Arkwright (Open All Hours)
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|Open All Hours character|
|Portrayed by||Ronnie Barker|
|First appearance||Pilot: Open All Hours|
|Last appearance||"The Mystical Boudoir of Nurse Gladys Emmanuel"|
Albert E. Arkwright, usually referred to simply as Arkwright, is a fictional character and the main protagonist of the British sitcom, Open All Hours, played by Ronnie Barker. Arkwright is the uncle of Granville and the proprietor of an old fashioned Yorkshire corner shop, which in the era of the programme (1970s and 1980s) was a product of a bygone age. Arkwright's signature characteristic is his stutter, which Granville never misses an opportunity to mock.
Arkwright is a pragmatic, miserly man with old-fashioned values, whose world seems to stop at his shop door, except for his uncontrollable lust for Nurse Gladys Emmanuel (Lynda Baron), which may prompt him on occasion to wander across the road, usually with a ladder, to gain access to her bedroom window. Arkwright is a devious, and mildly dishonest character, who has many crafty tricks to try to persuade a customer to leave his store having bought at least one thing, and will avoid spending his own money at all cost. He is also very conservative about his savings, keeping some in his pocket wrapped in a fine gold chain, and some in an old, battered Oxo tin that he hides under the kitchen sink. This includes, or so he claims, coins from before 1922, when they were "solid silver". He loves money so much that the last time he spent a whole night away from the shop was in 1957, when he went to have his appendix out. The till itself is old fashioned, and possesses a tight spring-clip that regularly puts Granville and his fingers in danger. Arkwright refuses to replace it because of the price of a replacement, and because it prevents people from taking his precious money. Although an avid political commentator, he has few political convictions and never sides with either the left or right wing, instead implying they are all useless. Arkwright does however seem fervently opposed to nationalisation, once commenting "My top lip went all stiff and dead, as if it had been nationalised." His political comments usually show no allegiances, instead making remarks like "When Wales get home rule, do you think they'll nationalise Clive Jenkins?"
Arkwright maintains an openly polite demeanour around customers, but will often insult those who offend him in a veiled or open manner.
Arkwright appears to believe in God, although he is certainly not portrayed as a religious man. Most episodes end with him on the pavement outside the shop during closing time, contemplating the day's events. His thoughts often start with an expression like "Soon they'll only be me and thee that aren't either nationalised or a limited company."
Arkwright, like most characters in the series, is a rational, practical man, who shows no signs of any sentimentality, unlike Granville, who seems to dream away most of his days, and longs for a life away from the shop.
Arkwright speaks with a stammer, which he acknowledges sometimes makes it difficult to express himself. He often makes his impediment into a joke, for example asking: "Granville, how do you spell P-p-p-pepper? Is it 6 Ps or 7?" Granville occasionally mocks his uncle's speech pattern (such as calling the "weather fore-fore-forecast" the "weather twelvecast", and referring to the "B-B-B-B-B-B-B-B-B-B-BC" as morse code), although never in a malicious or hurtful manner. Arkwright was shocked on one occasion to find that he also appears to stutter even when thinking to himself.
By the time of the 2013 episode Still Open All Hours and the sequel series of the same name, Arkwright has long since died (Barker died in 2005), but almost all of his personality traits have passed onto Granville. Granville keeps a framed photograph of Arkwright in the shop's kitchen which he occasionally talks to. Several people in the town, including Granville, believe that Arkwright's ghost still haunts the shop, particularly the cash register, attributing events such as the lights switching on and off or the register randomly opening and closing to him.
Arkwright's sister, whose name is never known, died shortly after giving birth to Granville. Less as an act of love and more as a source of free labour, Arkwright brought up the child. Arkwright paints a picture of his sister being a floozy and possibly a part-time prostitute. He sees no harm in this, seeing this as an enterprising choice of career. This is often implied by phrases such as "Just take the man's money and smile Granville, that's what your mother would have done", "You're j-just like your mother, happiness is h-horizontal", or, "Now, d-don't misunderstand me, s-some people loved dearly! Others used to get it on discount". Granville once takes a call from someone he addresses as "Auntie Lily"; seeing as his father is unknown, this would have to be another sister of Arkwright's. When Granville on occasion badgers his uncle about his own father's unknown identity, he retorts by calling him an "Hungarian P-p-p-p-p-prince".
Granville is often made to pay for anything he takes from the shop's shelves, even if Arkwright was the one who gave it to him. In later life, Granville demonstrates a great deal of affection and respect for his uncle after his death, taking comfort in his apparent poltergeist activities around the shop, saying: "I like having him still around, so long as he pays his own electric."
Nurse Gladys Emmanuel
Gladys is a midwife, to whom Arkwright is informally engaged. Their engagement doesn't seem to be serious, however they do seem to be fond of each other. Most of the characters who use the shop are old-fashioned, domesticated characters, and while Gladys is very straight forward and Arkwright is somewhat eccentric, she does seem to find company in him, as he is probably more enlightened than most in the area. Gladys always says she won't marry Arkwright until her mother (who is in her eighties) dies, a day that Arkwright seems to look forward to. However, Gladys has also claimed on several occasions that she refrains from marrying him because of his excessively tight-fisted ways or his overworking of Granville. Emmanuel is Arkwright's sexual conquest; although he never manages it in the series, he does come close in the back of a mini van that proves to be too small for the act. Arkwright and Gladys apparently never got married before Arkwright's death; Gladys claims he died to save the cost of the church.