Saturday, August 28, 2010

Telly Savalas Looks at Birmingham

Many thanks to Unmann-Wittering Blog for introducing me to this, er, remarkable film.

The Old Grammar School in King's Norton won the BBC's Restoration competition a few years ago and I bought my first SLR camera in the Great Western Arcade a year or two after this footage was shot. But for the most part, Telly Savalas Looks at Birmingham is calculated to put anyone off visiting the city.

Certainly, Savalas did not go to Birmingham. As Unmann-Wittering explains, he got no nearer than the de Wolfe studios in London:
This wonderful short film was produced as a 'quota quickie', i.e. the mandatory UK produced element of a cinema programme in the days when audiences expected a package of entertainment, not just one mega long, mega loud film and a massive drink that costs a tenner.
The exciting news is that there are two more Telly Savalas travelogues to come.

1 comment:

TonyTheProf said...

"You feel as if you've been projected into the 21st Century, ... Yes, it's my kinda town. So long, Birmingham. Here's looking at ya."

This is one of Harold Baim's "quota quickies", featuring on a recent Radio 4 programme presented by Laurie Taylor. Telly Savalas does a travelogue on Birmingham, when multi-lane highways were symbols of progress. A lot of the concrete Savalas drools over has now gone, while the older buildings remain.

It is a fascinating example of how to "spin" a city.

BBC Radio 4 had a programme on it:


The bizarre story of how British cities in the late 1970s, in an attempt to make themselves appear exciting to a cinema audience, recruited Telly Savalas himself to present their travelogue. In the late 1970s, several of the UK's major cities were the stars of B-movies the so-called 'Quota Quickies'. Laurie Taylor tells the bizarre story of how the cities tried to make themselves appear exciting to a captive cinema audience through the medium of a travelogue.

One such classic is called Telly Savalas Looks At Birmingham. It has the American actor extolling the virtues and history of Birmingham. His narration is unintentionally funny and wonderfully kitsch. The director of these quota quickies, the late Harold Baim, seemed to have an obsession with multi-storey car parks, concrete shopping centres and motorways in his attempt to catapult the city into the 21st century. Others in the Harold Baim series include Telly Savalas Looks At Aberdeen and Telly Savalas Looks At Portsmouth.

The Quota Quickies were shown in cinemas before the main feature because of a law which meant that cinemas had to show a British film for every American film.