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Dear Professor McKnight
I have been reading with interest the book ‘Agent of Challenge and Defiance; the Films of Ken Loach’ which you edited.
There are one or two points I’d like to make of which the most important is my surprise that you say that Ken Loach was the scriptwriter of Cathy Come Home, along with myself (page 179).
This is quite untrue and does, I feel, represent a disempowering of a writer’s role which can be a feature of the world of films and television.
I hope that you will be able to alter this in the next edition of the book. I shall be happy to send evidence to show that you are wrong, including the title page of the original script, a letter from Ken Loach, etc. I would be interested to know your source.
(On page 187 and page 156 you do not have me sharing the scriptwriter’s credit with Ken Loach.)
An interview in the book by Alan Rosenthal mentioned by you on page 190 describes in some detail how I wrote Cathy Come Home.
While not wanting to get off on an ego trip, I find your use, passim, of the idea that the films are ‘of’ or ‘by’ Ken Loach is not really completely right, and The Writers Guild (and indeed Ken himself) believe that the phrase ‘directed by’ is the more accurate way to put it. I think that directors are now being asked to respect this by the W.G. of G.B. It’s politer to the others involved in the creative process, it seems to me.
On page 1 it is incorrect to say that the awards won by Ken Loach’s films begin with an award in 1970. In fact in 1967 ‘Cathy’ won four or five awards including the Italia Prize, BELTV and Writers Guild Best Screenplay, etc.
On the same theme, when you say on page 1 that ‘What [Loach] is inspired at’ is ‘the creation of emblematic and central characters such as Cathy ...’ and without for a moment wanting to deny the ‘inspired’ nature of Loach as director, I wonder whether there is not a disempowering of myself and Carol White in that we don’t get a mention as part of that creation.
That is of less importance than what occurs on page 30 (which incidentally, despite many mentions of ‘Cathy’, is the first time I am identified as the author). Julian Petley claims that ‘much of the statistical material ... was omitted from the repeat’ because of doubts about ‘its accuracy’. He gives no source for this and I am glad to say it is entirely false. I would be interested to know his source. Again, I will be happy to send evidence which will, I think, convince. This particular myth is to be the subject of a forthcoming article by Derek Paget. I will also write in due course to Petley.
This letter inevitably dwells on some of what I feel are negative and disempowering elements in the book but I hope you will see it in the context of my having enjoyed the book no end and found it very interesting.
Do you know the essay I wrote to accompany the novelisation of ‘Cathy Come Home’? (February 1967). It has relevance to some of the interesting points in the Petley piece especially.
With best wishes
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