Originally aired in the UK on 8th March 1988.
Book published in the UK on the April 1976. (Above is the cover of the first edition)
Colin Dexter can be seen walking across the College quad at 1h09m.
Mr Dexter ambles nonchalantly across the quad.
Directed by Edward Bennet.
Screenplay by Thomas Ellis.
Here we are at the second episode of the second series and Inspector Morse goes from strength to strength.
A young schoolgirl, Valerie Craven, has went missing and despite the Police and Valerie’s father’s best efforts, a year later and she still hasn’t been found or made any contact with her family.
Morse and Lewis are given the case to bring the proverbial fresh pair of eyes to the case. Or as Morse so delicately puts it; “One file, anybody. Two files, Ainley or McKay. I’m the three file man. No, she’s dead.”
Morse has little interest in the case as he is convinced Valerie is dead. This lack of interest grates on Lewis and it comes to the fore when he snaps at Morse, “Well, you got your body, sir” when one of Valerie’s teachers dies by someone’s hand or possibly by accident.
However, Lewis was correct; the death has now piqued Morse’s interest in the missing schoolgirl’s disappearance. Questions begin to arise: Why did the French teacher at Valerie’s school, Homewood School for Girls, leave to work at an ordinary comprehensive school? Why did the headmaster of Hometown appoint Cheryl Baines as deputy when he obviously has nothing but contempt for her? Why is Valerie’s mother lying to the Police? Morse and Lewis attempt to not only to answer all these questions but to find Valerie.
John Thaw’s Morse is at his grumpiest and irascible in this episode but for me and other Morse fans this is part of the reason we love him. Far too many other detectives in the 1980s and 1990s were all sweet and light and never had a bad word to say about anyone. Morse changed that and I personally believe that thanks to Morse, TV detectives become more realistic, more human, and more like all of us. We all have bad days and so does Morse.
In this episode there is no love interest for Morse and though he does appear to have a little liking for Cheryl Baines he is proverbially barking up the wrong tree. In fact he is the wrong gender of ‘tree’.
The episode starts calmly, even sedately with Morse sitting at home reading Thomas Hardy’s novel, Jude the Obscure. The novel alludes in a small way to this episode in that the town of Christminster is based on Oxford and it involves the love for a teacher. (Hey I’m studying for an English Literature and sometimes it spills over to other areas of my life, 😉 ) As the episode moves on it gradually builds momentum at a very satisfying pace and this is due not only to a good screenplay by Thomas Ellice but good direction by Edward Bennet who would go on to direct seven Morse episodes.
For British viewers there are quite a few familiar faces in this episode: Philip Bretherton who plays David Acum is known for being the book publisher in the wonderful ‘As Time Goes By’ that starred Judi Dench and Geoffrey Palmer. He also appeared in Coronation Street some years back. There is also Julia Sawalha who is best remembered for playing Saffy in ‘Absolutely Fabulous’ and more recently starred in ‘Lark Rise to Candleford’. Of course we all recognise Elizabeth Hurley as one of the schoolgirls even though she was 23 when the episode was filmed. There is also an actress who I recognize but damned if I can remember her name and she also plays one of the schoolgirls. There is a picture of her further down titled with questions marks. I think she was in ‘Grange Hill’. Mr Barratt my friend, any ideas?
The episode has a good and satisfying ending helped considerably by the wonderful portrayal by Peter McEnery as the slimy Donald Phillipson as he tries to talk his way out of a very sticky situation.
Though it is a very good episode it doesn’t appear in my top ten of Morse episodes. The reasons for this are as follows: I wasn’t convinced by the death of Cheryl Baines it seemed too contrived and I wonder how difficult it is to fall backwards over a stair bannister especially one that appeared rather high. The other unconvincing part of the episode was the affair between Donald Phillipson and Mrs Craven, (played by Frances Tomelty). For me it didn’t ring true. Also, why did the neighbour only see Sheila Phillipson but not David Acum or Donald Phillipson? Of course she could simply have only looked out of the window at that particular time. But, this is just my opinion and as such can be ignored.
Strangely Lewis refers to his daughter as “our Louise” at the five minute matter when Morse and Lewis visit Homewood School. But of course we all know that his daughter is called Lyn/Lynne.
However, the episode does contain one of my all time favourite scenes. Here it is,
(The times are set as hh/mm/ss, i.e. hours, minutes and seconds).
The opening music is by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791) and the composition is the Violin Concerto No. 1 in B flat, K. 207. (Köchel catalogue. … The Köchel-Verzeichnis or Köchelverzeichnis is an inclusive, chronological catalogue of compositions by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, which was originally created by Ludwig von Köchel. It is abbreviated K. or KV.)
The above video contains the complete piece. The section of music used in the episode starts at 8 minutes and 47 seconds in the above video. However, the whole concerto is lovely.
The second piece of music in the episode is after the scene in the pub with Morse and Max discussing the case. Max tries to get Morse to empathise with the missing girl’s parents;
Max – Just because the girl is from a well-off family doesn’t make the pain any less for the parents.
Morse – But if her dad wasn’t on the police committee we wouldn’t know anything about it?
Max – Only a man without children could talk the way you do. Look, imagine you’ve lost your only recording of the Ring Cycle and try and think some things might hurt even worse.
Morse – Yes but I’ve got it on cassette as well.
After this scene we cut to Morse driving to the Craven house with the music of Richard Wagner (1813-1883) playing loudly. The piece is the rousing Die Walkure (Second opera in Der Ring des Nibelungen) better known as Ride of the Valkyries.
That piece of music always gets my blood pumping. Exhilarating!
The next piece of music is in Ms Baines house when Morse comes calling to ask her about the head of the girl’s school. It is a Jazz piece but I have no idea what it is and I can’t even hazard a guess at who the composer or the artist or the group is. Sorry.
If you enjoy all the music from the Morse series I have collected all the pieces I have identified thus far and have created playlists on YouTube. On how to access these playlists please read the relevant post by clicking here.
On the classroom wall of Ms Baines in Homewood School for Girls to the left of a very young Liz Hurley.
The poster is a representation of George Frederic Watts (1817-1904) painting ‘Ellen Terry (‘Choosing’).
Ellen Terry was an English stage actress who became the leading Shakespearean actress in Britain. At 16 she married the 46-year-old artist George Frederic Watts.
This scene is set in the Craven’s house, specifically their swimming pool.
The mural on the back wall is a pastiche of the wonderful swimming pool paintings of David Hockney (1937 – ).
Pool with Two Figures 1972
Peter Getting out of Nicks Pool, 1967
In this scene Ms Baines is sitting writing at her desk. On the shelf of the desk is a postcard;
Thank you to Polly, one of my new readers, who correctly identified the postcard as being a Modigliani, ‘Portrait of a Girl.’ Thank you Polly.
We find Morse relaxing at home reading a novel. That novel is Thomas Hardy’s ‘Jude the Obscure’.
Thomas Hardy’s novel does have some connections to the episode, some more tenuous than others. The city that the main character Jude Fawley works and lives in is called Christminister which is based on Oxford. Jude’s former schoolmaster is called Phillotson. The headmaster in this episode is called Donald Phillipson, (as I wrote above, tenuous). The main themes of the novel are marriage, the Church and education. This triumvirate of themes can be found in this episode.
At Ms Baines house Morse is holding a book from Ms Baines library.
The book is ‘Of Other Worlds: Essays and Stories‘ by C. S. Lewis (Clive Staples Lewis 1898-1963) a 1966 anthology of literary criticism by C. S. Lewis and published posthumously by the executors of his estate.
At the deputy head of the girl’s school, Ms Baines’s house she relates a story about the headmaster and his running spikes. Morse cryptically replies, “Men and their shoes“. I wonder if Morse is making reference to that quaint old saying that you could “tell a man by his shoes”. Not really a literary reference but…
At the Craven house Morse is talking to Mrs Craven and mentions that she has changed her hair colour from blonde to brunette. Mrs Craven quotes W.B. Yeats (1865 – 1939) the Irish poet saying, “I will have to see if I can be loved for myself and not for my yellow hair”.
The full poem is as follows;
FOR ANNE GREGORY
‘NEVER shall a young man,
Thrown into despair
By those great honey-coloured
Ramparts at your ear,
Love you for yourself alone
And not your yellow hair.’
‘But I can get a hair-dye
And set such colour there,
Brown, or black, or carrot,
That young men in despair
May love me for myself alone
And not my yellow hair.’
‘I heard an old religious man
But yesternight declare
That he had found a text to prove
That only God, my dear,
Could love you for yourself alone
And not your yellow hair.’
Morse and Lewis take Acum home after his interview at the police station. The living room wall is covered in pictures, posters etc. Polly, one of my readers, noticed on the wall a poster of the 1962 French film version of Nabakov’s book, Lolita. A rather apt poster considering the storyline in this episode.
Here is the original poster.
One pub at around 32 minutes. As yet unidentified.
LOCATIONS. (A work in progress)
47 minutes –
Cheryl Baines home.
This is Church Road, Staines.
A big thank you to John Burling for the identification of this location.
1hour and 9minutes –
Morse meets Mrs Philipson in what is the upper library of Christ Church. I verified the location with Christ Church.
Thanks to John and Cheryl for the following observations;
- At 29 minutes we see a board outside Acum’s school showing it is named after St John Baptiste de la Salle who is the patron saint of teachers of youth. Yet adjacent to the print we see an image of The Virgin Mary.
- At 56 minutes we identify the miniature on the mantelpiece of Headmaster Phillipson as The Thinker by Rodin.
Thanks to Masonic for making these excellent connections through this episode;
It seems then, that all the characters in this show had a secret: Valerie and her abortion & pre marital sex, Acum bedding Valerie & hiding her, the real estate agent and his cocaine habit & helping Valerie get an abortion, Valerie’s mom sleeping with headmaster, Ms banes blackmailing the headmaster, headmaster being present when Ms banes dies, headmaster’s wife stumbles upon dead Ms banes but tells no one, Morse writing the letter!
Glyn Houston as George Craven (October 23, 1926 – )
James Grout as Chief Inspector Strange – (Born: October 22, 1927 – Died: June 24, 2012)
Suzanne Bertish as Cheryl Baines – (Born: August 7, 1951 – )
Peter McEnery as Donald Phillipson – (Born: February 21, 1940 – )
Nicholas Pritchard as John Maguire – (born in 1958 – )
Julia Sawalha as Rachel – (Born: September 9, 1968 – )
Elizabeth Hurley as Julia (Born: June 10, 1965 – )
Fiona Mollison as Sheila Phillipson – (born on January 9, 1954 – )
Philip Bretherton as David Acum – (Born: May 30, 1955 – )
Peter Woodthorpe as Max – (Born: September 25, 1931 – Died: August 12, 2004)
Frances Tomelty as Mrs Craven (Blonde phase) – (Born: October 6, 1948 – )
Elizabeth Kettle. She appeared in five Morse episodes as a WPC
– Happy Families (1992)
– Second Time Around
– The Sins of the Fathers
– The Settling of the Sun (1988)
– Last Seen Wearing (1988)
To read my Q & A with Ms Kettle click here.
Cheryl Baines’s cleaner. –
Margaret Holland as Martha the school secretary – (Born unknown)
Melissa Simmonds as Valerie Craven – (Born unknown )
Michele Winstanley (girl in the middle) – (born in 1964)
The girl in the centre ????????????????????????????
I’m afraid I have no information on any of the locations used in the episode. I think the location where Morse and Lewis interview John Maguire was the London Docklands but i’m not entirely sure.
Postscript to the above. A follower of my blog, Tom, commented that the actress is Michele Winstanley. She has appeared in many British TV series such as The Bill, Only Fools and Horses and the one I particularly remembered her from was a short lived series called Going Out. It was created and written by Phil Redmond who also created Grange Hill and Brookside. A big thank you to Tom for taking the time to pass on this piece of info.