Tuesday, 10 April 2018

Spotlight on George Formby's Get Cracking 1


A Peach of a Playwright

I’m going to start my Spotlight on George Formby’s “Get Cracking” by looking at one of the screenwriters. The 1943 Home Guard themed film was based on a play originally written by L du Garde Peach – famous for writing the Ladybird Adventure from History books.  Peach also contributed to the screenplay along with Edward Dryhurst and Michael Vaughan. So, you could say that Peach has a significant role at the root of this film. How close the film runs to the original play (called “According to Plan”) I’m not sure, as I have not seen a copy of the script. However, Peach recorded in his book “25 Years of Play Producing” that he thought that his original play was unrecognisable on the screen and that he was glad of this fact.


Although he is now only remembered for his Ladybird books, this is just one small part of the career of my fellow Sheffield-born Lawrence du Garde Peach. After studying English at universities in Manchester and Germany, he was then caught up in World War One. Presumably due to his fluency in the German language, he was given a role in intelligence after a spell in the Manchester regiment.  He survived the conflict and began contributing articles to Punch magazine while lecturing in English at Exeter University. His articles in Punch were popular and this led to him being offered work on the radio. He was an acknowledged pioneer of plays for the radio and by 1937 over 100 of his works had been heard in parlours throughout the land.  During this period he also established the ‘Little Theatre’ in Great Hucklow, near Buxton in Derbyshire. This was where he settled when he was able to earn his living purely through writing – he knew it from spending childhood summers there at a religious holiday home with his father, who was a minister. The Great Hucklow players achieved some fame between the wars and attracted audiences from far afield.

His radio play success had led to several screenwriting roles in the 1930s; and then when World War Two arrived, L du G became a Major in the Home Guard. This role, it seems, was a mine of inspiration for his wartime work.  And so we arrive at “Get Cracking”. This was his final credit in films, but by no means the end of his writing career. Much of his radio career involved writing small plays for Children’s Hour on historical subjects, which in the 1950s led to his Ladybird Adventures From History.

I’m spending 2018 researching the life and work of L du G and you can keep up with what I find out through this Twitter account @LduGardePeach

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