Harold Legg

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Harold Legg
D-legg2007.jpg
EastEnders character
Portrayed by Leonard Fenton
Duration 1985–97, 2000, 2004, 2007
First appearance 19 February 1985
Last appearance 8 June 2007
Created by Tony Holland and Julia Smith
Introduced by Julia Smith (1985)
John Yorke (2000)
Louise Berridge (2004)
Diederick Santer (2007)
Book appearances Home Fires Burning
Classification Former; regular
Profile
Occupation Doctor, retired

Doctor Harold Legg is a fictional character from the British soap opera EastEnders, played by Leonard Fenton. Dr. Legg is Walford's original GP. He is widely trusted within the community, and is always on hand to dish out advice. Dr Legg appears as a regular character between 1985 and 1989, but continues to appear in a recurring role until 1997. He was officially retired in 1999 by executive producer Matthew Robinson, though he has made cameos since this time in 2000, 2004 and 2007.[1]

Storylines[edit]

Dr. Legg first appears in EastEnders when it begins on 19 February 1985. He is the local doctor for Walford, where he had lived most of his life, opening his practice there in 1947.

His Jewish family had moved out of the East End when Oswald Mosley began his fascist marches in the 1930s. They moved to Finchley in North London, but young Harold commuted daily to his East End grammar school, to avoid any disruption to his education. He went to St. Bartholomew's hospital to start his medical training in 1940, treated air raid casualties, and met and married a non-Jewish nurse, named Judith Martin. They bought a small house in Albert Square. They lived there happily, but during the war a German bomb exploded near number 5 Albert Square and killed Judith. He never remarried, despite the hard work of matchmaking aunts and Dr. Legg since devotes his life to keeping the residents of Albert Square healthy. He later moved to Islington, living there for several years, but continued to maintain his surgery in Albert Square, renting the flat upstairs to Ethel Skinner,(Gretchen Franklin) and the barman Lofty Holloway (Tom Watt), although there are an array of other tenants.[2]

Dr. Legg tries to treat Sue Osman, who was in severe shock following the cot death of her baby (June 1985).

As Walford's GP, Harold is forever getting called upon to treat the troubled residents, even when he is not on duty, including helping Sue Osman (Sandy Ratcliff) come to terms with the cot death of her son, and humouring the insufferable hypochondriac Dot Cotton (June Brown).

In 1988, Harold's sister, Hester, comes to Walford to visit and tells him that her son, David Samuels (Christopher Reich), is interested in joining him in Britain. As David is also a doctor in Israel, Harold thinks it is a great idea and in April that year, David joins him in Walford and is made a partner in the practice. Harold even moves back to Walford and he and David live in the flat above the surgery.

Despite being extremely fond of each other, the new partners argue about almost everything. David wants to modernise the surgery and bring in computers, but Harold is set in his ways and is opposed to any obvious changes. Harold also disagrees with David's friendship with their secretary, Michelle Fowler (Susan Tully), particularly when the two get drunk at a Christmas party, leave together and share the same bed. David awakes the next day not remembering a thing, but is reassured when Michelle informs him that they he had been too drunk to do anything untoward anyway. Harold is not convinced however, and berates David for the degradation he'd brought upon himself and the surgery.[2] Later, David and Harold fall out over Harold's treatment of patients when he discovers that Colin Russell (Michael Cashman), is suffering with early symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis. He decides not to tell Colin as worrying about his condition could bring on another attack prematurely although Colin may not have another attack for 20 years or so, choosing instead to tell Colin that he is overworked and anemic. This highly unethical move appalls David but despite this, Harold continues to refuse to tell Colin about his illness. However, in January 1989, he finally reveals the truth to a stunned Colin. Colin is furious that Harold had kept this information from him and refuses to listen when he tries to explain his reasons. He threatens to report Dr. Legg to the authorities and is mortified at how unethical he has been. Although Dr. Legg is sorry, he stands by his decision to lie, feeling that Colin benefitted from not knowing - when in fact, the opposite is true.[2]

David later becomes incensed by his uncle's lack of persistence concerning Donna Ludlow's (Matilda Ziegler) heroin addiction and blames him for her death later in the year. Things reach a climax in May 1989 when Dr. Legg fails to diagnose Vicki Fowler's (Samantha Leigh Martin) meningitis and Vicki almost dies. This means his practitioners no longer trust him and makes him question his abilities as a doctor, sending him into early retirement. This leaves the medical practice in the hands of his nephew but David's more modern methods prove unpopular with the older residents so Harold comes out of retirement. David tries to fight his decision but his Israeli girlfriend makes him see how futile the arguing has become. David and Harold manage to sort out their differences before David returns to Israel in September that year.[2]

Dr. Legg's role appears semi-regularly from this time, appearing only when another character needs medical assistance or advice. However, he remains Walford's GP. He officially retires and leaves after February 1997 and is replaced with a trendier, younger doctor named Fred Fonseca (Jimi Mistry). He makes several brief appearances since this time however, attending Ethel's funeral in September 2000 and that of Mark Fowler (Todd Carty) in April 2004. His last appearance is in June 2007, when he visits Dot when she has an hour of need. Though Harold does not appear in Walford from this time, he sends wreaths to his friends' funerals including Pauline Fowler (Wendy Richard) in 2006 and Frank Butcher (Mike Reid) in 2008. In December 2008, he telephones Dot with news of Janine Evans (Charlie Brooks), now known as Judith Bernstein, and her upcoming wedding to a Jewish man.

Character creation and development[edit]

Dr. Harold Legg was one of the original twenty-three characters invented by the creators of EastEnders, Tony Holland and Julia Smith. Dr. Legg was an attempt to represent the successive wave of Jewish immigrants that had settled in the East End of London between 1881 and 1914 in order avoid the persecution that they were being subjected to in Europe.[3] The second generation of East End born Jews (as Dr. Legg was meant to represent) prospered in the area until the 1930s when Oswald Mosley's British Union of Fascists was formed, and used violence to instil fear in the Jewish population.[4] As the Jewish community grew wealthier, many moved out of the East End to more affluent areas of London,[4] just as the character of Dr. Legg had done on-screen when the show began; living in Islington, but commuting to his practice in Walford.

Dr. Legg's original character outline as written by Smith and Holland appeared in an abridged form in their book, EastEnders: The Inside Story.

"His parents took the name Legg from the street they used to live in... the tough time came in the mid-thirties when the extreme right and Mosley on one hand, and the persecution of the Jews in Europe on the other, forced him as a bright teenager to become positively aware of racism, freedom and persecution. He didn't become a communist, he didn't start hating all Germans — but he did stop going to the Synagogue... he decided as he approached seventeen to become a doctor... perhaps he should have been a musician? Like his uncle Leon... He saw the air raid casualties... it reinforced his passion for the underdog... he met and fell in love with a young (non-Jewish) nurse - they were married when he was twenty-one... She was in the garden when a dog-fight took place overhead, and the German pilot dropped his bomb in order to get away. The corner of the Square went — so did she." (page 53)[3]
Dr. Legg as he appeared in 1985.

Holland and Smith had difficulties in casting the role of Dr. Legg, as they had problems finding an actor of the right age, intelligence, and class, who could also play a Jewish professional man.[3] Jewish actor Leonard Fenton was suggested by the writer Bill Lyons and took a great interest in the role. Holland and Smith thought that he would be perfect and he was subsequently cast as Dr. Legg.[3] Fenton has since revealed that the character was based on him. He has commented, "It wasn't easy raising a family on theatre wages, so EastEnders couldn't have come at a better time. It was the first time I had played myself on television. I'm normally a character actor, but Dr Legg was based on me."[5]

Dr. Legg was conveyed as a man that was trusted within the community. A traditional GP with roots in the East End, who had a genuine concern for his loyal patients and the area.[6] The majority of his storylines concerned other characters' problems (where he was seen as the first port of call should anyone need advice or fall ill), or they related to his own professional conduct. His personal life was largely kept hidden from viewers, although he would occasionally reminisce about his and Albert Square's history, mainly with other characters supposedly born in the area, such as Ethel Skinner (Gretchen Franklin), Lou Beale (Anna Wing) and later Benny Bloom (Arnold Yarrow). The character was also featured within a series of spin-off EastEnders novels by Hugh Miller, set prior to 1985. Within the novelisation entitled Home Fires Burning, readers were made privy to the character's history as a trainee doctor during World War II, and his blossoming relationship with his would be wife, Judith.

The character served as Walford's GP for 14 years. Although his first name of Harold was revealed by his sister Hester and her son David Samuels in 1988, he has always been referred to by the other characters and in the closing credits as "Dr. Legg". Though a regular character with his own storylines throughout the 1980s, for much of the 1990s he was a recurring character, making increasingly sporadic appearances, and only when other characters needed medical assistance. In 1998, the executive producer of EastEnders, Matthew Robinson, announced that he was officially retiring Dr Legg. The character was one of many axed by the producer, who was dubbed the "axeman" by the British press. Speaking of his decision, Robinson commented "Dr Legg is getting on a bit, so we're retiring him. He'll be going to a nice cottage in the country." His place was filled by a younger alternative medicine fan, Dr Fred Fonseca, played by Jimi Mistry.[1] Leonard Fenton has since spoken about his frustration that Dr Legg did not get to practice enough, claiming that he "was frustrated for years by Dr Legg's sporadic appearances". In an interview in 2000, Fenton commented "I told them I wasn't happy about going on once every two months. That's why it ended...".[5] Dr. Legg was never given an official exit on-screen, his retirement is mentioned by Dr. Fonseca in January 1999, when the character Ruth Fowler (Caroline Paterson) requests to see him.[7]

Since his retirement, Dr Legg makes several brief cameos in the soap, his returns relating to storylines concerning other longrunning characters. In 2000, executive producer John Yorke brought him back for the death of Ethel Skinner, in 2004 Louise Berridge brought him back for the funeral of Mark Fowler (Todd Carty), and most recently he was brought back for one episode in 2007 by Diederick Santer, to provide counsel for the character Dot Branning (June Brown). At the time Santer commented, "Dr Legg was well-loved. I hope to get him back for at least one episode."[8]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Nadia quits Square; She joins exodus from EastEnders". The Mirror. Retrieved 2007-10-21. 
  2. ^ a b c d Kingsley, Hilary (1990). The EastEnders Handbook. BBC books. ISBN 0-563-36292-8. 
  3. ^ a b c d Smith, Julia; Holland, Tony (1987). EastEnders - The Inside Story. Book Club Associates. ISBN 0-563-20601-2. 
  4. ^ a b "East End Jews", BBC. URL last accessed on 2006-09-23.
  5. ^ a b "SQUARE ARE THEY NOW?; 15 years on we track down Walford's memorable residents". Daily Record. Retrieved 2007-10-21. 
  6. ^ Brake, Colin (1995). EastEnders: The First 10 Years: A Celebration. BBC Books. ISBN 0-563-37057-2. 
  7. ^ "Tuesday 12 January 1999". Walford.net. Retrieved 2008-02-19. [dead link]
  8. ^ "Dr Legg Will Be Back in Eastenders". The Sun. 2007-03-09. 

External links[edit]