© NGE 2006-2019. The Noele Gordon Website is produced by NGE Enterprises in cooperation with the executors of Noele Gordon’s (rights) Estate and previously Summerton Management.
Born   Joan   Noel   Gordon   at   139   Clements   Road,   East   Ham,   London,   on   December   25th   1919   she   became   a   leading force   in   the   launch   of ATV   Midlands   and   a   ground-breaking   television   personality. Aged   two   she   started   to   attend   a dancing   school   and   six-months   later   made   her   stage   debut   at   the   long   demolished   East   Ham   Palace   singing   'Dear Little   Jammy   Face'.   When   Noele   was   a   teenager   the   family   moved   to   201   Woodford   Avenue,   Gants   Hill,   Ilford, Essex.   In   1929,   aged   9,   she   won   top   prize   in   a   singing   contest   at   The   Ilford   Convent   where   she   studied   until   she was 15. In   1934   Noel   attended   the   Royal   Academy   of   Dramatic   Art   -   RADA   -   performing   everything   from   Shakespeare   to playing   Eliza   Doolittle   in   Pygmalion.   This   lead   into   her   first   major   professional   work,   aged   18,   in   the   musical   Black Velvet.   For   a   time   she   worked   in   repertory   theatre   productions   touring   the   UK   -   starring   alongside   newcomers   such as Roger Moore. She also worked alongside John Mills in the comedy Arn't Men Beasts? In   1937   she   had   her   first   official   work   for   television   when   she   was   hired   to   star   in   the   BBC's   first   major   live   drama produced   at Alexandra   Palace. As   an   Irish   maid   in Ah!   Wilderness!   she   found   her   first   television   role   a   little   too   hot to   handle.   Studio   lighting   back   then   was   much   more   intense   than   theatre   lamps   -   due   to   the   cameras   needing   a   lot more   light   in   order   to   transmit   decent   pictures.   Under   the   heat   of   the   lights   the   prop   tray   she   was   using   as   the maid   heated   up   and   burned   her   fingers.   However   working   on   live   TV   dramas   for   the   BBC   lead   to   further   work   at the   corporation   in   numerous   BBC   Radio   drama   productions.   Noel's   London   base   at   this   time   was   45   Cumberland Mansions, Bryanston Square, London, W1. A   year   later   TV   pioneer   John   Logie   Baird   hired   Noel   to   take   part   in   his   colour   television   experiments.   She   became the   first   woman   to   be   transmitted   in   colour   from   a   camera   to   television   sets   later   that   year.   She   also   worked   with Baird   at   the   Tottenham   Court   Road   Cinema   when   he   undertook   some   'widescreen   television'   tests   on   their   big screen. As   Noele   Gordon   (she   changed   her   name   in   the   1940s)   she   became   a   star   of   London's   theatre   world   -   In   1941   she made   her   West   End   debut   in   Let's   Face   It   with   Bobby   Howes.   Her   biggest   success   of   that   era   was   the   musical Brigadoon   in   which   she   starred   in   nearly   1000   performances   across   its   two-year   run.   Composer   of   the   Brigadoon songs,   Frederick   Loewe,   upon   seeing   Noele's   performance,   jokingly   offered   to   marry   her   -   so   impressed   with   how she interpreted his words. The critical reviews for Noele were pleasing and positive at this time too. There   were   many   other   stage   shows,   including   Big   Ben,   The   Lisbon   Story,   Rain,   Suspect   and   pantomime   Humpty Dumpty   at   the   prestigious   London   Palladium. A   theatre   first   for   Noele   came   when   she   was   the   first   actress   to   star concurrently   in   two   West   End   shows.   While   taking   over   from   Julie   Wilson   in   the   starring   role   of   You   Bet   Your   Life with Arthur Askey she also remained understudy in Call Me Madam to Billie Wort. During    the    Second    World    War    Noele    continued    to    work    in    theatre    productions    and    also    as    part    of    ENSA    - Entertainments   National   Service   Association   -   which   entertained   troops   with   variety   shows   in   the   UK   and   abroad. Others   involved   with   ENSA   include   singer   Vera   Lynn,   singer/songwriter   Ivor   Novello   and   comedian/magician   Tommy Cooper   to   name   only   a   few.   Founded   in   1939   by   impresario   Basil   Dean   and   the   British   Government   the   idea   of ENSA   was   to   provide   the   Navy,   Army   and   Air   Force   with   entertainment.   The   scheme   became   Combined   Services Entertainment which continues to run to this day. In   1945   Noele   made   the   first   of   two   feature   films.   She   had   a   minor   part,   as   a   neighbour   Mrs   Wilson,   in   29   Acacia Avenue   for   Columbia   Pictures.   In   1946   British   National   Pictures   made   a   movie   version   of   The   Lisbon   Story   -   which was   produced   at   the   Neptune   Studios   in   Borehamwood   (which   became ATV   Elstree   in   the   sixties). This   film   saw   her in   a   much   bigger   part   as   Panache.   Unfortunately   its   believed   the   film   has   been   'lost'   however   some   ropey   copies are circulated in film-fan circles. In   1949   she   starred   in   her   first   Royal   Variety   Performance   with   the   cast   of   Brigadoon   who   performed   a   segment   of the musical for King George VI and Queen Elizabeth. By   the   1950s   Noele   was   on   the   books   of   The   Grade Agency.   Knowing   of   her   previous   brush   with   TV   production   Lew Grade   -   who   was   planning   to   launch   a   new   ITV   regional   television   company   -   sent   Noele   to   America   in   1953   to study   and   observe   their   commercial   services.   She   studied TV   production   for   a   year   at   New York   University   and   also made   hours   upon   hours   of   notes   on   the   kind   of   programmes   the   USA   networks   were   broadcasting   -   including   their hour-long   daily   soaps.   She   also   got   'hands   on'   experience   working   as   a   continuity   announcer   for   a   local   TV   station in Seattle. In   1955   Lew's   service, Associated   Television,   was   given   two   ITV   licences,   one   for   London   weekends   and   the   other for   the   weekday   Midlands.   Noele   became   the   first   female   television   executive   in   the   UK   when   she   was   hired   to oversee the lifestyle output, a role she would also oversee in the Midlands. When   ATV   London   hit   the   air   in   September   1955   Noele   was   part   of   the   very   first   programme   'The   Weekend   Show' which fell under her lifestyle remit. As   well   as   being   boss   she   also   directed   some   of   these   programmes   and   even   appeared   on-screen   as   one   of   the 'experts'   on   women's   issues.   While   at   ATV   London   she   also   hosted   a   live   fashion   show   from   Oxford   Street   and became the host of ITV's first chat show Tea with Noele Gordon. In   1956   Noele   began   working   for ATV   Midlands   in   her   role   as   Head   of   Lifestyle   and   Women's   Output,   other   Midland management   included   Reg   Watson   as   Head   of   Entertainment,   Ned   Sherrin   as   Head   of   Factual   and   News   and   general Programme   Controller   Philip   Dorté.   It   was   noted   at   one   point   Noele   was   presenting   up   to   ten   programmes   across ATV London and ATV Midlands per week! For   the   Midlands   region   she   presented   an   'ad   Mag'   called   Fancy   That?,   became   the   first   female   sports   presenter when   reporting   and   hosting   Midland   Sport   and   later   hosted   her   own   fishy-sport   show A   New Angle   on   Noele   Gordon which   was   about   angling.   Somewhat   considered   the   'have-a-go-girl'   (the   original   Anneka   Rice   if   you   like)   she   also fronted   her   own   series   Noele   Gordon   Takes   The Air   which   saw   her   learning   to   fly   a   plane   -   which   she   succeeded   to do. In   1957   ATV   launched   the   first   weekday   daily   live   lunchtime   variety,   chat   and   music   show   -   Lunchbox.   (Later revived   by   the   BBC   as   Pebble   Mill   at   One).   Lunchbox   was   a   huge   success   for   Noele   and   the   company.   Numerous times   the   Friday   outside   broadcast   proved   to   be   more   successful   than   expected.   In   Nottingham   an   expected   3,000 audience turned into 27,000! Her   'have-a-go'   image   was   certainly   used   to   its   fullest   with   Lunchbox.   Over   the   years   for   this   programme   Noele went   Skin-Diving,   became   a   fire-fighter,   went   out   with   a   sea   rescue   team,   trained   as   an Army   soldier,   rode   a   camel and   horse.   Drove   a   racing   car   and   steam   train,   performed   with   the   Chipperfield   Circus   -   including   bear   and   lion training   -   ,   went   mountain   climbing,   became   a   coal   miner   and   sweet   factory   worker-   to   name   a   few.   With   her success   Noele   was   able   to   afford   a   large   house   in   the   country,   she   moved   into   Weir   End   in   Ross   on   Wye, Herefordshire, in 1963. As   a   reporter   for ATV   News   in   1958   she   became   the   first   woman   to   interview   a   Prime   Minister   -   Harold   Macmillan. She   fronted   ATV's   first   and   5th   anniversary   shows,   interviewing   stars   such   as   Matt   Monro,   Rolf   Harris,   Joe   Loss, Arthur   Askey,   Morecambe   and   Wise,   Ken   Dodd,   Bob   Monkhouse   and   many   more   who   had   previously   starred   on Lunchbox. In   1961   she   was   celebrated   as   one   of   the   'Women   of   the   Year'   such   was   her   popularity   with   ITV   viewers.   She   was also   by   this   point   kept   busy   with   fan   mail   thanks   to   The   Noele   Gordon   Fan   Club   being   founded   by   keen   Lunchbox viewers. In   1964   Lunchbox   was   moved   to   a   teatime   slot   and   was   re-branded   as   Hi-T.   Between   1955   and   1964   Noele   also hosted   many   other   ATV   series   including   Midland   Profile;   a   one-to-one   chat   show   with   stars   of   the   day,   Midland Scene;   which   took   a   look   around   the   region   at   its   everyday   people   and   places   as   well   as   Midland   Farming   for   the local   rural   communities.   In   the   summer   of   1964   Noele   made   a   guest-appearance   as   herself   on   medical   saga Emergency Ward 10 - the storyline allowing for this was a hospital open day and garden party. In   August   1964   Noele   was   told   that   Hi-T   was   to   be   axed.   It   was   to   be   replaced   with   a   faster-paced   version   of   the American   soap   opera   format   she'd   seen   years   earlier.   Cut   to   25-minutes   rather   than   an   hour   Crossroads   was   to   be the    UK's    first    full-length    daily    serial.    From    November    1964    to    November    1981    Noele    appeared    as    Meg Richardson/Mortimer the owner of the Crossroads Motel in the fictional village of Kings Oak. As   Meg   she   once   again   became   a   ground   breaker.   She   became   the   nations   most   favourite   female   television   star   - winning   more   awards   than   any   other   between   1968   and   1981.   She   was   the   first   celebrity   placed   in   the   TV   Times Hall   of   Fame   and   even   was   honoured   with   her   own   fashion   range   in   a   department   store.   In   1975   Crossroads popularity   reached   a   peak   when   Noele's   character   of   Meg   married   Hugh   (John   Bentley)   and   brought   Birmingham city   centre   to   a   stand   still   when   1000s   of   the   shows   viewers   turned   up   to   see   the   couple.   Throughout   the   1970s Crossroads, a daytime soap, topped the TV ratings often not only for ITV but also beating BBC productions too. In   1973   Noele   sold   Weir   End   Lodge   in   Ross-On-Wye   in   order   to   be   closer   to   the   ATV   studios.   She   built   a   luxury apartment   at   12   Handsworth   Wood   Road,   Birmingham.   In   February   of   the   same   year   she   was   the   subject   of   a   This Is Your Life show for Thames Television. 1974   was   the   year   she   returned   to   the   London   Palladium   to   star   alongside   close   friend   Larry   Grayson   in   his   variety show   and   later   in   the   year   she   took   to   the   stage   in   her   second   Royal   Variety   Performance.   This   time   Noele   was   the host   of   the   show   -   the   first   female   host   of   the   Royal   Variety   event. Again   performing   in   front   of   the   former   Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother. In 1976 Noele recorded an album for EMI, Noele Gordon Sings, at the Abbey Road Studios in London. After   Crossroads   she   was   offered   a   job   at   TV-am   and   worked   on   several   programmes   for   the   breakfast   station.   She made   a   short   return   to   Crossroads   in   1983,   but   her   scheduled   return   in   1985   was   never   to   be.   In   the   1980s   she also   returned   to   the   theatre   in   shows   such   as   Gypsy,   The   Boyfriend   and   a   revival   of   Call   Me   Madam.   She   also   in 1983 toured in her own 'one woman show' on the life of Cosima Wagner. Noele   died   from   Cancer   on April   14th   1985.   ITN   reported   that   her   funeral   was   for   'The   Queen   Of   British   Soaps'.   She was buried in St Mary's Church Ross-On-Wye near Hereford. In   May   1985   a   memorial   service   for   Noele   was   held   at   Birmingham   Cathedral.   Guests   included   Susan   Hanson,   Jean Bayless,   Jane   Rossington,   Tony   Adams,   Ronald   Allen,   Sue   Lloyd   and   many   of   the   other   Crossroads   cast   as   well   as many of her friends including Larry Grayson, Shaw Taylor and Nicholas Parsons.
Noele with mother Joan Gordon
Noele with her parents, James Gordon MBE and Joan.
Theatre publicity photograph from the 1940s.
Noele as Meg Richardson in Crossroads.