This was Jack Gold’s third adaption after directing Waterfront (from Michael Anderson) and Beyond This Place (from Jack Cardiff). This time around, Gold turned his attention to Patrick Hall’s The Harp That Once. There was an element of Hamlet about the film, with protagonist Nicol Williamson returning north to carry out revenge against those who killed a Fenian father. While Williamson is determined to find the men who the police refuse to, he is also plotting a coup at his tech company and trying his best to seduce the married Rachel Roberts.
The screenplay from Neville Smith may not have aged well, but the film does manage to retain a certain kind of charm, as stand-up act and bingo caller Albert Finney dreams of solving a case, just like his idol, Sam Spade. After he placed an ad as a birthday gift to himself, he gets his wish and more. Some of the places in the film have been either changed or removed, which lends itself to the idea that much of the city’s 60s heyday had been something of a mirage.
Liverpool has no shortage of talented writers, thanks to the likes of Jimmy McGovern, Alan Bleasdale, and Carla Lane. Willy Russell just may be the best of the bunch, however. Although it’s worth pointing out that Lewis Gilbert’s adaption of Russel’s play from 1980 was shot in Dublin. There’s a clear influence from Pygmalion George Bernard Shaw, as Julie Walters is assigned to a tutor with a drinking problem (Michael Caine) after she signs up to an Open University course. The two leads won BAFTAs and Golden Globes, and received Academy Award nominations for their performances. Russel and Gilbert would later reunite for 1989s Shirley Valentine.
Along with TV’s long-running soap, Brookside, this charmer of a movie proved that Liverpool was hell-bent on avoiding the path into terminal post-industrial decline. Shot in a mere three weeks using equipment that was either begged for or borrowed, this debut from Chris Barnard offered romantic pugnacity and defiant wit. Kirkby girls Margi Clarke and Alexandra Pigg took a stand in their bid to reconnect with Soviet sailors Alfred Molina and Peter Firth. The script from Frank Clarke offered such acuity that outside snipers perceived it as nothing more than a collection of caricatures and clichés. Clarke, however, perfectly captured Liverpool’s mood and helped to restore its pride in doing so.