This week I was interviewed for a book about Ted Lewis, the author who wrote the novel “Jack’s Return Home”, which was the basis for the film “Get Carter” starring Michael Caine, directed by Mike Hodges, which my late father, Michael Klinger, produced.
The interviewer / author for the book about Ted is a young journalist from the North of the UK called Laurie Harvey. A charming fellow who asked all the right questions, Laurie made me think about some of those long gone days in Newcastle when that film was made.
I was supposedly passing though the town, at the invite of my dad, whilst making my own film, “Extremes”, with my then business and filmmaking partner, Mike Lytton. We decided we were having way too much fun in Newcastle to bother continuing to our original destination of Glasgow.
Ted Lewis was a very talented novelist, but I remember him as being a bit of a social black hole. He struck me at the time as more than a bit too aggressive, drunk and depressed. I was then a 19 year old and very cocky filmmaker, and was not known for my perception. Ted seemed an accident waiting to happen.
Strangely similar to Keith Moon, the rock band, The Who’s drummer, who I worked with on my later film, “The Kids are Alright”. On the surface both men appeared to be funny, jolly even, but underneath the veneer were deeply sad and unfulfilled.
Laurie Harvey told me that at the very peak of Jack’s success, when he attended the film premiere of “Get Carter” in Newcastle having banked his very large payment for the rights, he had the feeling that life would be downhill from that point onwards.
Sadly this proved to be the case. Within just a few years Ted lost his home, family and financial security. By the time he was in his mid thirties he had to return home to live with his mother, bankrupt.
Relatively soon he found another partner and wrote some television scripts for the famous “Z Cars” series but his drinking haunted him and for the last couple of years of his short life he played the piano in pubs in exchange for free drinks.
How many people, rich in talent but poor in luck, have died in poverty or obscurity because of their demons be they drink, drugs or some other addiction most likely born from some insecurity? What a pity when we see so much less of these potentially towering talents.
Ted had that kind of ability and I well remember reading his other books and outlines in the hope that we might find other gems to make more films from, but it was not to be. Perhaps Ted’s best epitaph is the fact that there are two books currently being written about him and the title of the film I am making about my father, has as its working title, “The Man Who Got Carter.”