The still above is from David Lean’s 1945 film Brief Encounter. It was adapted for the big screen by Noël Coward from his own one-act play Still Life (1936). On the left is Stanley Augustus Holloway (1890-1982), playing Albert Godby, the ticket inspector, and facing him is Joyce Carey (1898-1993) playing Myrtle Bagot, manageress of a railway refreshment room.

Holloway was named after Henry Morton Stanley, the journalist and explorer famous for his exploration of Africa and for his search for David Livingstone.

Carey (born Joyce Lilian Lawrence) was best known for her long professional and personal relationship with Noël Coward.

James Arthur Messenger opened his boatyard at Teddington in 1848. In about 1875 he built, to Sir Henry Morton Stanley’s specification, the ten-oared, five-sectioned “Lady Alice”, specially designed to be dismantled for overland transportation. This boat played an important role in Stanley’s African explorations.

Ten minutes’ walk from the boatyard in one direction and from Stanley Road in the other, on 16th December 1899, Noel Coward was born at Helmsdale, 131 Waldegrave Road, Teddington.

Carey’s mother was Lilian Braithwaite (wife of the actor-manager Gerald Lawrence), whose greatest acting triumph was as the alcoholic mother in Noël Coward’s groundbreaking drama The Vortex. Braithwaite responded to the assertion of critic James Agate that she was “the second most beautiful woman in London”, by replying, “I shall long cherish that, coming from our second-best theatre critic.”

The boisterous, uncomplicated relationship of Myrtle and Albert is contrasted throughout Still Life with the sadness of the serious and secretive affair between the chief characters, Alec and Laura.

As a young editor, David Lean had been noticed by Coward and promoted to help direct and then take over directing In Which We Serve, This Happy Breed, Blithe Spirit and finally Brief Encounter.

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