Frank Baker

Frank Baker

Frank Baker was born in Hornsey, London in 1908. He was educated at Winchester Cathedral School, where he enjoyed singing in Cathedral choir. He seems to have inherited a love of music from his grandfather who played the organ at Alexandra Palace. As a young man Frank went into his father's business of marine insurance in the City of London, before leaving after five years to spend a year working at the School of Church Music. With £20 and a small piano he moved from London to Cornwall, and settled in a cottage at St. Just-in-Penwith, earning £1 a week as an organist. There he began to write. His first novel, 'The Twisted Tree' was published in 1935.Over his life Frank Baker published a series of novels and short stories as well as articles in journals such as the Guardian, Radio Times and Life and Letters. Frank's second novel was 'The Birds' published in 1936. This novel was published before the short story of the same name by Daphne Du Maurier, and before the 1963 movie directed by Alfred Hitchcock. Although Frank's book had a similar premise and story, Frank was advised not to pursue costly litigation against Universal Studios. The affair led to an interesting correspondence with Du Maurier, and eventually to publication of a popular paperback edition of Frank's novel.In addition to writing, Frank Baker continued to play both piano and organ, and especially enjoyed playing at the parish church at St Hilary in West Cornwall, where he developed a close friendship with Father Bernard Walke, author of the celebrated biography 'Twenty Years At St Hilary'. Here Frank and Bernard produced the first religious plays to be performed live on BBC Radio.Frank's third novel, 'Miss Hargreaves', was the most successful. It was republished several times and was also produced as a play in 1952 at the Royal Court Theatre Club in London, with Dame Margaret Rutherford in the starring role. Frank wrote a radio adaptation of the novel which was broadcast in the 1950s, and much later a second adaptation was written by Brian Sibley and broadcast in 1989, six years after Frank's death. For a while Frank became a professional actor. During the Second World War Frank he toured with Dame Sybil Thorndike and Lewis Casson (whom he understudied) and Paul Scofield, and they played throughout the UK. At this time he met Kathleen Lloyd whom he married in 1943. They were to have three children together, Jonathan, Llewellyn and Jospehine. After they first met, they lived together in Hampstead, and for 18 months Frank worked as the pianst for the Player's Theatre with performers Leonard Sachs, Hattie Jaques and others.After the Player's Theatre the family returned to live in Mevagissey in Cornwall, for around 5 years. Frank later lived in Surrey before returning to Cornwall, and a home near the village of Goldsithney. Later he moved to Cardiff. During these years he edited scripts and wrote plays for the BBC, and continued to publish fiction. In 1969-1970 he spent some time in the USA and was Artist-in-Residence at the University in Oklahoma.Frank was drawn back to Cornwall again and again, and eventually he and Kathleen finally settled in Porthleven. Both Frank's daughters, and many of his nine grand children, were born in Cornwall, a county which inspired him throughout his life. Frank died of cancer in 1983 at the family home, 'Bay Ridge', in Porthleven.
Miss Hargreaves, Frank Baker
Frank Baker
Miss Hargreaves
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