This time of year (if you ignore the recent thunderstorms over London and the vagaries of the British weather) is the ideal time for a Garden Party and what could be better than sharing that Garden Party with your favourite British and visiting American Film Stars.
And this is what took place each year between 1947 and 1952 when Morden Hall Park on the edge of South London would host the Sunday Pictorial Film Garden Party in either June or July when up to 25,000 people would regularly attend these events (the Sunday Pictorial became the Sunday Mirror in 1963)
This was an event where you could meet your favourite Film Star and build an autograph collection or get a photo, as well as raising money for the NSPCC and the Church of England’s Children Society.
These are a series of photos taken by my father at the Garden Party at the point where the Stars would enter the garden on a Jeep, and be driven round from stall to stall where you could queue to meet the Star and collect an autograph or a photo.
Despite trying to identify the Film Stars in each of the photos, I have not had any luck. Some possibles but I do not want to name them until I can be sure. Any feedback with names would be appreciated.
The following photo shows one of the Jeeps emerging from the Stars entrance to the Garden Party and shows the glamour and excitement created for the waiting crowds as each Jeep would emerge with a new set of Film Stars.
The Stars packed into a Jeep including standing on the edge and balancing on the bonnet. A very nervous man with a camera perched somewhat precariously on the very front, the eager crowd looking to see who would be entering and who they could recognise.
The Associated Pictures on the front windscreens of the Jeeps in the above and below photos shows that these were Film Stars from the Associated British Picture Corporation.
Although in the following photo the Jeep has just passed, look at the faces of the people on the right of the photo. The excitement of recognising someone who up to now you have only seen on the big screen (this was in the days before the Television was a common part of the home and the cinema was still the main source of entertainment).
Crowds pressing up against the temporary fencing:
Perhaps they had run out of Jeeps?
I recognise the actor sitting in the front of this Jeep, but I cannot find his name:
There are some superb newsreels from British Pathe covering these Garden Parties. A good example being found here.
So, if you visit Morden Hall Park one weekend this summer, this is the type of event it was hosting over sixty years ago and you would be one of 25,000 other people all looking to get an autograph or photo with their favourite Star.
And if you recognise any of the Film Stars in the photos I would really appreciate a comment or e-mail so I can put names to the photos.
Sir Alec Guiness in the first photo with the young lad who played Oliver in original ‘Oliver Twist’ .
Like you I find the faces familiar – you may have to think of the film first then look at the credits !
Thanks, yes I recognise him now sitting on the back of the Jeep with the hat and the young lad. Oliver Twist came out in 1948, probably the same year as these photos were taken.
Definitely Alec, and Oliver was called John Howard Davies.
My Mum and Dad used to be Stewards at these events. They also used to attend the childrens’ parties in the same park that Mr Hatfield (the then owner of the site) used to hold when they were younger. It is a shame that they have both passed away as they would probably have been able to give you the names of most of these stars. They both had close associations with this place, and that is why I have planted a horse chestnut tree to their memory. It is a wonderful park, and I often wander round it thinking of them and the events that used to be held there.
Hi Jan, it is a wonderful park. I have been able to identify Sir Alec Guiness in the first photo on the rear of the jeep with John Howard Davies the child actor who played Oliver. Oliver came out in 1948 so I suspect these photos were taken that year or soon after.
Hi Author, yes unfortunately they were the only 2 I could pick out, but as someone had already named them I didn’t bother. Good luck with identifying the rest. It’s made me curious now. If I find anything out I will get back to you.
Dear Author, after a bit of investigating, I’ve confirmed my suspicion that in the front seat of jeep 2 is Michael Dennison, with possibly Stephen Murray and Patricia Plunkett sitting behind him. A lot of the other faces are really familiar. I will continue the case and get back to you with any other possibilities.
Hi Jan, many thanks for the names. I will do an updated post. The one that really puzzles me is the man sitting in the front of the jeep in the last picture. I know his face, but I just cannot remember his name or films despite searching. Did your mum and dad get any photos or autographs at these events? They seem to have been very popular for the few years that they ran. David
Hi David, the man you are talking about in the front of the last jeep looks familiar because I think it looks a lot like Raul Julia from the Addams family. But it can’t be him because he’s way too young, still the resemblance is amazing. I did wonder if it might be a Fairbanks but I can’t make it fit to any of them. I will carry on looking in to it for you and get back to you with any more answers. I’m enjoying being a ‘sleuth’!
Hi Jan, yes, suspect you are right about Raul Julia, the resemblance is remarkable and it was probably why I thought I recognised him. Thanks for picking out Patricia Roc. That is 3 from that Jeep !!
Hi Author, I’ve been going through my Mum and Dads 1948 programme, steward tags, tickets and the newspaper spreads they kept from The Sunday Pictorial 11-7-1948 (the day after the party). Some wonderful pictures of a lot of the big stars that were there on the day, Margaret Lockwood, Jean Simmons, Ingred Bergman, Anna Neagle, Michael Wilding, Jack Warner, Dennis Price, Jean Kent and John Mills to name but a few. And a lovely picture of John Howard Davies (jeep 1) who played Oliver, being picked up by Francis L. Sullivan who played the beagle in the film, looking a lot more friendly than their characters were. The only other star I can definitely identify in your pics at this time is in jeep 1, the lady with the dog is Patricia Roc with her pet peke. Will get back to you with any more info if I get it.
In the 1st photo is Patricia Roc and her dog Floppy, behind her is John Howard Davies who played
Oliver Twist in David Lean’s film and Alec guinness who played Fagin. David Lean next to him.
2nd photo has Derek Farr in the passenger seat
photo with three people walking the man on the left is David Farrar
last photo the man with the cigarette is Jack Lar Rue who was in England to play in
No Orchids for Miss Blandish
I’ve enjoyed reading your posts very much.
Tracy, thanks for the information. I have since the post been able to identify Patricia Roc, John Howard Davies and Alec Guinness, but Derek Farr, David Farrar and Jack Lar Rue are new names. Thanks for filling in the gaps.
Hi David, so glad you were able to fill in so many of the blank names. It’s very frustrating for me as Mum and Dad would probably have been able to name them all. Wonder if they’re looking down on us chuckling?!?
Hi Jan, I agree, wish my Dad had written down the names on the photos after he had taken them, but it has been fascinating seeing them identified.
I attended the Garden Parties in 1950 and 1951. I have an autograph book with signatures of quite a few of the stars mentioned. Including Sheila Sim,David Farrar, Yolande Donlan, Griffith Jones, Chili Bouchere, Rene Ray, Hubert Gregg, Beatrice Campbell, Michael Dennison, Dulcie Gray,. I travelled to London by train from Port a Talbot in S Wales with a friend. We had a wonderful time.
All very exciting, I’m sure, even though this blog is from a few years ago. I have an original programme from the 1950 Garden Party, found in a loft. I am going to put it on sale on ebay if anyone is interested!