That was the week: From Hartlepool to Hollywood stardom

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LITTLE did John Alderson dream that his ability to memorise verses quickly for Horden Primitive Methodist Sunday school anniversaries was going to lead to a successful Hollywood career.

But, according to the Mail in July 1957, it did exactly that for John, aged 41 at the time.

He was back in the North-East for the first time in 13 years, visiting his brothers Adam Alderson, of Ayre Street, Easington Colliery, and Henry Alderson, of Fifth Street, Horden, on a break from filming The Young Lions, in Paris, with Marlon Brando, Montgomery Clift and Dean Martin.

John was playing a sadistic German corporal in the $4m movie, which he told the Mail would be a bigger hit than All Quiet On The Western Front.

Gone was the County Durham accent of former years, replaced by a soft American drawl as he said: “It sure has been nice to see the family once again.”

After leaving Hartlepool’s Henry Smith Grammar School he had gone down the pit at his home village in Horden but lasted just two weeks before deciding it wasn’t the life for him.

He then enrolled at the Coverdale School of Commerce in Hartlepool where he learned to type and write shorthand before joining the Army.

The Mail wrote in 1957: “Like everything that John does he made a success of this career, for he rose to be a major in the Royal Artillery and served in Belgium, Germany and France.

“It was while in Berlin that he married an American girl who was secretary to General George P Hayes.”

After the war he served on the Allied Control Commission until 1949, running a repertory theatre for allied troops in Berlin, before he and his wife decided to go to America.

He dcided to try his hand at acting but, wrote the Mail, “the American idea of an Englishman was the David Niven-type.

“John’s splendid physique ruled this out and he was given “tough” parts.”

He would eventually appear in over 150 films including the classics To Catch a Thief, My Fair Lady, Blazing Saddles and Young Guns II.

He became a close friend of John Wayne and starred alongside Hollywood greats including Cary Grant, James Mason, Errol Flynn and Elvis Presley before passing away aged 90 at Hollywood’s Motion Picture Actors’ Retirement Home in August 2006

Contact Andrew Levett by emailing or write to him at Hartlepool Mail, New Clarence House, Wesley Square, Hartlepool, TS24 8BX.

Also in the news:

PREPARATIONS were well in hand for the annual Sports and Gala day at 76-house shipyard workers’ village Graythorp.

“The women are baking for a target of 250 teas,” reported the Mail, and more than £30 of prizes had been bought for children’s sports.

• WEST Hartlepool’s chief fire officer, Norman Kettlewell, said the “credit squeeze” meant that a new fire station for the borough had to be postponed again.

He told the Mail: “The present fire station, built when horse drawn appliances were in use, is totally inadaquate.”

• COUNTY Durham was facing water rationing, largely due to increased consumption, with the average Englishman using nearly 50 gallons a day compared to 32 gallons in 1938.

“Every new bathroom in every new house adds to the demand for water,” wrote the Mail. “The hobby of gardening, with its attendant hosepipes, grows steadily more popular.”

• PLANS were revealed to increase the basic letter rate to 3d (1.5p), the first increase for 17 years.

Postmaster Ernest Marples needed to raise £9m to pay for a 1s (5p) in the pound pay increase granted to civil servants.

• POLICE in South Africa were to get new batons, making the proverbial long arm of the law three inches longer, the Mail reported.

The new rubber baton was expected to be more durable than the old wooden type, whiich was said to crack too easily.

• C HERRING’S garage, in Stockton Road, offered a range of used cars, including a 1956 Ford Zodiac, a 1955 Standard 8 and a 1954 Morris Cowley.

• “FIERY Fred shatters West Indies” was the Mail’s front page headline on July 8, 1957.

Freddie Trueman took a wicket in each of his first two overs at Trent Bridge and grabbed 5-20 in ten overs, with Windies forced to follow on 247 behind.

But a determined rearguard action on the final day, led by Collie Smith, saved a draw, leaving an unbylined Mail sportswriter to blame the selectors for going into the match with only four front rank bowlers, one of whom, Trevor Bailey, hurt his back leaving Trueman, Brian Statham and Jim Laker with too heavy a burden to shoulder.