Readers’ memories of film shot in Worthing
I was quite surprised at the response to my recent article regarding the 1987 film Wish You Were Here.
The film, starring Emily Lloyd and Tom Bell, was written and directed by David Leland and was shot in and around Worthing.
Cliff Hawkins got in contact to explain that he lives close to the now demolished Victorian property in Chesswood Road, used for scenes in the film, which portrayed one of the character’s (Dave’s) grandmother’s house.
Cliff recalled that he was fortunate to view the inside of the Victorian home once it had been prepared for filming.
He explained to me that it was owned by a friend, a Mr Scrivens, and he had been invited to his home before the filming took place.
The hallway and front bedroom had been decorated and prepared to 1951 appearance, including the addition of furniture and a black wrought iron bedstead.
Cliff also remembers the filming taking place and seeing all the film crew vehicles, huge spotlights and in particular the mobile catering unit vehicle parked just outside.
Ted Smith supplied his vintage Morris 8 Series E for the film and was given £130 for the vehicle to be available for a full day.
The car was parked up outside the Dome Cinema with an extra looking at the engine.
A smoke generator was added to give the impression the car had overheated.
The car can be seen as Lynda (Emily Lloyd) crosses the road opposite the Dome.
Ted was pleased to be able to meet Emily Lloyd and Tom Bell and highlighted the fact that, despite often playing sinister and gritty roles, Tom Bell was actually very pleasant and down to earth.
Interestingly, Tom Bell lived just along the coast in Brighton and died at the age of 73, after a short illness, on October 4, 2006.
Marion Best recalled how her father, who owned Marguerite Florist on Tarring Broadway, was asked by the film crew to supply a wreath.
This was used in the funeral scene which was part of a flashback to Lynda’s childhood.
The wreath appeared on screen for no more than two seconds, being held by an 11-year-old Lynda, played by Charlotte Ball.
It would appear as though the film crew invited locals to join the production as extras, and some recall how colleagues, friends or family became bus conductors, bus passengers, coffin bearers, cinema goers or general members of the public.
Caroline Bean explained how she used to run the Worthing Youth Theatre as a drama leader and a lot of their members were extras in the film, such as sitting in cafes or on the bus, but also the young couples watching the film in the Dome cinema scenes.
Members of the Connaught Theatre Club were also included as extras.
Another extra was Ronnie Evans, who remembers that a chocolate cake with 16 lit candles on top was presented to the leading lady Emily Lloyd, by the film crew, while on set, and between filming, on her 16th birthday.
This apparently felt a bit surreal considering Emily’s character, Lynda, was 16 years of age.
Chris Rees was working for a civil engineering company in Henfield at the time of filming and recalled that the film company did not like them hammering on the pier while at work replacing the wooden decking.
Chris remembers the film crew had put several wooden boxes on the beach for Ms Lloyd and the vertically challenged Tom Bell.
When Chris asked one of the film crew why the boxes had ‘Alan Ladd’s Box’ written on them, he said they always used the boxes when the actors were a different height to each other and, light heartedly, told him that Alan Ladd was short as well.
Jane Pennick told me that the end-of-terrace house in York Road, used as Lynda’s home, was where her Uncle Alec, Aunt Tess and their children, Bryan, Alec and Ann, lived for many years.
Jane explained that the house was lovely with wonderful black and white encaustic tiles on the path and a proper parlour where they had a piano.
Incidentally, the Dome cinema celebrated the film’s 25th anniversary on Wednesday, August 29, 2012, with a special screening of the film.
Bea Wood, assistant manager of the Dome Cinema, explained that it was a fantastic opportunity to be able to show Wish You Were Here at the Dome Cinema, where it was filmed and screened all those years ago.
Bea reminisced that she first visited the cinema when she was six years old and came to see Wish You Were Here when it was first shown at the Dome in 1987.
She now has the DVD at home and loves how the camera pans through the foyer and into the auditorium.
Bryan Turner, from Worthing Borough Council, explained that the film was an interesting portrayal of Worthing in the 1950’s and that it related to the period of the time.
He continued to explain that it was hard to measure the impact it had on Worthing and whether it encouraged people to visit the town.
He believes it helped, but in an immeasurable way.
While bringing this research to a close I thought I’d look into the coaches and buses seen in the bus garage scenes.
All buses and coaches used, except one, were operated by Southdown Motor Services, and were specifically chosen for the period.
The odd one out was a Bristol LS6G coach, operated by Royal Blue Coaches.
The Southdown vehicles seen were a works tower vehicle and a Leyland Titan double decker bus, both believed to have been on loan from the superb bus collection at the Amberley Museum and Heritage Centre near Arundel.
The remaining Southdown vehicles seen were a Guy Arab IV Park Royal double decker, registration PUF 647, Southdown vehicle number 547 and a Leyland Tiger TS8 Beadle rebuild coach, registration MUF 488, Southdown vehicle number 649.
Both vehicles can still be seen today at bus rallies and special events.
With only the last two vehicles identifiable on film by their registration plates and vehicle numbers it is not possible to identify the others but I am certain they still exist and, like the other two, are probably seen at various times throughout the year.
Many thanks to all those who kindly got in contact to share their memories.
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