Published on August 23rd, 2013 | by Christian Cawley
Hartnell on Panto: “I’m a legitimate actor”
It turns out that the interview for Points West, a regional BBC news show, was conducted by director Roger Mills – whose name you may recognise from Horizon and the various Michael Palin travelogues – back when he was working as a cameraman. He recalls of the 1967 interview :
The interview was conducted by the director, Roger Mills, who, in 1967 was reporting for Points West. Mills recalls:
I wasn’t really a reporter. I was more of a behind the cameraman, but down in the regions you do everything.
William Hartnell, of course, was famously difficult to work with, and Mills recalls that he wasn’t keen to be interviewed.
I do remember that he didn’t want to be interviewed. He was extremely grumpy. He really wanted us out as quickly as possible …I don’t think he liked the press very much… I was someone who didn’t hold back,
As we shall see…
Doctor Who researcher Richard Bignell, who unearthed the footage, told The Guardian this week:
The interviewer says to him at one point, something along the lines of: ‘Is pantomime something you’d like to continue doing in the future?’ And he sort of goes: ‘Ooh, no, no, no, no, no.’ So, he says: ‘Oh, why not?’ And he says: ‘Well, I’m a legitimate actor. Pantomime is for the sort of person who is used to variety and going on the front of the stage, but I’m a legitimate actor. I do legitimate things.’
He very much comes over with that sort of gruff manner. In fact, towards the end of the interview, the actual interviewer says to him: ‘You’re actually quite a grumpy man. Why do you think that people like the Doctor so much?’
Now, the legitimacy or otherwise of pantomime (Hartnell was appearing in Puss in Boots) is an interesting topic, one that has often reverberated with Doctor Who fans, particularly in the 1980s. It’s interesting to see the show’s first star take this attitude; in some ways, however, his apparent snobbery to one of the oldest forms of theatre is a little disappointing – particularly as he only made four more appearances on TV (one of which was The Three Doctors).