Rita Tushingham first won international acclaim as a teenager, playing Jo in the film A Taste of Honey. Her performance in this 1961 kitchen sink drama earned her a BAFTA, a Golden Globe and the Best Actress award at the Cannes Film Festival. She starting shooting the film on her 19th birthday. She went on to play roles in the Leather Boys, the Knack… and How to Get it and Doctor Zhivago. Now 80, she continues to perform and recently appeared in two BBC television drama series - Ridley Road and The Responder - and in the film Last Night in Soho. Rita was born in Liverpool and at 16 joined the Liverpool Repertory Company as a student assistant stage manager. Her first role was as the back legs of a horse in Toad of Toad Hall. In 1960 she responded to a newspaper article which invited ‘ugly’ unknown girls to apply for the part of Jo in a film adaptation of Shelagh Delaney's play A Taste of Honey, to be directed by Tony Richardson. The film challenged many taboos of the time, including teenage pregnancy and interracial relationships. After the British film industry went into decline in the 1970s Rita started working in Europe. In 1988 she went back to her roots and played Celia Higgins in Carla Lane’s Liverpool sitcom, Bread. Rita lives in London and is a passionate supporter of Liverpool Football Club. DISC ONE: You’ll Never Walk Alone by Gerry & the Pacemakers DISC TWO: Tutti Frutti by Little Richard DISC THREE: Penny Lane by The Beatles DISC FOUR: Every Time We Say Goodbye by Ella Fitzgerald DISC FIVE: The pas de deux from the second act of Giselle, performed by The Pro Arte Orchestra, conducted by Marcus Dods DISC SIX: Bridge Over Troubled Water by Simon and Garfunkel DISC SEVEN: An extract from I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue - Potted Plots, broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on 22nd May 2006 DISC EIGHT: Hallelujah by Jeff Buckley BOOK CHOICE: Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable LUXURY ITEM: A photograph album CASTAWAY'S FAVOURITE: Bridge Over Troubled Water by Simon and Garfunkel Presenter Lauren Laverne Producer Paula McGinley
This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
Bbc sounds music radio, podcasts, hello, I'm Lauren Laverne, and this is the desert island discs podcast. Every week I ask my guests to choose the eight tracks book and luxury they'd want to take with them. If they were cast away to a desert island and for rights reasons, the music is shorter. Then the original broadcast. I hope you enjoy listening. The My As to why this week is the actress rita touching him, she celebrated her eightieth birthday this year and continues to tackle challenging roles in film and on television. She made her davy,
and her name in the groundbreaking kitchen sink drama, a taste of honey in nineteen sixty one, both critically acclaimed, controversially, it's day her spellbinding her a a golden globe and the best actress award at the Cannes film festival Nineteen years old she went on to play- in films which a petty minded swinging london in the nineteen sixties, including called classic the leather boys and sex comedy the neck, and how to get it by now Sixty five. She was sharing the screen with Judy Christie and Alec guinness and David leans. Epic love story. Doctor Zhivago, she says I think I was ever that ambitious, but I love film. I need it like most people need air, Rita welcome to desert island discs. Thank you for asking me. I'm thrilled to be here. You've recently played a range of characters in some very hard, dramas, mother in the edgar wright film last night in soho, do you enjoy
working with younger actors and talking to them about their lives and experiences. And yours, yes, I I I if they ask me I would never go. I think you should do it like this. You don't want to be sitting there saying and when I did and all that you just sort of talk what happens on, sat and all sorts of things like that, and if they say what you think about this or we working something out and and you want to go but yeah. I do learn from them and I hope that I give them a little something you would just nineteen when we started shooting it a taste nothing is quite close to birth- is on my birth on your nineteen first day were how we were able to keep up the momentum and inequality It can be so challenging and I think luck has a lot to do with it and the passion never goes you want to working, but you don't want to be when you get to a certain age the law will not gonna you, ve got the sun age or an actress. You can't do this kind of that, but if you were not,
Oh you can and do it it's so silly. Don't think of age, I dont want to be playing grannies in the corner, just making a cup of tea for people in things. I want something with It is spirit, yeah, absolutely and it's so those those challenging times. As you said, it can be more difficult for actresses than actors. How did you handle that when we got to that stage? You can't change yourself. This is me at the age I am and the ages that I've been through and if it doesn't fit, then it doesn't fit. You don't have to beg for things you just I just single lot of luck and there are times when you're not going to be working, and there are times when you do and you get used to that, because you also have to live it's one of the most important things, but not the most important thing in my life, so I'm lucky to have it, but I'm also lucky to have my
Emily Willis wrote will be talking about so much of that today Rita, but we're also going to be sharing your desk. So I think we're fed a dive and let's hear your first: what's it going to be it during the pace, because you never walk alone and wisely chosen. This well, because I support liverpool football club and it's their anthem. As you know, and I know it sounds stupid, but when liverpool are playing, I can't really watch them. I mean if I went to the ground. Of course I would but I can't watch them, and I don't want to know what the results is until the game is finished, and then you know you can feel your pulse going going, but I'm always so delightful and I always ask SIRI what was after. I know that that, obviously, even if this extra time, what was the result and then I went on paper. It's stupid, isn't it but that's the way. I am The a
the the the- the and the jerry, the pace. Because you'll never walk alone, so detecting and let's go back to liverpool you were born there in nineteen forty two in the middle of an air raid in gaston. What did you mom in it you about your rival, she caught me with her feet. and I wondered if that was One of the reasons why I thought at one stage might like to be a footballer, a dramatic arrival and you were pretty early. I think I was a month premature and someone once said to me: will you a premature baby- and I said yeah
I said why she said because you're always rushing stars, you mean to go on and your dad John ran a couple of grocery shops. at liverpool what what was he like? What your memories of him? He was a very rebecca man. If p, who come in and he knew they couldn't afford certain things it always give them an extra slice of ham or next precisely this he would look after his customers. Views to hell man in the shelf? I think what will he hopes a yeah I used to go and I think he just used to do it because we could spend some time together and he would dumb say to me, put these beans on the shelf or put the tins of fruit. So I do them all neatly and I'd go out on orders with him when he did deliveries, and grace shop and the post office, and he had another one in place could speak mac, Islam, which my brother peter, ran unjust, and the colonna George Harrison was the butcher,
and I remember him saying to me when I met him. He said to jewel markets lane when I said yes, he said, do it round the corner? It is funny, isn't it all, there's those little pieces of the jigsaw that I love, that that was the conversation that has that classic bringing two people from the same town got to get really granular the phone, nothing to do with sort of what you're doing in the business to do with that? What is more important, you've got your roots here. Tell me a little bit about your mum. You've described. There has been lots of fun rates of what what did she enjoy doing mum? Will she would cry with laughter? She was to fund she loved fashion. She loved hats. She was the one who started. You have been interested in the theatre, a thing you yes, because he she used to go every three weeks to liverpool rap, where I ended up working, baxter,
age and I remember going and for the first time and falling in love with the whole theatre and the curtain, the lights in the there always read out they the curtains and I remember looking at it in being and trams, by the whole thing I fell in love and then, when the current went up you could smell. I dont know if everyone knew that, but then there is the smell of the theatre, it was. It was intoxicating time for your next disk risa. What what are we gonna hear? Second, I've got little richards tutu fruity, which I now because he was extraordinary. They had never been anyone like him on him. He just had the energy in the magic heap. He was just amazing what bodily mob that bob Bob
the the tutti frutti by little richard you for family moved to the nearby suburb of hunts cross, and that was where you went to school. Did you enjoy it did enjoy school. I went to school heavily and have the reason, don't ask me why I was by mrs winter, the headmistress, because I didn't want to go through the door, so she allowed me health and safety. Listening to through the wind. So every day I climb through the window
do the only one who got to go through the window because none of the others they thought I was stupid, but you do not fall. going through the window and and but the the thing that I loved was in the hallway. It was a very small school and small classes, but there was a painting of Jesus blessing the children. There was a little girl with her back she's three quarter on with a red velvet cloak and blonde hair, and I had a sister I didn't know her. She died before I was born, but my mum had given me my sister's doll, who I still have and she's very carefully in the box, but she was just like that. So I will tell everyone. That's my sister she's in Heaven and I believed it, and that was what I saw every day, and I love that too naughty a child. You, what happened to the living room? Curtains Rita, oh well,
I helped up, because my mom had just gone down the road and mrs Vaughn, who used to come and look after me and was on her way coming tinted to the house, and I thought no saudi says nothing. And I don't know why I did it, but I just cut them off, but then I pull them back, so you couldn't really see so the and and then when they were drawn. There was all these dangling menu with me. They knew it was yeah. There was a family story. I think that easter lock yourself in the bathroom and flush the toilet over and over again. Why was that? How will you sound like applause? So I WU and the next flash he hadn't and still does a listen next time refresh the law. I can one hundred percent madness yeah. I love that when you was, haven't you were actually hit by a car on your way to school. Can you meant anything about what happened? I woke up I wasn't all these people were around me: that's hands terrifying in wars, and
so my mom and dad we're. When I got to the end to the age of changing schools, they submit view not going to that school too long, a journey so with andrew to this scooter lasses, yes, and they sent me to the school that I had to cross the very road the target was run over on does loophole logic and up I do remember our men coming up and you never forget it. It's just there were you had one when my head came right out too to my showed I'd concussion, but I was very lucky because the car went right over me, but it was a very high costs in those days there you know the high we'll suits, That was how you ended up going to a catholic school. Yes, it s, even though you your family, one catholic, and so it was convent school, pretty strict, emma ginning. How did the nuns deal with you with you down? They didn't do they still have dealt okay, but
I think they filled always a bit of a troublemaker. They didn't want me to to encourage the girls to perform and dumb. I remembered and do the bone there. The mother superior we'd go past her window and we ll have to cut cursing to a window. You know things like that that they didn't like, but I was intoxicated by the incense and certain things of of the catholic religion, and now I have a strong faith. I I really do, but it's it's. My faith, I've pieced it together with temps or more music. This is your third choice. Today was going to be it's going to be penny lane, because the school heavily that I went to was on penny lane that the
if any, the led by the beatles retouching and when he was sixteen, he joined the liverpool rap. You were student assistance stage manager based at the liverpool play house. So, what's up what we are doing, I was doing props, making tea doing all the sort of things for the actual and I was also playing small roles in the first row I played was the back legs of holes in toto total. How did that go over acting scratching than the fellow info? who is the assistant stage manager and said just that he was australian said do that when you doing, but somebody gets a laugh you but are done lock. It was after that scene, stealing,
woman's that you saw an advert in the newspaper with a job offer. What did it actually say? It said looking for an unattractive unknown actor to play the role of Joe and a taste of honey. So I thought, oh, I think, and it's something that you do. I think fate is there. There are all all the stars were in line and I wrote a letter sent a photograph to wood for films and- and they said, if you are going to be in london, come and do an audition. My mum said we're going and I went, and tony sublime utterly do for us tonight, while I'll do a bit of reading for this jody Richardson tony Richardson a night. So I did something from with some pages- and I did that and then we did improvisation and then a few weeks went by.
and then they they rang and said that right, we'd like to do a film test. So I came back to london and then I went back home again and then one day when I was doing the court. Was you know half an hour, a piece of this all up that thing, because the tunnel we didn't have undergone bob. The EU is a stage doorkeepers. At any rate, it is its own calls, or so I came down down down and it was ten. You said to note its tony ten richardson. You ve got the part on it and I thought did he say you haven't got the power to us, you have come out and what they also call. They had to call my mom and dad. And yes, I had got the puppet I to wait. six months before we started shooting because the people were gonna finance. It wanted wanted a name. They they wanted. Audrey hepburn tony tony said no was wonderful of
if the tony I'm going, I wouldn't be in films if it wasn't for tony richardson. I owe him everything he went ahead and stuck with me, as did John osborne, and I was very, very lucky really lucky time for so little music risa. This is your fourth choice today. What are we going to hear next, full, Ella Fitzgerald singing every time we say good by, and I don't think this is a song just love us. I think it's a song that when we do say goodbye, we say goodbye to our children when they're going off to school. For the first time we say goodbye to brothers, two sisters, it's the word saying goodbye. a we say good
I wonder what the every time we say goodbye, Ella Fitzgerald, so detaching immortal. Ask you more about a taste of honey in it. You play the teenager jew, who has a brief romance with a sailor called Jimmy and after he's gone back to ship, discovers she's pregnant. Her friend Jeff moves in with her and they set up home. gather the film broke, so many taboos on screen are bearing a minus nineteen. Sixty one you ve got Jimmy played by pull down choir he's black Jeff is gay, your car It's a teenage mother and ensure that in any way teenager wondered what you wrote the play initially herself. Will you aware of the fact that you were gonna ruffle and the impact that you were gonna have, while you're making it didn't work People say will want to be worried about me in something that no? I wasn't because it was life and
all there on the page and she just wanted if she wanted tenderness, which he found with Jimmy and it's it's a beautiful relationship between them in one scene, Joe and Jimmy case, one of the first interracial cases in a feature film in the world. How do you look back not seen in that moment today. Well, I think it's wonderful that it was that the dupe may history was made, but it was just a sweet, wonderful love story. You became very close friends with that. Pull down quiet, we played Jimmy was your friendship ever an issue away from the film set and we were very, very close friends. He was the godfather to my first born donna and when we we did all sorts of things together. Paul was a rich with living. He loved life and had such a wonderful,
sense of humour and looked after me, so well, but what we would walk around. You know that meant when we win in so how the round and people would shout black and white to mix with so shocked and poured just say. No, it's all right, she's just been on holiday and going back the original and very unkind advert it actually called for quotes ugly girls to audition note. Some journalists were very cruel about your appearance. When the film came out. How did you deal with those comments? What did you make of them? I look at people and things. Don't look so bad. They don't look so good either so you're you're you're you. I didn't take it personally. You didn't think about it. You don't honestly go into the bathroom in the mornings, oh god you're ugly, You just don't. Do it you're, not that you have to be really into yourself. Don't you to to
that concerned him. Why should you be concerned by one person because they think it's a story? Let's get some more music. Shall we? This is your fifth choice today. What are we going to hear next? Well, when I first came to london, John dexter, director that I was working with invited me to go to the ballet and am I hadn't ever seen a ballet on stage and it was at the royal opera house, it was Margot fonteyn rude
was near raf dancing. She is l, just a wonderful atmosphere there and then sitting there and then seeing them dance and the whole drama of it. She was beautiful, he was beautiful and they were fantastic. I was very lucky to experience that the the
the the an extract in the ballet giselle, composed by Adolf Adam performed by the pro arte orchestra conducted by marcus dods, be touching him after the success of the taste of honey, you move to chelsea and you acted at the royal court theatre. London was, of course, in full swing by then, and you were. Getting in amongst it. You hung out with some incredible as celebrities and artists of the day, Francis bacon,
it was introduced to you by your friend and co star, Paul danquah. What do you remember about him when we'd go out and have sort of supper or something I got an unjust, would really. accent go to morocco. I went to morocco quite a lot and francis would come over there, and I remember we were very naughty of me. There was a restriction of how much money you could take out of the country, send me them from tangier poll and sent a telegram in those days. Telegram and saying: could you bring some money out for francis, so I got the money. for now. I had to send. I remember sending a telegram back saying bacon. Russia is ok, setting the clouded telegram billion round on, took it and took him money up front. Remember sitting on the beach and francis decided he was going to cover himself
there- was a young boy used to sell the telegraph on the beach, and so Francis was sitting covered and they grow so that, because in this area, are. You really was an amazing amazing man. You work with some wonderful actors in your career who has a special place in your heart. I wonder I venus Oliver rio alleghanies. we, of course them the scenes that I did in them. Doctor Zhivago. What we're just with surroundings and weak around really really well, where we shooting we were staying in this hotel and he used to put notes on the door and I would put notes under his school and we always just put a hand on the notes. I do that to this day now draw a little picture of the hand button and put now to this day. When I send someone something by hand, I always put the hand on it at the hip.
is because of ceramic. What about ever read a mean. You know he was obviously a great spirit, but I would have thought you'd have to be You game to handle him. I knew what needed to be done with when you only needed to be a teacher and then he wouldn't pull the tricks that he thought he could pull with other people, what kind of tricks when he used to fix people's drinks- and I know he did it to admire first then husband, terrorists by measuring yeah, you ve, was absolutely brought her and he did it to the director who fell in a suit I remember you was in no, you didn't He didn't do to me I drink, but my goodness, I can't I don't do that and I sent him how dare you how day he was because I dont think people sort of questioned. It didn't call
when I understood what about women doing it. My goodness me, but I did. I went right in there and he respected you for yeah. He did. We didn't respect each other, but I wouldn't take it. I was not going to have that nonsense, particularly difficult in the context of the film you were doing too, because I think you were a mute in that one life was difficult, so you can sell to be able to talk on. and then also when I did have to chop his leg. There is that. I had up my sleeve. Let's have is. It returns disc number six. What are we going to hear bridge over troubled water which we used to play a lot in cornwall, terry and I and then I he shot my second daughter and the played it and now dylan and willow and willow a couple of weeks ago, was singing in a choir and they sang bridge over troubled water. So it goes through three generations
When you weary small and the Simon, phone call bridge over troubled water. We detaching in the sixties had been boom time for the british film industry, but the nineteen seventies rope it more difficult, and so he started making films in europe. How did that work? I mean you didn't speak another language. So did you tend to play those kind of for english blow into town type characters? No you we were, you know I was dumped, but I I six films in ITALY.
I loved working in italy and was then wonderful to work with chaotic, but wonderful and there's because the Often you didn't do sync sound, so lost chatting going on and you know especially fluid in a shot where the cameras tracking toward you know, do you know, and all this is going on there all the time you trying to do the young, the dialogue, but it worked. So if you were travelling a lot you'd made the decision to leave your family behind in cornwall to get acting jobs that must have been very difficult. Your your daughters were quite young at the time. How did you weigh up whether to to leave or whether to take another path? Do something else. While I was the breadwinner, so If I hadn't we'd have been living on the beach and paul para and yes was. Hard. It was very hard because I feel I missed out on a lot with the dollar nature, but that was the job
I did so they were used. It wasn't unusual because it's what they knew from day one and they came with me up, a certain age and then you know it was too disrupting from from school and everything in two thousand, in five, your daughter, Aisha, was diagnosed with stage three breast cancer. She was just thirty three, I'm pleased to say that she recovered and she went on to have your your two grandchildren. You support her through treatment, but that must have just been a devastating time. How did you get through it and you just do it? It was a shock you feel like someone's picked you up and throw you against the wall. You can hide in a corner and not do anything about it or say right. This is it you have to them.
but you have to be in the moment, you have to accept what's happening and I e is the most amazing person and she just got on with it. She is so strong and spiritual and she helped me and at the same time I had my other daughter who was quite frail and ill in los angeles in hospital at the same time, but I would hold the crystal and I made myself at the end. If every day I brought myself into this is the situation and I slept I really slept well and I would hold a crystal and you just have to recognize what the situation is. You can't hide from it, but there were times when I wanted to keep myself busy yeah. You must have been on pins the entire time, I know that you did a lot of kind of stress, ironing,
It's a nice see what I do some. If some workmen were working on the building a let me, I'm not sure what to do anything out your. I need something to occupy reach her it's time for you next choice, but is it and why you taken it with you to the island it's some sorry. I haven't a clue because they're just so joyous and their naughty, but into and then not unkind, you laugh with them and thus so clever and important to you to have comedy on the island. Have voices on the island, though gosh you've got to go and it's the most important thing to be able to laugh. So in this, the age of the ten second attention span. The teams are going to compete to produce the shortest possible rendition of some well known, films, programmes, etc and berrien. Graham, you can start romeo and Juliet I love you. I love you too. I'm date so am I just kidding
I, the room, I'm silly. I haven't a clue with humphrey little. Barry cryer, graeme garden, TIM Brooke, taylor, aramis hardy produced by john, nay, psmith, so retouching m. Is there any part that you have the edge to play that the one they got away, that you haven't donor. I dont think you should ever think that, because you don't feel incomplete, wouldn't you if it's not gonna work is often works. You have to go on. You can't keep thinking. Oh, I wish I'd though I wish I d you you'd never move on, then it sounds rita. Liked, like your faith, is an important part of your life will, be what sustains you on the island yeah. Yes, it will. It sustains me daily. Really so I would take that with me to think I'm an that's for sure. You said it's a fate that you ve worked out for yourself. How would you describe its being spiritual towards people? I think is
important and also being aware. I can't explain it, but it's just something that a jigsaw I've pieced together and it fits me well with love tee, a final disk before we cast you away what's it going to be re sense, going to be highly luria thy Jeff Buckley, I went to queue gardens and it was night and they were paying music all over the place in those big glass house and the sky was so many stars. It was so beautiful and that was playing, and I so too felt at one with nature her the secret chord that David played and it pleased the lord the Hmm It goes like this.
the mind and the major back, Jeff buckley with hallelujah so rita touching him, I'm going to send you away to the desert island, I'm giving you the bible, the complete works of shakespeare, and you can take one other book. What will that one day it's going to be the brewer's dictionary of phrase and fable, and it's got over eighteen thousand entries in it. I thought that could keep me going for a long time. You so wonderful book. I could probably If I want to spend twenty years, maybe I could do about five a day,
don't know. I can imagine you speaking the lines out loud is one you'd have to to the sea to the wave sure sure well, well, a deafening one! That's happened! So that's yours! What about your looks right in what you fancy? Well, I have to take a photograph of my beloved family, but I'd like to protect it in a book of mac cartoons and I'd like the book to be ratified. in the mosquito eaten. You are sneaking in some contraband, very touching them not allowed and you have got the most angelic. Look on your face as well. I can see that MR vestry kicker manoeuvres of your childhood. I was a little return. Fronted it may muskie so net to practical, oh yeah, you can have the vote, but you can have another book. You can, however, have a whole album of family photos. Yes, I could perfect return. That case will give you an endless supply of a family photos and finally, which one track of the aid that is shared with us today and you
safe from the waves bridge over troubled water, because I've got memories of all of us in that song retouching him. Thank you very much for letting is he a desert island disks Thank you. I really enjoyed I've love being here. Thank you. The hello. I hope you join my conversation with Rita and I'm glad we were able to come to an agreement to buy ten luxury. We ve castaway many actors,
including Sophia Loren, nickel kidman on dame Helen marin rate, is co, star, Alec genesis and back look to you can find all of those episodes in a desert, island discs, programme archive and through BBC sounds the studio manager for today's programme was emma heart. The assistant produces christine pavlovsk II and the producer was pull him again. The next time my guest will be you two frontline bonnet.
I do hope. You'll join us, the hi, I'm greg jenna and you're dead to me from radio four is back. Yes, we are a comedy show that takes history seriously, and this series get ready to hear about frederick the great of prussia with stephen fry. I'm just thrilled this history lesson learn a fair amount about an ancient egyptian queen with kimi bulb what a vibe and for a stitch. In time. We talk about the bio tapestry with Lucentis. Oh I'm agog all alongside a host of brilliant historians that you're dead to me listen and subscribe on. Bbc sounds jolly good.
Transcript generated on 2022-07-18.