD review

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Another British comedy institution gets the BBC Four biopic treatment, but is there really any need for it?

In recent years, the BBC has raked through the dirty laundry of many of British television’s finest icons. Whether it’s finding out whether the Steptoe & Son actors hated each other or what lengths Frankie Howard went to disguise his baldness, it’s becoming an easy and somewhat lazy staple of TV drama to show us under the skirts of the people who were let into our houses every night on the goggle box.

Broadcast earlier this month, Hattie offers up a salacious slice of comedy actress Hattie Jacques’ life when her star was in its ascendance – appearing regularly on TV in Sykes and in the Carry On film series, she also does charity work in her off hours. From this she meets self proclaimed ‘entrepreneur’ John Schofield and, despite being married to Dad’s Army star John Le Mesurier, manages to move him into her house (and bed). We see her struggle with having both men under her roof and in her heart, and the focus is sharply on how her husband seems to be so understanding, despite being in the position of being cuckolded.

Ruth Jones (Gavin & Stacey, Saxondale) can’t be faulted in her warm portrayal of Hattie and, with superb support from Robert Bathurst playing Le Mesurier and Being Human’s Aidan Turner playing the other John in her life, there is a definite touch of class about this production. Inevitably though, in a film of this kind, 90 minutes is difficult to sustain when the subject matter is a little… thin drama-wise.

Left longing for a few more celebrity cameos (apart from a fat Eamonn Andrews-a-like and a sadly underused John Shuttleworth mugging away as Sykes) or something else to lift it out of the doldrums, one wonders why this was commissioned. How minor do our stars need to be to escape the biopic spotlight? Should we be looking forward to ‘The Amazing Life Of Bobby Davro’ or ‘Anneka Rice: Her Struggle’?

Released on DVD on Monday 24th January 2011 by 4DVD.

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