Thora Hird gives HER verdict

The character actress appears in Granada’s The Verdict is Yours

TVTimes masthead
From the TVTimes for week commencing 10 March 1963

THORA HIRD cocked her head to one side, and registered profound alarm, as she exclaimed: “I just didn’t know what I was letting myself in for, you know, when I got mixed up with this lot.”

“This lot” referred to Friday’s edition of The Verdict Is Yours, the preparations for which were in their final stage when I arrived at the studios.

Thora plays Rose Denbigh, a Lancastrian licensee, who gives evidence for the prosecution in a dispute between two Irishmen about the mysterious blowing up of a greenhouse.

Although she was enjoying the new theatrical experience of acting without lines, Thora was finding the whole process distinctly unnerving.

“Not that I can blame anyone but myself,” said Thora, keeping an eye open for her counsel, Jack May. “There I was, in front of my television set Friday after Friday, an ardent fan of The Verdict Is Yours, wondering how it was done, and thinking that I wouldn’t mind having a shot at it myself.

“Then a letter dropped through the letter-box inviting me to be in it! And I jumped at the chance — if it was only to satisfy myself that I could do it.”

If Thora can’t do it, it won’t be for the want of acting experience for she has spent a lifetime in the theatre.

“I started, in fact, when I was 10 weeks old,” she explained, shooting information at me as only Thora Hird can.

“My mother and father worked with a travelling company.

“Money was so tight that the company couldn’t even afford a dummy-baby. And as I was the size and shape for the job, they used me instead. And I loved every minute of it. I mean, I must have done, mustn’t I? I’ve been doing it ever since!”

Thora will be 50 on her next birthday. The mother of film star Janette Scott, she and her husband Jimmy Scott live in a cottage in Surrey. She has appeared in more than 80 films, but won’t be lured into trying to count her appearances on stage and television.

“But I’ve never encountered anything like this before,” said Thora, cutting back resolutely to her course. “I mean, I knew it was unscripted, and that you had to become the character you were portraying when you were in the witness-box. But I never realised how much preparation went into it until now.”

Thora Hird points a finger

The preparations started for Thora with a brief resume of Rose Denbigh’s character prepared by the man who devised the case.

“I studied it, worked out how Rose would react to given situations, how she would talk, the sort of gestures she would be likely to make,” said Thora. “That wasn’t so bad. That’s the usual process with a part. But when I got to the studios the pressure really started.

“I’ve since spent hours talking about Rose, talking like Rose, and acting like Rose, with the producer of the show. I’ve spent more time talking to counsel Jack May about how the case is going to be handled, and the sort of questions he’s going to ask. So much so that I’m getting to the stage where I don’t know where Thora starts and Rose finishes.”

Thora has found that although the programme’s principal aim is entertainment, it is no game to the people participating.

“I’ve already found myself getting worked up, and becoming involved in fierce arguments — and we are not even in court yet,” she said. “And it’s no game to the barristers, either, you know. It’s a real battle of wits between them, just as it would be in a proper court.”

The security which surrounds each programme in the days of preparation also surprises Thora.

“We aren’t allowed to talk to witnesses for the defence, you know,” she said. “We aren’t allowed to discuss the case with anyone beforehand. It’s not easy, if you have friends in the opposition cast that you haven’t seen for months, and might never see again for months.

“As a matter of fact,” she added, giving me a quizzical look, “I’m not sure that I should be talking to you!”

So as Jack May was heading in our direction, I made a discreet exit.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *