The year before he made If…, Lindsay Anderson produced and directed The White Bus, a short film adapted by Shelagh Delaney, from her short story “Sweetly Sings the Donkey”.
The White Bus was originally commissioned as one third of a three-part film RED, WHITE & ZERO, to be directed by Anderson and his “Free Cinema” collaborators, Tony Richardson and Karel Reisz. It proved an ill-fated project, and The White Bus was the only part to be finished and given a cinematic release.
Delaney was best known for her play A Taste of Honey, while Anderson had established himself as critic and as a documentary film maker, winning an Oscar for one of his first films, Thursday’s Children in 1954. Anderson was also Britain’s leading theater director.
In 1963, Anderson directed This Sporting Life, starring Richard Harris and Rachel Roberts, and based on a novel by David Storey.
Writers were important to Anderson, and he formed highly successful collaborations with a handful of playwrights and authors. In theater,his work with David Storey produced the acclaimed dramas In Celebration, Home, The Changing Room and Life Class. While his collaboration with David Sherwin led to the Mick Travis trilogy, If…, O, Lucky Man! and Britannia Hospital.
The White Bus has many of the hallmarks of Anderson’s later films (most notably O, Lucky Man! ), and suggests that the teamwork of Anderson-Delaney could have led to greater works. One can only wonder how Delaney’s film, Charlie Bubbles would have turned out if Anderson had directed it.
The White Bus stars Patricia Healey, and features Arthur Lowe, Anthony Hopkins, and is the story of a young woman numbed by London life, who returns to Salford in search of her northern roots.
Through the eyes of her disillusioned protagonist, Delaney creates a beautifully warped city symphony about an industrial town vivid with history yet ever-changing.