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Née Henrietta Elizabeth Spier (aka Hetty/Ella Spiers, Mrs/Ella/Hetty Langford Reed)

b. 6 August 1881, Toxteth Park, Liverpool, Lancashire, England.
d. 1973, Richmond, Surrey, England

Screenwriter and Costumier

Hetty was the daughter of Amelia Matilda Bromley (b.1852, Shrewsbury – d.1904, London) and Kaufmann Charles Spiers (b.1851, Liverpool of German/Irish extraction – d.1901, London). Hetty came from a family of writers: her father was the dramatic, musical, and art critic of the Liverpool Daily Post, and her brother, also K.C. Spiers (b.1879, Liverpool), described himself as “reporter and descriptive writer, special correspondant at home or abroad, drama and cinema critic, feature writer and make-up sub-editor, book reviewer, publishers’ reader, publicity representative, &c.”. His play If Youth But Knew was adapted for the screen by the Samuelson Company in 1926, and it starred Godfrey Tearle, Lilian Hall Davis and Mary Odette, and was produced by G.A. Cooper.

Hetty was born and spent her childhood in Liverpool. However, by 1901, Hetty, whose occupation was recorded as “chorista, music”, lived with her mother and brother in Lambeth, whilst her father lived as a border in Clapham before dying later that year.

Hetty trained at the London County Council School of Art and later worked at the London Opera House where, Spiers claimed, she “designed the costumes for all the operas” in 1911. Later, she wrote an article for The Bioscope on Costume Designing for Cinematography (9 April 1919), won a prize for Best Costume Representing a Stoll Film (The Fruitful Vine) at the Crystal Palace Carnival in 1921, and Mirte Terpstra suggests that she may have designed (or have aspired to design) film costumes.

In 1912, Hetty married Herbert Langford Reed (b.1889-d.1954) who was a screenwriter and film editor, film critic and journalist, author of limericks, light verse and short stories, and Lewis Carroll biographer. Both husband and wife advertised themselves as ‘artistes’ in The Bioscope,and they collaborated on two novels, Potter’s Clay and Daphne Grows Down, the former of which was adapted for the screen (see below).

Hetty wrote the original “film plays” for the comedy Sister Susie’s Sewing Shirts for Soldiers (1917) and the crime film Queen of My Heart (1917), both for the Clarendon Company, and both of which she claimed “achieved success”.

Times, 1923Joan Langford Reed
(Times, 1923)
In 1918, Hetty gave birth to actress Joan Mary Langford Reed who made her screen debut in her father’s screenplay The Heart of a Rose (1919). Joan later appeared in Testimony(1920), The Wonderful Wooing (1925), and The Luck of the Navy (1927). She was also the first winner of the ‘Navana Juvenile Beauty Competition’ in 1922, and was one of the faces of Glaxo baby food in 1923.
The Langford Reeds are also credited with writing the screenplay for the film version of Potters Clay (1922), a story of the Potteries and of bohemian life in Oxford and London. According to the reviewer for the Times:

“Potter’s Clay is not a brilliant film, but it is certainly interesting. The greater part of the story is laid in Oxford and the Potteries – an effective contrast – and there are some excellent views of work and life at both places. The hero (Mr. Dick Webb) is at Oxford completing his education when he falls violently in love with a chorus girl (Miss Peggy Hathaway). The attraction continues after the hero has left Oxford for Staffordshire. His mother (Miss Ellen Terry) disapproves of the intimacy, and they are forcibly parted. It needs a deus ex machina to bring them together again, and this is provided by a conventional German villain. He is in search of a secret formula by which the pottery made by the firm of the hero retains its supreme position, and he employs the heroine (quite inadvertently) to net as a spy for him and to obtain the formula. The heroine, of course, nullifies all his wicked plans, and eventually the hero and the heroine get married, while the hero’s mother seems perfectly reconciled to all that has taken place” (Times, 1922).

The contemporary press made much of the fact that the film starred the famous stage actress Ellen Terry, who was then in her seventy-third year. Indeed the Times commented that, considering her age, Terry’s performance was “an extraordinary tour-de-force. It was good enough on its own merits to make one wish that the film had been invented in time for her to act in it when she was at the height of her powers”. Although the film was criticised for not being particularly well told, it was commended for “some good acting” on the parts of Dick Webb, Peggy Hathaway and Douglas Payne, and for “some excellent photography”, particularly the views of the Potteries and the “unusually interesting” glimpses of the inside of a great pottery factory. It was felt that the “pleasantest impression”, however, was made by the images of Oxford, which included some good pictures of Oriel College and “an interesting panoramic view of the city as the hero leaves the University for good”. Potter’s Clay was produced by the then new British firm Big Four Famous Productions, the principal director of which was Mrs. Bertram Brooke. (CW)

Articles by Hetty Spiers/Ella Langford Reed

(As Hetty Langford Reed) ‘Women and the Kinema’, Kinematograph and Lantern Weekly, 22 November 1917, p. 47. In this article she lists a host of women filling a range of jobs while men are at the Front, including cinema doorkeepers, managers and projectionists.

Contributors

Clare Watson, Mirte Terpstra, Nathalie Morris, Janice Healey, Christine Gledhill

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