Gordon Wellesley

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Gordon Wong Wellesley (8 December 1894 1980) was an Australian-born screenwriter and writer of Chinese descent. [1] Born in Sydney in 1894 [2] He wrote over thirty screenplays in the United States and Britain, often collaborating with the director Carol Reed. [3] He began his career in Hollywood in the early 1930s and worked in Britain beginning about 1935. [4] He was married to the scriptwriter Katherine Strueby. [5] He was nominated for an Oscar for Best Writing, Original Story at the 1942 Oscars for Night Train to Munich , which was based on his novel, Report on a Fugitive. [4]



Early life

Gordon Wellesley Wong was born in Australia, of English and Chinese descent and was educated in London. [6] [7]

By 1923 his short stories such as A Lesson in Cocktails were appearing in magazines. [8] A biography around this time called him "one of the best known commercial men in the Federated Malay states." [9]

In 1931 he was living in Kuala Lumpur. [10] (Another article says he was from Singapore. [11] ) He was reportedly "a business man as well as a traveler, writer, explorer and official film producer for the Malayan government." [6] A 1931 profile said he was educated at the University of London and had directed a Malayan picture called Black Sands "which created a lot of excitement in Europe". [12]


He travelled to Hollywood in 1931, when he was 36 years old. [10] He sold the film rights to his novel, Pagan River to Universal. He also sold a story he wrote about the Sino-Japanese war called Shanghai Interlude which was going to be made by director John Ford and star Lew Ayres. [6]

He was using the name "Wong Wellesley" around this time. He says he did this "because with a Chinese surname I might be expected to write nothing but Chinese stories." [6]

Pagan River was filmed as Nagana (1933). [13] [14]

Wellesley also worked on the script for Shanghai Madness (1933) made with Spencer Tracy. [15] In July 1933 he left Los Angeles for London. [16]


He moved to Britain in 1933. [17] He wrote scripts for The Right to Live (1933) for Fox, and Over the Garden Wall (1934) for British International Pictures.

Associated Talking Pictures

Wellesley wrote a series of films for Associated Talking Pictures, the forerunner of Ealing Studios: Love, Life and Laughter (1934) with Gracie Fields and Java Head (1934) with Anna May Wong directed by Thorold Dickinson; the latter had Carol Reed as assistant director. Wellesley wrote a second film for Fields, Sing As We Go (1934), directed by Basil Dean.

Also for Dean he wrote Lorna Doone (1934) and a third with Fields, Look Up and Laugh (1935).

He was loaned out to work on the script for Death Drives Through (1935), independently done at Ealing, then helped write a comedy, No Limit (1935) for a new star, George Formby. [18] It was a big hit and helped turn Formby into a movie star. [19]

Wellesley worked on a biopic of Mozart for Dean, Whom the Gods Love (1936), and he did another for Fields, Queen of Hearts (1936). Wellesley wrote Laburnum Grove (1936), directed by Carol Reed and produced by Dean.

Producer and Night Train to Munich

Wellesley turned producer with The High Command (1937) for director Thorold Dickinson and Fanfare Films. [20]

In early 1939 a short story of his was published, Report on a Fugitive. [21] It was bought by 20th Century Fox who turned it into Night Train to Munich (1940), directed by Reed and written by Frank Launder and Sidney Gilliat. The film was very successful in the UK and the US. In February 1942, Wellesley earned an Oscar nomination for his story for Night Train. It was the only nomination given to a British film that year. [22]

Wellesley did some uncredited work on the script Sailors Three (1940) for Ealing. He also helped write Freedom Radio (1941), Atlantic Ferry (1941), and This Was Paris (1942). In 1941 a script was being prepared based on a story of his, Lisbon Clipper. [23]

He wrote two films for Walter Forde at Warners, Flying Fortress (1942) and The Peterville Diamond (1942).


Wellesley turned director with The Silver Fleet (1942), a film whose storyline was based on a suggestion of President Roosevelt. He wrote and directed it in tandem with Vernon Sewell and the film was produced by Powell and Pressburger. [24]

He directed Rhythm Serenade (1943) with Vera Lynn. [25]

Wellesley returned to working just as a writer: The Shipbuilders (1943) and Mr. Emmanuel (1944).

Wellesley's later credits include The Lost People (1949), and The Reluctant Widow (1950) (which he also produced).


He wrote episodes of Douglas Fairbanks Presents as well as the features The Green Scarf (1954) and The March Hare (1956)

Most of his later work was for TV: The Gay Cavalier , White Hunter , The Young Jacobites , International Detective , Sir Francis Drake and Beware of the Dog. He still wrote features such as Passport to China (1961), Dead Man's Evidence (1962), and Doomsday at Eleven (1962).

Later career

In 1967 he was awarded a Writers Guild Award for distinguished service. [26]

Selected filmography

Other writing

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  1. 1 2 "The High Command". Colonial Film: Moving Pictures of the British Empire. Retrieved 8 April 2013.
  2. According to the researcher Steve Holland, he may have been born in China, the son of Florence Edith Wellesley and an unknown father named Wong. Holland suggests that Wellesley reversed his last name and middle name.
  3. https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0919968/ [ user-generated source ]
  4. 1 2 Holland, Steve (18 November 2009). "Paperback Cover Cavalcade 6". Bear Alley (blog). Blogspot. Retrieved 8 April 2013.
  5. "BFI | Film & TV Database | WELLESLEY, Gordon". Archived from the original on 2 September 2009. Retrieved 18 August 2009.
  6. 1 2 3 4 East Liverpool Review. 22 June 1932. p. 12 https://newspaperarchive.com/east-liverpool-review-jun-22-1932-p-12/.{{cite news}}: Missing or empty |title= (help)
  7. According to a 1952 article, Wellesley was born in Sydney in 1906 and lived there until 1933 when he moved to Malaya. "This Week's Films". Northern Standard . Vol. 7, no. 332. Northern Territory, Australia. 31 October 1952. p. 3. Retrieved 1 January 2019 via National Library of Australia. However considering he was regularly publishing stories in the 1920s, it is more likely his birthdate was earlier.
  8. "A Lesson in Cocktails". Smith's Weekly . Vol. V, no. 5. New South Wales, Australia. 24 March 1923. p. 25. Retrieved 8 January 2019 via National Library of Australia.
  9. "THE BAIT". Smith's Weekly . Vol. V, no. 26. New South Wales, Australia. 18 August 1923. p. 21. Retrieved 8 January 2019 via National Library of Australia.
  10. 1 2 Oriental Writer Here on Visit Los Angeles Times 19 Feb 1931: A5.
  11. Visitor Studies Courts Here: Singapore Barrister Occupies Bench Los Angeles Times 16 Sep 1932: A5.
  12. Sugar and Spice Whitaker, Alma. Los Angeles Times 15 Mar 1931: B18
  13. "Entertainments". The Telegraph . Queensland, Australia. 18 March 1933. p. 11 (LATE CITY). Retrieved 8 January 2019 via National Library of Australia.
  14. Flashes from Studios New York Times 17 Apr 1932: X5.
  15. "Entertainments". Queensland Times . Vol. LXXIV, no. 14, 776. Queensland, Australia. 22 March 1934. p. 10 (DAILY.). Retrieved 8 January 2019 via National Library of Australia.
  16. News and Reviews of the Stage, Screen and Music; Gossip of Studio and the Theater Schallert, Edwin. Los Angeles Times 28 July 1933: 11.
  17. Lunt (H.M. Inspector of Taxes) v Wellesley (1943-1947) 27 TC 78 https://library.croneri.co.uk/cch_uk/btc/27-tc-78
  18. "British Production Notes". The West Australian . Vol. 51, no. 15, 298. Western Australia. 5 July 1935. p. 2. Retrieved 8 January 2019 via National Library of Australia.
  19. Richards, Jeffrey (2010). The Age of the Dream Palace: Cinema and Society in 1930s Britain. I.B. Tauris. p.  198. ISBN   9781848851221.
  20. Films of the Day: A Light Mixture Campbell, George. The Bystander; London Vol. 135, Iss. 1755, (Aug 4, 1937): 192.
  21. Report on a Fugitive: A Drama of the Secret Service Gordon Wellesley. Britannia and Eve; London Vol. 18, Iss. 2, (Feb 1939): 49, 48, 50-51, 110, 112-114.
  22. Citations Listed for Film Awards: Selection of 10 Best Pictures Among 50 Nominations Made by Academy Presentations On Feb. 26 Bette Davis Receives Mention Again -- Screen Writers and Directors Honored New York Times 09 Feb 1942: 18.
  23. Screen News Here and in Hollywood by Douglas W. Churchill New York Times 3 Oct 1941: 27.
  24. "The Silver Fleet": The Film Roosevelt Suggested to Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands The Tatler and Bystander; London Vol. 165, Iss. 2151, (Sep 16, 1942): 365.
  25. "Authentic Basis For Home-Front Story". The Mercury . Vol. CLX, no. 23, 084. Tasmania, Australia. 25 November 1944. p. 9. Retrieved 8 January 2019 via National Library of Australia.
  26. "Writers' Guild Awards 1967".
  27. British Studio Gossip Nepean, Edith. Picture Show; London Vol. 47, Iss. 1209, (Apr 24, 1943): 4.
  28. "A Lesson in Cocktails". Smith's Weekly . Vol. V, no. 5. New South Wales, Australia. 24 March 1923. p. 25. Retrieved 1 January 2019 via National Library of Australia.
  29. "THE BAIT". Smith's Weekly . Vol. V, no. 26. New South Wales, Australia. 18 August 1923. p. 21. Retrieved 1 January 2019 via National Library of Australia.
  30. "Anything Might Happen". Smith's Weekly . Vol. V, no. 36. New South Wales, Australia. 27 October 1923. p. 23. Retrieved 1 January 2019 via National Library of Australia.
  31. "The Proper Thing". Smith's Weekly . Vol. V, no. 42. New South Wales, Australia. 8 December 1923. p. 27. Retrieved 1 January 2019 via National Library of Australia.
  32. Screen News Here and in Hollywood New York Times 3 Oct 1941: 27.