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Tettenhall College
Sunday, June 09, 2002
 
Section: NEWS
Updated: May 22, 2002 16:59

Remembering Gone To Earth
In the final scene of Gone To Earth, where Hollywood actress Jennifer Jones throws herself down a mineshaft, Percy Tarbuck, a shopkeeper from Church Stretton, makes a despairing effort to save her.

Filming in Much Wenlock"As I throw myself down on the old mineshaft, I think that's the final shot," said Mr Tarbuck, who is now 81.

Scores of locally-recruited extras were used in the movie when it was filmed in Shropshire in 1949, but Mr Tarbuck said: "I think I was the only person in there as an actual character. I doubled for Cyril Cusack."

Cusack played Edward, the parson married in the film to Hazel, played by Jennifer Jones.

But in the final hunting scene, where Hazel, carrying a fox, is chased by a pack of hounds, neither of the stars were available for the autumn filming, which meant that stand-ins were used.

Mr Tarbuck todayMr Tarbuck dressed up as a parson and took Cusack's role running after Hazel, while Hazel was played by a professional actress.

As for the fox that Hazel was carrying, that also had a double - a small corgi-type dog.

"They're distant shots. They were very careful to make sure that we were not really recognisable. From memory, I don't think we had too many takes," said Mr Tarbuck, who will be one of the locals who appeared in the film version of Mary Webb's novel who will be at a special showing in Much Wenlock on May 26 as part of the Much Wenlock Festival celebrations.

Mr Tarbuck thenThe son of legendary British director Michael Powell is expected to attend the showing of the Powell and Pressburger movie, and extras will have a get-together at Much Wenlock Museum beforehand.

And because the evening showing has sold out, a ticket-only matinee has now been added to the programme to cope with demand.

Mr Tarbuck said: "It was difficult to get all the timing right for the final scene where Jennifer Jones was being chased. They had to lay a trail of meat for the dogs to smell. In the film it looks as though they are chasing her. In actual fact, they are following this trail of meat alongside her."

Back then he had a shop selling fruit, flowers and vegetables in Church Stretton High Street, and was hand-picked by the moviemakers to take Cyril Cusack's part.

"All the actors were at the Longmynd Hotel. I was often up there, so they had seen me up there. I'm not an actor. They thought I looked reasonably similar to Cusack. I'm not a dead ringer, but I'm about the same height.

"I did about five or six days, and got paid 12 a day which was a terrific sum then. The wages then were about 4 a week. I also had to sign a form which I believe was for Equity - I joined the actors' union."

He says the final scene was done somewhere near the Lordshill Chapel in the Snailbeach area.

"In some ways for me it was a bit boring. They would all get assembled, together with the horses and the hounds. And then of course the light would not be right and they had to cancel it. It created tremendous excitement locally.

"I would not have been in it for any acting ability. They told me what to do. I had to run. I would be arguably the only person there who had a defined part, and was not in a crowd scene."

Jennifer JonesMeanwhile Much Wenlock Museum is staging an exhibition on the making of the film, which was shot on location at various Shropshire sites, including Much Wenlock and Snailbeach.

Museum assistant Martha Ledgard has been compiling a wealth of memorabilia and memories from the local extras and only in the past few days has solved one mystery which puzzled her.

She had been trying to track down a little girl with blonde curls called Susan Shaw who was pictured being held by Jennifer Jones during the filming in Much Wenlock.

On the back of the picture is written: "Jennifer Jones, a native of Oklahoma, was coached in the Shropshire dialect by Mr J. K. St J. Trevor of Harley. She is seen here holding Susan Shaw."

By asking around, she has found that Susan Shaw's father Clement Shaw had a steam traction engine which was used in the film, and that Susan Shaw is living now in Dawley.

Martha added: "Jennifer Jones herself is still alive. She does not do interviews, and she did not do so at the time either.

"She hated interviews and hated photographs. I'm learning all sorts of things. I will be able to go on a lecture tour by the time I'm through!"

LINKS

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Copyright Shropshire Newspapers, 2002