Glynis Barber may best be known now as a star of soap operas such as Emmerdale and EastEnders but back in the 80s, she was something of a small screen pin-up. After a brief appearance in The Sandbaggers as a Russian spy so beautiful “you’d crawl a thousand miles over broken glass” for her, her big break came as Soolin on Blake’s 7, a role about which I’ve already written. After Blake’s 7 finished, she went on to much greater fame and pin-up-dom as Makepeace in fondly remembered Dempsey & Makepeace:
But in between those two series, she starred in a much more poorly remembered show on BBC2 about a literal pin-up: Jane.
Yes, we’re about to get a little bit racey after the jump…
Jane was based on the Daily Mirror cartoon strip that ran between 1932 and 1959, but which proved incredibly popular during the Second World War. It followed the adventures of the title character, Jane Gay, who basically went around in life enduring exciting adventures that almost inevitably ended up with a large number of her clothes falling off.
Such was the (perhaps unsurprising) appeal of the character that when in 1943, instead of ending up in just her undergarments, she made a fully nude appearance when getting out of a bath and clumsily falling into the middle of a crowd of British soldiers, the real life British Army was so excited it advanced five miles in North Africa.
Although attempts to syndicate Jane in America were tried, the amount of exposed flesh was too much for US readers and Jane never made it to the States except circuitously – a 1949 film, The Adventures of Jane, that starred the model on whom Jane was actually based, Chrystabel Leighton-Porter.
The BBC2 adaptation, called Jane in its first series and Jane in the Desert for its second, managed to continue the naughty tradition of Jane onto the small screen, despite its early evening time slot. Using the same colour separation overlay (CSO) technique so beloved of Doctor Who and later Captain Zep (about which I’m tempted to do a Lost Gems but which was basically a kids’ show in which actors interacted with cartoon characters in a futuristic murder-mystery that viewers had to solve before the end of the episode)…
…Jane featured Barber as super-spy Jane, Jane’s pet dachshund Fritz and various actors against an illustrated backdrop that emulated the original comic, fighting the Hun and their spies in a number of ripping wartime situations that inevitably ended with Barber in her underwear.
It was very much a tongue in cheek production, with knowing winks to the audience from all involved and proved popular enough to get a second series. After that, though, for some strange reason the show was cancelled and Barber crossed over to the other side – ITV. It’s not been released on video or DVD, so it’s genuinely a Lost Gem. So enjoy the clips that are available – and try not to invade Africa.