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Worzel Gummidge is a walking, talking scarecrow character in British children's fiction who originally appeared in a series of books by the English novelist Barbara Euphan Todd.[1] It was the first story book published by Puffin Books.[2]

Worzel Gummidge
Worzel Gummidge character
First appearanceWorzel Gummidge
(by Barbara Euphan Todd, 1936) (Book)
Last appearanceThe Green Man
(Planned Reboot, Christmas 2019) (TV)
Created byBarbara Euphan Todd
Portrayed byMackenzie Crook (latest)
Information
SpeciesScarecrow
GenderMale
FamilyEarthy Mangold Chloe raggett

The books were adapted for radio and television a number of times, most successfully with former Doctor Who actor Jon Pertwee taking the lead role from 1979 to 1981 in the Southern Television series Worzel Gummidge, originally produced in the UK (this series was ranked among the top 50 greatest British children's programmes) and later in New Zealand (1987–1989). For the TV series Gummidge had a set of interchangeable turnip, mangelwurzel and swede heads, each of which suited a particular occasion or endowed him with a specific skill.

Contents

OutlineEdit

Worzel Gummidge is a scarecrow that can come to life on Scatterbrook Farm. Worzel stands in ten acre field. He befriended John and Susan who came to stay during the School holidays on the Braithwaites Farm. Worzel normally lands John and Susan in trouble when he is being mischievous, as he goes into a sulk and becomes a normal lifeless scarecrow. This leads others to blame the two children for the trouble Worzel causes.

The Worzel Gummidge books differ from the television adaption; one difference being that in the books Worzel was married to Earthy Mangold. In the first book, Aunt Sally (his Femme fatale in the TV series) is only mentioned in one chapter and the character is an antagonistic bully to Worzel. For the television adaptation, Worzel has a collection of interchangeable heads. In the books, the maker of Worzel Gummidge and other scarecrows is not named the Crowman, but is described as a mysterious figure.

BooksEdit

  • Worzel Gummidge (1936)
  • Worzel Gummidge Again (1937)
  • More About Worzel Gummidge (1938)
  • Worzel Gummidge And Saucy Nancy (1947)
  • Worzel Gummidge Takes A Holiday (1949)
  • Earthy Mangold And Worzel Gummidge (1954)
  • Worzel Gummidge And The Railway Scarecrows (1955)
  • Worzel Gummidge At The Circus (1956)
  • Worzel Gummidge And The Treasure Ship (1958)
  • Detective Worzel Gummidge (1963)

The first paperback version of the first book, released in 1941, has the distinction of being the first story book published by the famous children's imprint Puffin.

AdaptationsEdit

Children's HourEdit

The first broadcast with Worzel was before World War II on the BBC's Children's Hour. By 1946, Worzel was played by veteran radio actor Philip Wade, John by John Clark, Susan by Rosamund Barnes, and Earthy Mangold by Mabel Constanduros. Later, Worzel was played by Denis Folwell, who went on to play Jack Archer in the long-running BBC radio 4 soap opera The Archers.[1]

Worzel Gummidge Turns DetectiveEdit

The character first appeared on television in 1953 in a four-part series.

JackanoryEdit

In July 1967 five Worzel Gummidge stories were read on Jackanory by Gordon Rollings. Worzel Gummidge Again was read in November 1974 (with one story tying in with Guy Fawkes Night) by Geoffrey Bayldon, later to appear in the 1979-81 TV series.

1979-81 television seriesEdit

Southern Television's production for ITV was written by Keith Waterhouse and Willis Hall, and starred Jon Pertwee as Worzel, with Una Stubbs as Aunt Sally, a life-size fairground doll and Worzel's femme fatale.[3] This was a significant change from the original books, where Aunt Sally is, in fact, Worzel's aunt. The Crowman, who made Worzel and some of his other scarecrow friends, was played by Geoffrey Bayldon, better known for his starring role as the title character of Catweazle. Bill Maynard also appeared as a scarecrow called Sergeant Beetroot.

Worzel Gummidge Down UnderEdit

Television New Zealand and Channel 4 (UK) co-funded a follow-up series that ran for two seasons in 1987 and 1989, with Worzel Gummidge and Aunt Sally, still played by Pertwee and Stubbs, relocated to New Zealand.

Planned revivalEdit

In 2018, British media reported Mackenzie Crook could be starring in a contemporary adaptation of the Worzel Gummidge books in a new TV series for the BBC.[4]The first image of Mackenzie Crook as Worzel Gummidge was revealed on 7 June 2019.[5] It was announced it will be series of films.The first 60 minute episode, The Scarecrow Of Scatterbrook, sees two young strangers arrive in the village of Scatterbrook. It’s not long before Susan and John encounter Worzel Gummidge, the Scarecrow of Ten Acre Field. Their world is sent spinning into confusion when they realise Gummidge comes to life. The only person more shocked is Worzel, when he discovers that the children are not in fact fellow scarecrows but humans. Their worlds should never commune but fate has conspired to create an extraordinary union. The seasons have stopped and the harvest hasn’t arrived. The rhythm of the natural world is out of kilter and this unlikely trio must try to put it right. Magic, mystery and mayhem unfurl. The second episode, The Green Man, welcomes another mysterious arrival to Scatterbrook. The Green Man is the creator of scarecrows and keeper of scarecrow lore. He isn’t at all happy that Worzel is consorting with humans. Elsewhere, local aristocrat Lady Bloomsbury Barton is holding a fete, with a Scarecrow competition that Worzel is determined to win. What will Worzel's most competitive rival, Soggy Bogart, and The Green Man make of it all? Mackenzie Crook says: “I’m thrilled to be back working with the BBC and many members of the Detectorists team to bring Worzel Gummidge to a new generation of viewers and reintroduce him to old friends. Adapting Barbara Euphan Todd’s books into these two films has been a joy and I’ve completely fallen for her charming, irreverent scarecrow. Fingers crossed for a glorious English summer as we head out to Scatterbrook Farm and Worzel’s Ten Acre Field.” Shane Allen, Controller Comedy Commissioning at the BBC, says: “Mackenzie’s widely adored and multi-Bafta award winning Detectorists was a grown up love letter to bucolic England and with Worzel he takes a similar approach to English folklore, rural rites and the magic of childhood. His visionary and fundamental reinterpretation of this classic is that rare and special achievement - a BBC One family friendly comedy.” Kristian Smith, Executive Producer for Leopard Pictures, says: “These two specials are real treat pieces for a family audience. There was nobody other than Mackenzie that I wanted to work with on this. The vision and creativity of this man is awesome. He has written two beautiful scripts that are clever, warm and funny. And once again he has attracted a formidable cast of tremendous actors. We are so excited to be able to bring these new Worzel Gummidge stories to everybody.”

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ a b "Worzel Gummidge (1979-81)" ScreenOnline.org.uk
  2. ^ Daniel Hahn (2015). "The Oxford Companion to Children's Literature". p. 479. Oxford University Press
  3. ^ "I Love 1979: Worzel Gummidge" BBC.co.uk
  4. ^ "RETURN FOR THE WORZE! Mackenzie Crook lands lead role in BBC's reboot of children's telly favourite Worzel Gummidge". The Sun. 8 April 2018. Retrieved 9 April 2018.
  5. ^ https://www.empireonline.com/movies/news/mackenzie-crook-bring-worzel-gummidge-back-tv-screens/