Norwich the Old City East Anglia in book and film

The Go-Between
EMI Films - 1970
Director: Joseph Losey
Screenplay: Harold Pinter

Cast: Julie Christie, Alan Bates, Margaret Leighton, Michael Redgrave, Dominic Guard, Michael Gouch, Edward Fox

The Go-Between, based on the book of the same name by L.P. Hartley, tells the story of a young underprivileged boy who is invited to spend the summer holidays with his upper-class friend at the local manor in Norfolk just before the 1st World War. Here he falls under the spell of his friends older sister and is pressed into messenger duty delivering notes that set up illicit trysts between her and a tenant farmer, hence the title.

It paints an accurate picture of the lives of the upper-class and their 'everyone has his place' and 'doing your duty' attitudes.

L.P. Hartley was in his late 50's when he wrote the book. The mansion in the story was probably based on West Bradenham Hall, near Dereham in Norfolk, where Hartley stayed in his youth with the Rider Haggards.

The film is beautifully shot and captures the essence of the Norfolk countryside during the long warm days of Summer. Two things spoiling the film are the 'flash-forwards' which tend to make the whole production dis-jointed, and an overpowering music soundtrack.

The mansion used in the film was Melton Constable Hall in North Norfolk (not open to the public) which was empty at the time of filming. (The film crew had to repaint the house, repair or replace stonework and statues, mow the lawns, cut the hedges, and even redecorate the interior).
Other locations used include the village of Heydon near Aylsham, Thornage Village Green for the cricket match, Hickling Broad for the bathing scene, and Norwich with some beautiful shots of Tombland Alley, the old passageway and restaurant in the Maids Head Hotel, the Cathedral Close, inside the Cathedral, a recreated horse sales on Tombland, and even Thorpe Station.

Melton Constable: East Anglia map Ref: D1
Heydon: East Anglia map Ref: D2
Norwich: Central Norwich map Ref: D3-D4

The Go-Between is unique in being the only film to have its Royal Premiere in Norwich. In 1971 Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother attended the premiere at the ABC Theatre in Prince of Wales Road.

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Copyright © Ken Ward 2004
Last Updated: 08 November 2004


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