The Man Behind Callan
By M.Shirley Long in London
From the NZ Listener
It was a strange but facinating scene. Tucked into a
electrician's room backstage at London's Palace Theatre was
Sidney Carton in the elegant clothes of the French Revolution
period intently watching Callan
Carlton watched Callan with quiet absorption. It was
difficult to believe that they were played by the same man -
Edward Woodward No two characters could have less in common
than the tough hardbitten cockney-voiced secret agent and the
romantic, tragic hero of Two Cities, the musical
version of A Tale of Two Cities. Many television
actors are recognised by people in the street. But thus
seldom happens to Teddy Woodward. This pleases him as he has
no wish to be constantly in the spotlight. Acting is more
important to him than fame or glory.
we talked about Callan, which made him a
national figue after 20 years of acting.
I like to watch him, Teddy said.
Early on, learned
the actor's pitfall in watching his own films and television
shows. You find you only watch yourself and not the film or
play. You just have to detach yourself, empty your mind and
watch the character as though you have never met him.
I get a lot of very interesting letters from people about
Callan. Not just gushing fan-mail but letters from people who
see him as a real character. I've had several from women who
ask me if Callan has had in his earlier life an unhappy love
It doesn't say so in the stories, they write,
but we feel there is a tragedy somewhere in the
background. That is the powerful impression you give us.
Now this really is extraordinary. It is true that there is no
hint of a tragic love affair in any of the scripts but in the
dossier - the background notes on the character that I was
given to study -- there was a love affair that went
A man wrote to me and said he thought Callan must have had
a tough encounter with military discipline in his service
career, for clearly he has no time for posh-accented,
stiff-upper-lip, brass hats and obviously hates Authority.
Again this has never appeared in any of the TV stories but is
in the character study notes. Callan was
After his television success and a film with Yul Bryniier
called The File of the Goldern Goose, Teddy
Woodward was delighted to be facing live audiences again in
There was that final scene on the
steps of the guillotine when I sang that moving, beautiful
little song It's a Far, Far better Thing. Every
night I was aware of the hush that fell on the house. Then I
could hear the first gentle coughs or sniffles and knew that
people were shedding a quiet tear for Sydney Carton. I'm sure
the ghost of Dickens was there, approving.
Teddy won a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art
in I946. At 16 he was the youngest student and numbered among
his fellows John Neville and Laurence Harvey. He trod the
professional path of Shakespeare and the classics, in
repertory and West End plays. It was on a tour of India in a
Shakespeare season that he met a young actress, Venetia
Barrett, who is related to the famous Wimpole Street family.
When she wasn't on stage she was nursing Teddy who went down
with para-typhoid on the tour. At Venetia's request they
waited until they got home before they married.
trust the nurse-and-patient relationship and the
Today she looks after their house and garden at Twickenham.
The Woodwards have three children: Timothy, 16, Peter, 13,
and Sarah, f. Moored on the Thames not far from the house is
a 24ft motor cruiser.
When we were filming Callan at Teddington Lock I went to
work in it if the weather was at all good, Teddy says.
Mind you, I can drive there in 20 minutes but I prefer to
take an hour and go by river. I must say it's a great
performance at times, getting moored alongside, the studio
crew giving me an admiral's reception.
His house is comfortable and obviously the home of a man of
the theatre. Playbills are nicely spaced on the walls and a
narrow study has shelves full of plays and the works of
Churchill and Elizabeth Barrett Bfqwntng. Covering one wall
in the dining-room is part of Teddy's collection of swords
and daggers, real and ornamental, historical and decorative.
I carry a gun in Callan though I abhor guns. But I love
Also prominent in the room is at beautiful chess board and
I play with my eldest son, Timothy. who invariably
beats me, he explained wryly.
There is little danger that he will become typecast in the
Callan mould. Teddy's range is far too wide for
I think Noel Coward would subscribed to that. After all, he
saw Teddy playing a gormless,
up-for- the-cup north
country man in Rattle of a Simple Man and
immediately offered him the lead singing role in High
Spirits, the musical version of Coward's Blithe
Noel didn't even know I could sing a note, Teddy told
I had a petrifying audition with him in New York where
I couldn't think of a single song to sing. In the end I
managed Oh What a Beautiful Moming from Oklahoma
with his pianist accompanying me as best he could, since I'm
sure I was about an octave flat. Noel beamed at me and said,
Thank God, dear boy, you can sing as well as you can
CALLAN: Central Television, Wednesday September 20, 9.48
p.m.; Northern Television, CHTV-3 and DNTV-2 in succeslve