Love on the Dole

1967 | United Kingdom

Hankey Park, Salford, 1933. The slump, unemployment, the means test: "I wonder how much longer us women'll take to learn that living and loving's all a damn swindle? Love's all right on the pictures, but love on the dole ain't quite the same thing." 

Walter Greenwood's moving 1933 novel about the crisis of unemployment following the General Strike of 1926 (although the main action takes place in 1931), concentrates on a working-class community trying to come to terms with poverty whilst retaining their dignity. The novel was adapted for the stage by Ronald Gow and opened at the Manchester Repertory Theatre in 1934. This 1967 television adaptation by John Finch starred the comparatively unknown Anne Stallybrass as Sally Hardcastle who falls in love with a doomed socialist agitator, Larry Meath. 

The role of Sally had previously been the springboard for a successful career for Wendy Hiller who was in the London production - following a long and record-breaking tour - that bought her to the West End stage for the first time. She was an instant success. Ruth Dunning (Television Actress of the Year 1961) was next to find Love On The Dole a launch pad for recognition. A walk-on part in the London production, in 1935, was her first professional engagement. And when Wendy Hiller left to lead the New York production, Ruth succeeded her as Sally. 

It was Ronald Gow who first approached Walter Greenwood about turning the novel into a play. "Over coffee we agreed about the play," he said. "But with one condition. We were to make money out of it, so it mustn't be a high-brow piece. I think he had an idea I was some sort of egg-head!" Gow had been a schoolmaster just embarking on what was to prove a successful writing career and had been more of an observer of the slump years than the totally involved Greenwood, who had been on the dole several times and in and out of jobs with monotonous frequency. 

In Love On The Dole, set in his native Salford, he wrote about the Hardcastle family. With their father (played in this production by Jack Woolgar) out of work, the brunt of keeping the family falls on Sally Hardcastle and her brother Harry (Ronald Cunliffe). Sally and Larry Meath (Malcolm Tierney - both pictured) are courting, to the active disapproval of bookmaker Sam Grundy (George A. Cooper) who tries to lure Sally away by offering to make her "housekeeper" of his home in Wales. 

Greenwood said he "tried to show what life means to a young man living under the shadow of the dole, the tragedy of a lost generation who are denied consummation, in decency, of the natural hopes and desires of youth." The novel received much attention from writers, journalists, and politicians. However, the British Board of Film Censors would not allow a film to be made during the 1930s: it was a "very sordid story in very sordid surroundings", and in Gow's words "regarded as 'dangerous'". 

It was eventually filmed and released in 1941 by British National Films with Deborah Kerr as Sally. 

This production, shown from 9.40pm to 11.00pm on Thursday 19 January, 1967 as part of the ATV network's Play of the Week strand, was produced by Derek Bennett. It was made by Granada Television.   

Published on April 3rd, 2020. Written by Based on original TV Times article and adapted for Television Heaven.

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