Retro: Whirlwind visit home for Wearsider

Christine Norden
Christine Norden
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FLEDGLING film star Christine Norden returned to her Wearside roots in 1947.

 Born Mary Lydia Thornton in Mowbray Terrace, Sunderland, she was the daughter of a bus driver who sang and danced her way through the war in ENSA troop concerts.

 Spotted by a talent scout, she was given a screen test at 20 by film director Alexander Korda and made her screen debut in the 1947 film Night Beat.

 When she returned to Sunderland in April of that year she was scheduled to start filming An Ideal Husband, which was to become one of her best-known performances.

 “Though she starts work each morning at 6.30 and rarely finishes before 8.30 at night, Christine is thoroughly enjoying her film life,” reported the Echo.

 Christine spent her whirlwind visit to Wearside “catching up with old school friends and renewing broken acquaintances with many relations.”

 She revealed to reporters that she had already received 400 fan letters from Sunderland supporters during her brief film career, and added:

 “It’s not possible to reply to them all personally, but I do want to say how much I appreciate the support of my home-towners.”

 Christine was not the only film star to visit Sunderland in 1947 – more than 1,000 fans welcomed Margaret Lockwood when she visited the Havelock Cinema in February.

 The Mayor and Mayoress of Sunderland, Alderman and Mrs Miles Walton, held a special reception for the actress, and ten-year-old Jill Greaves presented her with a bouquet.

 “I think British films have made big strides in the past three years and, if they continue along the same road, they will be second to none in the world,” Margaret told the Echo.

 Other stars hitting the headlines this year included Gary Cooper and Paulette Goddard, who starred in the No1 film of 1947 – the action adventure Unconquered.

 Also making the Top Ten in 1947 were The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer, The Egg and I, Mother Wore Tights, Life With Father, Green Dolphin Street and Road to Rio.

 It was the 1947 drama film Gentleman’s Agreement, starring Gregory Peck as an uncover journalist, which cleaned up at the Oscars however.

 Although controversial at the time, it scooped the Best Picture and Best Director awards, as well as Best Supporting Actress for Celeste Holm.

 Stand out British films of 1947 included Black Narcissus with Deborah Kerr, Brighton Rock with Richard Attenborough and An Ideal Husband with Christine Norden.