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Lorna and Ted (1973)

Lorna and Ted


Lorna and Ted is a one-off comedy-drama. It is a Granada Television production and was first broadcast on Sunday 17 June 1973 (ITV, 10:15-11:40pm), as a specially extended edition of the Sunday Night Theatre strand of programmes.

On the left Zoë is pictured as Lorna in a still from the programme. Below is the photo of Zoe that accompanied her 1973 TV Times interview, which was published to coincide with the programme’s broadcast.


Adapted by John Hale from his play of the same name, Lorna and Ted is arguably Zoë's most notable television programme from the early 1970s. This comedy-drama about the stormy relationship between a coarse labourer and his more refined housekeeper gave Zoë her first leading role on TV, at the age of just 24. (Prior to appearing in Lorna and Ted, she had played the title character of 'Sally for Keeps' – an episode of drama series Turn of the Year, which was broadcast in 1971 – and a few other TV roles, but not a lead.)

To celebrate Zoë making a name for herself on television with the role of Lorna Green, the TV Times interviewed her about her attitude towards contemporary TV and its portrayal of women. 'Television is always being so pretty. Leading ladies are too easy on the eye. I can't associate with them half the time,' she remarked. The character of mousey Lorna is an antidote to TV's obsession with conventional beauty and the 'plastic packaging' (in Zoe's words) that often accompanies it. Bucking the trend for glamorous heroines, Lorna is an ordinary young woman, intelligent but initially lacking in self-esteem; someone to whom female viewers can relate.

Zoe starred opposite Brian Blessed in Lorna and Ted and remembers that working with him was a great deal of fun. Their powerful performances are a joy to watch, as well as very moving. The 85-minute comedy-drama is 'virtually a two-hander', as the Daily Mirror pointed out. Zoë's Lorna and Brian Blessed's Ted Gissing are on screen together for almost the whole programme, which makes effective use of close-up shots and uncomfortable living conditions in order to underscore the intensity of the story. The Mirror suggested that Zoë had the most challenging part to play because, crucially, her character completely transforms during the course of the programme: 'The Lorna of the first half is not the Lorna of the second'.

When Lorna first travels from her home in Huddersfield to fiery-tempered Ted's Suffolk cottage, having responded to his advert for a housekeeper, she is a timid nurse. During the course of the comedy-drama, she grows in confidence, becoming an astute, strong-minded businesswoman. Backed into a corner, Lorna finds her strength and comes out fighting. The character gave Zoe a fantastic opportunity to demonstrate her versatility as a performer. 'What the actress had to do,' the Mirror remarked, 'was to convince us that the two [versions of Lorna] could exist side by side in the same frame in a role which was written without any significant psychological depth. Miss Wanamaker brought it off.' The Times was also impressed by her performance, remarking that 'Zoe Wanamaker stood her ground as Lorna with quietly impressive skill.'

29-year-old Lorna has long dreamed of giving up her job in nursing and finding 'somewhere nice in the country [...] to look after'. When this prim young woman, neatly dressed in a coat and headscarf, meets rough Ted at his ramshackle home, however, a shadow is cast over her romantic ideas about an idyllic life in the countryside. Burly Ted, who is estranged from his family, makes a living repairing farm machinery and, unlike Lorna, has no interest in the finer things in life. 'Why do you want a housekeeper?' she asks him warily. 'You're very set in your ways. That's why the others left, isn't it,' she adds, contemplating her predecessors.

After Ted hurts her feelings by laughing at the fact she is unmarried, Lorna decides to go home; but fate intervenes when his car won't start. She is forced to spend the evening with him, and her attitude softens. After some deliberation and a trip with Ted to the local country club, Lorna concludes that she likes him enough to accept the housekeeping job he has offered her – but wants a trial period before deciding whether or not to remain in the role permanently. 'I think he's shy, that's all,' she tells her mother during a phonecall from the cottage. Unbeknown to Lorna or her mother, her new employer is eavesdropping on their conversation, delighted that the young woman will stay and become the latest in a long line of housekeepers.

Until meeting slight Lorna, Ted's main interest was pursuing the full-figured women who had previously been employed as his housekeepers, making him the subject of much local gossip. On returning to Suffolk to assume her new position, having kept in touch with Ted while she worked out her notice period in her nursing job, Lorna is displeased to learn that the labourer enjoyed the company of a voluptuous 'housekeeper' during her absence. Ted tries to butter her up by presenting her with a radio so that she can listen to classical music (which he hates), but Lorna's mood sours when she finds her predecessor's underwear in a drawer... She is less passive and naive than the labourer, twenty years her senior, had assumed. Lorna can see through Ted's lies and excuses: 'I didn't come down with the last shower of rain, you know!'

Will Ted prove to be a trustworthy employer, or does he want more from Lorna than her housekeeping skills? At first, he keeps his cards close to his chest, but the young woman is on her guard. Although Lorna has agreed to work for Ted and share his home, she remains aloof and wary of him. She locks her bedroom door as if to demonstrate her lack of trust in her new employer. Lorna is also perceptive enough to realise that, given half a chance, gruff Ted would treat her like 'a servant'. She makes clear that she wants to broaden her horizons rather than be tied to the cottage full-time. She aims to balance the demands of her domestic chores with concerts, culture and bettering herself at night school.

After a few weeks of cooking and cleaning for ungrateful Ted, Lorna feels fed up and is ready to speak her mind about his lifestyle. Shocked and offended by his assertion (however accurate it may be) that she only accepted his job offer because nobody else showed any interest in her, personally or professionally, she delivers some home truths at the kitchen table. Plucky Lorna emphasises that the previous housekeepers Ted employed – and cavorted with – were 'making a fool' of him. After all, she points out, 'You're old and you're ugly'.

Despite their arguments and strikingly different personalities, Lorna and Ted are drawn together by loneliness and isolation. The young woman struggles to make sense of her feelings for her employer. She dislikes Ted's mean-spiritedness and uncouth behaviour, as well as disapproving of his relationships with previous housekeepers, but believes that he has 'kind eyes'. She rather touchingly admits that he made her 'feel wanted' during their night out at the country club. When he suddenly kisses her, a shocked Lorna rushes upstairs with the intention of throwing her belongings into a suitcase and leaving Ted and his wretched cottage behind, but then has a change of heart. That night, she leaves her bedroom door open for him.

The next morning Ted presents his new lover with his mother's engagement ring and calls her the 'finest woman I ever met'. Lorna's willingness to stand up to him and challenge his opinions has won his respect. She complains that Ted has failed to say 'anything affectionate' to her during their very brief courtship, but she agrees to marry him as long as she can retain some of her independence. 'You don't have me body and soul,' declares Ted's increasingly feisty bride-to-be. 'I want you to remember that.' Lorna wants to be more than just Mrs Gissing.

Lorna and Ted's marriage more closely resembles a bargain thrashed out between two opposing parties than the culmination of a whirlwind romance. Their married life begins inauspiciously: Ted's temper gets the better of him at the church service. He insults his bride's parents, angry that they look down on him. 'Don't get like her, missus!' he warns Lorna about his snobby mother-in-law, dragging his new bride away from the church before any wedding photos can be taken. Ted cannot bear to feel inferior to other people. After a nasty confrontation with his new wife, he confides in her that he grew up in an impoverished family and was treated badly by the local community. He has vowed never to work for any man but himself.

For Lorna, motherhood is almost as challenging as being the wife of an unpredictable husband. Several months after the birth of the Gissings' first child, a son called Bob, Lorna is stuck in the cottage, listless and depressed. She once took pride in her neat appearance; now she is stressed and unkempt. When she hears that Ted was indulging his taste for curvaceous women while she was in labour, the young mother decides that now is the time to remind him of the terms on which their marriage is based. She marches outside and walks straight up to her husband. Standing her ground in the face of Ted's anger, Lorna demands more time to herself and more money. 'We'll start afresh next week,' she asserts.

Lorna gets her way – and discovers a new lease of life as a result. She enjoys more freedom than ever before, has the financial means to pursue her cultural interests and makes the effort to look her best again. At this point, Ted appears to be unaware that Lorna has a secret lover, the teacher at her evening classes, who is the only man she has ever truly loved. 'I want your happiness more than I want mine,' she emphasises, during a clandestine phonecall with him. After she falls pregnant again (perhaps with her husband's child or perhaps with her lover's), Lorna learns that Ted's business is failing and must prevent her world from crashing down around her. She is determined not to lose the lifestyle for which she has fought so hard. With Ted in denial about the severity of the Gissings' financial problems, only his wife has the presence of mind to devise a radical plan that will safeguard the family's future.

During a heated argument that would undoubtedly have overwhelmed her younger self, heavily pregnant Lorna demonstrates unshakeable resolve, compelling Ted to agree to her scheme. He must direct his skills as a blacksmith towards making decorative, wrought iron pieces for Suffolk's affluent residents, she insists. Ted blusters and grumbles about changing his working life, but Lorna is stronger-willed than her husband. She has researched the market and is certain that her plan will succeed. 'I never thought much of myself, but I think I've found my talent,' Lorna remarks when explaining her enterprising idea to Ted. As the Daily Express commented, she is 'small, slight, and mouselike […] but still more than he can handle'.

At the climax of the programme, Lorna and Ted's relationship undergoes a fundamental change. Lorna realises that her husband now knows that she has been unfaithful to him; but rather than fall to pieces, she shrewdly renegotiates her relationship with Ted. The young woman decides that they should think of themselves more as 'business partners' than a married couple. Ted realises that Lorna has 'taken charge' of the situation. 'I shall fiddle the books and see you out – and take lovers on my travels!' she cries. Self-assured Lorna is in control of her life and her family's future; her transformation from shy girl to strong, capable wife, mother and businesswoman is complete – whether Ted likes it or not.

'With a strong storyline and crackling dialogue, there's never a dull moment,' concluded the Observer about this punchy drama, which is the ideal showcase for Zoe's talents.


Zoë Wanamaker ... Lorna Green

Brian Blessed ... Ted Gissing

Michael Boone ... Keith

Tina Martin ... Shirley

Joseph Holroyd ... Mr Green

Jill Summers ... Mrs Green

Pat Wallis ... 'Marge'


Writer: John Hale
Director: Richard Martin
Producer: Brian Armstrong
Designer: Roy Stonehouse


In 1973 Zoë made four appearances on TV: Lorna and Ted was preceded by The Eagle Has Landed and Between the Wars: 'The Silver Mask'; it was followed by Spy Trap: 'Sale of Work'. That is more appearances than during any other year of the decade, except for 1978, when she also appeared in four TV programmes. What's more, Lorna and Ted was broadcast just a couple of days after 'The Silver Mask', meaning that Zoe appeared twice on TV in June 1973 alone.

The TV Times interview mentioned above presents Zoë as a hard-working actress who is much in demand on TV and stage. 'In the three years since she was at drama school, she has hardly stopped working, playing parts ranging from Shakespeare to Dick Whittington's Cat,' it notes.


Unfortunately, Lorna and Ted is not available on DVD or in any other format.

Related links

IMDb: Lorna and Ted programme details

BFI: Lorna and Ted programme details

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