BRADFORD’S very own J B Priestley needs no introduction as an author and playwright - but he does as a Hollywood scriptwriter.

His contribution to the golden age of cinema is not well known, and he certainly never banged a drum about it himself.

Yet this Great Man of Letters certainly showed his prowess with the pen in ‘Tinseltown,’ as Hollywood was called during the 1930s. And Priestley enjoyed rubbing shoulders with many of the leading stars, including Charlie Chaplin and Groucho Marx, who became personal friends.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: A film of Priestley's An Inspector Calls was shot at Salts Mill in 2015. But his own film writing career wasn't well known A film of Priestley's An Inspector Calls was shot at Salts Mill in 2015. But his own film writing career wasn't well known

Now, the J B Priestley Society is shining a light on this relatively-unknown aspect of his career, putting on an event this weekend in conjunction with the prestigious Bradford Literary Festival.

‘J B Priestley in Hollywood’ is one of the showpiece events being put on this Sunday (June 26) between 11am and 12 noon in the Ernest Saville Room in Bradford’s City Hall.

To unreel this under-documented history, a star cast has been pulled together to discuss Priestley’s Hollywood scriptwriting, which he managed to fit in while he and his family were wintering in Arizona for his wife’s health.

The line-up includes:-

* Esteemed Bradfordian Steve Abbott - producer of Brassed Off, A Fish called Wanda, and Michael Palin’s TV travel programmes.

* Celebrated film historian Bill Lawrence, former Head of Cinema at Bradford’s National Museum of Photography, Film and Television. A prime mover behind Bradford’s successful bid for UNESCO City of Film status.

* John Baxendale - a leading JBP authority, council member of the JB Priestley Society, and author of Priestley’s England.

* Lindsay Sutton - J B Priestley Society Chair, will be presenting the hour-long discussion. As a Bradford-born journalist and author, he has been influenced heavily by Priestley, and even interviewed the Great Man.

Mr Sutton reveals that for two consecutive winters in the later 1930s, Priestley took his wife Jane Wyndham Lewis and their large family to winter on the Remuda Ranch in Wickenburg, an hour’s drive north-east of Phoenix.

“From there he nipped over the state border to California and drove the six-hour journey to Los Angeles to spend time with producers and stars, while being employed as a freelance scriptwriter, trying his hand in the world of popular film.

“He had experience in the industry, having co-written the script for the hugely-successful Gracie Fields film Sing As You Go, and he was introduced to the desert landscape of Arizona in 1934, after being sent out by Ealing Studios to do a reccy for another possible film with Gracie.”

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: JB Priestley in Bradford JB Priestley in Bradford

At Sunday’s festival event, the guest speakers will look at Priestley’s complicated relationship with Hollywood - one that spans unacknowledged screenwriter credits, and his apparent conflicted feelings about working in popular, mainstream cinema. Mr Sutton adds: “It appears he didn’t want to tarnish his reputation as a serious writer and dramatist. But however ambivalent his attitude was, he undoubtedly liked rubbing shoulders with some of the star names, and is on record as saying: ‘The best evenings in Hollywood were those in which Charlie Chaplin and Groucho Marx had some part'.”

Yet it all rested on the Priestley family wintering in the state of Arizona so that his wife could benefit from the warm winter climate, which eased her chronic aches and pains caused by rheumatism.

Film expert and Priestley Society member Bill Lawrence reveals: “He needed to support his wife and children financially, so he would go over to Hollywood and pick up script work on a freelance basis - on the understanding that he wouldn’t be listed in the credits because he wanted to preserve his reputation as a superior dramatist.”

Priestley’s presence in Hollywood was not a secret, but with one exception - a 1936 Carole Lombard vehicle called ‘The Princess Comes Across’ - the films he wrote remain unchronicled and unknown.

As Bill adds: “It’s quite tantalising. Priestley mentioned a few producers but his papers don’t tell us which studios he worked for. However, his involvement goes right back to his 1927 novella, Benighted, which became the film, The Old Dark House. That started a whole new horror genre of strangers seeking shelter in an isolated house full of strange people. It’s really the basis for The Rocky Horror Picture Show.”

While in Arizona, Priestley wrote his semi-autobiographical novel Midnight on the Desert, where he extols the rugged beauty of the desert landscape, talks about the creative process, and deals with the concept of time. But it is the film scripting element that intrigues most on his two trips to Hollywood.

* The Old Dark House will be shown at 8pm on Saturday, June 25 in the Cubby Brocolli Theatre at the National Science and Media Museum.

* Bradford Literature Festival runs from June 24 to July 3. Visit