|Born||Joan Noele Gordon
25 December 1919
East Ham, London
|Died||14 April 1985
Gordon's father was an engineer in the Merchant Navy and she was born in East Ham, London. After attending convent school at Forest Gate, she was taught to dance by the late Maude Wells and later spent several years living in Southend. Gordon made her first public appearance at the East Ham Palace, and shortly afterwards, sung "Dear Little Jammy Face" at a restaurant in London. After this event, her mother and her aunt were keen for her to begin a stage career. The family later moved to Westcliff-on-Sea in Essex. She attended RADA, she appeared in repertory theatres, including 1,000 performances in Brigadoon. Her mother was nicknamed "Jockey" they were more like best friends, than mother and daughter, her mother died in 1978 of cancer.
Early television and film career
She was credited as the first woman to be seen on colour television sets, as she took part in the BBC's early tests in colour broadcasting in the 1940s. Gordon appeared in two films in the 1940s, produced in Britain and then distributed to the United States (29 Acacia Avenue and Lisbon Story). Her acting career came to a halt in 1955 when she joined Associated Television in London where she presented their first-ever programme, The Weekend Show. She also worked behind the scenes as Head of Lifestyle programmes. Gordon then studied the television medium at New York University in America and after her return helped Reg Watson and Ned Sherrin launch ATV Midlands in 1956. ATV London had already been established. As well as being a producer, Gordon turned to presenting for the new Birmingham based service. Her first television appearance for ATV in the Midlands, Tea With Noele Gordon, was the first popular ITV chat show and whilst presenting this, she became the first woman to interview a British Prime Minister, then Harold Macmillan. Initially commissioned as an emergency schedule filler, the show became so successful that she gave up her executive position to concentrate on programme presentation. She then moved on to present a daily live entertainment show, Lunchbox a programme which pioneered daytime broadcasts.
In the summer of 1964 Lunchbox came to an end after over 2,000 episodes. It was axed to make way for a new daily soap opera, The Midland Road, retitled Crossroads at the last minute, in which Gordon took the role of motel owner Meg Richardson (later Meg Mortimer).
Gordon was the only member of the Crossroads cast who had a permanent contract; all other cast members were booked as and when on an 'ad hoc' basis. Gordon, however, had been a staff member on the board of ATV since her days of Lunch Box.
Gordon stayed with the programme until her sacking in 1981, when ATV was re-constituted into a new company, Central Independent Television. The decision to dismiss Gordon was taken by Head of Programmes Charles Denton and Head Of Drama Margaret Matheson - who wanted to ditch soap opera for more expensive and lavish drama production. Gordon made a brief return to the series in 1983, when Meg met up with her daughter Jill and son-in-law Adam on their Venice honeymoon.
In 1985 Matheson's successor Ted Childs ordered Crossroads to be revamped. This new-look was designed to bring back Noele Gordon on an 'as and when' basis, starting with a three month stint from April 1985. Gordon's return as Meg was devised by the new Producer, Phillip Bowman, who himself ended the involvement with the series of regulars Ronald Allen and Sue Lloyd in order for the motel to be sold - and thus Meg's daughter Jill was to face a tough choice of whether to agree to the sale, or hold on to the shares her mother left her in 1981. Meg's return was to advise Jill to sell the shares, as Meg, we were to discover, was good friends with the new to be owner - Nicola Freeman (played by Gabrielle Drake) and so Gordon's character would have many reasons to return to Crossroads once more. This storyline never came about as Gordon died before the planned return. The actor Edward Clayton, who had previously played Stan Harvey in the show, returning to take her place in the storyline.
Gordon had battled cancer publicly since 1982, undergoing two major operations. It didn't stop her making a return to Crossroads in August 1983 for two episodes during the honeymoon episodes of Jill and Adam, shot in Venice.
After the termination of her contact, Gordon appeared in Gypsy at Leicester's Haymarket Theatre followed by a revival of Irving Berlin's musical Call Me Madam touring the Midlands and then at the Victoria Palace Theatre where it ran for only 88 performances. Her last stage appearance was in The Boyfriend at Plymouth's Theatre Royal produced by Roger Redfarn (she became ill during the run and had to be replaced).
In an interview she gave the TV Times in 1981 she announced she may, once her stage work had come to an end, take up the offer of returning to presenting. In the same 1981 TV Times interview she commented that a future role as a breakfast television presenter was being negotiated. She would however not return to television full-time because of her theatre commitments. Speaking in 1984 she said "I did several mornings on TV-am a week or so ago. And I have been recording some programmes for my local radio station. But I would like to do more television - and I am ready for it". However she fell ill, and that promised more regular presenting role at TV-am never materialised because of her failing health.
For many years in the 1960s and early 1970 Gordon lived in a large white-washed country house called Weir End, near Ross-on-Wye, beside the A40 road to Monmouth. She never married, although a fiance later became a leading lawyer. She retired to her home in Birmingham, where she died in 1985 of cancer. She is buried in the churchyard of St Mary's Church in Ross-on-Wye.
The comedienne Victoria Wood wrote and starred in Acorn Antiques - part of her BAFTA winning series Victoria Wood As Seen On TV, the first series of which was aired in January 1985. Though neither confirmed nor denied by Wood at the time, Acorn Antiques was widely regarded as based on Crossroads - everything from the shaky sets, wooden acting, non-speaking extras, banal-through-to-ludicrous storylines, and the manner in which credits rolled. Acorn Antiques became such an instant comedy success - and its origins so clearly recognised throughout the UK - it sounded the death knell for Crossroads. In 1987 Victoria Wood wound up Acorn Antiques with 'The Making of Acorn Antiques', when the high-profile 'celebrity' playing Mrs Overall (Julie Walters) is 'sacked' from the show - something that had a striking resemblance to Noele Gordon's departure from Crossroads - right down to headscarf, large sunglasses, and exiting speech.
- "ATV Icon: Noele Gordon". ATV Today. Retrieved 28 May 2012.
- As detailed by ITV in their on-air obituary broadcast prior to an episode of Crossroads broadcast on April 14, 1985
- As noted in BBC One's TV Heros series, 1991
- Detailed in her autobiography, My Life At Crossroads, 1974
- "Noele Gordon (obituary)". The Stage. 1985-04-18. p. 15.
- As noted by Jane Rossington and Paul Henry on the documentary Crossroads Revisited in 1985
- As detailed in the 1982 book Crossroads - The Drama Of A Soap Opera.
- TV Times interview with Noele Gordon in November 1981.
- "Noele Gordon" at findagrave.com
- As spoken by Adams on Crossroads Revisited, the 21st Anniversary documentary for the soap.
- Official Noele Gordon Website
- Noele Gordon at the Internet Movie Database
- Noele Gordon's appearance on This Is Your Life
- Noele Gordon Interview