A surpisingly large number of films have been set in Soho - that one square mile which has, for decades, been the beating heart of bohemian, cosmopolitan London. In each episode of Soho Bites, we talk to a special guest about a different Soho film and accompany it with a shorter, thematically linked item which may or may not be film related.
Written, produced & presented by Dominic Delargy
Based on an original idea by Dr Jingan Young
Soho Bites 43: The Good Companions (1933)
The Big Jessie series.
This is the first of a three part mini-series focusing on the 1930s' biggest UK film star, Jessie Matthews.
None of Jessie's films were set in Soho, but the fact that she was born on Berwick Street where her dad was a market trader, that she lived in William & Mary Yard on Brewer Street and that she learned to dance in an upstairs room at The Blue Posts means that, as far as we're concerned, any film starring Jessie Matthews is a Soho film.
Across the next three episodes we will talk about three different Jessie films and learn about her life through talking to several special guests. In this first episode, we talk to Rob Baker, Jade Evans and Dr Lawrence Napper about Jessie's early life and her rise to stardom and Lawrence hangs around to talk about Jessie's 1933 breakthrough film, The Good Companions.
Also starring a very young John Gielgud, Edmund Gwenn and Mary Glynne, The Good Companions was directed by Victor Saville, produced by Michael Balcon and was based on a best selling 1929 novel of the same name by JB Priestley.
Watch this 1981 BBC documentary about Jessie Matthews.
Jessie appeared on This is Your Life in 1961.
Jessie's biographer, Michael Thornton wrote this appalling, salacious, muckraking and probably untrue article for the appalling, salacious, muckraking Daily Mail which I have pasted it into this Google Doc to deprive the Mail of your clicks.
Rob Baker is on Twitter and you can buy his books HERE.
Soho Bites 42: A Fallen Idol?
Not a normal episode.
We're not actually talking about a Soho film in this episode. It's a long story... We do, however, talk to a genuine film star from the golden era.
As an eight year old boy, Bobby Henrey was rocketed into the public eye when he starred in Carol Reed & Graham Greene's 1948 thriller, "The Fallen Idol". He joins us on Soho Bites (on his 84th birthday!) to tell us about that experience.
Bobby is now known as Robert and there is a double reason for having him on the show. His mother, Madeleine Henrey, was a French author, based in London, who wrote several memoirs - social histories - about Soho and the west end. These included "A Village in Piccadilly" from 1942 and "Spring in a Soho Street" from 1962. Her books were often published under her married name, "Mrs Robert Henrey" which seems quite an odd decision to make, but Robert explains the reasoning behind this and talks about how this literary career began.
Robert spent his early childhood living in Mayfair, specifically in Shepherd Market during the blitz. This period is documented in Mrs Robert Henrey's memoir, A Village in Piccadilly.
In the final part of the show we preview our upcoming three part special seasn about Soho's very own fallen idol, the 1930s mega star, Jessie Matthews.
An article about Robert.
You can buy Robert's book, Through Grown Up Eyes, at Foyles.
Some of the people who have helped me research this episode include Professor Debra Kelly of Westminster University, Celia Cotton of the Brentford High St Project, who put me in touch with Anne Wallace who is a distant relative of the Henreys and Roger Greaves, whose book, Reading Madeleine, is currently in production.
Madeleine Henrey's Wikipedia entry and her obituary.
Images of Shepherd Market from then & now.
Our favourite tired old queen reviews The Fallen Idol.
During the pandemic, we made an episode of Mural Morsels about Jessie Matthews.
Custom artwork for this episode was created by a href="https://twitter.com/AndyOliverMusic" rel="noopener noreferrer"
Soho Bites 41: The Green Cockatoo (1937)
At last! It's the long awaited exotic birds episode.
The Green Cockatoo (1937) is a noir-ish thriller set in gangland Soho. The Green Cockatoo of the title is not actually a beautiful tropical bird but a drab Soho nightclub. When Dave Connor gets on the wrong side of some gangsters, his brother, Jim and an innocent bystander, Eileen get caught up in the trouble.
Directed by William Cameron Menzies, it stars John Mills, supported by Rene Ray (The Countess of Midleton! Yes really!) & Robert Newton. The film has a superb supporting cast and was based on a story by Graham Greene.
Nigel Smith pays his first visit to Soho Bites to talk about the film.
Follow Nigel on Twitter & check out his many projects HERE.
Watch Nigel's Nerd Nites talk about Alfred Hitchcock HERE.
In the first half of the show, the exotic bird we're talking about is an actual bird, not a night club - the Green Ringed Parakeet. London is home to tens of thousands of these green feathery friends and their population is growing.
Nick Hunt became, for a few months, a "Gonzo Ornitholigist" investigating these birds and he joins us to tell us about his discoveries and explain what Gonzo Ornithology is. In collaboration with photographer, Tim Mitchell, he wrote a fantastic little book on the subject: "Parakeeting in London: An Adventure in Gonzo Ornithology". Buy your copy HERE.
Follow Nick on Twitter and read about his other work on his website.
Read all about Ring Necked Parakeets.
You can watch The Green Cockatoo, in full, on YouTube.
Interesting article about The Green Cockatoo.
Soho Bites 40: All Night Long (1962)
It's Jazz, man. Also, it's Shakespeare.
All Night Long (1962) is a re-telling of Shakespeare's Othello in which Othello is Rex, the famous leader of a jazz band, Desdemona is a singer called Delia and Iago is the band's drummer, Johnny.
The film was directed by Basil Dearden and stars Patrick Mcgoohan and Richard Attenborough plus several major jazz stars of the day, including Tubby Hayes, Charles Mingus, Johnny Dankworth and Dave Brubeck.
Film & theatre composer, Gary Yershon, returns to Soho Bites to talk about the film.
Watch a trailer for All Night Long
And look at these (badly colourised) lobby cards
Our other guest is a two time finalist in the BBC Young Jazz Musician of the Year competition, Saxophonist, Tom Smith. Tom has an intriguing connection to the late Ronnie Scott and we recorded both interviews at Ronnie's famous club.
On the same day we recorded the interviews, Tom as performing at Ronnie Scott's that night with the band, Resolution 88.
Here's some more of the Tom's music on Soundcloud and you can find more details about him on his website and of course, follow him on Twitter.
During lockdown, Tom and his big band did that remote recording thing.
Watch one of Tom's performances on BBC Young Jazz Musician of the Year.
We were first introduced to Tom through the legendary a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barry_Fantoni" rel="noopener...
Soho Bites 39: Nighthawks (1978)
Thirty nine episodes in and we finally do a gay themed episode of the show. About time too!
Nighthawks (1978) was directed by Ron Peck and was based on a script developed by him and Paul Hallam. It stars Ken Robertson as Jim, a geography teacher at a London comprehensive school who spends his nights looking for love in gay bars, clubs and discos (discos were still a thing then).
To talk about Nighthawks we're joined by Prof Glyn Davis of St Andrews University. Turns out he's not as Welsh as you expect him to be!
Watch Nighthawks on the BFI Player or buy the DVD which has a ton of bonus features.
Ron Peck named the film after Edward Hopper's 1942 painting. Both, he said were about, "essentially lonely people, trying to come together, maybe succeeding for a while"
Our other guest, author, Will Hampson, has been living with HIV for three years. His book, The Lost Boys of Soho, is an account the months following his diagnosis.
Follow The Lost Boys of Soho on Instagram
The director of Nighthawks, Ron Peck, died in Novemeber 2022. Here an obituary.
Some of the filming locations in Nighthawks.
Some 1978 press clippings about Nighthawks.
Interesting experimental by Ron Peck & Paul Hallam - "Soho"
Soho has it's very own sexual health clinic for LGBT people - 56 Dean Street.
The Terence Higgins Trust is one of the oldest HIV charities.
If you want to keep up to date the efforts to bring the Kino Cinema back from the dead, follow Kino Quickies.
The originator of Soho Bites, Dr Jingan Young, has...
Soho Bites 38: East of Piccadilly (1941)
Murder mystery? Rom-com? And, as an afterthought.... wartime boosterism?
East of Piccadilly (1941) was known as "The Strangler" in the US and was directed by Harold Huth. It stars Judy Campbell & Sebastian Shaw and was written by the then quite young J Lee Thompson. It tells the story of a murder investigation and is (extremely) loosely based on a real life case, that of the "The Soho Strangler".
1940s UK film expert, Mel Byron, comes all the way in from Talking Picture TV Podcast HQ to talk about the film. It's her third visit to the podcast - she wasn't that keen on Street of Shadows and her second visit was for Soho Conspiracy which is possibly the worst film ever made. Apologies to Mel. Will she like this one more?
The 1930s Soho Strangler case upon which the film is supposedly based, is largely forgotten now but not by our other guest, Michael J Buchanan Dunne. Mike is the creator of the Murder Mile podcast and at the time of publication has just released the third episode of a TEN PART series about the Soho Strangler.
At the time if writing this, East of Piccadilly is simply NOT AVAILABLE to stream (legally) anywhere online. It does sometime crop up on certain streaming serivces - if you fill in THIS FORM you will be notified when it appears (can't guarantee it will be free though!)
However, if you are based in London or are ever a visitor to our beautiful city, you can watch East of Piccadilly in the BFI Library. Grab yourself a terminal and ask one of the nice librarions for help. The reference number is N-626109.
Did the director of East of Piccadilly, Harold Huth cast himself in a small uncredited role as a Spiv in Joe's cafe? You decide.
The Spanish version of the film poster is ace!
A 1938 article in the Chicago Tribune about the Soho Strangler case.
Mel Byron is on Twitter and has a website.
You can also follow a href="https://twitter.com/TalkingPicsTV"...