The Go-Between was L.P. Hartley’s best novel, Joseph Losey’s best film, and probably Harold Pinter’s best screenplay. In the novel, the Norfolk house and estate are fairly incidental but, as Christopher Hartop’s charming and generously illustrated Norfolk Summer: Making The Go-Between (John Adamson, £12.99) reminds us, they dominate the film.
As a local historian and cinéaste, Hartop recreates the cloudy summer of 1970 — made to seem sunny mainly by sound-effects, of buzzing insects and so on — at Melton Constable Hall, where Losey, Julie Christie, Alan Bates and Edward Fox were visited by various Cokes and Barkers (Elspeth and Raffaella were extras in the cricket match).
Made under the aegis of Bryan Forbes, who had been hired by Bernard Delfont to run Associated British Pictures, The Go-Between was meant to start a renaissance of British cinema. But by the time it was released the next year Forbes had been squeezed out, and Delfont — who was at first unimpressed by the film (‘It’s mostly about the boy.’ Yes: the go-between. ‘Well he runs forever, for miles and miles’) — had ensured that it would lack successors. So it stands magnificently alone.
Delfont does not emerge well. After it won the Palme d’Or — beating Death in Venice by one vote (to the chagrin of Dirk Bogarde, who said the boys’ accents were ‘very Earls Court’) — a charity screening was arranged in Norwich, at which he was presented to the Queen Mother, and for which he sent in a bill.