The Real Nolly ITV Documentary

A personal snap of Noele Gordon

The Real Nolly, with exclusive access to her personal papers, never-before-seen pictures and interviews with those who knew her best, explores the life of Noele Gordon.

The ITV press information for the documentary notes: Before Crossroads, she was a star on the stage in the 1940s; she was also the first woman ever to be broadcast in colour (in motion) in an experiment by TV pioneer John Logie Baird in 1938. She was asked to go to New York for a year, where she studied TV production and made hours of notes on stateside television. While in America she worked as a continuity announcer, appeared in a sitcom and acted in radio shows, too. She came back to the UK to help set up Associated Television as a TV executive and established daytime ITV; she was a pioneer in the world of TV which was run by men.

The film discusses the remarkable soap opera set in Crossroads Motel in the Midlands. The programme ran from 1964 to 1988, but it’s famous for the period when Noele Gordon was the star as Meg Richardson. It included much-remembered scenes – for instance, when Meg got married, more than 10,000 fans turned up to watch the filming at Birmingham Cathedral, so they put that in the episode. It is almost inconceivable that soap could have generated such excitement over just an ‘ordinary’ motel owner. Larry Grayson – the famous TV presenter – even drove the Rolls Royce!

Noele on location for Lunch Box

Nolly’s sacking from Crossroads was a devastating blow to her, but she took to the stage again, aged 61, in the musical Gypsy. Sadly, only a few years later, she was diagnosed with stomach cancer and passed away.

Speaking with those who were close to her, the programme discovers who she was, hears about the heartbreak in her life and learns what gave her the steely determination to keep going. The Real Nolly is a love letter to a true star who is still much missed by friends and fans alike and also still hugely admired.

Speaking to ITV in the programme is friend Peter Kingsman, who was bestowed some of Noele’s collection which had originally been left by Noele to her agent, the late Michael Summerton. The collection includes documents, photographs – and some of her frocks including her Brigadoon outfit and the dress she wore as the first female host of the Royal Variety Performance.

There are also Crossroads co-stars Sue Nicholls who played waitress Marilyn Gates, Deke Arlon who was coffee shop manager Benny Wilmot, Gill Betts who played Spanish cook Josefina Raphael and David Fennell who played Brian Jarvis who was Meg’s nephew.

There are also memories from the most famous soap opera Benny of all – Benny Hawkins – the legend of the motel, Paul Henry.

From the theatre world stage executive, and friend of Noele’s, Roger Redfarn joins the conversation. From news show ATV Today, which was produced in the same studios as Crossroads, Anne Diamond talks about those days in Birmingham – and later how she interviewed Noele in her last TV interview for Good Morning Britain in 1984.

Writer of the drama Nolly, and of course Doctor Who executive, Russell T Davies talks about the reasons for creating a dramatisation of Noele’s life and his fondness for the soap opera which she took to 18 million viewers four nights a week in the 1970s.

Helena Bonham Carter – who stars as Nolly in the drama – narrates the documentary. The Real Nolly is a Multistory Media production for ITVX. It is available to stream for free on ITVX and the STV Player. The programme will be shown on ITV1 and STV later in 2023.

Unlike the 2012 half-hour Unforgettable Noele Gordon this production is to air in an hour-long slot.

 

David Fennell

Sue Nicholls

Russell T Davies

Paul Henry

The Real Nolly, ITVX

Roger Redfarn

Peter Kingsman

Jill Betts (Arlon) and Deke Arlon

Anne Diamond

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