Friday Night Movie number 62 – The Alf Garnett Saga

Please note: Due to a ‘between keyboard and chair’ technical error this post has been published on a Thursday and not a Friday as it should have been – Whoops. 

The year 2015 saw the death at the age of 89 of the great actor Warren Mitchell. Although known for many different roles ranging from high drama to high comedy he is much more well known in the UK at least, for his portrayal of Alf Garnett, the mouthy and somewhat bigoted creation of the writer Johnny Speight.

Speight created Alf Garnett for the television series ‘Till death us do part’, which although was very much an ensemble piece may not have worked without Mr Mitchell’s rendering of Alf Garnett.

Tonight’s movie is a big screen spin off from the television series and shows the Garnett family uprooted from their East London environs and dumped, as many East Londoners were at the time, into a soulless block of flats in an equally soulless but unammed New Town on the outskirts of London.

Garnett is seriously unhappy with the move, he doesn’t like living up high, he doesn’t like the commute to work, dislikes ‘coons’ and he dislikes having to put up with the constant power cuts that afflicted the UK in 1972 at the time the film was made. He rants and raves his way through the film as a character could back in the days when Britain had free speech and not the restricted speech that we have today. It is hard to imagine the BBC or a film-maker being allowed to have a character that expresses his views as forcefully as Alf Garnett did back then and I think that Britain is all the more poorer in spirit for it. It’s also hard to imagine any other actor playing Alf Garnett than Warren Mitchell, such was the way that he made the character his own.

The ironic thing about the Garnett character is that by allowing him to openly rant and rave and rail against ‘coons’, ‘pakis’, ‘eyeties’, ‘micks’ and ‘spics’, it showed how stupid and baseless some prejudices can be. I’d say that laughing at a ranting Garnett probably did more to explode myths about black people and people from foreign backgrounds than the millions wasted on ‘diversity officers’ and the like ever could.

So let’s raise our glasses and celebrate the life of the late great Warren Mitchell and enjoy, as I did, the Alf Garnett Saga’.

Please click the link below to watch the movie