Bridges to Memories
by Mary Reed
Imagine my delight when I read this year's Crimefest conference in the UK is co-sponsoring a special programme item offering a conversation with Mike Hodges and a screening of the original version of Get Carter, which he directed.
Get Carter features Michael Caine returning to Newcastle-on-Tyne in northeastern England to establish the true circumstances of his brother's death. In the process he wreaks havoc in the local criminal underworld and the whole thing ends in tears, as noir films so often do.
Unfortunately for me, I'm unable to attend Crimefest, for although I've viewed the film several times, I still enjoy seeing its familiar settings, especially now many of them have changed or been demolished in the march of time and progress.
Locations in the film bring back pleasant recollections of growing up in the grimy industrial city. Pink Lane, where Jack advises his niece not to trust boys -- oh, the irony of it! -- stirs faint memories of tripe purchases in a shop in that narrow alleyway, and glimpses of the quayside recall to mind the Sunday morning market to which my brother would sometimes take my younger sister and I. After a bus ride along Scotswood Road from Elswick we'd gulp down huge glasses of made-on-the spot sarsaparilla and buy bulging bags of assorted sweeties from our shilling a week pocket money.
I must point out however our wallpaper was not as shocking as some shown in the film, as my mother generally favoured white with a discreet stripe and tiny motif. Nor were our back stairs roofed like those in the back lane scene with the six-chimneyed Dunston Power Station belching smoke in the far background, though our street was only a few bus stops away.
During the Inspector Morse series my family got sick of me exclaiming "Hey, that's the Ashmolean Museum, I worked right around the corner and used to boggle at its Pre-Raphaelite paintings in my lunch hour!" or "The Trout Inn in Woodstock! I lived twenty minutes' walk away from there and sometimes imbibed a lemonade on that very terrace!" Filmed largely in and around Oxford, the settings provide quite a contrast to Newcastle -- though Morse's sidekick Lewis has a Geordie accent, meaning he's from Newcastle or elsewhere on Tyneside. Given the softness of Lewis' speech, if pressed I would guess he was from the County Durham side of the river, possibly Gateshead. Thinks: *was* his home town ever revealed?
Since we've managed to come back to the old stamping grounds, the 1950s thriller The Clouded Yellow starring Trevor Howard and the lovely Jean Simmons is in my opinion an overlooked gem, a Hitchcockian drama about a young woman (Simmons) falsely accused of murder and her subsequent flight from police and other interested parties with the aid of a former secret service operative (Howard). During the chase, the couple go to Newcastle, where at one point they emerge from a chare (a very narrow alley, often with steps and landings, leading down between warehouses and other buildings to the river bank or the quayside), which is more or less where we came in.
How about you? Have you seen a familiar place on-screen?