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About the Author: Roland Pertwee

Born and educated in Brighton, Roland Pertwee gained a scholarship at the Royal Academy Schools to study painting at the early age of 16. Two years later he exhibited at Burlington House, one of the youngest ever to do so and he was justly proud of the achievement.

Thereafter he went to Paris and studied at the Atelier Julien, becoming, in his own words, "one of the argumentative all-hour gang of the Quartier Latin".

On his return to London he set himself up as a portrait painter but giving, again in his own words, "general dissatisfaction to my sitters and myself", success eluded him and he was struggling to make ends meet so he decided to have a career change and, with no training, became an actor.

He served in the Royal Army Service Corps in World War I as a second Lieutenant and then as an acting Captain. In 1918 he retired from the Army and returned to his acting, and when not on stage he was more often than not to be found watching plays at the West End theatres.

While in France during World War I he began to practise writing and was found scribbling in all his spare moments. This led him to consider writing seriously, as well as keeping his acting engagements going, and he considered it "the most delightful profession of all and gives [me] the most satisfaction".

He began acting in films as early as 1915 and appeared in 10 films between that date and 1945 with his real success in that medium coming with such films as 'The Four Just Men' (1939), 'Pimpernel Smith' (1941) and 'The Halfway House' (1944). At the same time he was writing screenplays such as 'The Bridal Chair' (1919) and 'The Last Rose of Summer' (1920).

He also wrote plays such as 'Out to Win' (1921), which was filmed in 1923, and 'Pink String and Sealing Wax' (1945) also made into a film.
In 1927 his play 'Interference' (1927), written in conjunction with Howard Dearden, became so popular that he, as the author, was at one time unable to get a seat for an evening performance!

He later turned 'Interference' into a serial and its huge success meant that it was subsequently published as a novel. It also became Paramount Pictures' first full-length talking film in 1928 (simultaneously being filmed as a silent film) starring William Powell and Clive Brook.

In 1929 he co-wrote a play 'Heatwave' with Denise Robins and this was produced at the St James's Theatre, London in 1929.

In addition to his acting and writing he became a successful film director with many credits to his name.

His later writing included a series of boys' stories under the generic title of 'The Islanders', the first of which was so entitled and was published in 1950. He followed this in the series with 'Rough Water' (1951) and 'Operation Wild Goose' (1955) and there was also 'An Actor's Life For Me' (1953), which featured just one of the boys from 'The Islanders' series.

In 1954, together with his eldest son Michael, he co-wrote 'The Grove Family' for BBC television and it is now regarded as the first British television soap opera. Named after the BBC's Lime Grove Studios, there was a film made of the soap, written by the father and son combination and entitled 'It's a Great Day' (1955).

The television soap opera ran for 148 episodes through to 1957 before ending its run and when it did finish Roland Pertwee decided that it was time to gracefully retire from the writing scene.

As well as son Michael, another son, Jon, later earned fame as Dr Who.

Roland Pertwee died three weeks before his 78th birthday on 26 April 1963.

Gerry Wolstenholme
November 2012



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ISBN10: 1447404432 | ISBN13: 9781447404439

Although he was primarily a screenwriter and actor, since his death, Roland Pertwee's written work has attracted increasing amounts of critical attention. 'The River God' is now regarded as one of the finest British fishing stories ever written. Many of the finest English sport stories, particularly those dating back to the 1900s and before, are now extremely scarce and increasingly expensive. We are republishing these classic works in affordable, high quality, modern editions, using the original text and artwork.

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