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Pop Show International, March 1966

text: uncredited

Alexis Kanner

Alexis Kanner. Photographed by Dick Burrows.

Alexis Kanner. The new face that has made a hundred thousand girls hearts flutter

If a million or two viewers looked at the new BBC replacement of "Z Cars," "Softly, Softly" with something like depression at the loss of the favourites - Fancy, Jock, Graham - another few hundred thousand girls went "OOOH" at the sight of a handsome, apparently crooked, garage mechanic in the first episode. The OOOHS changed to AAAAHS when the story showed that the garage mechanic was a policeman in disguise, who was obviously destined to be a permanent part of the "Softly, Softly" team.

I went down to Wyvern Police Station, situated in Studio 3 of the BBC Television Centre and spoke to "Detective Constable Stone." I asked him what it felt like to suddenly become a heart-throb; making the sort of impact that in the more obviously sensational type of UNCLE show would produce a personality equal to Ilya Kuryakin.

Alexis Kanner lit one of his panatellas and said "Blimey."

In fact, Alexis can't see what all the fuss is about anyway. He is not exactly a newcomer to television. He has ten leading parts in television plays on the independent channels to his credit, and has been seen in a couple of films.

Perhaps the reason is because in "Softly, Softly," the mannerisms and the character of Mr. Stone, Detective Constable, are very much the mannerisms and character of Mr. Alexis Kanner, actor, in private. Alexis really does wear the sort of gear that Stone wears. He does drink brandy nearly all the time, as Stone does. He smokes panatellas, as Stone does although in private life he smokes them inter-mixed with cigarettes.

Alexis was born in France, and his real name is Kannère. His family went to Canada and he was brought up and went to school in Montreal. I asked him when he got the acting bug?

Detective Constable Stone, Inspector Watt and Mr. Blackett have a quick one in the "Severn Bore".

Detective Constable Stone, Inspector Watt and Mr. Blackett have a quick one in the "Severn Bore".

First on stage at Stratford, Ontario

"Oh, about the age of four, I think. Up to that age I wanted to be a cowboy, but after four I think I had made up my mind I wanted to be an actor."

"If you started to want to be an actor around four years of age, your parents must have been in the business," I asked.

"No, my father is a school teacher. I haven't any stage connections at all. How I started? No. I wouldn't think of going to drama school . . . I just went one school holiday . . . they last three months in the summer in Canada . . . to the Playhouse at Stratford, Ontario, and asked them for a job.

"And they gave you one?"

"Yes."

"And what then?"

"I went back to school. Then, when I left college, I got a few acting jobs in Canada, then I came to England and I got a job with the Birmingham Repertory Company. I stayed there for two years, then I got television offers and a film, so I left."

"No hard struggle, no dishwashing?"

"No, nothing at all. I suppose I'm just lucky. I've always been able to support myself as an actor since I left school."

"What made you accept this series?"

"The BBC talked sense, more sense than anytbody else around, and the money was good, and the part interested me."

"Will you stay after the first thirteen sepisodes?" I asked.

"Well, I'm under option to do twenty-six. After that I don't know. Maybe they won't ask me to do any more".

With the panatella and sheepskin coat

Alexis Kanner with the panatella and sheepskin coat, all part of the Detective Constable Stone Trade Mark.

Twenty hour day

"I like the series, but it's a twenty hour day, seven days a week, really, and there just isn't time for anything else, I mean girls and things."

("Softly, Softly" is not recorded, but goes out live, except for the film shots on location.)

"We finish this episode at 8.40 tonight after transmission," (I was interviewing Alexis during a break in rehearsals of the episode, "It Doesn't Grow on Trees".)

"Tomorrow, we have to be in Bristol doing location filming. And then the first rehearsals for the next show but one. And then rehearsals again for the next show, and more location work. There just isn't any break at all, except for a couple of days when they leave you out of the story altogether, like last week."

"Do you drive down to Bristol? Do you drive?"

"No. I drive - I mean, I can drive. I don't own a car and I wouldn't. I just couldn't afford it. No, it's not just the costs of the car, it's all the fines I would have to pay . . . you don't know me. I would get knocked for about a fiver a day parking, and heaven knows what fines for speeding, going through red lights, and what have you. I'm just not the sort of person to obey the rules - it's cheaper to go by taxi."

Stone interviews a girl suspect and seems to be enjoying it. Photographed by Dick Burrows during rehearsals at the BBC TV centre.

Stone interviews a girl suspect and seems to be enjoying it. Photographed by Dick Burrows during rehearsals at the BBC TV centre.

I'm the original Stag

"Married?"

"No, I'm the original stag . . . confirmed bachelor. If I could turn Moslem and settle down with four wives, maybe?"

"And concubines?"

"No, that would be too much", Alexis said through a cloud of newly-lit panatella smoke.

I was brushed aside by swarms of technicians who wanted me off the set in which we were talking. It was the well-known one - the crime squad's office. I watched Alexis play his part with Det. Inspector Watt (Frank Windsor). Alexis is a first-class actor. He handles the technique of television acting with an easy nonchalance. There is no doubt that he is one of the best-looking actors on the screen. Although it doesn't show in black and white, he is sandy-haired. For this scene he was wearing a mulberry coloured corduroy suit, with the jacket belted and cut Norfolk style. Earlier on, I had asked him if it was his own. It wasn't, it had been made for the series, but he said he wouldn't mind it in his own wardrobe - it was his sort of suit.

The accent is pure Bristol

Detective Constable Stone's accent has been commented on as being pure Bristol. Alexis says it is Bristol with tones of Cockney overlaid. All the time I was talking to him I really hadn't noticed it, and it only hit me when I saw him acting again; but he had used the accent when talking to me during our interview. This intrigued me, so when there was another break I asked Alexis whether it was his natural accent.

"No, but it's here all the time . . . I shan't get rid of it till about midnight tonight after a brandy or two, and I can get relaxed and forget about 'Softly, Softly' till the next one starts."

Although "Softly, Softly" doesn't appear to have had quite the impact that the first few episodes of "Z Cars" had it is settling down to a big audience show and there is little doubt that it will run for quite a time. Series like this need time for the characters to develop and at the start nobody really knows who are growing to grow into the strongest attractions. In a cast of strong characters Matt Stone certainly stands out and all the indications are that several million women are waiting avidly for the next episode of "Softly, Softly" and another glimpse of heart-throb Kanner too.

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