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Nolly Good Show: Noele Gordon drama is ‘soapsational’


Nolly Good Show: Noele Gordon drama is ‘soapsational’

Nolly Good Show: Noele Gordon drama is ‘soapsational’

This week ITVX (Also on the STV Player) released Nolly, a three-part drama on the life of once one of ITV’s biggest stars, Noele Gordon.

The programme is a celebration of the performer who was a ground-breaking performer in the West End, gaining rave reviews and later a television pioneer when ITV launched back in the 1950s. While the episodes centre around Noele’s outrageous sacking by ATV in 1981 (the ITV company for the Midlands at the time) there is plenty of heart and humour in Russell T Davies’ penned camp tribute to the ‘queen of British soap opera’.

She was friends with stars such as Diana Dors, Larry Grayson, Terry Wogan, Bob Monkhouse, Dick Emery, Pat Phoniex and Danny La Rue to name just a few but unlike her counterparts due to so much of Crossroads being wiped – thus unrepeated – Noele Gordon has drifted from the showbiz world of celebs remembered for most people – not helped by ITV ignoring her since the late 1990s in celebratory and anniversary programmes. But now, thanks to RTD giving them a nudge she’s back in the spotlight and this time she’s portrayed by Hollywood darling Helena Bonham Carter no less.

Noele was a trailblazer for women in broadcasting and Helena has been quite forthright about women’s rights lately – something Noele Gordon would be right behind her with. And its Helena’s excellent interpretation of Noele that really comes across in the episodes. The character has been studied, her style of speech, tone and movement perfected down to even a wink.

The drama is also brought to life with a cast of names that bring to screen names once much-loved in the past by as many as 18 million viewers a night as Tony Adams (Adam), Susan Hanson (Diane), Paul Henry (Benny) and Ronald Allen (David).

Noele Gordon was one of the most famous red-heads in the ’70s UK.

Noele Gordon was born in East Ham – where a building will soon be named in her honour – on Christmas Day 1919. She began performing as a toddler and later studied at RADA. She had several leading roles in the West End, including in Pantomime at The London Palladium and in shows such as Gypsy, Black Velvet and Brigadoon. In 1938 she was the first person to be transmitted in colour from a TV camera to a TV set during tests by John Logie Baird at Chrystal Palace and in 1954 – having appeared by this point in big screen movies, live BBC TV and radio dramas she was sent by ITV executive Lew Grade to America to study commercial television.

Upon her return she became the first ITV female executive as Head of Lifestyle and helped get ITV London on the air in September 1955, she later helped launch ITV in the Midlands alongside future Crossroads producer Reg Watson who later returned to his native Australia and gave soap lovers shows such as The Young Doctors, Sons and Daughters, Prisoner: Cell Block H and Neighbours. Reg and Noele worked as a successful team bringing viewers popular shows such as Tea with Noele Gordon (ITV’s first chat show), LunchBox (the first ‘This Morning’ style programme in the UK) and Bongo! a music game show.

Some of these pioneering feats are featured in the Nolly drama and are recreated with an attention to detail that is worthy of awards – unlike the Queen movie, with its dodgy hairdos and just not quite right looks – this drama has it all. The frocks, the backdrops the wigs – everything appears to be totally believable. Add to this the script that draws you into the world of Noele, and you have a very enjoyable three-part series. Nolly was tough – a lone women in a man’s world she had to be – and we see that-  but we also see the kind and caring side to her, and a woman who was much loved by the majority of people in the ATV Studios from the cleaners to the production crew. So when ‘those in power’ decide to axe her, we’re rooting for her all the way to the end.

Nolly is currently streaming on ITVX and the STV Player along with a companion documentary – The Real Nolly. The story of Noele’s demise from the soap is very much worth watching if you like comedy-drama, but especially if you like soap opera. You don’t need to know or remember Crossroads to enjoy this, as RTD says, its about a queen who lost her crown, and that in itself is a story worth seeing and we can all learn from it, and maybe as Helena says ‘be more Nolly’ in life.

ITVX drama Nolly

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