Right Place, Right Time

For most of its history, British society has been segregated into classes: the ruling class, the working class, and every class in between. If there was flexibility, it existed in the artistic classes, but even there, access to the best schools was reserved to the upper classes. Vertical ascension was never easy.

Paul & Alex 840

Paul and Alex Wheeler

In the aftermath of World War II, things began to change, especially in certain occupations. By the middle 1950s, in spite of his family’s working class origins, Paul Wheeler had secured a place in Oxford that afforded him not only a topflight education, but also access to connections that helped pave the way for his success. At the time, where one was educated was still an important factor in upward mobility. And so was cricket, the gentleman’s sport, which, because he excelled at it, garnered Wheeler even more connections.

Success in education and sport were only part of the story. In film and television, getting work meant being recommended. And to be recommended, talent was a must and Wheeler had it, but even that came indirectly. Ostensibly working as an analyst for British Intelligence (MI6), he was able to work his government job, teach himself the art of dramatic writing, and use his university connections to secure a top tier literary agent, which allowed him to earn money while he mastered the craft of writing.

Of course, all this would have been to no avail, had there not been lots of money available in the emerging medium of television, whose voracious appetite for content drove prices for screenplays and teleplays to new heights during the 1960s.

In the 1970s and 80s, Thatcherism opened up the economy even more. British writers went international. Contracts for Wheeler’s writing poured in. He wrote every conceivable type of story for film and TV.

Talk about the being in the right place at the right time, Paul Wheeler is a prime example. Had he come up in the 1930s or 40s, chances are he would not have gained access to Oxford. There certainly were no television contracts at the time and cricket might also have been denied him.

Paul Wheeler had the ability and, by being in the right place at the right time, he was able to affix his star to the post-war media explosion that brought about his financial and artistic success.

© Life Force Books 2017