A Forgotten Love on the Dole Rehearsal Photograph (1940) by James ‘ Jimmy’ Jarché

I was searching to see if by any chance there were extant photographs of Walter Greenwood with George Formby since they worked on two films together (No Limit, director Monty Banks, Associated Talking Pictures 1936, and Much Too Shy, director Marcel Varnel, Columbia British Productions, 1942). I had no luck with that search, but I did by chance find a photograph which I had never seen before and which I don’t think other Greenwood scholars are aware of either.

It is by the distinguished press photographer James ‘Jimmy’ Jarché (1890-1965), whose career stretched from 1912 until retirement in 1959, and included working for the Daily Sketch, the Graphic, the Daily Herald, the Weekly Illustrated and the Daily Mail. He took photographs of many noteworthy news events, including the Sydney Street Siege in 1911, the first photograph of the Prince of Wales with Wallace Simpson in 1934, and of many celebrities, including Gracie Fields in 1935 (there is a fine photograph of Gracie Fields photographing Jarché while he photographs her on the Science Museum website: https://blog.scienceandmediamuseum.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/graciefieldsjamesjarche1.jpg). He also did a number of photo spreads of the disastrous consequences of the depression, including features on the plight of Jarrow and on the demolition of the Dowlais steelworks, both in 1936. (1) He published a book about his career so far called People I Have Shot – Reminiscences of a Press Photographer, in 1934 (preface by the fellow Daily Herald journalist Hannen Swaffer, London, Methuen).

In his excellent booklet on Jarché, which packes a great deal into a small space, Derek Smith writes that:

James Jarché’s career as a press photographer coincided precisely with the pioneering days of photography for the printed page in Edwardian England and the demise of the last British picture magazine, Illustrated, in the late 1950s. (2)

Smith argues that Jarché’s camera technique and approach were transformed after he moved from the Daily Herald to the magazine the Weekly Illustrated just as it was reconceptualised by the Hungarian refugee film-maker and photographer, Stefan Lorant, who had come to Britain in 1933 after being imprisoned in Hitler’s Germany. The distinguished editor Sir Tom Hopkinson, who was then assistant editor to Stefan Lorant, recalled in an interview with Smith in May 1980 that:

Very early on Jarché picked up [from Lorant’s fellow-refugee photographer colleagues Felix H. Mann and Kurt Hutton] … the idea of the picture story and the proper use of the miniature Leica [camera]. He was one of the first Fleet Street photographers to use it. Obviously he took some ribbing from his colleagues for employing this ridiculous little camera. (3)

James ‘Jimmy’ Jarché (with Leica) and his Daily Herald colleague, Reuben Saidman, by unknown photographer for the Daily Herald; modern bromide print from original negative, March 1937; 5 5/8 x 7 1/2 ins (144 mm x 190 mm); given by IPC Newspapers Limited; Photographs Collection; ©National Portrait Gallery, and reproduced with their kind permission under a Creative Commons licence

The two are clearly setting off for Berlin on a KLM flight, presumably for a Daily Herald photoshoot, and look justifiably apprehensive, given their Jewish heritage and the Daily Herald‘s constant anti-fascist stance.

The new Leica camera, as Smith explains, enabled new technical possibilities and a more spontaneous approach to press photography, allowing Jarché to develop a new style:

The innovators introduced specific aspects of realism which Jarché learnt to appreciate. Photography by actual light where flash would have been conventional. The capturing of significant moments in time, candidly, both made practical by the Leica’s unobtrusiveness and fast lenses.

Fascinated by individuals and specific experience he rarely created stereotypes, investing the portrait of a cabinet minister in Whitehall with as much care and attention as the picture of a Welsh miner underground the next day. The photographs produced by Jarché’s innocent eye and sensibility are worthy of our attention, and the best of them deserve a place in the history of British photography. (4)

I have not been able to identify the exact Leica model Jarché has above, but this Leica III from 1930 gives a sense of the neatness of the camera (image reproduced from the Wikipedia entry on Leicas under a creative Commons license: Leica Camera – Wikipedia )

These technical possibilities certainly look as if they apply to Jarché’s photograph of a moment in the rehearsal of a scene of the film of Love on the Dole (dated December 1940). It is a striking image, which gives each of the four subjects an individual personality in that exact moment of complex interchange which in three cases sees them as half in character and half as themselves. They are all looking more-or-less relaxed, but there is a sense of tension too as there is physical contact between director and actress, which though an imitation of violence, she tenses to face. Deborah Kerr is seen half as professional actor concentrating on getting this specific moment in the performance right, and half as Sally Hardcastle in this violent breach with her father towards the end of the narrative. George Carney as actor is seen preparing to imitate the action of the director John Baxter, and the nervous half-smile may suggest he is a little taken aback by what he must do, but he is also already half in the role of Mr Hardcastle. John Baxter is the director, but for the moment is passing on his vision of the next scene by half-stepping into the role of the angry Mr Hardcastle. The author (and associate producer) Walter Greenwood is the only one of the four subjects seen wholly as himself, and he is a little remote, back to the camera, face only half-visible, but intervening in the rehearsal of this key moment through a hand gesture, which seems to suggest that some further amendment is needed still.

Jarché’s photograph at the Love on the Dole film set, taken in December 1940; image reproduced with kind permission of Popperfoto/Getty Images, under a managed rights licence

I think this may be the only photograph of the film in rehearsal. It is a shocking moment in the play and in the finished film, as a father slaps his daughter for her sexual transgression which he angrily tells her brings shame on her family. Actually, the key thing fuelling Hardcastle’s anger is about himself, not about her, his knowledge that had he been able to sustain his proud role as a working-man and father, Sally would not have been driven to this extremity. His anger and violence against his own daughter are all he can now afford of the codes of respectability he has tried to live by. Of course, Sally has only agreed to become Sam Hardcastle’s mistress after Larry Meath’s death in return for his being able corruptly to find jobs for her desperate father and brother, recently himself become a father but with no income whatsoever. She can see no other hope for them. She is thus punished doubly – she has sacrificed herself after Larry Meath’s death, and given up all her own hopes, and is then blamed and reprimanded for her awful self-sacrifice by one of the beneficiaries. Despite her father’s violence, which he no doubt sees as his proper duty – to punish a young woman who has apparently thrown away his family’s hard clung to respectability – Sally maintains her analysis of their situation, and her own paradoxical sense of agency (she acts, and is the only one who can act, but gives up her freedom by doing so). She faces her father and tells him, in words very close to those in the play:

Ah’m sorry, dad … about all this. Things are different now t’ what y’ve been used to, an’ y’ve got to face things as they are, not as y’d like ‘em to be. We all want a fresh start – that’s what Larry said. Well, there’s no starting fresh in Hanky Park, an’ I’m getting out, quickest road.

Jarché’s photograph captures the multiple roles and the mixture of tension and professionalism in the scene under rehearsal. Deborah Kerr said that the director, John Baxter, was ‘a fiend of realism’ when making Love on the Dole, and he was no doubt trying here to make this scene as real and powerful as possible. (5) Though the play’s contextualises this violence in relation to the father’s complete loss of self-respect and agency, and in terms of the national scandal of the victimisation of the economically and socially most fragile people and areas in Britain in the thirties, the photograph as a work in itself disturbingly suggests the shock of the patriarchal act of violence by setting the (apprehensive-looking?) female subject at the centre of three (controlling?) men who all look intent on making the blow look as real as possible. Of course, Deborah Kerr has agency – she is an actress playing the part as strongly as possible, and displaying her professionalism, but still the image has an intriguing but disturbing capacity to blur selves, roles, and underpinning realities of power.

The photograph’s source is ultimately the Daily Herald Archive, but it is not included in Jarché’s Daily Herald photographs available via the British Library National Newspaper archive, so perhaps the newspaper did not in the end use it. It seems a little surprising if Jarché photographed only one scene at the rehearsal at Rock Studio, Elstree (though strictly speaking there are two other versions of this photograph with minor variations). Nevertheless, this photograph seems an important one. It is both a visual record of a part of the film-production process, showing Greenwood’s close involvement with director and actors on the set, and a striking example of Jarché’s ability to create a candid image of a moment, leaving the viewer to ponder its before and after and its potential meanings. (6)


Note 1. the relevant photographs are reproduced on p.27, pp.16-17, p.3, p.11 and pp.12-13 of Derek Smith’s excellent booklet about the photographer’s life and work, James Jarché 1891-1965: Press Photo Pioneer, Popperfoto, London?, 1980. See also for an introduction to Jarché his Wikipedia entry: James Jarché – Wikipedia.

Now hard to get, this is the only publication solely devoted to Jarché . The cover illustration by Carol Forrest includes a Leica, of course.

Note 2. James Jarché 1891-1965, p.1.

Note 3. James Jarché 1891-1965, p.8.

Note 4. James Jarché 1891-1965, p.9.

Note 5. Kerr’s words quoted by Michelangelo Capua’s Deborah Kerr: a Biography, McFarland & Company, Jefferson, North Carolina, 2010, and originally recorded in Jim Meyer’s article ‘Deborah Kerr’ in Screen Facts, No.19, Vol 4, 1968, p.29.

Note 6. One variation also in the Getty Images / Popperfoto online archive shows a close-up of only Baxter and Kerr and at a different point in the delivery of the acted slap, while two other versions in the Science Museum Daily Herald archive show the image reproduced above plus a second frame taken a moment later. See Scottish actress Deborah Kerr and English director John Baxter on set… News Photo – Getty Images and Deborah Kerr in “Love on the Dole” | Science Museum Group Collection.