Charles Wood

Born into a working class theatrical family in 1932, Charles Wood enjoyed tasks behind the scenes but baulked at the idea of acting and so "rebelled" by joining the army. Five years spent in the 17th/21st Lancers was reflected in his first television plays, Prisoner and Escort in 1963 and Drill Pig in 1964, both for ABC. He went on to write the film scripts for The Knack, the Beatles' Help (both 1965), How I Won the War (1967, with John Lennon and Michael Crawford), and The Charge of the Light Brigade (1968).

Returning to television in 1969, Drums Along the Avon for The Wednesday Play was an essay in alienation starring Leonard Rossiter and Rafiq Anwar, while A Bit of a Holiday for Yorkshire Television's The Root of All Evil was a situation comedy which first introduced the character of struggling writer Gordon Maple (George Cole) and his long-suffering wife (Gwen Watford), in Rome for the making of a film the former has written. Two years later Wood used the premise again in another YTV series, The Ten Commandments, with Maple suffering his aged parents coming to live with them in A Bit of a Family Feeling. It was not until 1977 that he managed to sell the concept as a series to the BBC, with the first six episode run of Don't Forget to Write! A further six episodes appeared in 1979 before the BBC reached the strange conclusion that the humour of a writer's life was too esoteric for a mainstream audience.

In 1974 Wood returned to a military subject in the autobiographical three-part Death or Glory Boy, about a young recruit in the writer's old regiment, while 1977's Love-Lies-Bleeding started out as a dinner party comedy and ended with blood and bullets. 1983 saw two productions for Channel 4: Red Monarch, a black comedy about the last days of the Soviet dictator Stalin for the Film on Four, and the epic four-hour Wagner biography. A similar exercise the following year was Puccini, both plays being directed by Tony Palmer.

1988 finally saw transmission of a project Wood had been nurturing for a number of years. Tumbledown was originally to have been a film script, but the lack of American backing ruled this out. Based on the experiences of Robert Lawrence, a Scots Guards officer awarded the Military Cross for his bravery in one of the final battles of the Falklands war shortly before being hit by a sniper hours before the ceasefire, leaving him paralysed down one side, Wood and Eyre finally sold it to the BBC, but it was delayed when it got caught up in the controversy over Ian Curteis' "The Falklands Play". More recently Wood - reflecting his interest in military history - adapted Sharpe's Regiment and Sharpe's Waterloo for ITV and A Breed of Heroes for the BBC. The latter, about a thinly-disguised Parachute Regiment detachment in Belfast in the early stages of The Troubles underlined many of the points which Tumbledown's critics consistentlyoverlook, mainly Wood's understandable empathy for individual members of the military in the midst of a situation into which politicians - his real target - have placed them.

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[Biography as submitted for inclusion in The Guinness Book of Classic British TV (1996, 2nd edition), with minor corrections]

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29/06/02 Minor corrections; reformatted
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