Title: And So Goodbye
Year of production: 2004
Running time: 24 minutes
Director: Jim Hickey
Producer: Robin Mitchell
Finding some hand-made film magazines at home, Robin Mitchell learns about a film that his father starred in and produced in 1943. With his father too ill to tell him about it, he embarks on a search that leads him to the film and to the home of its director Robert Edwards. In a revealing interview, Robert Edwards talks about his lifelong passion for films and tells the story behind the film's production by a small group of enthusiasts in Fife. Robin eventually reunites the filmmakers at an emotional 60th anniversary screening of the film.
And So Goodbye was chosen for Scottish Screen's successful This Scotland documentary strand, and shown on Scottish Television and Grampian Television on 24 August 2004. It was also the winner of the Saltire Society Grierson Award for Short Documentaries at the 2004 Edinburgh International Film Festival.
The Sunday Times printed a story on And So Goodbye on August 8, 2004 and the film featured at the Detroit Docs film festival in Detroit, USA, in November 2004.
The following is Robin Mitchell's own account of the events documented in the film.
In 1943 / 1944 my dad William Rollo Mitchell and a group of friends (in-between fighting in the Second World War) made a 21-minute 8mm black & white film drama called And So Goodbye, from a story written by Rollo called The Wind Is Rising. They formed an organisation called The Monarch Film Productions Society, and produced regular hand-written newsletters to publicise their project. The bulk of the film was shot in Cardenden, Fife.
The story begins for me in November 2002, when May Mitchell (my mother) received a newsletter by e-mail pertaining to a film project I was working on at the time. She thought the style of the correspondence was very familiar, checked an upstairs cupboard and uncovered 21 hand-written newsletters from 1943 / 1944. The newsletters were published by The Monarch Film Productions Society, and they detailed the Society's activities (the main being the production of And So Goodbye). The newsletters (written by Rollo Mitchell and Bob Edwards) were full of photographs, local newspaper articles, quizzes, drawings and details of the people who took part. The publications also provided film and stage reviews of the day.
I read the newsletters over Christmas 2002, and began to piece together the activities of my father's society. Unfortunately my dad couldn't help as he suffered from dementia and could not remember anything about the film apart from, remarkably, his dog at the time: a golden retriever called Airlie. At this time, the ultimate quest was to find the actual film, but failing that, more information on the project and perhaps tracking down some of the cast would plug a number of gaps.
The newsletters revealed that the Society had first discussed And So Goodbye in September 1942. The first day of the shoot was March 28th 1943. It took 10 months to make the film and 17 months in the planning. The film was first shown (in public) on the 1st April 1944 in a church hall in Cardenden. The story is told in 6 sequences with no dialogue or subtitles apart from a letter and a newspaper headline. Locations used in the film included Woodend (Rollo's parents' house in Cardenden), Perthshire, Kirriemuir, Blair Adam, Thornton, Dunkeld and Brigg Hills (crags at Cardenden). Jack Potter had specially composed the music for the film. At this point, an idea was hatched to re-create the film if the original celluloid couldn't be found. This would only happen if I could piece together enough information, perhaps even find the script.
I contacted Scottish Screen's archivist Janet McBain but nothing had been lodged with them. So I contacted a number of cine-clubs in the UK but again, nothing had been registered. I contacted the local newspaper of the area, The Central Fife Times & Advertiser, who placed an article in their paper on the 5th December 2002. There was no response from the newspaper article, so I thought I could write to some of the people listed in the newsletters. There was a cast list, and I thought if I selected the names that weren't particularly common, there wouldn't be many of them listed in the local Fife telephone directory. Maybe (just maybe) some of the cast were still alive. Failing this, perhaps I could find some living relatives. So I sent out over 20 letters to people by the name of Lane, Milton, Davenport and Carroll.
Then, while doing an on-line search for people listed in the newsletters, I found details of William Henry McLaren (Willie McLaren) on a site created by the Cardenden Historical Society. I made contact with one of their associates, Tam Shaw, with whom I remain in touch. Willie, a former pupil of Edinburgh College of Art, was described as the Art Director on Rollo's film, and subsequent research uncovered a remarkable individual.
At this point, my colleague Robin Bankhead started the process of scanning all the photographs and cartoons to email people as it was felt this would aid the search. At about the same time May discovered two more pieces of important information in Rollo's cupboard: the actual script with shooting notes for And So Goodbye and a booklet explaining 'who was who' within The Monarch Film Production Society. In essence: everyone's real name. I now realised that the 20 letters I'd sent out to who I'd thought to be potential members of the cast were of no use, as most of the cast had adopted pseudonyms. I'd addressed letters to people who didn't exist!
One of the people involved was Dan Taylor, from Newark, Notts. His contact details were taken from an old address book May had found. We tried his name and number with Directory Enquiries but we were told he was ex-directory. A letter was sent on 13th January 2003 but no reply was received. A colleague who lives in Nottinghamshire checked the premises and neighbours to attempt to find out more - but visited when no one was in! So I contacted the Newark Advertiser who ran a story about the film, and requested information about Dan Taylor. A neighbour called to say that Dan had passed on a few years ago, but I made contact with his daughter Fiona (and continue to do so).
Within the newsletters there were 'grand' plans to develop the film society after the war, including a story called Picture Book by Rollo Mitchell (this story has been found). They also wanted to adapt the James Hilton novel The Passionate Year. Meanwhile Roddy Hughes was to take the principal part in The House of Mystery, a melodrama by a young English author, Jeanne Davidson. They were going to get Geoffrey Atkins to star in Blood Royal by Dornford Yates. Also at this point there was a mention of an earlier film called Memories Will Help (this was never completed but perhaps there is some footage somewhere). Nothing came of the above as the team went their separate ways in 1945.
A number of actors were written to, and various replies appeared in the newsletters. There was even a letter from James Mason. The actors Geoffrey Atkins, Roddy Hughes and Margaretta Scott were mentioned on a number of occasions. It was presumed that - like today - approaches were made to actors but it didn't necessarily mean they'd accept the role. The one exception seemed to be Geoffrey Atkins (Goodbye Mr Chips, The Young Mr Pitt). There were articles about Geoffrey and his mother Ursula Atkins in the newsletters. (Our presumptions were later confirmed after speaking to Bob Edwards who apparently went to University with a friend of Geoffrey's father. Geoffrey Atkins appears briefly in the film Obsession.)
All this information was interesting but it wasn't getting me any further to finding the actual film. So it was decided to attempt to find the man who owned the camera in 1944: Robert S. Edwards. By this time, it was clear that Robert and his sister Madeleine were both involved in the film. It was fortuitous that the newsletters ran articles called 'Confess Ye Brother [or Sister], Confess': essentially short interviews and biographies of the Society's members, including dates of birth. Dates of birth for both Bob & Madeleine. This set me off on a new line of enquiry …
Pat Gawler at Scottish Roots Ancestral Research Company was contacted. She confirmed that they had an expert who searched 'forward'. They would attempt to track down Robert through his sister, Madeleine (as hers was not a common name). From the information provided they found Madeleine's marriage records, and (to cut a long story short) a present day address in Gloucestershire. I wrote to her, and she put me in touch with Robert.
I spoke with Robert S. Edwards (Bob) on 18th January 2003. What an experience speaking to someone I'd read so much about, yet had never spoken to. AND … Bob Edwards still had And So Goodbye (and two others he'd made called Obsession and Letters to a Soldier). The films have been transferred onto DV, and subsequently to DVD. Bob had been a drama teacher, and has kept up his interest in the theatre both on and off the stage. He was acting up until 1990, running youth theatres, doing shows at The Edinburgh Festival.
As I found out more about what Bob had been doing, he and I began to hatch a plan to organise a 60-year reunion of the surviving And So Goodbye cast and crew. We hoped this would take place in the original hall where the film had been shown 60 years previous.
It's also interesting to note that although Bob Edwards and Rollo Mitchell had not met for 60 years (they met at the reunion), their lives have been similar to the extent that both of them became teachers and they kept up their involvement in drama. It has also been confirmed that Rollo's parents took small parts in the film. These are grandparents I never met, and only saw for the first time when I viewed the film.
In the past months, I've managed to track down the surviving cast members, including the man who composed the original music: J. L. Potter. The Sunday Post appeal alerted Jack Potter's niece to my search. She in turn passed on details of Jack to me. On Monday 2nd June 2003, we met Jack Potter for the first time. We discussed the music he had originally composed for And So Goodbye.
On Tuesday 3rd June 2003, we held a 60-year reunion in the same church hall the film was originally shown (now called Auchterderran & St Fothads church). We invited all those of the cast and their contemporaries who were able to attend. There must have been 50–60 people in attendance. There was much press and television coverage. I gave a short introduction to the event, and we showed the three films: Obsession, Letters to a Soldier and And So Goodbye. Bob Edwards introduced each film, and local actress Jan Wilson presented the cast with 'spoof' Oscars.
I always felt that this story would make a great documentary film, so in September 2003 I proposed such an idea to Scottish Screen and Scottish Television for their This Scotland strand. The pitch was accepted and we were commissioned to produce a 24-minute film. The completed 24-minute documentary was shown at the Edinburgh International Film Festival in August 2004 and on STV/Grampian thereafter. [For details see above.]
I set out to find the surviving cast and original film called And So Goodbye, which I did. My quest was over - or so I thought. This was until I met Bob, and realised that he was a remarkable individual with knowledge second-to-none on the golden years of cinema. Bob has an amazing collection of movie posters and actors' autographs and had corresponded with the likes of James Mason and Lawrence Olivier. So at the point where I thought the journey had reached its end, it just moved on in a different direction!
This has been a fascinating journey to remember, and it's not over yet…