English Costumes in TV Shows: The Famous Five


Figure 1.--The Famous Five are shown here in a recent British TV series. Notice the characteristic short pants and sandals.

Another famous English literary character was really a group of five--four children and a dog. The central characters are Julian, Dick, Anne, George, and the dog Timmy. This was a children's series created by famed children's writer Enis Blyton, one of Britainís best-loved childrenís authors.. It was one of the most popular series of children's books in England and America. The series began in 1942 and were translated into many languages. The boys were commonly costumed in period clothes, jumpers, short trousers, and sandals.

The Author

Enid Blyton is one of the most famous British children's writers. She published an amazing number of children's or juvenile books, 600 by one account. Blyton's most famous series was The Famous Five. Blyton's works painted an idyllic vision of rural England and hearty Englishness and in recent years she has been criticized for this. Her career is described in detail in the HBC literary section.

The Books

Enid Blyton books are about children in jeopardy, children empowered, children winning through. Enid Blyton is regarded by many as the world's greatest storyteller for children. Altough the subjectvof some criticism, the books through sucessive generations have remained popular with British children as well as children around the world.

Characters

The central characters are Julian, Dick, Anne, George, and the dog Timmy. Julian, the older brother of Dick and Anne, is the natural leader of The Famous Five. He's the older brother, so he keeps Dick in line and looks after his sister, Anne. He's sensible and he believes in setting a good example. George is, the tomboy alter-ego of Enid Blyton, whose best friend is her beloved dog, Timmy.

Julian

Julian is the eldest of the five characters, and older brother of Dick and Anne. Naturally he assumes the role of the group leader. He has a resourceful and dependable nature, helping the group through many sticky moments. He is bold, but sensible, knowledgeable and thoughtful. Julian is played by Marco Williamson. Marco Williamson plays Julian, the older brother of Dick and Anne, and the natural leader of The Famous Five. He was 14 years old when the show was produced. Marco is quite experienced as an actor, and has toured with Sir Ian McKellen in the National Theatre's acclaimed production of Richard III, and went on to appear in the film. "We chose Marco as Julian because of his energy, looks, height and confidence," says Peter Murphy. "He was just right for the leader of the gang". Julian is the eldest and the natural leader of the group. "Julian takes responsibility" says Marco, 14-years old, about his on-screen alter-ego. "He's the older brother, so he keeps Dick in line and looks after his sister, Anne. He's sensible and he believes in setting a good example. He's not like me at all!" "Marco always took the lead in rehearsals," says producer John Price. "And Paul (who plays Dick) was always trying to get the lead--just like the brothers in The Famous Five." Marco's biggest shock after learning that he had won the part of Julian, was having to have his fashionable locks cut. "The first thing I did afterwards was to go out and buy a cap," he says. "I hated it!" Marco's experience as an actor in the theatre and in feature films helped him hold his own on The Famous Five set. "There's a lot of pressure," he says. "When we're not actually filming we have to learn all our lines as well as keep up with our school work. I miss my friends and cross-country running, but I'll miss this even more when it's over!"

Figure 2.--The Famous Five are often shown wearing traditional schoolsandals. The sneaker craze had not reached England in the 1940s and eraly 50s when the most of the books were published.

Dick

Dick is the younger brother of Julian, and the joker in the group. He is the tease of the Five, a natural humorist who is always cracking jokes and enjoys nothing better than stirring the others up. He is sensitive to other's feelings, and has a sharp mind, which often makes him a valuable asset when, as always, a mystery has to be solved. Dick is played by Paul Child. Paul, remembers the day he got the part; so does Peter Murphy! "At the crucial workshop Paul crashed through the door late because his taxi had got lost. He wasn't prepared and fluffed his lines. He really thought he'd blown it, but he worked hard through the improvisation and soon climbed back. We realises we had found Dick - he captures his personality perfectly" 13-year old Paul Child plays Dick, the natural joker in the pack. "Dick is adventurous and brave - he likes getting people out of trouble," says Paul. "He's very out-going. I like Dick - he's like me, although he's sometimes sarcastic which I'm not." Paul was already a committed fan of The Famous Five before he won the part. "I always wanted to have these amazing adventures," he says. "I even joined The Famous Five club but I don't think anyone else was in it." Now the snooker-mad Paul is actually one of The Famous Five and his only complaint is that the trousers Dick wears itch like mad.

Anne

Anne is the sister of both Julian and Dick, and is the youngest of the group. She likes nothing better than cooking, cleaning and generally looking after other people. As a result, her character has been used to substantiate charges that Blyton's Famous Five series is sexist. Anne is more emotional than her brothers. However, she is imaginative and often strong in the face of adversity. Anne is played by Laura Petela. "At school we were given leaflets about a drama workshop being organised by HTV", Laura explains. "I thought I'd give it a go and I really enjoyed it. Then I heard about the auditions for The Famous Five. At first I thought I'd do it for a laugh, but then I decided I'd really go for it. I didn't really think I stood a chance so I tried not to get too excited," she says. John Price remembers seeing Laura Petela who plays Anne for the first time. "We knew we'd found Anne as soon as we say Laura. She had to be small and pretty - but Laura can really act as well, which is unusual for an 11-year old child"

George

George, whose real name is Georgina, is the cousin of Julian, Dick and Anne. She is the tomboy of the group whose main aim in life is to prove that she's just as good as a boy. Although she is often stubborn, strong-willed and hot-tempered, she remains a true friend to her cousins. By far her best friend though is her faithful dog Timmy, her unconditionally loyal aide. George is played by Jemina Rooper. She is the tomboy alter-ego of Enid Blyton. "My mother loved all the characters she created," says Enid Blyton's daughter, Gillian Baverstock, "but George had a special place in her heart. She would definitely have approved of Jemima." "George is strong-willed and sees everything from her own point of view," says Jemima of her on-screen character. "But she's straightforward and very loyal friend. She feels she has to prove that she's as good as a boy." Jemima is as strong-willed as any fictional character. At the age of 8, after repeatedly telling her mother that she wanted to be an actor, she phoned an actors' agent and made her own appointment. "I've only ever wanted to act," she explains. Jemima had to undergo a drastic transformation to play the part of tomboy George. Her long straight hair was cut and permed into a short curly bob. "It took four hours, " she says. " It thought I would be really upset but I was so relived when it was over that I laughed!" Jemima says she will miss Connal the dog - "Timmy" of The Famous Five - most of all when she left filming to back to London where she lives.

Timmy

Timmy, the lovable mongrel, is never happier than when he is with his master George. His second favourite pastime of chasing rabbits gets him into frequent mischief, as does his escapades with George, Anne, Dick, and Julian. Timmy is played by Connal. The search for the perfect cast included Timmy the dog, George's closest companion. Connal won the audition hands (paws!) down. John Price remembers his first reaction to Timmy: "When we auditioned Connal it was love at first sight, but I was worried that he wasn't big enough to apprehend villains. Then he performed his party piece. On command, he leaps several feet into the air, hurling himself at his victim. I was convinced!"

Others

Other cast members include Quentin (Christopher Good) and Frances (Mary Waterhouse).

Productions

There have been several Britishbproductions of the Famous Five. The images here are from the 1997 version which took great care to follow the costuming as depicted in the original editions of the books. I have little information on eralier productions. The 1997 version screened 17 episodes of the 21 original Enid Blyton Famous Five series. The episodes included: Episode 1-2 FIVE GO DOWN TO THE SEA (two parts); Episode 3 FIVE RUN AWAY TOGETHER; Episode 4 FIVE GO TO MYSTERY MOOR; Episode 5 FIVE GET INTO A FIX; Episode 6-7 FIVE HAVE A WONDERFUL TIME (two parts); Episode 8 FIVE GO OFF IN A CARAVAN; Episode 9 FIVE HAVE A MYSTERY TO SOLVE; Episode 10 FIVE ON A HIKE TOGETHER; Episode 11 FIVE ARE TOGETHER AGAIN; Episode 12-13 FIVE GO TO BILLYCOCK HILL (two parts); Episode 14 FIVE GO ADVENTURING AGAIN; Episode 15 FIVE ON KIRRIN ISLAND AGAIN; Episode 16 FIVE HAVE PLENTY OF FUN; and Episode 17 FIVE ON A SECRET TRAIL.

Costuming

The series began in 1942 and were translated into many languages. The boys were commonly costumed in period clothes, jumpers, short trousers, and sandals worn by British boys in the 1940s and 50s. Enid Blyton's daughter, Gillian Baverstock, has been closely involved in the TV adaptation of her mother's work. When she saw The Famous Five in their costumes for the first time, she gasped and said, "Oh, if only my mother could have seen them - they're perfect!"

Headwear

I have not noted the boys commonly wearing caps as most of the adventures normally take place away from school, but I think that the children are sometimes pictured in their school uniforms.


Figure 3.--This boy, Matthew Johnson, played in a Famous Five spoof called "The Smugglers". Notice that he wears plimsols rather than sandals.

Jumpers

The boys are commonly pictured in pullover jumpers, both sleveless and sleeved. They are commonly patterned jumpers, often with diamond designs.

Short trousers

The boys mostly appear in short trousers in the TV production. The shorts worn by the boys in the 1997 version are the long baggy, often shorts. It some cases they look more like modern baggy shorts than those worn during the 1940s and 50s. Some of Dick's shorts, for example, fall below his knee. Other versions have the boys in shorter shorts, perhaps shorter than those worn in the 1940s-50s.

Wellies


Sandals

As many of the advdentures take palce during summer vactions, the children--both the girls and boys--commonly wear sandals. The style is the traditional schoolsandal style with the narrow center strap.

Plimsols


Evaluations

Several generations of British readers have now read the Famous Five books. Many remember them with some afection. Thus many have decided opinions about TV productions. One HBC reader writes, "I enjoyed the TV series featured, although it was sometimes played a little tongue in cheek. The other flaw was the compression of a whole book into just one or two 25 minute episodes. Dick was my favourite character. He was a convincingly 1950s boy."

Spoofs

Enid Blyton's work is so unabashedly English and so perpetually cheery that it has become a prime target of ???. Her work is often used for spoofs, either wjole profuctions are short skits. One such Famous Five spoof was a musical called "Smugglers". It was not an Enid Blyton story but is a spoof Famous Five story, in which only two of the children appear. The boy in the picture is Matthew Johnson who plays the part of Dick. Matthew has appeared on stage as The Artful Dodger in Oliver and as Gavroche in Les Miserables.






Christopher Wagner







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Created: January 12, 2001
Last updated: January 13, 2001