Excerpt from the biography "Judi Dench ... with a crack in her voice" ...
Much more challenging, emotionally as well as dramatically, was her 1979 role for the BBC as the foster-mother of a thalidomide child in On Giant's Shoulders. Her director was Anthony Simmons, with whom she had first worked on Four in the Morning, and Bryan Pringle was playing her husband. They were portraying a real couple, the foster-parents of Terry Wiles, who played himself. He had never acted before and his voice had to be dubbed as it had now broken and he had to appear younger.
She agreed to do it before she had met the family and was feeling very apprehensive when she went up to meet them for the first time at Sandy in Bedfordshire. 'Driving up, we stopped the car and Bryan and I got a huge amount of sweets, because we were both very, very, nervous about it. Of course the moment we met him, this wonderfully cheeky attractive boy of seventeen, with no legs, just feet, and very short arms, he completely charmed us. He adored dancing and the only way I could dance with him was to carry him. Because he was so funny and jokey, I got really fond of him.'
But, despite her affection for him, she found the demands of the part a strain, and the Fens where the film was shot a depressing place to work in. 'I was so upset one morning I just went walking off and Bryan Pringle came marching after me. He said, "You can't care about the whole world."
Judi knows that this is sensible advice, but she has always found it difficult to act on it, because of her deep compassion for the afflicted - physically and mentally.
I observed this involvement for myself, when one of our all-day conversations happened just after the horrific massacres in Rwanda in 1997 , and there was much public concern about the fate of thousands of refugees who had fled into the Congo and then disappeared. When Judi and I broke for lunch I stayed in the room to make a telephone call. As I rejoined her in the kitchen she was listening to The World at One on the radio, and turned with shining eyes to say, 'Oh John, they've found those refugees.' It was as if she knew them all personally, and her genuinely heartfelt relief was indicative of that compassion for the troubled and oppressed which can overwhelm her so easily. It gives her an emotional depth which can be heart-wrenching for audiences, but can sometimes be almost too much for her to bear; and Bryan Pringle's sympathetic remonstrance failed to lift her spirits for long.
For her, the most unnerving
moment of the filming was not acting with the real Terry, but coming out
of her caravan on location the first morning and coming face-to-face
with her own character, the real Hazel. But the truthfulness of the
playing of the central trio never struck a false note and the
transmission had a great impact on the television audience.
I love you,
A Special Thanks to Beth G. -- MA, USA -- for sharing this video with us.