John ALDERTON (1940-)

John Alderton This Is Your Life

programme details...

  • Edition No: 372
  • Subject No: 373
  • Broadcast date: Wed 6 Feb 1974
  • Broadcast time: 7.00-7.30pm
  • Recorded: Wed 30 Jan 1974
  • Venue: Euston Road Studios
  • Series: 14
  • Edition: 12

on the guest list...

  • Pauline Collins - wife
  • Gordon - father
  • Ivy - mother
  • Diane - sister
  • Jackie - sister
  • Tony Glanville
  • Tom Courtenay
  • Doug Stirk
  • June Ritchie
  • Michael Gover
  • Anna Neagle
  • Wally Herbert
  • Marie Herbert
  • Jimmy Hill
  • Glyn Owen
  • David Langton
  • Christopher Beeny
  • Angela Baddeley
  • Noel Howlett
  • Erik Chitty
  • Richard Davies
  • Joan Sanderson
  • Deryck Guyler
  • Filmed tributes:
  • Kathy - daughter
  • Nicholas - son

production team...

  • names above in bold indicate subjects of This Is Your Life
related pages...

An Actor's Life For Me

spotlight on the stars

Family Life

keeping it in the family

Maurice Leonard

the researcher's story

How To Deceive Your Husband

TV Times takes a light-hearted look at keeping a secret

The Night We Shocked Petula

TV Times photo feature on Petula Clark's second This Is Your Life surprise

This is his life …

Irish magazine RTE Guide reveals some behind-the-scenes secrets

Pauline Collins

Tom Courtenay

Deryck Guyler

Wally Herbert

Anna Neagle

John Alderton This Is Your Life John Alderton This Is Your Life John Alderton This Is Your Life John Alderton This Is Your Life John Alderton This Is Your Life John Alderton This Is Your Life John Alderton This Is Your Life John Alderton This Is Your Life John Alderton This Is Your Life John Alderton This Is Your Life John Alderton This Is Your Life John Alderton This Is Your Life

Screenshots of John Alderton This Is Your Life

Surprise Of Your Life book

Presenter Eamonn Andrews and producer Jack Crawshaw recall this edition of This Is Your Life in their book, Surprise Of Your Life...

We waited nearly two years after surprising Pauline Collins before contacting her again on business. This time it was to ask her if she felt she could help us turn the tables on husband John. Her immediate reaction was to take up the challenge. And a challenge it would be because, as we all knew, John was now well versed in the undercover operations necessary to keep a This Is Your Life secret.

Pauline remembered, with amusement, how John had spirited away her evening dress and how his "trips to the tailors" had really been trips to see us. But what was going to make it doubly difficult was that they really were a closer-than-close double act, both on and off stage. Not only are they very happily married but at the time they were sharing a stage in the West End six nights a week in the play, "Judies".

How could she ever get away from him for the vital initial chats? The first chance came when John signed a film contract that would take him away from their home in Weybridge, Surrey, from early morning for most of the day.

Pauline phoned researcher Maurice Leonard to tell him that the coast would be clear for him to come round to the house to chat and begin piecing together John's story by scanning family scrapbooks, cuttings and photographs.

He would discover that John was born in Gainsborough in Lincolnshire because, as I said, his mother had been forced to leave Yorkshire by the heavy bombing of Hull docks. John and Mrs Alderton were back in Hull within two weeks, but it has always niggled John that he was born outside what to him has always been the Promised Land. Because, apart from being a fine actor, he is a dedicated Yorkshireman. And, as at least two members of our team – researchers Debbie Gaunt and Marilyn Gaunt (no relation but both from the land of the White Rose) – will tell you, it's not easy to pull the wool over the eyes of a Tyke.

That is why on the day Pauline was due to see Maurice she was back on the phone telling him not to come near. She was phoning from a coin box having slipped out after John had unexpectedly returned home early from filming.

Pauline and Maurice quickly arranged another meeting. The time: five o'clock. The place: Would you believe the cutlery counter of a West End store! He's a sharp lad is our Maurice.

Pauline actually got John to drop her off outside the store minutes before the appointed hour telling him that she wanted to buy some knives and forks. She was early and paced nervously up and down the cutlery department waiting for Maurice to appear and knowing that the stares she was getting from customers were the stares of recognition for a well-known actress, and from assistants wondering when she would make up her mind what she wanted to buy.

On the dot of five, Maurice arrived. Now imagine this for a scene: Maurice standing at the counter, looking rigidly straight ahead and whispering out of the corner of his mouth "Is it safe?"

Pauline: "Yes. Are you Maurice?"

Maurice: "Yes. Does he know?"

Pauline: "No he doesn't know"

Maurice: "Is he in the store?"

Pauline: "No"

Maurice: "Shall we have a chat over coffee?"

Pauline agreed, but first she had to buy the cutlery she had told John she needed and in her nervousness left her bank card on the counter. As Pauline and Maurice left, the assistant found the card but, thinking she was being discreet, didn't pursue the couple. Instead she phoned Pauline the next day and asked her if she would like it sent on.

In that brief meeting, Pauline had spelt out the difficulty we were going to have in springing the surprise on John. The day we had earmarked he would be filming most of the day at Pinewood Studios before heading straight for the West End and the evening performance. There wouldn't be much time to spare.

We thought of surprising him in the dramatic setting of the famous film studio in the village of Iver, Buckinghamshire. But we abandoned that because it would mean too long a wait between the moment of surprise and the actual show. A wait we always like to keep to a minimum.

We then thought of surprising him on stage at the theatre. But that would be too late. We had to plump for the middle of the road. And road was the operative word. The busy A40 en route from Pinewood to London. But how would we stop him? A policeman waving him down would be too alarming, but what if the driver suddenly discovered he was running short of petrol and needed to pull in to fill up?

John Alderton This Is Your Life

That was the question we posed to John's driver who agreed to help us in our plot. I would be waiting to serve the petrol - and The Book – the moment he drove in to the chosen petrol station.

The driver was quick to point out a possible snag. And Pauline confirmed it. In that busy schedule of his, John often used that ride in to town to snatch forty winks on the back seat.

What if, when I tapped on the window, he was fast asleep? We could not risk that so we came up with an idea that we thought would at least be a breath of fresh air for John. Literally.

We hired a limousine with an electronically-operated convertible hood. When John was driven alongside the pumps his chauffeur quickly pressed the release button. As I approached the car, the hood slid back leaving the car just like John's mouth when he saw me... open wide.

John Alderton This Is Your Life

Series 14 subjects

Jim Dale | Vic Feather | Hayley Mills | Pete Murray | George Sewell | David Nixon | Robert Dougall | Deryck Guyler
Derek Dougan | William Coles | Jimmy Jewel | John Alderton | Patrick Moore | Sam Kydd | John Dankworth
Gordon Ostlere (Richard Gordon) | Lionel Blair | Sheila Scott | Roy Dotrice | Barry Briggs | Christopher Lee
Beryl Grey | Terry Biddlecombe | Don Revie | Robert Morley | David Hemery | Eamonn Andrews