Dear Steve ,
I thought I could not let this day
pass without dropping you a line. First to thank you and all those people like you who still after 40 years enjoy On the Buses.
I never in my wildest dreams imagined when I made this first programme that people would still be watching and enjoying these
programmes 40 years on !
I have found the original ticket for the first recording the budget did not run to a fancy ticket
then. The first transmission were slated by the press. The Daily
Telegraph said “ The jokes about buses were of the most tired and obvious kind. Cicely Courtneidge looked oddly out
of place as a working mum. If Reg Varney’s bus is to attract more passengers it will have to move faster through less
glum and feeble situations”
The Daily Mirror said “ Varney would have to be a comic
genious to get laughs from this vacuous script” and a lot more very un flattering things! The Sunday Telegraph said “ I fear that dear old Cicely Courtneidge has got a wrong posting”So you see that we got off to a very shaky start and were very lucky indeed that
Frank Muir and LWT’s head of programmes did not pull the programme after the first series.Best wishes Stuart
Ann and I had a very nice lunch with Rose and Ronnie Wolfe
reminiscing about old times when we were up in London just before Christmas. I was of course very sad when I heard of the
death of Reg Varney . I worked with many wonderful artistes during my time as a television director but he
was one of the greatest. I cherish so very many happy memories of him. Kindest regards Stuart Allen
Recently my wife and I acquired a small flat in Wembley Park to be near our daughter Sophie who is the
head teacher of a Primary school. The flat is nat far from the old LWT TV studios where I made all the
early series of On the Buses, before the move to the purpose built South Bank Television Centre. It is very nostalgic for
me when I pass by them. Now called the Fountain Studios they still are the home of successful TV programmes like the X Factor.
This year is the 40th anniversary of the recording there of the first programme. I know that because our youngest son Ben
was born in February in the early hours of the day of the recording of the second episode .
I remember how pleased and embarrassed I was when I received a round of applause from our studio audience
after Cicerly Courtnidge went forward and told them after the recording, while we waited for the clear from the video recording
department. Sometime later another
script called for a picture of Stan as baby naked lying on a rug. Reg Varney
not have one of himself at that age so Ben came in useful as his double.
I whipped him out of his cot and took the attached
picture of him to use in
The studios in Wembley were ideally suited for the making of the programme.
The dock doors were high enough and the floors strong enough to support the
weight of a double-decker bus. So they
were able to be driven into and
around the studios. For instant in the episode a Foggy Night I filled a
smoke and Reg drove through the gloom to the only bit of scenery
a bus shelter .After the move to the LWT studios on
the South Bank the bus
was reduced to a plywood single storey mock up with fibreglass wheels on a
on the exterior location filming was a real bus able to be
used. It wasn’t quite the same. People often ask me
why the bus was green.
The answer is simply that when I approached London Transport, who’s depot in
Park was just down the road, for the loan of a bus or two they
refused on the grounds that it would spoil their image
if the public thought
they had such lazy layabouts as Jack and Stan in their employ! Fortunately I
was able to persuade
The Eastern National ,whose depot was in Wood Green and
not nearly so convenient ,to lend their green ones and the LUXTON
DISTRICT TRACTION COMPANY was born. After the series became a success a
director of the company told me that
before On the Buses they had difficulty
in recruiting drivers and conductors, but afterwards they were swamped with
applications! Of course when the Buses films came to be made the popularity
of the programme was such that the
film producers had no difficulty in using
iconic red buses, anyway if London Transport wouldn’t lend them they
afford to buy them!
Best wishes to you and everybody in the fan club. STUART ALLEN