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Local History

You are in: Birmingham > History > Local History > Kojak's kinda town

The Bull Ring Centre

The Bull Ring Centre

Kojak's kinda town

In 1979 Margaret Thatcher was our new Prime Minister, Villa were challenging for the league title and Alien was released. But an event in Brum was to eclipse all of this - Telly Savalas (better known as Kojak) narrated a film about the city.

Birmingham's skyline in 1979

Birmingham's skyline in 1979

Forget open top buses and big wheels, for the film of the perfect guided tour of Birmingham there's really only one man for the job - Telly Savalas, otherwise known as Kojak.

Telly narrates: "Riding the express elevator to the top floor of one of the city's highest buildings, this is the view that nearly took my breath away."

Pimms party on the canalside

Pimms party on the canalside

But why would Telly make a film about Birmingham? Could it be the canals? He says: "What about arriving the Venetian way? 159 miles of canal and 216 locks will give you a pretty busy trip. You arrive bang in the city centre where it's one-upmanship of a different kind."

'Telly Savalas Looks at Birmingham' was one of hundreds of special films called 'Quota Quickies' commissioned 25 years ago to showcase British cities.

The Council House in 1979

The Council House

They were shown in cinemas before the main feature because of a change in the law which meant that cinemas had to show a British film for every American film, of around one-third the length.

Birmingham's film was an advert for the city, its attractions and more unusual shops, like the local gun shop. The filmmakers made one of the shopkeeper's sons stand outside and point a rifle to the sky - very 70s posing.

Mr Powell outside his gun shop in the film

Mr Powell outside his family's gun shop

Many years later, some friends of the family called to say they'd seen their firm in this film about Birmingham - quite impressive as the friends lived in Hong Kong.

We may look at the city now and sigh at some of its outdated buildings, and grotty-looking streets, but Telly seemed to love it, describing it as: "exciting, the modern buildings reflect its position as the nation's industrial powerhouse. You feel as if you've been projected into the 21st Century."

A man outside an Indian restaurant

A man outside an Indian restaurant

The film was made by a man called Harold Baim. He produced, directed and wrote the scripts for many of the Quota Quickies. Check out what Telly had to say about eating in out in Birmingham:

"You can really eat in this town. You can chew Chinese, feed French or ingest Indian. Guzzle Greek, intake Italian or digest Danish.  If you're weight-watching, well... forget it!"

Carving a turkey

Tasty turkey, presented 70s-style

And let's not forget Birmingham's greatest shopping asset - the Bull Ring. What does Telly say about that? "You know it's an adventure to shop in this city. 150 market stalls display their goods whilst over them tense traffic pounds over the elevated inner ring road."

Now, if you're easily offended or hate spoilers - look away now. This may come as a bit of a shock.

Telly Savalas NEVER came to Birmingham. Nope, didn't even take a trip on the "elevated ring road". He narrated the film from a studio in London.

Leafy Birmingham in 1979

Leafy Birmingham in 1979

Still, Telly didn't let the small matter of geography get in the way of his celebration of 70s Birmingham. He adds at the end of the film: "I walked on the walkways, sat on the seats and admired the trees and the shrubs in the spacious traffic-free pedestrian precincts.

"I rambled through Rackhams in Corporation Street, browsed in Bull Street... dallied in Dale End... yes, this is my kinda town. So long Birmingham! Here's lookin' atcha."

last updated: 29/04/2008 at 14:32
created: 04/10/2006

You are in: Birmingham > History > Local History > Kojak's kinda town

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