Our City’s the Star of the Silver Screen

by | Nov 15, 2017 | Film, History, Manchester |

The film East is East, the hilarious and sometimes painful portrayal of two cultures colliding in one Salford family, was released 18 years ago this week. As it celebrates its anniversary, Nostalgia takes a look at movies that have put Manchester on the map.

Manchester has always been a trailblazer for the British film industry. From the early productions of John E. Blakeley and the Mancunian Films Corporation to the gritty kitchen-sink dramas of the 1960s, the city has been a magnet for creative talent and cutting edge cinema.

Hobson’s Choice, A Taste of Honey, Hell is a City, Love on the Dole, A Kind of Loving and Charlie Bubbles are just some the classics produced in the Manchester area.

More recently, the city has been the setting for films like East is East, released on November 5th 1999, Velvet Goldmine and 24 Hour Party People.

The movie East is East was based on the play of the same name by Ayub Khan-Din. The play opened at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre in October 1996.

The title comes from the Rudyard Kipling poem The Ballad of East and West. It refers to the opening line: ‘Oh East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet.’

Directed by Damien O’Donnell, the film is set in Salford in 1971 and tells the story of Pakistani chip-shop owner George (Om Puri), his Roman Catholic wife Ella (Linda Bassett) and their seven children.

Tensions are caused in the family as George worries constantly about the 1971 war between East and West Pakistan and arranging marriages for his children.

Our photo shows members of the original cast back in Manchester for the opening of the play at the Opera House in January 2015. They are, from left, Chris Bisson, Ian Aspinall and Jimi Mistry.

The press night for the play East is East at The Opera House in Manchester. Pictured are Chris Bisson, Ian Aspinall and Jimi Mistry.

The press night for the play East is East at The Opera House in Manchester. Pictured are Chris Bisson, Ian Aspinall and Jimi Mistry.

Back in 1934, George Formby was the star of John E. Blakeley’s first production Boots! Boots! It had no real storyline, apart from Formby breaking into song as a hotel boots or porter, and was made in 14 days at a cost of £3,000.

It did, however, help to rocket Formby to national fame. Our picture shows him relaxing with a variety of his musical instruments in January 1953.

George Formby with his musical instruments

George Formby with a variety of his musical instruments.

In the same year John Mills was busy filming in Salford for the movie Hobson’s Choice. Our photo shows him on set waiting for his cue, briefcase by his side.

Released in April 1954, the film told the story of tight-fisted bootmaker Henry Hobson, who does his best to thwart his three daughters’ plans for marriage on the grounds that it would cost him too much money!

John Mills played alongside his actress daughter Hayley in the 1966 film The Family Way. He was the overbearing father of son Hywel Bennett who was forced to live at the family home with his new bride (Mills).

The film, produced and directed by John and Roy Boulting, was based on Bill Naughton’s play All in Good Time. The soundtrack was scored by Paul McCartney and George Martin.

John Mills filming Hobson's choice

John Mills filming Hobson’s Choice in Salford. September 1953.

A Taste of Honey, released in 1961, had its roots fixed firmly in Salford. Based on local writer Sheelagh Delaney’s debut play, the film starred Rita Tushingham as a 17-year-old schoolgirl who endured a tortuous relationship with her difficult, alcoholic mother (Dora Bryan).

The film triumphed at the 1962 BAFTA awards. Tushingham was named most promising newcomer and Bryan best actress. Tushingham also won a Golden Globe for the Most Promising Female Newcomer.

Our photos show Tushingham on the film set and Bryan at the BAFTA gala with Peter Finch, who won the best actor award for No Love for Johnnie.

Rita Tushingham on the set of the film A Taste of Honey

Actress Rita Tushingham on the set of the film A Taste of Honey.

Peter Finch and Dora Bryan at the British Film Academy Awards 1962

Peter Finch and Dora Bryan at the British Film Academy Awards,1962.

Lancashire cotton mills were the inspiration for The Man in the White Suit starring Alec Guinness. Released in 1951, the film told the story of an everlasting new fabric that threatened the future of factory owners and trade unions alike.

The comic timing of Guinness throughout the film was consumate – not least when the white suit started to fall apart at the end to everyone’s relief.

Alec Guinness. 20th May 1959

Alec Guinness. 20th May 1959.

Hell is a City, starring Stanley Baker as Manchester police inspector Harry Martineau, was nominated for two BAFTA awards. Released in 1960 by Hammer Films, it told the story of a murder investigation by Martineau that threatened to spill over into his personal life.

Salford-born actor Albert Finney teamed up with Liza Minnelli and Billie Whitelaw in the film Charlie Bubbles, released in 1967. Finney played a writer returning to his home city to find inspiration.

Instead he finds his ex-wife (Whitelaw), has an affair with his secretary (Minnelli) and watches a Manchester United game at Old Trafford. The film includes footage of Bobby Charlton and Denis Law.

During the film, Finney takes a ride in a hot air balloon in a bid to clear his senses. Eventually he realises what truly matters when his son goes missing, only to be found and reunited with his father at the end.

Finney directed the film himself and the screenplay was by Sheelagh Delaney.

Actor Albert Finney goes for a balloon ride while making the film "Charlie Bubbles

Actor Albert Finney goes for a balloon ride while making the film Charlie Bubbles. 20th October 1966.

If you have any memories of Manchester movies you’d like to share, contact us or visit our Facebook page. We’d love to hear from you.