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Neville Smith: A Retrospective

This winter we continue our series of annual retrospectives of work by until now overlooked British screenwriters. This time around our spotlight falls on actor and writer, Neville Smith. Renowned for sharply humorous scripts that reflect Smith’s love of football – and which often include a hefty dose of left-wing politics – today Smith is perhaps best known for his screenplay for the 1971 British classic Gumshoe, starring Albert Finney.

Gumshoe kicked off a long collaboration between Smith and the Director Stephen Frears, who would go on to direct him in the lead role in Alan Bennett’s I’m Afraid of Virginia Wolf (1978). Later, the pair got together again to make the classic TV drama Long Distance Information (1979), adapted from Smith’s script in which the writer himself plays a local radio DJ obsessed with Elvis on the night his hero dies.

Not afraid of the offbeat, Neville Smith also wrote one of the most wonderfully bizarre examples of the British public information film, Apaches (1977). A warning tale of accidents on a farm, in the hands of director John Mackenzie (The Long Good Friday), Smith’s script is enough to give adults nightmares, never mind the children it was actually intended for.

Smith also collaborated as both an actor and writer with Ken Loach. He appeared in The Big Flame (1969) and The Rank and File (1971), and contributed to the script for Loach’s football docudrama, The Golden Vision (1968). He also wrote and appeared in one of the Director’s most overlooked works, the masterful After a Lifetime (1971).

Throughout January 2017, HOME will screen examples of some of Neville Smith’s finest work, both as an actor and as a scriptwriter – an unmissable insight into one of the UK’s greatest screen talents.

Neville Smith: A Retrospective takes place in January 2016. Curated by Andy Willis, Reader in Film Studies at the University of Salford and HOME Senior Visiting Curator: Film.

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