Helena Bonham Carter believes Noele Gordon was axed by ‘ageist bosses’

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The Harry Potter and Room With A View star is playing one of Britain’s biggest soap icons in new ITVX drama Nolly, as well as narrating a one-off documentary. Noele was mysteriously sacked by bosses at ITV franchise ATV in 1981 after playing motel owner Meg Richardson on the Midlands-based show for 17 years.

Producers famously said at the time: “All good things must come to an end”.

But in an interview about the drama which airs on ITVX this week, Helena said she believes that Noele’s age – 61 – contributed to her shocking Crossroads departure.

The Crown star said: “We are making progress, but there’s still chronic ageism, isn’t there?

“Our appearance is constantly a factor. Why should it be? Just because we haven’t got the bouncy collagen cheeks it doesn’t mean that we’re any less valid. At 61, she was in her prime. And sacked.”

Helena, 56, believes Noele, known to friends as Nolly, was also dealing with a “Me Too story but without the sex”.

She said: “It’s men in offices in suits deciding on what women should be doing, what they should be like, as Nolly says in the show.”

The Real Nolly documentary has exclusive access to the star’s personal papers, and interviews with those who knew her best from Crossroads. Before helping to launch the soap, famous for its wonky sets, Noele had a successful career.

A star of the stage in the 1940s, she was also the first woman to be broadcast in colour in an experiment by TV pioneer John Logie Baird.

Executives then asked Gordon to go to New York for a year, where she studied US TV production.

She put the experience into practice at ATV as an executive, establishing daytime TV and presenting a show called Lunchbox.

Crossroads began in 1964, with Noele starring alongside Jane Rossington as daughter Jill. It quickly became a huge hit, overtaking Coronation Street in the ratings.

The documentary includes the remarkable tale of how 10,000 fans turned up for the filming at Birmingham Cathedral of Meg’s 1975 marriage to Hugh Mortimer.

The scenes also included Noele’s friend Larry Grayson in a cameo role as their chauffeur.

Noele, who never married, died in 1985 of stomach cancer, aged 65. The soap was axed three years later.

  • Nolly, and The Real Nolly, ITVX, from Thursday

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