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Walter Greenwood


Dec 15, 2021

Walter Greenwood (17 December 1903 13 September 1974) was an English novelist, best known for the socially influential novel Love on the Dole (1933).

English writer

Greenwood was born at 56 Ellor Street, his father’s house and hairdresser’s shop in “Hanky Park”, Pendleton, Salford, Lancashire.[1][2] His parents belonged to the radical working classes. His father died when he was nine years old, and his mother provided for him by working as a waitress. He left school at 13, even though the normal leaving age was 14. He was able to leave a year early after taking the Board of Education Labour Exam, which was only ‘open to fatherless boys’ so that they could go to work to help support their family.[3] His first job was as a pawnbroker’s clerk. A succession of low paid jobs followed, while he continued to educate himself in Salford Public Library. During periods of unemployment he worked for the local Labour Party and began to write short stories.

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While unemployed, he wrote his first novel, Love on the Dole, during 1932. It was about the destructive social effects of poverty in his home town. After several rejections, it was published during 1933. It was a critical and commercial success, and a great influence on the British public’s opinion of unemployment. It even prompted parliament to investigate, resulting in reforms.

In 1935, Greenwood collaborated with Ronald Gow on a stage adaptation of the novel. The critic of The Times wrote:

being conceived in suffering and written in blood, it profoundly moves its audience in January 1935… it has the supreme virtue in a piece of this kind of saying what it has to say in plain narrative, stripped of oration.[4]

The play had successful runs in both Britain and the United States, which meant that Greenwood would not have to worry about employment again. A film adaptation was proposed in 1936, but the British Board of Film censors made strong objections to the possibility of a film about industrial unrest which might be socially divisive.[5] In 1940, however, when unemployment could be presented as a thing of the past, a film adaptation was permitted. The film, which toned down some of the novel’s social commentary, was directed by John Baxter, and featured Deborah Kerr. It was successful with the critics and at the box office.[6]

During the Second World War, Greenwood served with the Royal Army Service Corps. Just before the war, in 1938, he had set up Greenpark Productions Ltd, a documentary film production company that made government information films for the Ministry of Information (which became the Central Office of Information from 1946).[7] Originally based in Polperro, Cornwall, the company relocated to London in 1939. After the war it expanded into making upmarket corporate films.[8] Amongst its roster of directors were Ken Annakin, Ralph Keene and Humphrey Swingler, brother of the poet Randall Swingler.[9] Greenpark Productions was a founding member of the Film Producers Guild, which set new standards for UK documentary film production. The company, together with its film archive, was acquired in 1977 by firm producer David Morphet.[10]

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. . . Walter Greenwood . . .