Part 1: Introduction – Radio and TV in Greenwood’s Novels
Love on the Dole (novel and play) does not have a single reference to the radio, or wireless, perhaps because in 1933, at least in poorer neighbourhoods, ownership of or access to a wireless was uncommon. By the time of Greenwood’s fourth novel, The Secret Kingdom (Cape, London,1938), the conclusion of the novel sees the heroine’s son, Lancelot Treville, escape from poverty and unemployment in Salford by becoming a concert pianist who works for the BBC. His sister Patricia still has to borrow a wireless set to surprises her mother, Paula Treville (nee Byron), with his first broadcast:
‘[Next] will be the Sonata in A Major, opus 47, for violin and pianoforte by Beethoven, more popularly known as the Kreutzer Sonata…Mr Lawrence Burnett plays the violin and Mr Lancelot Treville the piano.’ A suffocating sensation of hysterical joy suffused Patricia as she saw the open-mouthed expression of blank incredulity, of complete surprise, transform her mother’s face … the mellow piano notes resounded in the room. Beethoven’s! And her son was playing them for everybody to hear. Some deeper significance was attached to it all but she had no words or thoughts by which it could find expression (Jonathan Cape, London, 1938, pp.409-10).
Apart from the joy of the sonata itself, I have no doubt that the deeper significance for Paula is that music and poetry, which have always been a personal escape for her from Hanky Park, have also become a means of escape to a form of unalienated labour for her son. Indeed, the novel carefully notes the material impact too: Lance is to be paid three hundred-and-fifty pounds a year (with extra for broadcasts). Paula argues that the money is not the most important thing, but rather the satisfaction of being able to perform such music for listeners. Her neighbours, however, find it hard to move beyond his monetary reward, and can hardly grasp ‘such a staggering amount’ (p. 319). The Secret Kingdom does draw quite clearly on the lives of Greenwood’s parents (as told again in his memoir, There Was a Time, 1967), and I have little doubt that this happy ending is in a number of respects a rewriting of Walter’s own escape from Hanky Park through his writing (see Walter Greenwood’s Finances and Love on the Dole). There are a few references to the radio in later novels too, for example, the central character, Randy Jollifer in So Brief the Spring (1952) has a ‘radiogram’, and records of ‘Bach, Handel, Mozart, Beethoven, and Chopin (Hutchinson edition, London, p.38), and it reprises The Secret Kingdom by marrying Randy to a successful concert pianist, who we also hear broadcast on BBC radio.
Television figures less in his work, but has some prominence in Greenwood’s last novel, Saturday Night at the Crown (1959). ‘Radio sets and television receivers’ are bought on hire-purchase, which the narrator sees as part of an improved standard of living since the thirties, though the payments are also a familiar burden (Hutchinson, London, p. 14). We see some women happily ‘settled down in front of the television’ (p.49), while their husbands are out at the pub. If this is a much more comfortable and secure life than Hanky Park offered, some regulars at the Crown still have their dreams of escape, for most not now through Beethoven and radio, but through folk or popular music, and television. We hear about TV talent programmes and skiffle groups who have made it onto TV or hope to (pp.51, 55, 59), but some of the novel’s central younger characters put their hopes in something more traditional. Bert Thorpe and his new girlfriend, Jean McLean, are going to sing and play at the Crown’s ‘go as you please’, which sparks off in Bert an enthralling day dream:
His heart soared. Tonight! Who knew? Perhaps in the audience at the big concert room at the Crown might be somebody from the BBC or commercial TV. A talent scout who, if they won the competition, might offer them a spot on TV. Anything might happen then. ‘Thorpe and McLean’ … ‘Bert and Jean’. Their own weekly programme on TV. The golden disc. A tour of the music halls; season at Blackpool. Command performance at the London Palladium. A film, ‘The Bert and Jean Story’. Well, what of it? Look at Tommy Steele and the rest. They’d started from scratch. Then, after all these triumphs, the culminating glory of glories, their wedding (p.22).
Well, it is a day-dream, so almost anything is allowed. Bert and Jean have rejected skiffle as what everyone is doing and are going to play a Chopin waltz on the English concertina and then play and sing the Burns’ song, ‘My Love is Like a Red, Red Rose’. Both Bert’s dream and their rather mixed repertoire might suggest a future in variety rather than the folk clubs (but of course variety was an indeed an important element in TV programming in the fifties and sixties). It seems clear that the customers at the Crown (who collectively award £5 to the best ‘go as you please’ turn) rate this act higher than the skiffle bands, and I suspect so does Greenwood. However, at the top of the cultural hierarchy are Sally Earnshaw’s tastes for classical music, both at live concerts and on the radio (which is probably anyway rated higher than television in the novel). The landlord of the Crown, Harry Boothroyd, who wants to marry her, is very aware of (and inclined to be jealous about) Sally’s lone trips to concerts in Manchester and London: ‘How often, when looking at the programmes in the Radio Times, had he heard her say of some concert or other to be broadcast from a London hall: “I’d like to hear that ” ’ (p.43).
The customers of the Crown are part of a society where a range of tastes are catered to by the national institutions of radio and TV. These were institutions and tastes with possibilities in which Greenwood took a great interest from early on in his career, just as he did in the possibilities of theatre and film. He was always interested in both entertainment and serious thought about social problems. The Radio Times is itself one of the key sources for evidence of his radio and TV career, which spans these two concerns. This article is firstly a more-or-less complete record of Greenwood’s work on radio and TV (there are some sources referring to radio work in the Walter Greenwood Collection at the University of Salford Archives which do not register on the BBC Genome project, which I will pursue further), and secondly an account of its reception and impact as far as this can be traced.
Part 2: Love on the Dole on Radio and TV
I don’t think Greenwood ever said much in public about his views of either radio or television, but he seems to have engaged with both keenly wherever possible. From the thirties till the nineteen-sixties, he responded to commissions and made his own proposals for adaptations of his works or of original projects. This is not surprising: he always welcomed large audiences, probably because he was keen to make a decent living as a writer (he had earned his living in what he justifiably regarded as much worse ways), and also because he wanted people to hear what his work had to say about working-class life in England. However, his work on radio and TV, and the audiences he reached through those channels, has been quite neglected. (1)
By 1935, Love on the Dole was so famous, partly because of the success of the play, that it is not surprising that he and Gow were approached by the BBC. (2) Indeed, the BBC took note of Greenwood from quite early on. The Norwood News, reporting in 1936 on a production of Love on the Dole at the Wimbledon Theatre, noted that the play had already ‘been broadcast twice, and [that] in a B.B.C. synopsis of great events of 1935, Love on the Dole was chosen out of all the plays running in London as being the outstanding one of the year’ (9/10/1936, p.9). The Northern Region broadcast an eight-minute extract consisting of the whole of act two, scene two, from Love on the Dole as early as March 1936. This scene is the one titled ‘Worship in the High Places’[;] On the moors’, in which Larry takes Sally up on the moors rambling. It is the only scene in the play set outside Hanky Park, so in some ways it is uncharacteristic (indeed the novel version does not directly narrate this outing, but only briefly shows Sally telling her mother how much she has enjoyed it afterwards). Perhaps choosing this scene avoided the more ‘sordid’ and potentially challenging location of Hanky Park and its poverty. Equally, though, the scene only requires two actors, who might be seen as the central figures of the story, especially if it is conceived as a romance, and the scene works very well as a self-contained piece. It has a satisfactory narrative shape, with the two climbing up out of Hanky Park, enjoying a sense of escape into the natural world and anticipating their marriage, then discussing the ills of Hanky Park, and finally descending emotionally from this high place with Larry’s confession that he has lost his job the day before and that he is not willing to marry on the dole. Their temporary sense of escape thus closes with a renewed sense of complete entrapment.
After a gap of five years a ten-minute extract from Love on the Dole was broadcast as part of the magazine programme Everybody’s Scrapbook on 15 June 1941 (with a recorded repeat on 20/6/1941). There was also the first full radio-version of the play broadcast in the series ‘Radio Theatre’ (no. 14) for the BBC Eastern Service (the service for listeners in India, the Middle and Far East) on 22 June 1942. This production for the Eastern Service was adapted by the BBC producer John Burrell, who had some Indian connections (3). This seems a slightly odd programming choice because I have been able to find no footprint for the novel or play of Love on the Dole in India (it might have given what the British government would consider an undesirable image of social conditions in the heart of empire). Scholarly work on Orwell’s BBC years suggests that the Eastern Service broadcast of the play might not anyway have had a large audience, since wireless ownership was limited in India and reception difficult in the Far East. (4)
The same year selected (unidentified) scenes from Love on the Dole (with Wendy Hiller as Sally and Robert Donat as Larry) were broadcast in a ‘Saturday Matinee’ for the Forces programme (19/9/1942 – the Radio Times listing in fact suggests that these scenes were ‘arranged’ by John Burrell directly from scenes in the film rather than the play, and acknowledges permission from ‘Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer British productions Ltd’, 19/9/1942, Issue no. 989, p.19). Three years later, a second full production was broadcast in BBC radio’s Saturday Night Theatre slot on 20 January 1945 (which may be a reasonably significant year for the play to have a new airing, with the end of the war in Europe in sight and political decisions about post-war reconstruction now needing to be made). The Radio Times felt able to alert its audience to the discontent in the play, warning listeners to the 1945 broadcast: ‘don’t expect light entertainment from this play … it will make you feel uncomfortable; and it will probably light in you some of the holy anger in the author’s heart that life for some people can be such a warped and inexplicably cruel business’. (5) The New Zealand newspaper the Alexandra Herald and Otago Gazette noted a year later in an article about the Lancashire actress Belle Chrystall (who played Sally) that this broadcast ‘scored a record for drama listening figures’ (18/9/1946, p. 3). The Sunday Times reviewer, Desmond Shawe-Taylor, must have been recalling the recent broadcast when he commented in his radio column (11/2/1945) that:
listening to The Corn is Green or Love on the Dole I feel sure that the radio-diffusion of standard drama is a good thing. Thousands have discovered a brand-new interest in the drama and many will visit a theatre for the first time if a play which they have enjoyed on the air should come their way in the flesh.
The 1945 radio version was credited to Greenwood, Gow, and Cynthia Pughe. Pughe worked on many BBC radio adaptations over a long period: she is first-credited as a writer for fifty-three Saturday Night Theatre adaptations in the years from 1943 until 1961. She was clearly a productive writer on whom no work has been done, and who does not have a DNB (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography) entry. Sadly, also, we do not have the script of her adaptation, nor any of the other nineteen-forties broadcasts, or there would be a fourth version of Greenwood’s text to explore. Love on the Dole remained a firm favourite for adaptations during Greenwood’s lifetime (as well as after), holding the record for the most-produced play in the BBC’s Saturday Night Theatre programme, which ran from 1943 until 1996. Its radio productions of Love on the Dole included eight, in 1942, 1945, 1949, 1955, 1965, and1972, with a two more productions after Greenwood’s death, in 1980 and 1987. (6) The 1987 production was in honour of Ronald Gow’s ninetieth-birthday, and was performed by the company of the Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester.
The first adaptation of Love on the Dole for television was produced by BBC TV in its Twentieth Century Theatre series in 1960, and was broadcast on 24 April. The Radio Times introduced the 1960 production in its issue of April 22, illustrating the piece with a photo of ‘Billie Whitelaw as Sally Hardcastle’ (a second photo overleaf showed her again with Tom Bell as Larry Meath). Its account of the play stresses its origins in Manchester/Salford, its authenticity, and then the transformative effect of the dramatization of the novel by Gow and Greenwood:
A quarter of a century after it was first produced on the stage in Manchester, Love on the Dole, comes to television on Sunday night. Appropriately this production was recorded in the BBC’s Manchester studios only half a mile from the Rusholme Repertory Theatre where the play first took an audience by storm. Love on the Dole came to life first as a novel written by Walter Greenwood, when he himself was on the dole. He wrote of poverty, bitterness, sorrow and love in Salford… where he was born; and received £30 for his book. But when it was transformed into a play, Ronald Gow and Walter Greenwood found they had a tremendous success on their hands (p. 8).
I have seen a press article from the thirties which said that Greenwood only expected £30 for his novel, but have never before seen it claimed that he really did only receive thirty pounds for it from Jonathan Cape. Perhaps this would not have been too disgraceful an advance for an author’s first novel in 1933, but there would surely also have been royalties on its large sales. The account seems keen to emphasise the success of the play and perhaps bolsters that by not seeing the novel itself as much altering its author’s life (which I think it did in fact). (7) A brief review in the Belfast Telegraph (by ‘W.D.F’, 25/4/1960, p.3) thought the BBC had done a good job: ‘With Billie Whitelaw as Sally, and a first-rate supporting cast, the presentation of Love on the Dole did credit to a dramatic version of the Walter Greenwood story, which holds suspended all the hope and despair of depressed Lancashire in the Thirties’. We do not have a recording of the adaptation, but we do have the photograph below from the production of Billie Whitelaw as Sally looking through presumably the window of the Hardcastle home (reproduced under an Alamy Images managed rights licence – image ID: W78780).
BBC TV broadcast further productions in 1965 and 1969. The 1965 production again starred Billie Whitelaw as Sally, but Tom Bell as Larry was replaced by James Bolam (Radio Times, 7/1/1965, pp.10 and 11). Granada TV broadcast its adaptation in 1967. A substantial review in the Stage, by N. Alice Frick (26/1/1967, p.14), thought this TV adaptation, too, a great tribute to this work of the thirties, which she sees as still retaining its value, even if it does seem a little old-fashioned in its theatrical style:
Nothing is so likely to make one feel his years as to see a play become a period piece in his professional lifetime. When I first read Love on the Dole the hungry ‘30s had just been lived through, and the play was a social document as fresh as yesterday’s newspaper. Now it seems about a time long ago and far away. But it’s still honest and moving. In format it’s old-fashioned with echoes of Victorian melodrama, but it’s still forceful and real. The Granada production by Derek Bennett on January 14 was respectful of the play’s values, careful in detail (although I thought the furniture in the Hardcastle house might have looked shabbier) and excellently cast. Jane Stallybrass struck the right balance between deep feeling and high-mindedness for Sally Hardcastle, the girl destroyed by Hankey Park, Salford in one year of the dole, 1933. Her tragedy was greater than Larry Meath’s because she had to go on living after his death. Malcolm Tiemey was fine in the part, the doomed man of principle in a society where principles earned no money. The gambler had a better chance, although only fleeting. Harry’s win on a threepenny treble chance was manna, but it fell only once. Ronald Cunliffe (Harry) and Maggie Don (Harry’s girl, Helen) gave good accounts of parts that are basically foils for Sally and Larry. Eve Pearce and Jack Woolgar were admirable as the Hardcastle parents, bewildered and defeated. Sam Grundy, the man with the brass in both material goods and character, was the villain who could have come from East Lynne, but George A. Cooper gave him flesh and blood. Betty Driver, Hazel Hughes and Hazel Coppen were an ample chorus of Hankey Park women. The play by Ronald Gow and Walter Greenwood from the latter’s novel, was adapted for television by John Finch. It’s a classic play of the Great Depression, as germinal in its way as Look Back in Anger was in the ‘50s. It belongs in any national drama programme, on the stage or television.
It is good to see Frick anticipate the National Theatre’s conviction of the play’s long-term membership of a canon of British national drama (the National Theatre included Love on the Dole in its One Hundred Plays of the Century in 1999). See Love on the Dole in a Time of Full Employment: Granada/ATV’s Television Adaptation (1967)
Part 3: Greenwood’s Other Works on Radio and TV
In 1936, the year when it first broadcast an extract from Love on the Dole, the BBC Northern Region also put on air a fifteen-minute extract from Give Us This Day. (8) This was the stage adaptation from 1935 of Greenwood’s second novel, His Worship the Mayor (1934). As an article by Phil O’Brien has recently shown, Greenwood’s second novel and its play adaptation both had considerable successes, which have been largely forgotten, thus distorting the shape of Greenwood’s career and influence in the thirties. The article, ‘ “Too much preoccupied with dole and dolour: Walter Greenwood’s search for the Radical and Popular in His Worship the Mayor’, is freely available: Article (9) Despite the novel’s success, and the good reviews the play had, O’Brien shows that there were reasons why Give Us This Day did not quite have the commercial success of Love on the Dole, particularly because of its willingness to attribute considerable blame and responsibility to middle-class characters (something Greenwood’s first novel and play had avoided). Nevertheless, the BBC, after its airing of the extract in 1936, went on, admittedly after a long pause, to broadcast a full radio-version three times. The first was on 28 June 1948, on the Home Service. (8) The adaptor was Mollie Greenhalgh, who had also adapted Love on the Dole for BBC radio. Mrs Nattle, reappearing from Greenwood’s earlier play, was played by Iris Vandeleur, who had taken the same role in the 1941 film of Love on the Dole. The same adaptation (though with some changes to the cast) was again broadcast on 20 February 1952 on the Light Programme (first in the ‘Curtain Up!’ slot, before being repeated as a ‘Monday Matinee’ on 25/2/1952). O’Brien has found some revealing evidence for the play’s reception (many listeners rated it highly, others disliked its politics), as well as a letter from Greenwood to Mollie Greenhalgh saying how much he liked her adaptation. O’Brien has also discovered that the BBC Director-General (Sir William Haley), after listening to the complaint of a BBC governor, at least nominally about the play seeming dated, more or less ensured the BBC would never broadcast it again (Greenwood had clearly not finished with censorship when the film of Love on the Dole was finally permitted in 1940). I recommend reading O’Brien’s whole article to get the full account and his analysis of the political contexts, including his final section on the play on radio.
Greenwood’s end-of-war play, The Cure for Love: A Lancashire Comedy in Three Acts (1945) was broadcast on BBC radio a number of times in different formats. The play is about Sergeant Jack Hardacre who, after service overseas and two decorations, returns home to his mother’s house in Salford on leave, towards the end of the war. As so many others found, Jack has to re-negotiate a pre-war romantic relationship, with his neighbour, Janey Jenkins – a process complicated by his instant attraction to his mother’s wartime lodger, Milly Sothern, as well as by his mother’s own determined character (she takes no notice of his war-time experience and wants to remain in charge). The play itself had not been well-received by London reviewers, and nor was the 1949 film adaptation highly-rated by many film- critics. However, both play and film were considerable successes in northern England, and the BBC clearly saw the play as having audience appeal nationally. In August 1945 (22nd and 26th), scenes from Robert Donat’s production at the Westminster Theatre were broadcast on the Light Programme, while eight years later a full production (with Thora Hird, as Sarah Hardacre, Jack’s mother) was broadcast on the Home Service (18 and 23/4/1953). The Stage liked the play itself, but detested a particular aspect of this radio-production, perhaps as a result of negative contemporary attitudes towards certain kinds of class and regional accents:
The pursuit of reality is a recurrent fever in the theatre. It did not seem possible that radio drama could be similarly afflicted. But so ugly was The Cure For Love in the accuracy of its accents that it grated unkindly on the ears, and although the play itself is an amusing and likeable comedy, one listened almost with distress. Dialects in most languages are warmer and richer than formal I speech, and even London cockney has vitality and force. But while the whining and slovenly accent of an undefined suburbia, adopted with skill by Violet Loidey for the part of Millie Southern, may be all too frequently encountered in reality, there seemed little purpose in choosing it for a leading character with so much to say. Nor were the voices from the North more pleasant. Although one could discern and admire the strength of Thora Hird’s performance as the redoubtable Sarah, and the evocative portrayals by Betty Alberge and Rosamund Greenwood, the general effect was unnecessarily harsh and unlovely. How very effectively Walter Greenwood conveys the background and the character of these hardy Lancastrians that he knows so well in Mrs Dorbell. the old age pensioner who waits at the bar sadly dependent on kindly charity for her drinks. It may be but a touch of local colour, and yet played on Saturday by Barbara Trevor, the pathos of her situation almost stole the play for a moment or two (23/4/1953, p.7).
There were also TV adaptations. First was a BBC version of 1954 (28 October), with Wilfred Pickles as the hero, Jack Hardacre. Then came a BBC 2 TV adaptation shown on 15 October 1964 (repeated 21/1/1965). In this version, Marjorie Rhodes, who had played Mrs Bull in the 1941 film of Love on the Dole, and had played Jack’s mother, Sarah Hardacre in the 1945 play and 1949 film of The Cure for Love, reprised the same part nearly twenty-years later. (10)
On 5 May 1951, the BBC Light Programme broadcast just the once a radio version of Greenwood and Bernard Miles’ controversial industrial relations film, The Chance of a Lifetime (Pilgrim Films, directed by Bernard Miles). With the exception of Miles himself, the radio cast was wholly different from that of the film. On radio the story does not seem to have produced the political controversy which it did in the cinema. Greenwood’s next stage play, Too Clever for Love (1952), which is partly a rewriting of Midsummer Night’s Dream, had less impact on radio, and never made it to BBC television. I have always thought it a relatively slight piece, not because its opening idea is without promise, but because it seems underdeveloped – the characters need more complex obstacles to the completion of their relationships, especially given Shakespeare’s comic model. Too Clever for Love had one production on the Home Service on 23 August, 1952 (with a repeat on 28 August). It was adapted by Mollie Greenhalgh (and as it happened Nicholas Parsons and Patrick Troughton played two relatively minor male roles). The Stage published a brief and mildly approving notice:
Too Clever for Love, a typical Lancashire comedy by Walter Greenwood, will be given its radio premiere in Saturday Night Theatre on August 23. The production is by Wilfrid Grantham, with a cast headed by Brian Wilde as James Blair, the young wood-carver who triumphs over adversity, and Margaret Ward as the pretty young member of the local dramatic society who converts him to love. A secondary romance is provided by James’s two sisters played by Ursula Hanray and Charlotte Mitchell and much of the comedy arises from the squabbles of an ordinary and somewhat uneducated northern working-class family. Mrs. Dorbell, a famous Greenwood character, the typical bar-cleaner who scrounges the odd shilling wherever she can, is also there, played on this occasion by Iris Ballard (14/8/1952, p.11).
Greenwood’s last work adapted for radio was his 1956 play, Saturday Night at the Crown (there was also a considerably different novel version published in 1959). This was broadcast just once, on 31 December 1955, as a Saturday Night Theatre, on the Home Service. Belle Chrystall, who had played Sally Hardcastle in a BBC 1945 production, played the central character of Sally Earnshaw (who is certainly in many respects a spiritual descendant of the earlier Sally Hardcastle).
On 19 June 1959, BBC 1 was to show excerpts from Greenwood’s new comedy, Happy Days, live from the Grand Theatre, Blackpool, as part of a series called ‘Blackpool Show Parade’. The cast included Thora Hird and Pat Phoenix. However, some newspapers reported the next day that due to a technical failure, and after much filling with recorded material and improvisation by presenters, viewers were finally not able to see any of the play, and, therefore, failed to be given their ‘foretaste of holiday entertainment’ (Birmingham Daily Post, 20/6/1959, p. 23). This was especially unfortunate since the same paper’s edition on the 19th June had remarked that viewers could ‘go out’ via television with its new use of outside broadcast cameras (‘Going Out with TV’, p.9). There was a ‘repeat’ on 17 July which presumably went better (I cannot find any newspaper commentary, good or bad).
After Love on the Dole, Greenwood’s most significant work for TV was the dramatization for BBC Television of his 1938 novel, The Secret Kingdom, televised in eight parts in 1960 (6 May till 24 June in a prime slot at 8pm on a Friday night). The adaptation was by Greenwood himself and Sheila Hodgson, who wrote many scripts for the BBC. One review, in the Birmingham Daily Post liked the production:
Malcolm Keen played the solid worthy workman with great integrity, and Paula, his eldest daughter, with intellectual longings above her mill-girl status was well-played by Maureen Pryor. There were a host of good characters, including Bert Treville, the barber who admired and courted Paula. This serial will grow on viewers as the weeks go by because the characters are so real (7/5/1960, p. 22).
The only other evidence of reception I can find is a very brief comment in the Belfast Telegraph (7/5/1960, p. 3) that there was no ‘apparent merit’ in the serial. I certainly note that the series, which must have been a considerable investment for the BBC, was not even given a repeat showing. Perhaps this was not the big TV break Greenwood might have hoped for (he had been trying to sell a film treatment of the novel since the 1940s). (11)
Part 4: Walter Greenwood on the Radio
I have always felt sad that Greenwood was never interviewed for either BBC or commercial television (though there are two filmed interviews), despite being a public figure for three decades of the life of post-war British television. However, he was interviewed a number of times for BBC radio, once as the chief focus, and on other occasions as a guest on a programme. He was first interviewed as a writer of interest on the Home Service programme, ‘In Town Tonight’ in February, 1935. The Salford Reporter said that ‘he spoke briefly but interestingly of his early days of struggle … and then the writing of Love on the Dole in all sorts of odd corners, upon scraps of newspaper, including wall-paper’. (12) It was another six years before he was again interviewed, this time on a ‘radio film-magazine’ programme called ‘Picture Reporter’, which went out on the Home Service on 22 May 1941. The Radio Times listing promises a feature on the new film of Love on the Dole (probably fairly recently completed), with ‘personal appearances’ from author, director and quite a few of the cast: Walter Greenwood, John Baxter, Deborah Kerr (Sally), Clifford Evans (Larry), Geoffrey Hibbert (Harry) and Joyce Howard (Helen). I do not think there is a recording, so sadly we cannot know what this extraordinary set of guests said about their film. (13)
After that, Greenwood’s next BBC radio interview, fifty-six years later, was on a special edition of Woman’s Hour, broadcast on the Light Programme from the Isle of Man, where Walter had retired (13/6/1967). The Radio Times listing introduced him thus: ‘Immigrant from Lancashire: Author Walter Greenwood has settled in Kirk Michael’. After that, Greenwood had several invitations to appear as a guest, or perhaps rather as a witness to the nineteen-thirties. In 1968 (26th October, repeated 17th November), he was one of a group of Manchester notables invited to contribute to radio-writer D.G. Bridson’s ‘Return to Manchester’ on Radio 3. The programme revisited Bridson’s thirties roots and contemporaries, and as well as Greenwood included guests Joan Littlewood, L.S. Lowry and Ewan McColl. Next, on 11 July 1971, came a programme devoted entirely to Greenwood’s memories of the thirties. Again, the interviewer was John Tusa and the Radio Times listing noted both the upcoming award of Greenwood’s honorary doctorate at Salford University, and that the interview was recorded while he was down in London for the production of his memoir Hanky Park at the Mermaid Theatre in April of that year. The British Library holds a recording of this interview, which I shall go and listen to, once conditions permit. The Radio Times in connection with his on-air interview also printed an interview with Greenwood by George Rosie (8/7/1971, p.12). Titled ‘The Old Habits Die Hard’, it is mainly about his current life on the Isle of Man. Greenwood says that he continues to work all the time and always has a note-pad by him (or writes on a cigarette pack – he says he smokes exactly eighteen cigarettes a day, but is trying to cut it down to seventeen). He is working on a novel about contemporary Manchester. Greenwood notes that at the first performance of Hanky Park ‘most of the ex-Labour cabinet turned up, but young people stayed away’. He ‘seemed saddened and slightly troubled by the fact’. On 22 December, 1971, Radio 4 invited him as a witness on to John Tusa’s ‘The Day Wall Street Crashed’ (other witnesses included Barbara Cartland, Jennie Lee and Manny Shinwell). This was Greenwood’s last radio booking.
Part 5: Conclusion – Greenwood, Radio and TV
Radio and television were clearly welcome channels for Greenwood to widen or sustain his audiences and, indeed, to maintain his income from his creative work. It is notable that there was considerable interchange between the worlds (and markets) of theatre, film and radio from which Greenwood benefitted. Phil O’Brien points out in the final section of his article that Greenwood was on good terms over a long period with the BBC radio producer Val Gielgud, Head of Drama, and letters between the two at the BBC Written Archives show that the BBC was often the first point of call for Greenwood when he had a new project or an adaptation in mind (his track-record presumably gave him reasonable confidence in the likelihood of a positive response). There were quite a few more radio projects Greenwood proposed which were not in the end produced. These included a radio adaptation of Greenwood’s only wartime novel, Something in My Heart (1944), which Gielgud himself was quite keen on, judging from his internal memo:
I am sure there is the basis of an interesting contemporary serial dealing with one of the most curious of modern sociological problems: when a country can educate, feed and clothe its young men to die in war and is apparently unable to do the same thing to enable them to live in peace. This, of course, is likely to be a burning question of widespread popular interest within the next twelve months. (14)
Perhaps this was too topical / political a story for the BBC, given that the focus of the novel on the reconstruction of a post-war Britain with a more equitable and meritocratic social structure might be perceived as supporting Labour Party and socialist agendas. Other proposals may have been turned down for other reasons.
The Walter Greenwood Archive has a script dating from 1952 for the first episode of a proposed radio serial called The Adventures of Harry Latham, together with some correspondence with the BBC. My especial thanks and acknowledgements for access to this material to Dr Gary Morrisroe at the University of Salford, who visited the archives and reported back on this material when there was no public access due to COVID-19. My thanks to Gary also for some email discussion about what the significance of the Harry Latham material might be. I think this is reflected in what follows, though the (mis?)interpretation remains my own! This proposal did not in the end make it onto air, but the BBC certainly seemed to give it serious consideration. Greenwood seems to have envisaged a series of radio plays, perhaps somewhat loosely linked, but all featuring Harry Latham, his wife Elizabeth or Liz (but often simply addressed as Mother), daughter (Sally) and brother Joe. Here we see Greenwood, as so often, reusing a limited set of first names of which he was fond in his fiction from Love on the Dole onwards. Harry is a retired ‘northern manufacturer’ (script Part 1, description of the family, p.1) from a successful business in which the whole family also worked, now sold on. He is intended to be a genial character, who being retired now has leisure and means to do what he wishes (a scenario I almost recognise!). What Harry wishes to do is help other people in odd situations who could enjoy life better with a little assistance, and on his own part to enjoy being benevolent. In fact, almost the whole family are philanthropic – Elizabeth too supports voluntary social work and wishes she could do more. The exception is Uncle Joe – who is consistently pessimistic and dissatisfied with life. In his covering letter to the BBC, Green writes: ‘Uncle Joe, of course, will be there to provide caustic comments and general discouragement’ (19/3/1952, p.1). His function is clearly to point up the cheerfulness of the rest of the family, and this has some comic aspects, but also perhaps does show that there may well still be things not right in Britain in the early post-war period. After all, if the post-war state and personal life under its umbrella were in every respect the New Jerusalem, then Latham family optimism and determination to do good would be without any good causes, and anyway not worthy of admiration.
The other obstacles to voluntary benevolence which Greenwood refers to in his covering letter are the very national and local government provisions which (in principal) Love on the Dole was surely appealing for in its 1933, 1935 and 1941 versions. Greenwood writes that ‘Part 2, which will conclude the episode, will show the difficulties benevolence often encounters when it is confronted with rules and regulations which are shown as being necessary for the protection of the public good’. I do not think that Greenwood is in any wholesale way regretting the establishment of the post 1945 welfare state, but the whole of this project does seem centred on a desire and conviction that this set of safety nets should not relieve citizens of both the duty and the benefits of acting too on their own initiative. Two lines of dialogue from the Part 1 script nicely illustrate the balance Greenwood is interested in, which preserves faith in state provision, but does not see it as wholly sufficient:
JOE. With all the salaried officials we have in the country you’d think there’d be nothing left for voluntary workers to do.
HARRY. Well, there is Joe. And it’ll be a bad day for the country when people can’t help one another just for the love of it.
Indeed, I think in the age of the food bank we can sadly see that as yet there is little risk that volunteers and voluntarism will become redundant – though we might well debate what that voluntary provision should be expected to cover and why it is needed.
Other parts of Greenwood’s letter reinforce this sense of Harry’s character, but also make the point that the format of the series of plays will give it variety and flexibility:
I suggest it would be as well if the Adventures alternated between Harry’s home on [sic: in?] a county town and different parts of the country so as to give variety to the series. As he is retired and a man of means we could develop the series in any way desired.
Greenwood referred to the proposed series by the name ‘Mugsworthy’ – the import of which is not entirely clear to me. He had of course published his ‘hard-boiled thriller’, Only Mugs Work in 1938, and if ‘mugs’ here has a similar sense then it could imply criticism, but maybe better a sympathetic reservation about Harry’s urge to help. However, this is not something which either Greenwood’s letters or the sample script suggest at all.
In the end the series was not taken by the BBC, but we do not exactly have a direct rejection letter. Instead there seems to have been some administrative confusion (though ironically it looks to me motivated by benevolence towards Greenwood on the part of the BBC, by a wish to help, or at least to soften the blow of a rejection). What we have in the Walter Greenwood Collection is a letter outlining the puzzlement of the BBC Northern region (Broadcasting House, Woodhouse Lane, Leeds, 2) about the actions of the central BBC. BBC North on 25/4/1953 sent Greenwood a letter explaining that:
Some time ago, for a reason which was not entirely clear to me, Light Programme sent to us up North the script of Part 1 of The Adventures of Harry Latham with the idea that we might be able to make use of it in our general drama programmes.
The script has now been sent back to me by our Head of Programmes, asking me to return it to you, regretting that we cannot see any way in which it could be used apart from its original context.
The letter then continues (with, I think, palpable relief!) to answer at greater length a separate letter from Greenwood about which tape-recording machine BBC North would recommend Greenwood to buy. Presumably the ‘original context’ is the loose serial idea, but I assume in the end the central idea appealed neither to the central BBC nor the Northern region. Perhaps they felt it lacked narrative suspense or dramatic bite. This certainly was not the first time Greenwood had a script proposal rejected and he no doubt took it like a pro. I think it might have been a perfectly good programme, mixing gentle humour with suggestions of opportunities for what Greenwood called in his Kersal Flats film interview ‘neighbourliness’ (Walter Greenwood Interviewed in Salford in 1973 – YouTube). Perhaps equally importantly, the fact that no one has ever commented on Greenwood’s Harry Latham idea reinforces the way in which regarding him as ONLY the author of Love on the Dole has limited consideration of his role as working-class writer and commentator between 1933 and 1974. Harry Latham gives us some fragments of Greenwood’s thought about the welfare state when up and running (though of course an incomplete project). His views might not be exactly what we expect, but they are part of the story. The ideas here might also be fruitfully compared with the views of post-war Britain in Greenwood’s almost equally neglected substantial fiction of the nineteen-fifties (see Walter Greenwood’s Other Books – Walter Greenwood: Not Just Love on the Dole (waltergreenwoodnotjustloveonthedole.com) ).
Note 1. A point I first made in Walter Greenwood’s Love on the Dole – Novel, Play, Film, Liverpool University Press, Liverpool, 2018, pp. 2, 208, 259, 279. My main account of his radio profile however, rather stuck to the facts and dates, as did my account of his television work (p. 259). This new account will add more discussion and material about the production and reception of his work for radio and TV.
Note 2. Details in the BBC Written archive: ‘Walter Greenwood scriptwriter, File 1, 1934–62’, including a letter from Greenwood agreeing terms for himself and on behalf of Gow (20/2/1936).
Note 3. See BBC card index of productions of Love on the Dole, BBC Written archives, and Burrell’s DNB entry.
Note 4. See, for example, Peter Davison’s George Orwell – a Literary Life, Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1996, p. 117.
Note 5. See Walter Greenwood’s Love on the Dole – Novel, Play, Film, p.280, footnote 50.
Note 6. The BBC Genome project brings up much useful details for these productions via a search for ‘Love on the Dole’ (and the other titles too). See: https://genome.ch.bbc.co.uk/
Note 7. In an article by Hannen Swaffer called, ‘Authors of the People’ in The Daily Herald 17/2/1937, p.16. See: A Second Walter Greenwood? Edward A. Hibbitt, Salford novelist
Note 8. Letter from Copyright section to Greenwood, 31/2/1936 confirming the Give us This Day Northern Region broadcast is scheduled for 2/4/ 1936. See my book, p. 279, footnote 48 for further detail.
Note 9. Published in the journal Literature & History, May 2018, vol 27 (1), pp. 28-46: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/0306197318755678
Note 10. See her Wikipedia entry for details of her long and successful career: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marjorie_Rhodes
Note 11. See WGC 1/6/3 in the Walter Greenwood Collection at the Salford University Archives: http://www.salford.ac.uk/__data/assets/xml_file/0007/530476/Greenwood.xml
Note 12. Clipping in Greenwood’s clippings book at the Walter Greenwood Collection, University of Salford Archives: WGC/3/3, p.34.
Note 13. Information from the BBC Genome project and their link to the Radio Times, 16/5/1936, p. 22. See https://genome.ch.bbc.co.uk/page/4689f2214f7a47f5b19c58367a92d806
Note 14. To Stephen Potter, 8/11/1944 in BBC Written Archives’ Walter Greenwood Scriptwriter File 1, 1934–62. See some further discussion in Walter Greenwood’s Love on the Dole – Novel, Play, Film, pp.239-40.