Common's luck - a film on Jack Common by John Mapplebeck

Jack Common

Jack Common wrote brilliant novels, film scripts and essays of radical social comment, all rooted in his early 20th century working class Geordie upbringing. Later a friend of George Orwell, he led a life of literary obscurity and persistent material poverty, but left us some of the most perceptive commentary and description of working class life of his time. His novels (or, more accurately, autobiographies in novelistic form) also offer some of the best recollections of life unfolding through the eyes of a child.

"John Mapplebeck's film Common's Luck begins with a letter seeking employment written by Willy Kiddar, a thinly-veiled self-portrait of the young Jack Common. Tom Pickard's readings from Kiddar's Luck form part of the narrative of the film. John Mapplebeck's film tried to address the neglect of Jack Common, but has only been shown twice on British television, and that was only in the North-East. It includes audio recordings of a radio broadcast by made by Jack Common in 1958, and film interviews with Lawrence Bradshaw, Reg Groves, Professor Richard Hoggart and Tommy McCulloch. This video is of the complete 27-minute film."

"John Mapplebeck's film COMMON'S LUCK (27 minutes, 1974) is a portrait of a neglected English novelist and political writer, Jack Common, who published only two novels in his lifetime, KIDDAR'S LUCK (1951) and THE AMPERSAND (1954), both of which were commercial flops. It begins with a letter seeking employment written by Willy Kiddar, a thinly-veiled self-portrait. KIDDAR'S LUCK tells the story of Common's first 14 years, from conception on a Sunday afternoon to leaving school during the First World War, and Tom Pickard's readings from the novel form part of the narrative of the film. Jack Common was born in 1903 in Heaton, Newcastle, and grew up in the terraced streets backing onto the railway yards where his father worked. At 25, he moved to London, and worked as assistant editor to John Middleton Murry on The Adelphi magazine during the 1930s, when George Orwell was his friend and literary mentor, later praising his essay collection THE FREEDOM OF THE STREETS (1938)* as ‘the authentic voice of the ordinary working man, the man who might infuse a new decency into the control of affairs if only he could get there, but who in practice never seems to get much further than the trenches, the sweatshop and the jail’. V.S. Pritchett called it the most influential book in his life. Sculptor Lawrence Bradshaw, who used Common's brow as a model for his bust of Karl Marx in Highgate Cemetery, is interviewed in the film. Jack Common also inspired, prefaced and edited the compilation SEVEN SHIFTS (1938), in which seven working men told of their experience, including another of the film's interviewees, his friend Tommy McCulloch, who worked on the railways. John Mapplebeck's film COMMON'S LUCK tried to address the neglect of Jack Common, but has only been shown twice on British television, and that was only in the North-East. It includes audio recordings of a radio broadcast by made by Jack Common in 1958, and film interviews with Lawrence Bradshaw, Reg Groves, Professor Richard Hoggart and Tommy McCulloch. KIDDAR'S LUCK was reissued by Bloodaxe Books in 1990, and in 2009 Keith Armstrong's biography, COMMON WORDS AND THE WANDERING STAR, was published by University of Sunderland Press. COMMON'S LUCK was written and produced by John Mapplebeck of Bewick Films, and is posted on Vimeo with his permission. Narration: Tom Pickard. Photography: Peter Dearden. Sound: Christopher Clarkson. Film editor: David Pritchard. Research: Connie Pickard."

* Extracts here; http://libcom.org/library/jack-common-selected-articles


John Mapplebeck: COMMON'S LUCK (1974) from Neil Astley on Vimeo.

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Red Marriott
Feb 11 2012 13:52

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Spikymike
Feb 12 2012 17:02

Many thanks for this.

We have ordered one of the last few secondhand books around. Looks like a really good read.

betty 3
Oct 7 2012 13:40

That woman in third ave was my nana how amazing to find this!!