Good Old Nocker

1965 , Thorpe-le-Soken (Essex)

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Biography of Arnold Bennett and a tour of his home town

The film begins with boys playing football on waste ground overlooking the potteries. There are stills of the town and of the pottery chimneys. The commentary reviews the five towns and Bennett's work. It also points out that actually there are six towns but Bennett thought five sounded better and missed out Frinton. In Burslem, or Bursley, there are shots of the Town Hall and the town. These include scenes from Bennett's novels, including the door step where John Bains became paralysed. There is a shot of the street sign for 'Enoch Street', and of St. John's Church and graveyard. This was called St. Luke's by Bennett. There are shots of the Wedgwood Institute in Burslem, including a statue of Josiah Wedgwood. Several interviews are conducted with local people, regarding their perceptions of Bennett and his relationship to Burslem. Germaine Greer is introduced to the viewer. The camera follows her around the potteries. She looks at the memorial to Bennett outside Burslem Town Hall. Their are aerial shots of the town and of the landscape. Germaine Greer walks through terraced streets, some of which are derelict, pottery kilns and the canal. The commentary reminds the viewer that Bennett was no working class hero. His characters were middle and lower middle class. There is a shot of the Five Towns Cafe, on the site of his birthplace in Hope Street, Hanley. A still shows the original building and the memorial plaque. This has been retained on the new building. The film shows stills of his parents. His father was a pawnbroker after failing as a potter. He later qualified as a solicitor. The family lived in poverty whilst he did so. The film shows the streets where Bennett spent his early years. These gradually increase in opulence until the film reaches his home in Walkham Road. This is now a museum. Germaine Greer visits the museum. Interior scenes show the house as it was in Bennett's time. Over scenes of pottery production, a local voice reads a description of the process from 'Anna And The Five Towns. ' There are shots of the potter at work at the potter's wheel and working on a moulded bowl. There are scenes from the printing shop, the painting shop and the dipping shot. Frank Swinnerton talks to Germaine Greer about Bennett and his voice. Sir Gerald Kelly had an initially unfavourable impression of Bennett, calling him 'arrogant. ' Lance Sieveking describes a meeting when he visited Bennett on behalf of the BBC. Edward Wolfe talks about his portrait of Bennett. This was his first commission. There is a shot of the portrait. Over stills of Bennett at various ages, the commentary gives a resume of his early career as a solicitor's clerk and editor of 'Woman' magazine. There is an exterior shot of his lodgings in Victoria Grove, Chelsea. He lived here with the Marriotts who encouraged him to write. Sir Alan (AP) Herbert recalls his memories of Bennett from this time. The following section of the film records the years Bennett spent in Paris. There is a shot of the Moulin Rouge. Sir Gerald Kelly remembers Bennett's Montmartre apartment. There is a still of this. There are shots of the streets of Paris, of the Seine and of the Louvre. The commentary records that Bennett settled here in 1902. Louis Tillier talks of Bennett's life in France and of the work completed there. Germaine Greer visits the Rue de Calais in Montmarte to see a later flat of Bennett's. There are shots of the streets and of the Sacre Coeur. Louis Tillier talks to Germaine Greer in a cafe about why Bennett lived in France and why some of his best work was written in France. Germaine Greer visits Maure, South of the Foret de Fontainbleau where Bennett lived for a while and the Palais de Fontainbleau. It was near here that he wrote 'The Old Wives Tale' in 1907. Sir Gerald Kelly recalls a visit. Frank Swinnerton talks of Bennett's relationship with women. On June 1906 he became engaged to Eleanor Green, but the engagement was broken off. In July 1907 he married Marguerite, his secretary. Louis Tillier remembers her. There is a still of Edward Wolfe's portrait of her hanging in their home in Thorpe-le-Soken, that Bennett bought in 1913. Interior scenes show that Bennett was obviously a wealthy man. During World War I Bennett worked for the Minister of Information. Miss Lockyer and Mrs. Howard, the gardener's daughters, remember the Bennetts moving in and the modernisations that were made to the house. The Bennetts had the first car in Thorpe-le-Soken. They remember the pre-war house parties where guests included Lillian McCarthy and Granville Barker, and contrast these with the quiet life during the war. There is a still of Bennett's first yacht, which became a hospital ship, and of the second yacht bought after the war. Edward Wolfe recalls visits to Thorpe-le-Soken and there are stills of Bennett with his friends. AP Herbert describes Bennett at work and play. There is a shot of the Savoy Hotel, the setting for Imperial Palace and then a shot of Bennett's house at 75, Cadogan Square. Lance Sieveking reads a letter written to him by Bennett on 26th June, 1927. This shows a misunderstanding between the two and prevented Sieveking recording Bennett's voice. Still of Bennett's friends include Margot, Lady Asquith, Lord Beaverbrook, Edith, Osbert and Sacheveral Sitwell, Hillaire Belloch, GK Chesterton, Frank Paris, Noel Coward and HG Wells. Frank Swinnerton denies that Bennett was money grabbing. He describes him as a 'good, honest, simple man. ' By instinct Bennett was a worker and not able to stop. He speaks of the influence of Bennett's childhood in the potteries, recalled in 'The Role Call. ' Bennett, Swinnerton reminds us, never returned to the potteries in his lifetime. The film shows a sequence of 'The Card,' a film version of Bennett's novel starring Alec Guinness. In 1921 Bennett and his wife parted. There are stills of the actress Dorothy Cheston Bennett with her children. Film shows her as an elderly lady sitting writing at a desk. She recalls her memories of her husband. There is a still of the couple's grandchildren. There is a shot of her apartment block, King's Court in Chelsea and Mrs Cheston Bennett is filmed walking through the streets of Chelsea. Arnold Bennett died on 27th March, 1931, at Chiltern Court, Baker Street, of typhoid fever. There is a still of his brother Frank carrying his ashes back to Burslem. They were interned with their mother at Burslem cemetery. There is a shot of the memorial to Bennett in the cemetery.

Featured Buildings

Bennett's House, Walkham Road ; Bennett's House, Thorpe-le-Soken; 75, Cadogan Square ; Chiltern Court, Baker Street ; Bennett's Lodgings, Victoria Grove, Chelsea.King's Court, Chelsea ; Burslem Town Hall; St. John's Church, Burslem; The Wedgwood Institute, Burslem; Good Old Nocker.The Five Towns Cafe, Hanley; The Savoy Hotel ; The Louvre ; Moulin Rouge; The Sacre Coeur; The Palais De Fontainbleau

Keywords

Biographies; interviews; novellists

Other Places

Burslem; Hanley; London; Paris; Thorpe-le-Soken (in part)

Background Information

This was Germaine Greer's first film. At the time she was a student at Cambridge University.

Manifestations

Good Old Nocker

  • Barcode
    INV??3784
    Canonical Identifier
    B-7096
    Canonical Title
    Unknown
    Carrier Type
    16mm film
    Identifier
    Image Polarity
    neg
    Modification Date
    25/06/2021
    Parts
    Reference
    565836
  • Barcode
    INV??2367
    Canonical Identifier
    A-2925
    Canonical Title
    Unknown
    Carrier Type
    16mm film
    Identifier
    Image Polarity
    pos
    Modification Date
    25/06/2021
    Parts
    Reference
    564355

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