Thursday, March 09, 2023

Boy who appeared in radio dramatisation of a Malcolm Saville story was later tried for murder at the Old Bailey

This is not what you expect to find when you do a little gentle research into the BBC Children’s Hour dramatisations of Malcolm Saville’s early Lone Pine books:

Leicester Evening Mail, Monday 2 February 1959

Actor accused of murder


WHEN CAVAN JOHN MALONE (22), actor, of TT Beverley Court, Wellesby-road, Chiswick, London, appeared at Acton today, accused of murdering a South African, Det.-Supt. John Manning said that Malone told him, "Yes, I did it." 

After a three-minute appearance Malone was remanded in custody for a week, charged with the murder of Jan Momberg, who was found dead in a sixth-floor flat at Beverley Court.

Nor is this:

Shields Daily News, Wednesday 18 February 1959


22-YEAR-OLD actor was said by the prosecution at Acton, London, today to have fetched a knife and cut the throat of another man during a “free- for-all in a flat. He then followed it up with three blows with the knife in the man’s back, it was stated.

The proceedings in Acton were the committal hearing, and Malone was sent by it for trial at the Old Bailey. Hanging was still the mandatory sentence for murder.

The Gay Dolphin Adventure on the radio

The Gay Dolphin Adventure, the third of Malcolm Saville's Lone Pine books, was the second to be dramatised by BBC Children's Hour. It went out on the Home Service in six parts in January and February 1946.

A new dramatisation of the book, with a different cast, was broadcast  in October and November 1949. It was again in six parts, but David Schutte says this was a shortened version of the 1946 production.

The first episode of this new dramatisation was billed thus in the Radio Times:

Ever since October 1946 when 'The Gay Dolphin Adventure' was first broadcast children have clamoured to hear it again. It is one of the best of Malcolm Saville's books containing all the ingredients calculated to tickle the palate of children from seven to seventy. 

Here is a tale of hidden treasure set against the picturesque background of Rye with its ancient smuggler's inn. Jon and Penny arriving for a fortnight's holiday have no inkling of the excitements in store for them at 'The Gay Dolphin.'

It's traditional for adult readers of the Lone Pine books to complain about ‘those awful twins,’ but as I started reading them at such a young age the twins were naturally the characters I most identified with – Dickie in particular.

With the possible exception of Pat the dog in the Ladybird Key Words reading scheme, he was my first literary hero. And in the 1949 production of The Gay Dolphin Adventure Dickie was played by a boy called Cavan Malone.

Cavan Malone

Born on 25 November 1936, Cavan Malone was the son of Danny Malone, a popular Irish tenor and his wife Hazel, who ran the Corona Stage School in London and was later to run a highly successful talent agency. Not altogether surprisingly with that background, he became a child actor.

His most prominent film role was in the 1947 weepy When the Bough Breaks, where he played a boy who had been adopted as a baby, only to be returned by the courts to his birth mother. As you can see from the clip below, he finds it hard to settle in his new home. (And, yes, that is Bill Owen playing his birth mother's husband.)

Kinematograph Weekly said he gave 'easily the best performance' in what sounds an indifferent film: 'He shows his elders how to deal with "ham".' Other reviews were less complimentary.

Malone also had a small part in Kind Hearts and Coronets as Graham, Sibella's brother, in the scenes from Louis Mazzini's childhood.

He continued to find work as a teenager on both radio and television for the BBC and also on the stage. There are news stories about him appearing at the Old Vic and in Shakespeare at Stratford-upon-Avon, as well as in a provincial production of Look Back in Anger with Vanessa Redgrave. 

At his trial, the Daily Mirror described him as:
a veteran of hundreds of stage, film and TV appearances though he is only twenty-two, had his first film role at the age of nine. More recently he had a part in the ITV 'William Tell' series.
That sounds an exaggeration, but there was no doubt he, unlike most child stars, had made a successful transition to an adult acting career.

The trial

Malone was accused of murdering a South African salesman, Jan Momberg. The Daily Herald takes up the story:
Momberg forced his way into Mrs Malone's luxury flat in Beverley Court. Wellesley-road. Chiswick. Visiting Mrs. Malone was her friend, Mrs. Bessie Momberg, who had been living apart from her husband. 
Momberg attacked Mrs. Malone. Mrs. Momberg shouted to Cavan: "You've got to help your mother. He will probably kill her."

An eight-inch-long kitchen knife was handed to Cavan, who took it with trembling fingers. He showed the jury how he used it after parrying a blow from Momberg. 

Cavan said: "Momberg drew back and I noticed blood on his throat. I was horrified. I ran towards the lounge, and Momberg came after me. 

"He looked terrifying, and gripped me on the shoulder. 

"I hit him with my right arm to make him let go. but I forgot entirely about the knife and was horrified when I discovered I had then stabbed him." 

And that, together with some strategic blackening of Momberg's character, was enough. The jury took just 13 minutes to find Malone not guilty of both murder and manslaughter.

After acquittal

Cavan Malone went back to acting for a few more years after the trial. He had the distinction of figuring in the first Coronation Street wedding as his character, Gordon Davies, married Joan Walker, the daughter of the formidable landlady of the Rover's Return, Annie Walker.

He did not enjoy a long run in Corrie, as Gordon and Joan settled in Derby after their wedding. If Doris Speed, who played Annie Walker well into her nineties, needed a break. viewers would be told she had gone to stay with her daughter.

In real life Malone married twice, and a post on an old BBC page suggests he had a son called Stephen.

He seems to have given up acting early in the 1960s - his penultimate entry on IMDb is for an uncredited role in 633 Squadron, which was released in 1964.

He became a drummer, playing in jazz bands and with his friend Chris Sandford, who was a fellow Coronation Street actor and briefly a pop star.

The last news story I can find about Malone is from the Western Daily Press of 1 May 1975. He was working for his mother's talent agency and defending a hostess on the wholesome television quiz Mr. and Mrs. after photographs from a nude modelling session she had done a few years before had come to light.

Cavan Malone died of heart failure in 1982 at Richmond upon Thames, aged only 45. I can find no obituary for him nor even where his grave is.

This is not the story I expected to be blogging when I looked up those Children's Hour dramatisations of Malcolm Saville's books. But one thing should be emphasised: 

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