London-based Michael Klinger had snapped up the rights to the 1970 novel Jack’s Return Home, which the film was based on, for £10,000 – the equivalent of £160,000 today.
But the film needed American dollars to get made – and MGM was on the lookout for low-budget films because of a cash crisis.
Written by formerYellow Submarine ANIMATORTED Lewis, from Barton-on-Humber, near Hull, the book was set in Scunthorpe, but director Mike Hodges chose to shoot in Newcastle.
Co-stars included future Coronation Street favourite Brian Mosley as gangster Cliff Brumby. Playwright John Osborne was to make a rare screen appearance as crime lord Kinnear.
The cameras were ready to roll when Klinger was summoned to the US for a last-minute meeting with MGM president JamesAubrey. “His nickname was the Smiling Cobra,” Klinger told author NickTriplow for his biography OFTED Lewis, Getting Carter.
“His idea was the tough guy part, the John Osborne part, should be Edward G Robinson, which went down like a lead balloon.