'Soap diva Noele Gordon - aka Nolly - didn't deserve to be forgotten'



I had never heard of Nolly before I watched ITVX’s sparkling new drama, and now she’s in my list of top trailblazing women.

Where’s her blue plaque and annual tribute documentary?

It’s bizarre that Noele Gordon – Nolly, to her friends – was a legend in her own lifetime yet has been long forgotten.

But Helena Bonham Carter immediately brings this formidable actress to our attention, sizzling on screen as the flame-haired, fur coat-wearing star of TV soap Crossroads.

Nolly played Meg Richardson, the proprietor of a Birmingham motel in the long-running drama during the late 1960s and 1970s.

Until in 1981, at the height of the show’s success and the peak of Nolly’s fame, she was axed without ceremony, without warning and with no explanation. With the boss’s words, “All good things must come to an end” ringing in her ears, she found herself thrown out of the show that was her life for over 18 years.

Nolly was on the soap Crossroads for 18 years
Nolly was on the soap Crossroads for 18 years ( ITV STUDIOS)
She was axed from the show in 1981
She was axed from the show in 1981 ( ITV STUDIOS)

Misogyny? Ageism? Sexism? You can bet your life all these things came into play.

Genius screenwriter Russell T Davies, has penned this three-parter, exploring what happened and aiming to give the explanation that Nolly never got.

The first woman to be seen on a colour television set, credited with inventing daytime TV with her popular chat and entertainment shows, and the first woman to interview a British Prime Minister, Nolly was a force to be reckoned with.

Noele Gordon
The real Noele Gordon, who died in 1985 ( ITV/REX/Shutterstock)

There’s a lot of humour as we see Nolly rule the roost on the Crossroads set, making demands, rewriting the script and even changing an actor’s accent. “I am making this show better if I have to haul it out of the grave line by line,” she declares.

She ruffles the feathers of the men in suits – and it’s these clashes that lead to her downfall.

There are wonderful nods to the era, as Nolly switches on about a dozen individual lamps in her apartment every evening, walks past the city’s old Rackhams department store and is horrified by the prospect of regional accents on television.

ITVX's Nolly
In the show Noele is portrayed as diva-like but kind and much-loved ( ITV STUDIOS)

Poignant moments that happened in real life, such as the untimely death of her on-screen son, are weaved in but comedy such as switching off Corrie immediately – “Oh God, no!” – keep the pace.

Nolly is portrayed as diva-like and dramatic, but kind to her friends, fans and co-stars and ultimately the heart of the show and beloved by a nation.

A glossy, funny and warm tribute to a woman who was wrongly brought down at the top of her game.

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