By Chrissy Hamlin
British Actress Carol White was a household name back in the 1960’s, thanks to her performances in the gritty, groundbreaking black and White BBC TV plays “Up The Junction” &”Cathy Come Home” and the film, “Poor Cow”. Today however, Carol’s name has faded into relative obscurity, as is often the case in the fickle world of show business and fame.
In London during the swinging 1960’s, Carol was compared to Brigit Bardot and Julie Christie and worked with many well-known actors such as Oliver Reed, Adam Faith, Peter Sellers & Dean Martin. She was a highly promising young actress who could naturally play working-class female characters due to her realistic acting style. What many people did not know was that the women, and the type situations portrayed in these pioneering real-life “kitchen sink” drama’s, often mirrored events in Carol’s turbulent and chaotic personal life. She knew these characters well; she’d shared their experiences, lived their lives, and felt their passions, pains, and frustrations.
For Carol White, following her dream of Hollywood stardom only dragged her deeper into a world where the dark lure of drugs and alcohol affected her physical and mental health, which led to her making bad choices in her career and in her personal life. She may have met a tragic end, and never fully reached her potential as an actress for so many different reasons, but what she did do was leave her mark on a classic body of work on film, that is regarded today as one of the most important examples of social realism in British cinema ever, and for that, we feel her life should be celebrated, and more people should know who she is, because, in essence, her story encapsulates the very essence of the 1960’s female working class experience.
If you haven’t heard of Carol white or seen any of her iconic films, then watch our two part podcast interview below to discover more. Watch the full length film of “Up The Junction” & the film trailers at the end of the post to see Carol doing what she does best! We had a fascinating chat with Ewen Moore, the composer of a new one-woman musical, based on Carol’s life & work. Our interview was packed full of delicious biographical details and I learned so much more about this fascinating actress. Ewen did years of extensive background research in order to get right to the heart of who Carol was, so he could accurately convey her character and emotions through the medium of musical theatre. What he doesn’t know about Carol really isn’t worth knowing!
In Part One we discuss Carol’s family background and her early career as a young actress. We then go on to cover her rise to fame in the 1960’s in a series of controversially groundbreaking plays, featuring working class women, written by Nell Dunn and her husband Jeremy Stanford, that were directed by Ken Loach. We also talk about the historical context of what life was like for working class women in London before the rise of the feminist movement, and touch on what the social attitudes to issues such as women’s rights, sex before marriage, abortion and homelessness were, in the 1960’s and how things have changed today.