Saturday, 14 March 2015

Emily Bishop: Born with a tidy mind

Emily Bishop has had some cracking little scenes in Coronation Street recently. Having done one of her numerous disappearing acts these days, she has bounced back with aplomb.

I make no secret of the fact it has taken me a while to appreciate the quietly plodding Emily. However Eileen Derbyshire is such a subtle, skilled actress that this, together with her lack of interest in any publicity whatsoever, can often mean her contribution to Corrie is overlooked. 

Some people criticise Miss Derbyshire for keeping herself to herself or find it weird in these social media days however I think it's quite refreshing for someone in the public eye to decide not to share the contents of their breakfast with all and sundry. 

I remember the fabulous Kathy Burke praising Eileen Derbyshire in an interview some years ago, saying she was an underrated actor who never received the plaudits she was due. After all, she has been with Coronation Street since January 1961 which is quite an achievement. Many see her as surplus to requirements these days, a relic of a bygone era perhaps? I disagree. 

Last year Eileen Derbyshire appeared in only 39 episodes compared to Alison King's 163 and Kym Marsh's 152 but it doesn't really matter. We collectively shout "Emily!" whenever she suddenly appears. I can understand that it is only right Eileen may opt for a reduced workload these days given the pressures of filming, but I still think the character of Emily has much to contribute.

Emily is often classed as dull and uneventful. She once said:

"I've always wanted to be stormy, passionate and tempestuous. But you can't be. Not when you're born with a tidy mind."

A beautiful line. However it's not always been sweet sherries and charity work. She narrowly escaped marrying Leonard Swindley in the 60s; saw her beloved husband Ernest killed by armed robbers in the 70s; married a deranged bigamist in the 80s and coped with Percy Sugden for far too many years. She protested up a tree in the 90s and took in a rather familiar looking Mel Hutchwright and his Hard Grindings in the 2000s. 

Every long running serial needs its constant, steady Eddie characters and in this regard Emily is invaluable. She is a vital link to the established narrative of Coronation Street and despite first appearances I really do see her as a classic strong Corrie woman. She bounced back remarkably from Richard Hillman's attempt to kill her and to this day stands up for what she believes in. Eileen Derbyshire is capable of a broad range, from light comedy when disapproving of Norris or a raised eyebrow at Rita's chequered past to powerful, moving scenes when she confronted Ernie's killer many years on.

Only this week she stole scenes from everyone around her during Sean Tully's daft rant at her in the Rovers. As Sean jumped to conclusions Emily was quiet and calm in her defence while still leaving everyone in no uncertain terms as to who had won the argument. It was a delight to watch. 

I am so glad Eileen Derbyshire still pops up in Corrie from time to time and I for one will always look forward to her scene stealing cameos. 

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Milly said...

Beautifully put. I agree with everything you said.
I remember seeing Emily at the Christmas Pageant(?) dressed as Carmen Miranda and her husband Ernest was playing piano. No one seemed to believe in her ability to do it, including herself. I really wanted to see her rock it out in that episode.
I believe she still could.
Go Emily.

Graeme N said...

Thanks Milly! Ah the 1972 Christmas episode! A great shame Emily never really got her moment! Still time I agree!

Llifon said...

Great blog Graeme! I totally agree. She's one of my fave characters. Great scene last night and Rita being a good friend as well.

Graeme N said...

Thanks Llifon! Yes I liked Rita's support in that scene too

Tvor said...

One of my favourite Emily scenes were the ones on the top of the church with Mad Nanny Brenda who had kidnapped small Bethany. Brenda started quoting Bible at Emily and there was no way you will ever win against Emily on that score! Emily fairly thundered back with her Bible rebuttals, cowing Brenda up against the back of the wall in defeat!

Graeme N said...

I remember it well Tvor!!

Rossie said...

I remember seeing Eileen Derbyshire quietly shopping in Finnegans in Wilmslow in the early 1960's. She was absolutely stunning in those days, and still has a lovely face and manner. She is also a wonderful actor. Because she appears so natural, it does not look like acting, but of course it is. I love to see Emily on the screen.

Frosty the Snowman said...

Frosty likes Emily, from back in the day as Miss Nugent. I remember when she had the affair with the handsome Hungarian. Quiet and dignified and ever the Lady she made the ridiculous, rude self obsessed Sean look like the twerp that he is. What really is the point of him? Just because she didnt want to go to the Comedy Store? Plurrse get a grip you fool.

AmandaB said...

That rant from Sean last night was outrageous! As if a pensioner would want to go to a comedy night! He was sooooo out of order & of course it all had to be about him as any conversation he starts always has to be. Seeing as he carried that out in the pub, even though he wasn't on duty, he should have been fired.

Graeme N said...

Yes I didn't quite get why Michelle was offering him sympathy after all that lot!

Anonymous said...

I think Michelle offered Sean sympathy because their characters have a history working together at Underworld and the Rovers. Sean realised that his rant was off the mark, and that damaged his connection with Billy. I assume Michelle was comforting him about that, for being yet another person in a relationship who shot themselves in the foot. Michelle should know:/

Until this episode, had Sean and Emily ever interacted? It was a weird moment. She's got a history of political convictions and Sean was pushing his. He got the wrong end of the stick, but given Emily's strong moral backbone, I would have thought she'd be at the forefront, helping the new Vicar settle in, regardless his sexual orientation. Instead she became identified as homophobic, just because she likes choir better than comedies? Something was wrong with the whole storyline imo.

vintgal003 said... of my favourite actresses...dear Mrs. this lady...she expresses her lines so eloquently.....would LOVE a return visit from the stellar eco-warrior Spider Nugent and truly enjoyed her banter with dear Mr. Sugden and his strong 'points-of-view'....

Anonymous said...

I know everyone say about her fleeting appearances but Im surprised she was only in 39 episodes last year. Her characters presence makes her feel to me like she's always around, probably just watching "Escape to the Country" i Number 3.- Micky

maggie muggins said...

Great post, Graeme! I love when bloggers here write about what they love about Corrie. It does indeed feel like Emily's presence is always around, even when she's hardly there, testament to her skill acting the character.

I thought the Sean/Emily fracas was interesting. Emily stood up for herself, showed her angry feelings and asserted herself - all without insulting Sean. That for me was the best part of the scene. I can't think of any other Corrie actor except Eileen Derbyshire who could have taken that bit of writing to such heights, except maybe David & Julie as Roy & Hayley. Brilliant!

Most people conflate aggression and assertiveness, when they're very different.

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