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Love on the Dole
- "God, gimme some work...!" – Love on the Dole, Act III, Scene 2
Walter Greenwood's novel (1933) was both written and set during the Great Depression, in Hankinson Park, Salford. Greenwood had been born and lived there, and was "burning up inside with fury at the poverty."
It follows the Hardcastle family, as they are pulled apart by unemployment the dole of the title. The son Harry is unable to find work, and is disowned when he marries. Sally Hardcastle, the daughter, falls in love with a doomed Marxist agitator, and suffers the unwelcome attention of a local gangster. Edith Sitwell wrote "I do not know when I have been so deeply, terribly moved." It was a commercial success, with three impressions that year, and eight more by 1939.
Greenwood said he "tried to show what life means to a young man living under the shadow of the dole, the tragedy of a lost generation who are denied consummation, in decency, of the natural hopes and desires of youth."
The novel was adapted for the stage by Ronald Gow, and opened at the Manchester Repertory Theatre in 1934, with Wendy Hiller as Sally Hardcastle. The 'real' speech and contemporary social themes were new to British audiences. One reviewer said it had been "conceived and written in blood." It toured Britain with two separate companies, playing up to three performances a day, sometimes in cinemas in towns which had no theatre. A million people had seen it by the end of 1935. Runs in London, New York and Paris followed, making a name for Hiller, who married Gow in 1936.
Love on the Dole drew the British public's attention to a social problem in a similar way that Look Back in Anger, Cathy Come Home or Boys from the Blackstuff would do for future generations (although its style is closer to Hobson's Choice). The historian Stephen Constantine attributed its impact to the way it moved the mostly middle class audiences without blaming them Gow said he "aimed to touch the heart." In 1999 it was one of the National Theatre's 100 Plays of the Century.
Although the book and play were successful, the British Board of Film Censors would not allow a film to be made during the 1930s: it was a "very sordid story in very sordid surroundings", and in Gow's words "regarded as 'dangerous'". It was eventually filmed in 1941 with Deborah Kerr as Sally. But by then social conditions were being radically changed by the war.
- Stephen Constantine (1983). Love on the Dole and its reception in the 1930s. Literature and History, August 1983.
- Ronald Gow & Walter Greenwood (1934). Love on the Dole, Ray Speakman (ed.), Heinemann Educational Books, 1986. Speakman's introduction discusses the impact of the play.
- Walter Greenwood (1933). Love on the Dole, Penguin Books.
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