Missing from Home

1960 | United Kingdom

Nell Merriman disappears from home and the police organise a search on a large scale. Anxiety for her safety mounts, but the one person who is completely happy and undisturbed by events is Nell. 

Jessica Dunning stars as Mrs Merriman, whose daughter, nine-year old Nell, (Wendy Turner) disappears from home and is feared to have been led away by a strange man. Although Missing From Home dramatises the suffering of all those caught up in the drama of a kidnapped child, it is not developed round that situation. 

The play was written for television by Rosemary Timperley - adapted from the story "An Idyll" by Shelley Smith. Interviewed by TV Times in 1960, the play's director Tony Robertson explained the motivation for the story: "(It) is not really concerned primarily with Nell's safety or her parents suffering, but with the effect the experience has on the young girl's mind. Nell's mother and father never really understand the nature of Nell's thoughts and feelings during this ordeal. The only person to understand them, because he shared them, is George, the man who ran away with her. Shelley Smith is really exploring that curious lack of communication, or absence of understanding, between the mind of the child and the mind of the adult." 

The task of interpreting the play fell on 13-year old Wendy Turner, as the girl, and Hugh Burden, as George. For Hugh Burden the part of George was, he admitted, "extremely difficult. " He said: "George should arouse pity, not horror. He is lonely and hungry for affection. Like Nell, he retains the innocence of childhood." 

Superintendent Marlowe, who tries to trace the missing child, was played by Richard Pearson, who spoke of the dilemma of all parents - how to warn children against men like George without unduly alarming them. "We feel (children) must be on guard against strangers, but we also know that it is dangerous to plant fears in a child's mind." 

The Cathcart family, neighbours of the Merrimans, are the first to warn Nell's parents that she has been playing truant from school and meeting a strange man in the park. These parts were played by James Maxwell and Phyllidia Law. The part of their daughter, Nell's friend, was played by Therese McMurray. Also starring were Wiloughby Gray as Clive Merriman and June (Dot Cotton) Brown as Freda. 

Presented by ATV as part of the Television Playhouse strand. The programme was broadcast on Friday 8th April 1960 at 9:35pm.   

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