On Stage and Screen
The Definitive Helene Hanff Website
Copyright 2014 Angela Garry
angelagarry@yahoo.ie ! www.helenehanff.com
Website design by Angela Garry
Helene spent almost her entire working life trying to write a successful play or screenplay - only to have others do it for her, from her book....

'84' on TV... In 1975, "84" was made into a BBC TV "Play for Today", starring Anne Jackson as Helene andFrank Finlay as Frank Doel. This production was shown in the UK, and later in the US, but is not now commercially available.

How did this come about? In her book 'Q's Legacy', Helene Hanff wrote:
"On a January day in 1975, a cable arrived in my agent's office and she called to read it to me. "KEEN TO ACQUIRE 84 CHARING CROSS ROAD FOR BBC TELEVISION - MARK SHIVAS". Mark Shivas, she told me, was one of the BBC's best young producers. Being a fan of BBC television, I was very flattered. I phoned the news to all my friends and it was my friend Susan who said brightly: "You'll see your whole life pass before you and you won't have even have to drown." In February Hugh Whitemore's script arrived. I'd wondered how on earth he was going to trun a book of letters into television dialogue. He hadn't tried to. You might say he scorned to try. He'd let the letters speak for themselves take the place of dialogue by doing the whole script in a television technique known as 'voice-over'. 'Voice-over' meant that the audience would hear a letter read by a disembodied voice while the owner of the voice performed pantomime action on the screen. To do an hour-long TV show this way from beginning to end required the kind of audacity known as 'chutzpah'."

Chutzpah or no, the production went ahead. Anne Jackson (an American actress, more usually known as Annie) played Helene, and Frank Finlay (a British actor) played Frank Doel. Promising an article about it all to the Reader's Digest in return for a plane ticket and some hotel money, Helene went to London to attend the three-day taping of the programme. After all, as she said, I had no work in the typewriter. I can only write about what happens to me and nothing much had happened to me lately. But it occured to me that sitting in a TV studio watching an actress pretend to be definitely classified as something-happening-to-me.

The production was a BBC 'Play for Today', lasting an hour and twenty minutes. As far as I can ascertain, it was shown just once on British television, and several times over the years on American television, but it is sadly not available on general release on video.
Cuttings from the UK's "Radio Times" magazine in 1975
Anne Jackson and Frank Finlay as Helene Hanff and Frank Doel
Select a production...
1975 - Anne Jackson and Frank Finlay as Helene Hanff and Frank Doel.
1981 - Rosemary Leach and David Swift as Helene Hanff and Frank Doel.
1982 - Ellen Burstyn and Joseph Maher as Helene Hanff and Frank Doel.
1988 - Anne Bancroft and Sir Anthony Hopkins as Helene Hanff and Frank Doel.
2008 - Vivienne Moore and Felicity Dean as Helene Hanff and Maxine Stuart.
Some of the peerformances all round the world .