The Sensible Thing

by Roy Russell

Episode Number: 46
Director: Gerry Mill



Edwin Ashton   Colin Douglas
David Ashton   Colin Campbell
Sheila Ashton   Coral Atkins
Margaret Porter   Lesley Nunnerley
Freda Mackenzie   Barbara Flynn
Ian Mackenzie   John Nettles
Sefton Briggs   John McKelvey
Tony Briggs   Trevor Bowen
Helen Hughes   Georgine Anderson
Doris Jackson   Diana Davies
Trevor Howells   Leonard Sachs
Eric Fraser   Donald Pickering



The Briggs Home   Helen has telephoned Edwin, who rushes over from work, and they talk in the kitchen.

She confides that she wants more independence—a flat of her own—and so she wonders whether there will be a stock dividend from the printing business this year.

Edwin is doubtful, complaining that Sefton shows little interest in the operations these days, not having been near the works in more than a month.

Tony arrives, wondering why the table is laid for four, and Helen says his father wants to wine and dine a very good friend.

Sheila's New Flat   David, who has received his medical discharge from military service, comes home to his wife, exhausted from looking for a job.

He admits to Sheila that he indulged in two drinks at the pub, but only after spending the entire day in fruitless job interviews.

Dejectedly, he wishes Sheila could quit her NAAFI job and they could buy a house of their own.

He resents being patronised by self-important executives who stayed home in cushy positions during the war.

David assures her that he will get something, but Sheila tells him not to promise her at all, asserting, "You just promise yourself."

The Mackenzie Home   Ian is enduring a rather stilted discussion with Doris, the two having little if anything in common, now that Doris no longer works at the hospital.

Freda comes home, throws herself into her husband's arms, and exclaims, "Smashing news! I change duties next week—same time as yours. We can actually sleep together."

That is when she notices Doris and blushes at her revelation of intimate secrets.

It has been months since they have seen each other, so Freda and Doris go to the kitchen for a chat.

The Briggs Home   Following dinner, Sefton and businessman Trevor Howells retire to the living room for a drop of Sefton's brandy.

Tony tags along for a moment, but he sizes Howells up for an unscrupulous con artist, so his contribution to the conversation is mainly sarcastic in nature.

Noticing this, Sefton asks his son to give Helen a hand in the kitchen.

Alone over their drinks, Howells explains to Sefton that Churchill's landslide victory in the coming election will mean the end of price controls and the resumption of free enterprise.

"With not a house built in the last six years," he declares, "thank God I've got a foot in the building trade."

The men assure one another that each has a few bob set aside, though most is tied up in their respective businesses.

Sefton promises Howells that there is no need to worry about the works—he can get enough votes to sell.

In the kitchen, as Helen and Tony wash and dry the dishes, they both agree that Sefton is up to something, probably trying to sell the works again.

Inspired by the secretive meeting in the other room, Tony excuses himself and leaves for an undisclosed activity.

He instructs Helen that—in the unlikely event that Sefton asks for him—she should explain that he has "gone to the plough."

The Ashton Home   Edwin is on the telephone, talking to Tony, who rang him to say that he suspects a push by Sefton to encourage shareholders to vote for selling the works.

A Pay Telephone   Still suspicious of his father's dealings, Tony places another telephone call, telling the operator, "Trunks, please."

The Ashton Home   Edwin comes into the living room and informs Margaret that he fears Helen may need the money badly enough to sell her shares to Sefton.

If Sefton can talk just one person into siding with him, he will sell the works in no time at all.

When Margaret says, "Oh, come on now, Dad. No one in the family would do a thing like that to you," Edwin responds, "David did."

The Mackenzie Home   Doris is despondent, but she is unwilling to divulge to Freda what is troubling her.

Freda reminds Doris that the hospital sent her parents a letter, notifying them that their daughter's training was terminated.

"It doesn't matter," sighs Doris. "Nothing does."

Finally, Doris confirms what Freda has suspected all along—that her problem is a man.

They were going to be married, she and this Yank, but now he has moved back to Dallas.

Doris explains that he is married with two kids, but she insists that he was different, not being aggressive with the girls.

Sheila's New Flat   Sheila is giving her weary husband a shoulder massage when she asks him whether his Uncle Sefton might have a job for him.

David sees little hope in that suggestion, reasoning that Sefton knows he is looking and so would have contacted him if he had any openings.

Sheila responds that maybe Sefton is aware of a business acquaintance who needs someone like him.

"Look, I'll find what I'm after without anybody's help," claims David. "Then we're in nobody's debt."

He cannot describe exactly what he wants out of life, but the essentials would be a decent school for the children when they come back, a nice home, and some money to spend for shopping.

The Briggs Home   Howells shows Sefton a map of one of his holdings, a site upon which they could build two hundred houses when governmental controls are lifted.

"More, if we squeeze them in tight," observes Sefton.

Howells tells Sefton that he is willing to sell the property to the company they are about to form—and at current market prices.

When Tony comes into the room, Sefton quickly changes the subject, and Howells follows along.

Then, as Sefton walks Howells to the door, Tony looks through the paperwork that the two businessmen have left in a folder on the coffee table.

He slips one sheet of the information into his suit coat for future reference.

Helen comes in and asks Tony what Edwin told him, correctly deducing that Tony telephoned his uncle about Sefton's latest business scheme.

Tony replies, "Well, what could he say?"

Sefton returns and informs Tony and Helen that the three of them need to meet with Edwin immediately.

Tony resents his father's cold-hearted willingness to take advantage of Edwin, who has given him thirty-five years of loyal service.

When Helen says, "We should go, Tony," her nephew firmly refuses, declaring, "I'm not going around there like a puppy on a lead, with no idea of what sort of proposition I'm supposed to be supporting."

"Please yourself," snaps Sefton. "I've never counted on your support anyway," to which Tony responds, "You're not going to get it."

Sefton storms away, and Tony asks Helen to tell him exactly what happens at the meeting.

"Believe me," he adds, "I've got my reasons."

After Sefton and Helen have left, Tony re-reads the purloined sheet of business data and puts his plan into action, asking the telephone operator to connect him with trunks.

The Ashton Home   Sefton wishes to present each shareholder with a balance sheet for the year ended 31st March 1945.

One copy appears to be missing, so Margaret offers to share her father's instead.

The balance sheet shows a loss for the year, through March, of two hundred three pounds, which Sefton contends is the first time Briggs & Son have not made a profit since his father bought his first hand printer.

But the war is nearly over, says Margaret, prompting Sefton to remark that it could continue indefinitely against the Japanese—and how long can Briggs & Son absorb such losses?

Sefton declares that the time to sell is now, but Edwin suspects that his brother-in-law has motives that run deeper than this one aberrant shortfall.

The Works   Tony surveys the press area and is stunned by how little production is taking place.

Edwin informs him that Sefton tried to sell the works over their heads last night, and he resents the fact that Tony did not give a more detailed warning of what to expect.

"I thought you were on my side in all this," says Edwin, and Tony responds, "I'm not taking sides, Uncle, until I know what the game is."

The Briggs Home   Unbeknownst to her husband, Sheila has called on Sefton, who informs her that there may be a position for David in a few months.

Though she is appreciative, she remarks, "But until then…" and Sefton tells her that he cannot pull jobs out of a hat.

The doorbell rings, and Sefton invites Howells into the house.

When Sefton introduces Sheila to him, Howells shakes her hand and then holds it longer than is seemly.

Sefton inquires if Howells knows of anyone looking for a "likely ex-RAF officer," such as her husband, David Ashton.

The unctuous businessman asks what David's line is, and Sheila naïvely replies, "Flying airplanes."

Howells wonders if David is persuasive, and, when Sheila answers yes, he explains that he has a company starting that needs "young men on the ball."

He invites Sheila to have her husband come and see him about the position.

If he gets the job, Howells says David will be away from home for a good bit of the time.

He writes his address and telephone number on a piece of paper and then suggestively urges Sheila to phone him anytime.

Sefton returns with a plain envelope that Howells requested, and the businessman proceeds to place the paper within it, writing David's name on the outside.

When he hands the envelope to Sheila, his hand manages to grip hers and linger for quite some time, giving it an unwelcome caress.

Sheila thanks him profusely for being willing to talk with David and then leaves, Howells's attentive eyes watching her with great interest as she walks away.

Alone in the living room, Howells asks about the works, and Sefton replies, "Forty-eight hours at the most is my estimate."

The Mackenzie Home   Freda tries to get Doris interested in choosing a movie to see—with Cary Grant or Humphrey Bogart or Boris Karloff—but she rejects them all.

To boost her friend's spirits, Freda contends that in a few weeks' time Doris will have forgotten all about the Yank boyfriend who jilted her.

It is not as simple as that, explains Doris, because she is pregnant.

The Briggs Home   Helen informs her brother that she cannot support selling the works because of what it will do to Edwin.

Sefton proposes that they make retaining Edwin as manager a stipulated condition of the sale, but Helen doubts whether Edwin would accept such a provision.

Tony comes home, removes his Navy coat, and is relaxing on the sofa when the telephone rings.

He answers it and tells his father that Mr. Fraser wishes to speak to him.

Though Sefton does not know any Fraser, he is pleased to hear that this mystery person is interested in purchasing the works.

Sefton suggests that they get together to discuss this proposition.

Meanwhile, in the kitchen, Tony tells Helen that the works are in bad shape and that Edwin is very worried about his future.

Sefton rushes in to say that Mr. Fraser is quite interested in buying the printing works—and, moreover, he has publishing interests and licenses for paper.

This will be the last opportunity to sell the works at such a favourable price, Sefton claims, so he urges these two "stubborn shareholders" to change their minds and support the sale.

Sheila's New Flat   Sheila arrives and hands David an envelope that she says came through the letter box for him.

David opens the envelope and learns that a certain Trevor W. Howells may be interested in hiring him.

The invitation reads, "Sefton Briggs tells me you could be the man I'm looking for. Come and see me. -TWH-"

David is beside himself with excitement, to think that this managing director has bothered to come in search of him.

Sheila counsels him to be cautious, but David wants to celebrate, suggesting, "Let's be bloody optimistic for once, shall we?"

The Ashton Home   Edwin and Helen come into the living room, and she lets it slip that Sefton has found a prospective buyer for the printing works.

This man, she explains, is interested in purchasing the works for publication of his magazines.

Margaret arrives home and tells her father that Philip has sent a letter, marked "DELAYED BY ENEMY ACTION," but Edwin discovers that it is actually from Tony's sister, Jo.

The Briggs Home   Tony asks his father how much the printing works are worth—that is, if the family agreed to sell—and Sefton contends that they would be well advised to grab any offer of twenty thousand pounds or more.

Sefton wonders why Tony is so curious about a selling price, and Tony replies that there could be circumstances in which he might agree to the sale.

Just then, the doorbell rings, and Edwin and Helen come inside for what promises to be a less-than-cordial visit.

When Sefton announces that Tony may be changing his vote, Edwin is hurt by his nephew's wavering integrity.

Sefton smugly declares that it makes no difference, as he now has fifty-five percent in favour of selling.

But Edwin has a surprise announcement of his own, initiated by a letter he wrote to Jo in Australia weeks ago.

Her reply alleged that Sefton simply asked her to sell her shares to him without any elaboration.

Now that she is aware of the situation, she has changed her mind and is opposing the sale, leaving Sefton short of the requisite majority.

Sheila's New Flat   David knocks on the door and surprises Sheila with a bouquet of flowers, in celebration of his new job, working for Trevor Howells.

It is a sales position, he explains, calling on people who respond to the ads for pre-war, reconditioned radios.

His job, of course, is to convince the people to purchase the more pricey models instead.

Sheila is less than enthusiastic, dismissing the position as selling door-to-door.

David insists, "The sky's the limit, and I'm going to be the best."

Begging her to trust him, he excitedly proclaims that he wants her to see something.

The Works   Sefton is showing Eric Fraser around the rather antiquated printing plant, but he cannot answer the prospective buyer's technical questions, so he asks a young workman to find Mr. Ashton.

Edwin is wary of the stranger, but he answers all of his questions very frankly.

Fraser notices that the business employs many women—cheap labour—and he wonders if that is good policy, whereupon Edwin glares at Sefton and contends that it is not his own policy.

After Edwin excuses himself and walks away, Sefton feigns a profound knowledge of the firm's potential, but the experienced printer can see right through his transparent bluffing.

The Mackenzie Home   Freda confirms Ian's suspicion—that Doris is indeed pregnant.

She adds, not so subtly, that she wants to help her friend solve this problem.

It seems that Freda is not above considering an abortion, but Ian rejects that suggestion out of hand.

A Residential District   David has escorted Sheila to a pretty section of Liverpool, and he points out a house that is selling for seven hundred ninety-five.

She loves the house but is too practical to become emotionally attached to it until David actually has some money coming in on a regular basis.

"Oh, Sheila, don't look on the black side all the time, love. Look, I need this house. I need something to work for."

When she asks, "Can we go inside?" he pulls the keys from his coat pocket.

The Mackenzie Home   Ian assures his wife that abortion is only legal if childbirth would put the mother's life in danger or cause her to become a mental wreck.

In her friend's defence, Freda argues that Doris was victimised by her American boyfriend, and Ian quips, "Oh, I see. An immaculate corruption, was it?"

Neither he nor she is aware that Doris is eavesdropping on their conversation.

Ian says that he is shocked that his wife—a nurse—could even suggest abortion as a viable solution to Doris's dilemma.

Freda responds that, yes, she is a nurse, but she also is a woman.

A Liverpool Street   Neighbourhood children are tossing discarded wood products onto a growing stack, and a crude likeness of Hitler stands ready to be burned in effigy—unmistakable harbingers of that night's patriotic festivities.

The Mackenzie Home   Ian and Freda listen to the radio as Prime Minster Churchill proclaims the end of war in Europe.

The couple embrace, and Ian suggests that they celebrate their V-E Day by dining at her favourite Chinese restaurant, down by the docks.

Freda is delighted, but she cannot help but worry why Doris never returned to the house.

The Briggs Home   Sefton has gathered the shareholders, and he announces that Mr. Fraser has made an attractive offer of twenty-two thousand pounds to buy the works.

Tony speaks up, expressing his firm belief that now is the time to sell.

Edwin, though, is crushed, and he resents the fact that Sefton regards this as nothing more than a business deal, as if there were not any people involved.

He reminds Sefton of his loyal workmen, most of whom have been away, fighting, and now the business is to be sold out from under them.

Sefton informs Edwin that Fraser has agreed to keep him on as manager, a gesture Edwin sees merely as "a lump of coal."

When Sefton calls for votes, Margaret and Freda want assurance that their father cannot be terminated—a contractual provision that Edwin's pride is loath to accept.

Edwin pleads that the shareholders should keep the works and not be panicked by one bad year.

Freda asks if the decision can be delayed, to allow for more thoughtful consideration, but Sefton says Fraser needs an answer quickly, and Tony adds, "It may be our last chance, Freda."

Looking at their proud father, both Freda and Margaret go on record as being against the sale, but Tony argues that more losses will make the firm virtually worthless.

Helen voices her opinion in favour of selling, telling Edwin that Mr. Fraser might prove to be a very good boss.

But Edwin wants to turn the business around by himself, and he takes Sefton's objections personally, seeing them as a tacit allegation that he is too old to be effective.

All have had their say, so Sefton calls for a show of hands—with Sefton, Tony, and a very apologetic Helen voting in favour of selling the works.

Thus, the issue is passed, and Edwin walks slowly out of the room, disheartened.

A Liverpool Street   The bonfire is burning, firecrackers are popping, and crowds are dancing, but pedestrian Edwin Ashton is in no frame of mind to join the celebration.

He looks very old and tired as he watches the effigy of Adolf Hitler being thrown onto the fire.

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