Forgotten London films: introduction

What do you think of when you think of London films? For most people, myself included, it is probably Ealing films such as Passport to Pimlico and The Ladykillers. I asked friends on Twitter and got responses ranging from Escape the Block and Long Good Friday to Shakespeare in Love. Bit cheeky the last one I thought. But I take the point.

But there are many films that feature London extensively – and that feature Londons that are no longer here – which are equally worth seeing – whether we watch them as Londoners, film historians or those in search a good night in. In some, vanished aspects of the city are merely backdrop – intriguing if you have an eye for lost vistas or long-forgotten buildings – but in others its presence is so strong it might as well be a lead character.

I have written about ten of them for the wonderful London Historians newsletter, and am now reproducing those pieces on my blog. I do not necessarily claim all these to be classics, although I would say that Pool of London and, in particular, Night and the City, most definitely are. But these films, and many others like them, are as much a part of our city’s heritage as Hogarth, Dickens and Wren. They deserve to live on in our collective memories.

NB I am indebted to the excellent Reel Streets website for details of filming locations.

The ten films I have written about are: Night and the City, Pool of London, No Trees in the Street, The Boy and the BridgeLondon Belongs to Me, Waterloo Road, Run for your Money, The Happy Family, St Martin’s Lane, and Underground.

9 thoughts on “Forgotten London films: introduction

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  1. For one of the great set in London films, I can recommend “THE YELLOW BALLOON” starring Andrew Ray, filmed in 1952 and released in 1953. It was one of the first films to be given an ‘X’ certificate by the British Board of Film Censors, although 65 years later, it’s hard to see why. It’s available on a stand alone DVD and it’s been restored by the BFI. The transfer on the DVD is clearer than the one on The London Films Collection DVD box set.

  2. Thank you so much for your knowledge on these wonderful well crafted great films
    As an American nothing compares to the writing the acting the production the Camera work and the best is the music !!!!!
    I will be looking forward to more of your
    Writing …alakfilms

  3. Thank you, Mathew. You’ve certainly added to my knowledge on the subject. I was 12 years old when the film was released in 1959 and I’m 70 now, but only got to see it for the first time in the past week when I paid to watch it on BFI player. I thought it was marvellous and that the character Ian played reminded me so much of myself at his age in his sense of independence from grown ups and his ability to get in and out of such a well guarded place like Tower Bridge and come and go with items with which to make a home for himself in the top room of one of the turrets and avoid being seen by anyone. He comes to regard Tower Bridge as his very own bridge which he shares with Sammy the seagull and a memorable scene occurs when one night, from his room high up in the turret, he sees a suicidal woman about to climb over the parapet of the bridge and throw herself down into the river. “DON’T!”, he yells down to her, “DON’T JUMP OFF MY BRIDGE!” The woman is so startled by this unexpected voice from somewhere up there, that she changes her mind, believing the voice to be of a supernatural origin.

  4. Wearing my Sherlock Holmes hat, I’ve just been doing some sleuthing. Ian MacLaine’s real name was Ian McLenahan and he was born in Brighton, Sussex, in the July, August, September quarter of 1949. In 1958, at the age of nine and while he was a pupil at the William Patten primary school in Stoke Newington, London, he was chosen to play the lead role of Tommy Doyle in The Boy and The Bridge, which probably started production that summer. He had a brother, Keith, who was two years older than him and who had a small part in the film as a boy Tommy’s father momentarily mistakes for Tommy while he is out looking for him at night. Ian got married in 1975 at the age of 26 and I can’t find anything on him after that.

    1. Thank you so much for both of your posts – you’ve got me intrigued now! Had just had a quick scout around Ancestry following up on your name/birth/marriage information. I think he had two children – Stuart in September 1976 and Alastair in November 1978 – both born in Southend where he got married.

  5. The Boy and The Bridge (1959) is an excellent film with a wonderful central performance that inexplicably has never been shown on television, nor released on video or DVD, and, apart from the BFI pay to view online video, remains completely unobtainable. Nine years old Ian MacLaine (not his original surname, which was changed to something more filmic for the picture) seems to have completely disappeared. Does anyone know what became of him? It would help in finding out if we knew what his original surname was. His was a truly remarkable performance, akin to that of Bobby Henrey in The Fallen Idol (1948). The Boy and The Bridge was given a royal premiere at the Curzon cinema, London, in July, 1959, where Ian was presented to HRH Princess Margaret and was shown at the Venice Film Festival that year and nominated for Best Director for Kevin McClory. Ian MacLaine also attended the festival and was presented to the top film stars of the day. Malcolm Arnold provided the film with another of his excellent scores and Edward Scaife’s cinematography of the exterior and interior of Tower Bridge and the surrounding area was first class. One of my all time favourite films.

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