Play for Today: 84 Charing Cross Road. Directed by Mark Cullingham. Dramatised by Hugh Whitemore from the novel by Helene Hanff. Starring Frank Finlay and Anne Jackson. First on television 4th November 1975.
This version of Helene Hanff’s memoir just pips the starring feature film version to the post because it doesn’t wallow as much in sentimentality, and Jackson/Finlay fit their roles better than Bancroft/Hopkins (who probably have too much baggage from their other recognisable roles).
Jackson is an American who is a bibliophile devoted to the classics; and finds her constant supply of literature from a small bookshop on Charing Cross Road in London. In those days the road was top to tail full of these second-hand emporiums, who could locate any title and provide a high level of customer service.
Finlay is the bookstore manager who, in starting up a correspondence with Jackson, manages to develop a funny, original and ultimately touching cross-cultural discussion about books and eventually life in general.
Beautifully written and kept to a compact running time, this play is very good indeed and rewards repeat screenings.