Emma Thompson producing Black Death script Harrow Alley, written in the '60s

George C. Scott A Christmas Carol

In August of 1962, forty-something screenwriter Walter Newman, who received Oscar nominations for his work on the films ACE IN THE HOLE, CAT BALLOU, and BLOODBROTHERS, decided to face his own mortality by writing a script about how people deal with the knowledge of death. The result was a 172 page screenplay titled HARROW ALLEY, about the Great Plague in 17th century England. Newman called the writing of HARROW ALLEY "the high point of my professional life, a creative frenzy for nearly 12 wonderful months." Unfortunately, he never could manage to get that script turned into a film, and over the decades it has become known as one of the best unproduced screenplays ever written.

The story is set in 

an English town as it deteriorates. It follows the fortunes of two men, likeable but lawless rogue Ratsey and well-meaning alderman Harry, who are both trying to survive the dangers of the time.

According to an article John M. Wilson wrote for The New York Times in 1978, "hundreds die, some in gruesome fashion, and death or its spectre haunts nearly every page."

John Huston optioned HARROW ALLEY as a directorial project for himself in 1963, but didn't have any luck getting funding. Rex Harrison, Laurence Harvey, and THE STEPFORD WIVES director Bryan Forbes expressed interest in it. Later, it became a passion project for actor George C. Scott (pictured), who bought the script outright for $150,000, intending to direct the film but not star in it, maybe only make a cameo. Scott could never find backers, either. There was a chance that HARROW ALLEY could be made for a TV network, but that was back in the low budget "movie of the week" days, so that opportunity was not pursued.

By 1978, Newman was amused that getting HARROW ALLEY made had proven to be so difficult, but he hadn't given up hope. "Someday, somehow, I'm going to get it made. That's all I can tell you."

Sadly, Newman passed away in 1993. Huston, Harrison, Harvey, Forbes, Scott, they've all passed away. But HARROW ALLEY lives on, and it may finally get produced - for television, but for a different sort of television than it had a shot at before.

Much like Scott before her, Emma Thompson has made HARROW ALLEY a passion project, and she has been working at trying to get it made since the early 2000s. She is now teaming up with Jane Tranter and Julie Gardner's production company Bad Wolf to bring HARROW ALLEY to HBO.

This endeavor is said to be in the "very early stages", but HARROW ALLEY appears to be closer to be getting made now than ever before. Fifty-five years after Newman completed the script, the world might be about to visit HARROW ALLEY.

Extra Tidbit: Have you heard of HARROW ALLEY before?



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