The hopeful contestant and main subject of the documentary is Birmingham school teacher Francis Mallon who wanted to be a folk singer and hoped that New Faces would provide him with his big break into the world of show business. The documentary film follows him through the auditions and onto the TV show as the panel of experts delivered their verdict on his performance.
The documentary opened with the producer of New Faces, Les Cocks, answering the question “What is the purpose of the New Faces show?” The response from Les was concise and very clear, “Well, to find new talent around the country and present it on the screen for the public to see.”
Part one of the documentary starts with 31 January and 1 February auditions at the smoke-filled Dolce Vita club in Birmingham. It is here that Les Cocks and his team have gathered to start their search for the acts that will be invited onto the second series of the TV talent show.
Unlike the current talent shows like Britain’s Got Talent with New Faces the audition process was never screened and until this documentary aired they were confined to the memories of those that attended the venues in person. This documentary finally lifted the lid off the auditions and finally revealed the good, the average, the bad and the downright awful acts that tried out for the show.
The first act we see is an unidentified young female singer who is wearing a backless white dress and judging by her accent is clearly a local. She is debating with the resident audition pianist, who is also clearly a Brummie, whether her version of Nobody’s Child is to be played in the key of F or G. Unfortunately when she starts to sing it’s clear that the correct key has still not been decided.
The next act is a much younger female singer who is sporting a white bonnet tied securely to her head with a blue ribbon and wearing a white pinafore-dress. From a seated position she singing the chorus of a melancholy Victorian ballad written in 1910;
Don’t go down in the mine, Dad
Dreams very often come true
Daddy, you know it would break my heart
If anything happened to you
Just go and tell my dream to your mates
And as true as the stars that shine
Something is going to happen today
Dear Daddy, don’t go down the mine
These two acts are followed by a female singer whose audition is stopped short of the end of her song and a man who is seen eating a wine glass. It’s not a great start in the search for the next star.
These opening acts are followed by a couple of comedians and a glut of Tommy Cooper impersonators, including a fleeting glimpse of the eventual heat 11 winner Johnny Carroll. These are followed by a simply awful rendition of My Way that drew a look of complete exasperation from the ever watchful Les Cocks. ‘And now the end is near’ opened the singer and as Les moves his hand in a slashing motion across his own neck and mercifully spares the watching crowd from the second half of the performance it arrives slightly sooner than the performer anticipated. Les, meanwhile, places his fat cigar back in his mouth and awaits the next act.
Next up it’s Francis Mallon’s turn to make his claim for a place on the show and with guitar in hand, and in the absence of a suitable chair, he perches himself on a table and sings After All I’ve Been Through, the song that gives the documentary its title. It’s a huge improvement on what’s been seen and heard so far and after a final flourish on his guitar the song comes to a close and a spontaneous round of applause breaks out from the watching hopefuls.
The hopefulness soon fades as the next act we see is an eccentric old chap with a stuffed fish that suddenly attacks him Emu-style and with shaking hands and a quavering voice he crashes to the floor taking his table of props with him. As he’s helped to his feet by the pianist the audience can’t control their laughter but it’s clearly at him and not with him as his act is rushed to a swift conclusion. He’s followed by a very nervous magician who clumsily merges three different coloured 7″ singles to create one multi-coloured 12″ LP. He gets a sympathetic round of applause but it’s not great and the attentions soon turn to the tray of bread rolls that have turned up for lunch.
By now the auditions are running well behind schedule and it’s clear that some of the acts scheduled for the afternoon slots will have to return on the second day when the time allowed will be cut short to help ease the backlog.
Over the two days we get to hear some great songs, unfortunately sung by very average singers. The songs included Smile, By The Time I Get To Phoenix, Happy Heart, Lipstick On Your Collar, If and If You Could Read My Mind.
These songs are interspersed with a number of comedians, including another glimpse of Johnny Carroll and an act that would make it into heat ten of the new series, Bob Curtiss. Long suffering producer Les Cocks has, however, heard so many of the jokes before that he even started mouthing the punch lines along with the comedian. We then see another magician who shouts a lot while making wooden white and black rabbits switch places while his bewildered looking assistant looks on. You are left wondering just how Les Cocks and Director Paul Stewart Laing managed to sit through so many of these auditions and retain his sanity.
Near the end of the first part we see another act that will appear in heat ten when Nicola Christie, the glamorous blonde with the sparkling smile treats the audience to her version of Bread’s hit Make It With You. The final audition is another singer and we get to see Les Cocks singing along to Route 66. It’s clearly been a long two days for him and his team.
Part one ends with Francis Mallon explaining his shock at being selected for the TV shows but he’s pleased to be selected and credits his success to the fact he performed one of his own songs. In part two we will get to see the tense hours before and during his performance, when he was judged by a panel including Arthur Askey and Tony Hatch, and his thoughts afterwards as he decided whether his quest for stardom had come off.
Part two of the documentary moves to the ATV studios and the rehearsals for the heat of the show. The artists, including Francis Mallon and Nicola Christie are both seen working with musical director Johnny Patrick and his band and Director Paul Stewart Laing to fine tune the musical arrangement for their songs.
The rehearsals and run through then start with host Derek Hobson running through his introduction for the musical comedy group Pyramid, who are compared to the Barron Nights, The Rocking Berries and The Grumbleweeds. They were followed by David Sidaway, who plays the violin, while a man dressed in white overalls climbs a ladder to apply some finishing touches to the set behind him.
Francis Mallon is on next performing the song that got him through the auditions, as seen in part one. While he sits on a stool and runs through his song we get to see the production team running through the camera shots they will need for the show. Francis, speaking after the run through, can’t decide if he should stand or remain seated but concluded after this run through he felt more comfortable seated.
Bob Curtiss gets his run through next and works with the props team on a gag involving a stool, a hammer and some nails. The gag is that all the comedians, Dave Allen, Max Bygraves, they are all using stools. The team then throw on a stool that smashes into pieces. As Bob turns to look he states, ‘It’s all broken’ and then a hammer and nails are thrown onto the stage. This small segment of the act involves some very careful choreography that at least seven of the production crew to pull off. It was a gag that, after the recorded performance, Tony Hatch would state he really didn’t like and would have liked to have had two more real laughs instead.
The full line-up are the run through the final procedure for announcing the winner, where the crew member explains that for the rehearsals they will use John Parris as the winner as on one of the early shows they picked on one of the actual acts as the ‘rehearsal winner’ and they ended up winning the show. He then explains that once Derek Hobson announces the winner they will try to cut to a close up of that act and then once Derek has thanked the panel and reminded viewers about the coupon vote that they will then cut back to the acts who should then start congratulating and kissing each other.
After some short interviews with the panel of Clifford Davis, Tony Hatch, Mickie Most and Arthur Askey it on with the live recording of the show.
We get to see parts of Nicola Christie’s song, Bob Curtiss’ broken stool gag, and the whole of Francis Mallon’s sweet folk ballad, which seems to go down well with the audience. Despite feeling more nervous than he had for a long while when performing Francis hoped that the judges liked the song and hoped for a score in the 80s or 90s.
So what did the panel make of Francis and his song, After All I’ve Been Through?
Arthur Askey: “I thought he was very gentle, very nice, very easy listening, I enjoyed it”
Tony Hatch: “Francis Mallon has a plaintive voice, pretty song. I don’t think the combination is quite strong enough to get in the charts..but I was quite impressed.”
Mickie Most: “I thought it was very pleasant, I don’t think it was sung very well, unfortunate to say. I think if his ability is anywhere, it’s in writing and not so much on singing.”
The marks for Francis were as follows;
Presentation: Arthur Askey (8), Tony Hatch (6), Mickie Most (5), Clifford Davis (5) – 24
Content: Arthur Askey (7), Tony Hatch (5), Mickie Most (6), Clifford Davis (6) – 24
Star Quality: Arthur Askey (6), Tony Hatch (5), Mickie Most (4), Clifford Davis (2) – 17
This gave Francis a total of 65 which was short of the mark he’d hoped for. In his own words Francis expressed his disappointment with the content marks but respected the constructive views of Tony Hatch and Mickie Most, he was quite shocked at the low score from Clifford Davis and didn’t feel he really merited that low a mark.
The show concluded with a few interviews, firstly the winner, Nicola Christie was hopeful this win would launch her singing career but first needed to get herself and agent and a manager, but her parents and her husband, who were in the audience were delighted for her. She also confirms that she will be signing the Ramsgate show contact with Alan Blackburn and was also offered a contract to perform on a four-month cruise around the Caribbean.
Bob Curtiss explained that after the show he’d certainly had a few more enquiries and it was difficult for an unknown comedian to make an impression when you are totally unknown as you have to prove you are a comic first.
The final words were from Francis, recorded about two weeks after the show, where he explains to the interviewer that since the show nothing has happened, absolutely nothing at all.
The Sunday Mirror TV pages on 11 August 1974 billed the show as follows;
AFTER ALL I’VE BEEN THROUGH (ITV, 8.0)
Very funny, very sad documentary on the making of the TV amateur talent show, New Faces. You watch the hopeful conjurers and the comedians go through their auditions, and wonder where they get the guts to go on. The cameras follow schoolteacher and would-be folksinger Francis Mallon through to an actual live screening. Later he is asked if he has received any offers since his appearance, ‘None at all,’ he confesses.
There’s no business as hard as show business.
A selection of some images from the documentary, descriptions below.
Top Left: Producer Les Cocks
Top Middle: A man eating a wine glass
Top Right: Comedian makes a bus fare joke
Middle Left: One of the many Tommy Cooper’s that turned up
Middle: A singer performs Happy Heart
Middle Right: If I Thought You’d Ever Change Your Mind singer
Bottom Left: Comedy Impressionist
Bottom Middle: Smile singer
Bottom Right: Route 66 singer
A big thank you to Francis Mallon for the information detailed above.