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Dark Secret

It was a change for Anne to be on television in modern day dress. Although she had appeared in a leading role in a number of current day parts (Jess Calvert, This Year Next Year, The Party Of The First Part), the audience were generally more familiar with seeing Anne in historical costume. As the following Daily Mail interview states, the production also involved the actress in more steamy scenes than she had previously been noted for.

Anne, when the kissing starts …

Once, Anne Stallybrass refused to pose for a kiss. Tomorrow night we’ll see her tumbling about in bed in a casual encounter with a younger man.

That is the difference between Anne as the first Mrs James Onedin in The Onedin Line and her modern-day role as Rose Datchett in ITV’s new Sunday Night Thriller, Dark Secret.

Rose Datchett is an independent woman, separated from her husband, and running a restaurant.

When a detective arrives to ask questions about her previous job, he breaks down her reserve.

“The woman, who kept her feelings bottled up for years, opens up to this young man. He offers her a no-strings-attached encounter in bed and she tells him her secrets,” she said.

“I can understand her, although I’m not like her. But I do know what it’s like to be alone and have to be independent. It is important to be able to live on your own.”


Anne now lives with Onedin star Peter Gilmore, and it was when she was co-starring with him that she refused to pose for publicity pictures of them kissing.

“Onedin married his wife for her ship, and we both felt that it would spoil the surprise for the viewers. I’m not prudish. I have been in bed with many men on television, when it is important to the story. But I would never appear nude.”

It is rare for Anne to play a modern part. She became a TV star in period pieces. Her first contemporary rolling-in-the-hay was when she co-starred with Michael Elphick in Yorkshire’s This Year Next Year.

“Local shopkeepers changed their attitude after they saw that. They suddenly became much more familiar. I realised how it must be for actresses who play really tarty roles. I’ve never played a tarty lady, but I’d love to.”

By Pamela Hodgson
Daily Mail, 17 January 1981

Rose Datchett is a retired scientist who has recently opened a restaurant in an isolated part of the Cotswolds. A local woman helps out in the kitchen but otherwise Rose and her young son live alone. One night Rose is woken by noises outside …..

Dark Secret is very good, gripping and imaginative. The story, by John Bowen, is full of twists and turns and you are kept in the dark until the final minutes. What you assume at the beginning to be the reason behind the story turns out to be incidental, it has little to do with what is really going on. It is unlike many recent television and film thrillers/murder mysteries when you guess the murderer and/or what is going to happen within the first half hour. The ending isn’t disappointing, the outcome is not a cop out. It is also nice that for once everything is explained; I hate loose ends, I like everything sown up.

The newspapers at the time generally recommended Dark Secret and gave it good reviews.

Daily Mail: “Dark Secret … began with spine-chilling promise … and has hooked at least one viewer to want to find out who did what next week.”

Daily Express: “This …. is a classic of its kind.”

The Guardian: “Dark Secret is as well made as it is good looking. Nice, neat and nerve wracking …. Well recommended. Worth a return visit next Sunday.”

Daily Telegraph: “A nicely atmospheric and chilling opening, beautifully set at a remote restaurant in the Cotswolds.”

News of the World: “If you are an addict of mystery and suspense tales, with the odd murder thrown in for good measure, don’t miss Dark Secret. This two-part story is … guaranteed to set your spine tingling.”

When I watched Dark Secret I hadn’t a clue where the story was going and what was going to happen - every time I thought I knew, there was a new twist and I was proved wrong. Admittedly, the story is a bit far-fetched in that the chance of it really occurring is infinitesimal but, for all that, when the truth is revealed it is believable. And it is rather creepy, with some shocking moments. I wouldn’t have wanted to watch the thriller on my own at night.

Anne is very convincing as the independent, almost self-sufficient Rose. The second part when she has long periods of sitting almost completely still in uncomfortable positions, only able to use her face to express Rose’s feelings, couldn’t have been easy to do.

“When it comes to looking worried, Miss Stallybrass is in a class of her own.”

News of the World

Anne is revealed to be much more attractive in real life than how she often appears on television and she is also very slim, something usually concealed by her costumes. I certainly enjoyed the opportunity of seeing something of the “real” Anne.

The sex scenes, although rare for the actress, turn out to be rather tame, certainly in comparison with what we get on television these days.

Overall I rate Dark Secret as well worth watching if somewhat obscure … and wonderful for the chance to see Anne in something different.

To find out the full story of Dark Secret and what happens to Rose, click here ....

March 2004

Copyright DiMar