Carol Poor Cow
Nell and I were both at work on new stories, both of them about young mothers who, with their babies, were living on their own, a circumstance that was much rarer then than now. Nell had become friends with a young woman who liked to be known as Second Hand Rose, after the antique shop she ran in Fulham. It was about Rose and with her that Nell wrote the book ‘Poor Cow’. Rose had a child born outside marriage, a thing at that time less usual than now, and I also was writing about babies born out of wedlock, to young women who in those days were called ‘unmarried mothers’.
Mine was a film script set in one of the many hostels that had been set up for young ‘abandoned’ women to go to while they had their babies. The pregnant girls in many of these hostels were treated as fallen women and I think there was a relentless sense of tragedy about my story, which was called ‘Arlene, or the Bastard’.
There was a wild poetry about Nell’s ‘Poor Cow’.
Originally Ken was going to make my film and arranged for me to receive a contract for it from Joe Janni. One evening when he and Tony Garnett came over to discuss it, Nell showed them the page proofs of ‘Poor Cow’, which was soon to be published.
We’re on the set of ‘Far From the Maddding Crowd’ in an old stone manor house in Wiltshire. Nell and I have been invited down there by the producer Joe Janni to watch the filming.
It is the scene of the wedding and the hall is filled with guests. Terence Stamp is about to burst in to remind the bride of a former affair she had with him.
I remember it not for that scene but for the moment when the producer, Joe Janni, is wandering around shouting ‘Nell!’
Nell goes to talk to him and when she comes back tells me that Joe Janni now wants to turn her book ‘Poor Cow’ into a film, and no longer wishes to make the film he’d commissioned from me, ‘Arlene, or the Bastard’.
Ken asked Nell for some rewrites. I remember one thing he asked of her was to put more space between when Carol White and the young man later to be played by Terence Stamp met, and when they find themselves in bed together.
In those late sixties days, in the world that Nell and I and Carol lived in, such things had a way of happening quite rapidly and Nell was annoyed and said how unreasonable this was, and surely Ken knew that things just weren’t like that these days any more, and Carol butted in with the same opinion.
Ken as usual got his way and Nell wrote in a steamer trip down the river, a sort of getting-to-know-you trip, to go between the meeting and the bedding, which Nell felt was a trifle archaic.
I now feel that Ken was right because the audience, some of whom were being dragged rather alarmingly rapidly into the sexy world of the sixties, needed time to get to know the two of them before they went to bed together.
There was a spectacular waterfall at Tal-y-Bont near Brecon in Wales that we’d discovered and when Nell wanted Terry and Carol, in the course of their affair, to go to the country, she decided to have them go there.
So, the cast and crew were booked in at the Bear Hotel in Crickhowell, but Joe Janni was insistent that Carol and Terence Stamp should be in a different hotel to the rest of us and they were booked into the Gliffaes Hotel, a very grand place and they were sent off there in a chauffeur driven car. As they were leaving I heard Joe Janni say to Terence, ‘Attaboy’ and the evening was well spent, after a candle-lit dinner, and the following morning Carol had a contented air about her.
We were to shoot the scene where Terence gropes at, or rather grabs at, Carol and gives her a long kiss under the waterfall. We’d all been worried that there would not be enough water as in dry weather it was said to dry up.
We arrived there, the twenty or thirty people in those days thought necessary to shoot feature films, and there was relief because we saw there was plenty of water.
So Terence and Carol lovingly went to stand beside the waterfall cataract and, as the cameras rolled, they took a sway to get under the waterfall. It had been raining and the water was coming down much harder than we’d expected. Suddenly the immense force of the cataract knocked them over onto the pebbly bottom.
So we had to cheat it. Carol and Terence did their clinch in front of the cataract and the second lighting man and the second sound man and anyone else who happened to be around and have a hat, a cup or a bucket, stood in the shallows and tossed, splashed or jetted water over them.
Ken had already begun the film with a full frontal of the baby being born, an idea I had originally suggested to him as a possible ingredient for ‘Arlene, or the Bastard’.
Now he decided to experiment in another way. Ken thought it a good idea to film Carol and Terence in their upstairs suite at The Gliffaes, making love.
A startled maid who’d gone in to make the beds came upon the loving couple spied on by Loach and the film crew accompanied by vast amounts of lights and equipment.
Nell later was to complain of the tedium of sitting through what seemed hours of horizontal longeurs when they watched the rushes.
Ken commented, ‘When Terry is sexually aroused this event is accompanied on his body with a very marked physical phenomenon. His earlobes go bright scarlet.’
In the end the sequence wasn’t used in the film.
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