Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Newcastle upon Tyne 1961: Payroll

Payroll: Newcastle 55 years ago
The Tyneside-set film Payroll came before Get Carter and Stormy Monday and was premiered on this day in 1961

David Morton
19 April 2016

North East film fans will surely be familiar with the classic 1971 gangster movie, Get Carter, starring Michael Caine.

Another crime film, Stormy Monday, starring Tommy Lee Jones and Melanie Griffith - and featuring Sting - enjoyed success 17 years later.

Both were shot largely on Tyneside, and show the region as it was in their respective eras.

Both, however, were pre-dated by another gritty underworld drama, again set in the North East, which was premiered on this day 55 years ago.

Payroll, released in 1961, was one of the first films to be set in and shot around Newcastle and Gateshead.
Scenes from the British film Payroll. A crime thriller starring Michael Craig and Franoise Prvost, directed by Sidney Hayers. The raid on an armoured wages van has been successful. But factory employees are rushing down on the scene as Monty (Kenneth Griffith) holds the escape car door for Johnnie Mellors (Michael Craig), who carries the injured Langridge (Barry Keegan). Circa 1961
It was re-released on DVD last year and offers audiences a realistic glimpse into our region in the early 1960s.

The film was based on a novel by Derek Bickerton and starred Michael Craig, Françoise Prévost and Billie Whitelaw.

With a working title of I Promise to Pay, it tells the dark story of a gang of crooks who stage a wages heist that goes badly wrong.

Payroll was directed by the visionary Sydney Hayers who believed that London was becoming clichéd as a film background.
Michael Craig and Kenneth Griffith in a scene from British film Payroll, a thrilling story of a payroll robbery. Circa 1961
He told the Chronicle: “Provincial towns have much more to offer in atmosphere.

“Even their transport looks so much different. Too often in the past, people have been presented with shots of Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament and the white cliffs of Dover to be told ‘this is England.’ It’s not good enough.”

Payroll was one of the first movies to be shot in Newcastle.

Not since 1951 had anything significant been filmed in the city – and back then it was only a few background shots for the movie The Clouded Yellow.
Scenes from the British film Payroll. A crime thriller starring Michael Craig and Franoise Prvost. Directed by Sidney Hayers. Billie Whitelaw trailing Francois Prevost, on the Long Stairs, Newcastle. Circa 1961
The producer of Payroll, Norman Priggen, visited Newcastle on a four-day “reconnaissance” in August, 1960, and made the decision there and then that the film was to be made here.

There was excitement when Priggen told the Chronicle that locals would be needed for crowd scenes, and that North East actors would be needed for small parts in the film.

When asked why Newcastle had been chosen for the film, the director said he was “fascinated by the high and low levels of the city” and that Newcastle had “interesting dramatic possibilities”.

Michael Craig, star of the film Payroll, pictured behind him are the riverside and the Tyne and Swing Bridges. Gateshead, Tyne and Wear. Circa 1961

He added: “We plan to do most of our exteriors up here. It will provide a very exciting background, especially on the riverside.”

When filming began in September 1960, Michael Craig was revealed as the leading man, and people flocked to Grey Street to see the first outside shots being filmed and to collect autographs from the stars.

The actors and production crew stayed in the city for two weeks.
A scene from the 1961 film Payroll which was largely filmed in Newcastle
At the premiere in London, on this day in 1961, a special thanks was included in the credits to the people and authorities of the city for their co-operation and assistance during the filming.

As Evening Chronicle reporter Maurice Rotheroe noted after the glittering event: “The city of Newcastle upon Tyne is a talking point among Londoners.

“It is obvious from comments that it is our bridges that won the hearts of Londoners.”

Well said, Maurice.
A scene from the 1961 film Payroll which was largely filmed in Newcastle
Payroll was recently released as part of the BFI’s Britain on Film project. It is on sale on DVD rrp £17.99, and Blu-Ray rrp £22.99.


Or you can watch it online here: http://player.bfi.org.uk/film/watch-payroll-1961/

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