Sky Arts and Baim Films

Telly Savalas Looks at Birmingham

Registered: 22 December 1981
Duration: 25 minutes
Feet: 2,250
Board of Trade Certificate number: BR/E41018/27/12/86
Produced for: Columbia-EMI-Warner
Production Company: Harold Baim Film Productions

In 1981 Harold Baim must have been well aware that the requirement for cinema shorts was coming to an end. Baim was 68 when he made three half hour films, one on Birmingham, the other two on Portsmouth and Aberdeen. It was while he was making the last of the three, Aberdeen, he secured the talents of Telly Savalas to read the scripts. Savalas recorded the three scripts over two days at a studio of De Wolfe Music in London. This Birmingham film shows Baim's need to "always film on sunny days". Bizarrely the film switches from a Birmingham night club to Bibury Trout Farm in the Cotswolds, seventy miles by road from the centre of Birmingham. There is a story that Harold awoke at his Birmingham hotel and the weather was thick grey cloud. He telephoned the Met. Office at Birmingham Airport to be told the only sunny weather was to be found to the south. Camera and crew were piled into the film car and an expedition was made to The Cotswolds. The journey back to Birmingham was recorded and filming took place in Stratford-upon-Avon and at Broadway. One of his earliest and most successful films, Our Mr Shakespeare (1944), was filmed in Stratford and Broadway, so in this, one of his last films, he re-visited the locations used in one of his first. The script is full of his trade mark alliterations "You can really eat in this town: You can chew Chinese, feed French or ingest Indian, guzzle Greek, intake Italian or digest Danish". Marvellous!

Title Credits: Telly Savalas looks at Birmingham
Photographed by: Bill Paterson
Edited by: David E Naughton
Recorded by: Derek McColm
Trevor Barber
Robert Poole
Music by: De Wolfe
Written and Directed by: Harold Baim


On the outskirts of one of England's most modern cities is 14th century Selly Manor. Not far away is Minworth Greaves dating from about the same time. Now there has been a mill here since the sixteenth century. It's a museum now. This timber framed farmhouse is four-hundred years old. I spent hours in the beautiful one-hundred and fifty year old Botanical Gardens and there are ten acres of it. Not far from the centre of the city is the medieval church of St Laurence. St Edburgha's and the old grammar school; it's like looking into the past and it's hard to realise that all this is so near to the hustle and bustle of a really great metropolis. Aston Hall; a mansion house from another era. I can't sing it like he can, but I can assure you this is 'My Kinda Town'

[Titles & Credits]

I was told to get there before it all blew away. It was spectacular cherry blossom time in Birmingham's Bournville.

Riding the express elevator to the top of the cities highest buildings; this is the view that nearly took my breath away. As far back at the twelfth century the land on which Birmingham now stands was owned by the de-Birmingham family whose tombs can be seen at this The Church of St Martin. We are in the heart of the West Midlands. There are over a million people in Birmingham. Two million a year use its modern rail terminal. The international airport welcomes arrivals from all major European centres and important cities in Great Britain. Aircrews' automobile owners and drivers of Italy's expresses look though screens made by one of the cities major industries. Another way in is by Multi Carriageway Motorway. Motorways mean problems and I visited the West Midland Police motorway control unit one of the most specialised traffic control groups in the world. The unit polices fifty-miles of Midland motorways. Computers close-circuit television systems and electronic wall charts all help to control the traffic flow, accidents and illuminated signals to motorists. If motorists ignore the police signals they could wind up at the sixteenth century French style law court.

But what about arriving the Venetian way? A hundred and fifty nine miles of canals and two hundred and sixteen locks can give you a pretty busy trip. You arrive bang in the city centre and it is one-up-man-ship of a different kind.

Down tree-lined boulevards bus routes network the metropolitan areas and beyond. The vehicles originate from another of Birmingham's giant industries which supply Hong Kong with railway carriages and London's underground with rolling-stock.

I found the city exciting. The modern buildings reflect its position as the nation's industrial powerhouse; you feel as if you have been projected into the twenty-first century. But a century back it looked like this. The contrast, startling. The Town Hall is on left of picture. Nothing remains of the original surroundings but the Town Hall has stayed the same.

One thousand years go this was thick forest with no one living there; a thousand years from now - hmm I wonder. Talk about architectural contrast? Look at this.

I'd never seen anything like the Jewellery Quarter. I came across a letter box, one-hundred years old. The names of the firms and the types of work done make your mind boggle; in small back rooms, purpose build premises and small factories; they are all doing their own thing. He'd be OK for an each-way bet. It's all strange; disconnected drain-pipes, peeling paint, cracking cornices. But it's all on its way out. Only diamonds, they say, are forever.

Well so is banking and finance. The mint has a long long history. And so the name plate shows the way to the hall mark stamping of precious metals. The stock exchange does what the all do; Waterloo Street is the Wall Street and Threadneedle Street of Birmingham; and they are all here. Lloyds and Midland started life here. Today there are some forty major financial houses in the city.

Guns and Birmingham go together; fine craftsmanship has for five generations been the trade mark of this firm. They export all over the world. The proof of the barrel is in the firing. Here everything is checked to see it's safe.

The motto of the city: Forward.

I stood in Victoria Square outside the Council House where the city fathers meet, designed like a Venetian Palazzo the cornerstone was laid by Joseph Chamberlain the mayor in 1874.

In Victoria Square there are meetings for different reasons particularly in the sunshine. The impact of a well planned municipality is evident in Chamberlain Square named after Joseph Chamberlain; it is flanked by the library, museum and art gallery, the Chamberlain Memorial is in the centre and another view of the Town Hall which was deigned by Josiah Hansom of Cab fame. Here the Birmingham Symphony Orchestra plays to packed houses. Boulton Watt and Murdoch are deep in discussion; opposite the magnificent 900 seat Repertory Theatre.

On any sunny day at lunchtime this scene can be seen outside the library complex. The Library which houses Europe's largest collection of Shakespeare has on-line computer searching service with access to 100 data banks from Italy all the way to California. Seventy-thousand people visit the museum and art gallery every month; they are powerhouses of treasure. The many premier hotels in the city do their bit in the culture department. I looked in on a Gerald Irvin exhibition.

The brains have been nourished, what about the parts the paintings couldn't reach? You can really eat in this town: You can chew Chinese, feed French or ingest Indian, guzzle Greek, intake Italian or digest Danish. If you are weight-watching, well, forget it. Can you believe they raise their pies by hand, and Bragg about it?

A highlight of my trip was a look at one of the two Birmingham Universities. It means "through effort to the heights". Affectionately known as Big Joe after Joseph Chamberlain again the three-hundred-and-twenty-five feet high tower dominates the campus. About nine-thousand students attend this major centre of scientific research and medicine, this apart from other curricular activities.

I was here for the Spring Festival; ten hours of entertainment every day for seven days in the eighty-one acre Cannon Hill Park. The sound of disco music was in the air so I wandered over to see what gives. It was an over forties competition and - well incredible. This is Mrs Taylor. I'm sure somebody loves-ya baby!

They don't have to wait for Saturday Night fever at Thursday's one of Birmingham's after dark scenes: it's lush, plush and there's not much hush. Let's take in the action.

The rhythm is catching, even for the trout at Bibury Trout Farm in the Cotswold Country. A trout on the table is work two in the tank. Surrounding Birmingham is the heart of England region. Fine feathered friends flapped in friendly fashion at Bourton-on-the-Water. It doesn't seem part of today's world somehow. The nicest people live around here they say. It was my first visit to Shakespeare's Stratford on Avon and it really captures the imagination. Shakespeare's mother Mary Arden; she livened in this beautiful Tudor farm house. The way England guards it heritage is really something. This city is within reach of typical English countryside. Quiet meadows, thatched cottages. Sleepy lazy villages. Ancient churches. You can give my regards to this Broadway; a really peach of a place.

Back in Brum, as the locals call their town, we find St Philip's Cathedral being given the works; consecrated in 1715 it stands in its own grounds; a city centre oasis and if you want to know what people do there let's find a good vantage point and watch. Now we know, don't we.

The Rotunda towers over the Bull Ring. It's a hundred and sixty years since there was any bull-baiting here. The ring is gone. Colourful markets have taken over. You know it's an adventure to shop in this City. One hundred and fifty market stalls display their goods while over them intense traffic pounds along the elevated inner ring road. There's a sophisticated shopping centre over New Street rail terminal. It has two-hundred shops, restaurants and my favourite - British pubs. A nostalgic contrast to the old Great Western Arcade.

I walked on the walk ways, sat on the seats and admired the space and the shrubs in the spacious traffic-free pedestrian precincts; rambled through Rackhams in Corporation Street; browsed in Bull Street; dallied in Dale End; lingered at Lewis's; hooted at their humour.

After all that I flopped down at Faukes the Furriers an exotic emporium with priceless antiques and quite unbelievable. A million and a half square meters of floor space almost half of it in the city centre the best of the old has been jealously preserved. Every two years Britain's magnificent motor show comes to the National Exhibition Centre. Administrators are kept constantly on their toes by international and national exhibitions, conferences, arena events and entertainments. Birmingham International Intercity Terminal serves the centre and its seven hundred bedroom luxury hotel complex.

Six interconnecting halls provide a display area of ninety-thousand square meters. Number seven hall is under construction. It will house at eight-thousand set arena or provide an extra ten-thousand square metres of exhibition space.

Birmingham's road system is revolutionary; The Inner Ring Road; Queensway. A four mile circuit of duel carriageways tunnels and overpasses linking up with the main arteries of the city and the Aston Expressway.

Yes, it's "my kinda town" so, so-long Birmingham, here's looking at ya!