In 1992, Anglia Television commissioned Saffron to make a 30 minute drama documentary film on the life of the playwright and novelist, Dodie Smith, who had reached the height of her popularity in the 1930’s with plays such as "AUTUMN CROCUS", "CALL IT A DAY", "A LETTER FROM PARIS", and the perennial, much-loved "DEAR OCTOPUS".
But Dodie was probably best known for her books,"I CAPTURE THE CASTLE", and the international best-seller, "A THOUSAND AND ONE DALMATIANS", which was filmed by Walt Disney, and remade in the 1990’s as a live-action feature with Glen Close, followed by a sequel. Our drama documentary tribute was called quite simply, "DODIE".
Dodie, who lived in the same village in Essex as myself, had become a close friend of both myself and David Spenser, and so the drama documentary film was, like the one on her friend, Dame Gwen Ffrangcon-Davies, a labour of love. Sadly, by the time the film was made, both Dodie and her husband Alec had already died, and we engaged an actress, Hilda Shroder to play Dodie. Most of the film was shot in and around the 17th century thatched cottage near Finchingfield, where Dodie had lived for the best part of 50 years.
We also had the eminent novelist, Julian Barnes as a guide in the cottage, filling us in with aspects of Dodie’s professional and personal life that was, until that time, unknown to the general public, and other on-screen anecdotes came from the actor Peter Barkworth, Dame Gwen, and from myself. We also went to Santa Monica, California to film an interview with Don Baccardy, the long-time friend of the distinguished novelist, Christopher Isherwood, whose "TALES OF BERLIN" were used as the basis for the Oscar-winning film musical "CABARET". Isherwood was a close old friend of Dodie, and both he and Baccardy had stayed with her at the cottage in Finchingfield many times over the years, and our documentary film included several home movie shots of those visits.
We were also privileged to include some excerpts from the celebrated animated feature film of "A HUNDRED AND ONE DALMATIANS", which the Disney Organisation very kindly allowed us to use in view of the fact that Walt Disney himself had been such a close friend of Dodie, and had even stayed with her in her cottage. One of those excerpts formed the climax to our drama documentary, adding a fitting tribute to a remarkable writer of her time.
"DODIE" was produced by myself, and directed by David Spenser. If you want to know more about the programme, please email me.