Walter Greenwood and Robert Newton

Greenwood met Newton sometime before the War – a post-war Glasgow Evening News report (10/10/1945) says that the two had spent a pre-war holiday in Cornwall, when they bought and sailed a small boat with the distinctive name of the Randy Jollifer. This became the name of a central character in Greenwood’s 1945 play, So Brief the Spring: a Cornish Comedy, in which Newton starred as Jollifer. The play premiered at the Oldham Repertory Theatre on the first October 1945 (the Stage 4/10/1945). The anonymous reviewer from that professional paper thought that the play itself needed cutting and that, in dealing with three major immediate post-war themes (demobilisation, the atom bomb and the Labour government), Greenwood had packed in too much. However, the reviewer did praise Newton’s performance as Randy, and saw it as his play. The character Randy is newly returned home from wartime service in the Royal Navy – echoing somewhat Newton’s own experience as an Able Seaman for over two years on the minesweeper HMS Britomart, before his medical discharge in 1943, fortunately for him before the ship was sunk off the coast of Normandy by ‘friendly fire’ from RAF planes in August 1944 (Ben Warlow and J. Colledge, Ships of the Royal Navy, Casemate, Haverton, USA, 2010, p.55; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Newton; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HMS_Britomart_(J22)). The play was generally advertised as a star vehicle for Newton over the next year and attention was drawn to his war-service and his return to the stage from recent successful film roles (including Night Boat to Dublin in 1946: https://www.bfi.org.uk/films-tv-people/4ce2b6b177672). The play was given other pre-London productions including in Aberdeen, Burnely, Brighton, Harrow, Hull, and Eastbourne, but in the end did not (as advertised) transfer to the West End Garrick Theatre, where Love on the Dole had been such a hit in 1935. Presumably the pre-London tour, though generally respectfully reviewed, was not financially successful enough to convince the London theatre management. Newton and Greenwood did not collaborate on any further projects (and after 1950 Newton was often working in Hollywood), but Greenwood dedicated the considerably different 1956 novel version of So Brief the Spring to Newton in 1956.

See for other writers and performers Greenwood worked with closely: Walter Greenwood’s Creative Partnerships