Tony Warren was always the first choice to write the screenplay for iconic Liverpool film Ferry Cross the Mersey.
He was the king of kitchen-sink realism after creating Coronation Street in December 1960.
Four years later, he’d started work on the movie that would showcase the Merseybeat talents of Gerry and the Pacemakers, Cilla Black and the Fourmost.
But the success of the Street went to his head and he was spending long periods away from the North West. At one time he joined the hippy circuit in San Francisco.
Despite reportedly fortifying himself with a few whiskies, Warren couldn’t complete the script – so Ferry Cross the Mersey was handed over to writer David Franden.
Shooting took place in locations around Merseyside in the summer of 1964. Action centered on the Cavern Club and the Liverpool docks as well as Manchester airport.
The most famous scene, where Gerry Marsden sings the movie’s theme tune, was filmed on the Mersey ferry Mountwood, since renamed Royal Iris.
The plot was a simple one. Art students Marsden and his band were persuaded to enter a music contest, but their instruments ended up going missing in an airport hangar.
A mad scramble followed to get the group on stage. It was described by the film’s trailer as ‘an explosion of musical fun!’
Toxteth-born Marsden wrote nine songs for the film, including the title track of the same name and the single It’s Gonna Be Alright.
The song Ferry Cross the Mersey was originally released as a teaser for the movie in December 1964. It went to No. 6 in the United States and No. 8 in the UK.
Cilla Black sang the Bobby Willis melody Is It Love? and the Fourmost performed their single I Love you Too.
As well as featuring Merseybeat stars, the 1965 movie helped launch the career of actress Julie Samuel who had previously appeared in the TV programme The Avengers.
Samuel played Marsden’s girlfriend, shipping magnate’s daughter Doddie Dawson, who badgers him into entering the band competition.
Two extras in the movie became household names. They were Doctor Who actress Elizabeth Sladen and disc jockey Steve Wright, who played a boy in the crowd.
Fast-paced and appealing as it was, Ferry Cross the Mersey was always overshadowed by the Beatles’ 1964 movie A Hard Day’s Night.
Charting 36 hours in the life of the band, the film opened to rave views in London in July 1964 and quickly became a huge box-office hit.
Time magazine rated it as one of the ‘all-time great’ movies and the British Film Institute ranked it as the 88th greatest UK movie of the 20th century.
The film caused pandemonium at its Liverpool premiere on July 10th.
More than 3,000 fans greeted the Beatles when they flew into Speke airport and around 200,000 – a quarter of the city’s population – lined the route to the Town Hall and the Odeon cinema.
Mounted police did their best to contain the crowds, but screaming fans breached the cordons again and again. The Beatles were visibly moved.
John Lennon said: ‘What really delighted us was that everybody from the top nobs down to the humblest Scouser has been so nice and friendly and sung praise after praise – which I’m sure we really don’t deserve.’