Dir: Robert Enders
Starring: Glenda Jackson and Trevor Howard
The life of British suburban poet Stevie Smith
This biographical film about the life of the British poet Florence Margaret “Stevie” Smith centres on Smith’s relationship with her aunt, with whom she lived for many years in a house in Palmers Green, London. Stevie portrays her life through direct dialogue with the audience, as well as flashbacks. The irrepressible Glenda Jackson plays Smith and beloved character actress Mona Washbourne her aunt. With narrative sequences provided by an ageing friend, played by the gently soothing Trevor Howard, this film is an enthralling spectacle. Despite being filmed largely within the walls of one house, there are some good early shots of 1938-built tube stock on the Northern Line, including a couple of run-bys, one of which is on the approach to Hendon (or Burrough) Tunnels, some driver’s eye views and some interior shots. Several near identical outtakes of passing ’38 stock can be found on Video 125’s Diesels and Electrics on 35mm DVD. In addition to these there is a shot of Glenda Jackson leaving Southgate station on the Piccadilly Line (the nearest tube station to Palmers Green) and later, as Trevor Howard narrates from a footbridge crossing the Midland Main Line, a formation of Class 127 DMU’s pass beneath. Further drivers-eye views from the Underground also appear later towards the end of the film. One of Stevie’s musings taken from her novel The Holiday contained the following verse, read calmly by Trevor Howard at the beginning; ‘Life is like a railway station, the train of birth brings us in, the train of death will carry us away’. The film has been seriously overlooked and is beautiful, haunting and absorbing all in one. It is a wonderful spectacle that is based on the successful play written by Hugh Whitemore that was based on her life.