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"The Maggie", made in 1954, is in many ways superior to the later, BBC-made, television comedies about Para Handy and the "Vital Spark", these largely studio-based and much of "The Maggie" shot on location in and around Glasgow, Greenock, Crinan and Islay, two location sequences shot on Kintyre's 'West Road' and, for purely 'scenic reasons', showing the hapless American being driven south to Campbeltown, instead of, as is supposedly the plot, from Campbeltown to The Crinan Canal.
The shot here, taken between Whitehouse and Clachan and looking back to West Loch Tarbert, had often appeared in Shell's motoring guides and calendars from the 1930's onwards and would not have worked so well in film terms if it had been shot to show the back of the car, an Austin, heading 'over the horizon', towards Crinan.
The second Kintyre shot shows the car on 'The West Road', again heading south for Campbeltown, instead of north for Crinan, it taken just south of Tangy's road end, near 'Todd's Turn' and is the only remaining photograph thought now to show, on the seaward side of the road, the World War II road block post's 'hut', the road block itself reportedly only but occasionally manned over the course of the war years, it easily by-passed by the Tangy 'loop' if anyone with local knowledge was so-minded and the only really effective road block, then and even now, some 40 miles north, outside Ardrishaig's 'Royal Hotel', it today 'The Grey Gull Inn' and Kintyre's only other road block at Kildonan, north of Peninver, on the Campbeltown to Carradale road.
Calvin B. Marshall was of course the somewhat brash, impetuous and quite luckless American tycoon whose material sacrifice was rewarded when his name was bestowed on one of Scotland’s well-remembered and famous but fictional ships, a puffer, the “Maggie”. The whimsical story was written by William Rose, he too wrote the script for “Genevieve”. The music for “The Maggie” was written by John Addison who composed the music for the popular Angela Lansbury “Murder She Wrote” television series, the concertina played by Willie Smith, well known for his playing skills in the Clyde Steamer bands, sometimes on the "Duchess of Montrose", his career recorded online at http://www.scribd.com/doc/1414895/Concertina-Clyde-Steamers-Willie-Smith-GreenockPhotos-Music The 1953 Ealing comedy film “The Maggie” is sometimes described as a wicked little satire on the mutual contempt that even today underlies Euro-American relations and in many ways the seemingly leisurely, gentle-humoured and happily-concluded tale is indeed somewhat cruel rather than quaint. Enter Calvin B. Marshall (Paul Douglas) as the American airways tycoon who's building a new house on a Hebridean island and needs some building supplies delivered fast so that the job can be finished in time for his anniversary. Enter Captain MacTaggart (played by former Kirkintilloch school-master Alex Mackenzie) and the crew of the “Maggie”, her part played by John Hay & Sons' puffers “Boer” and “Inca”, both broken up in 1965. Alex Mackenzie, born in 1885, was a regular visitor to Carradale's Golf Course, he often playing there with the late Colin Oman and their last round together just three weeks or so before Mackenzie died, in December 1965.
The plot is founded on assumption and human error, the assumption being that the cargo of building materials, including 'four baths on the one island', will be loaded on the big ship here, MacBraynes 1898-built "Hebrides" and the puffer, the "Maggie", completely overlooked and ignored by the hapless, bowler-hatted, Pusey, left to seal the deal to get the cargo shipped off to 'Kiltarra' (Port Askaig), Pusey compounding the error by handing over £50 cash to the puffer skipper !
Enter a low tide in Glasgow and a case of mistaken identity and then, even before the chase begins, the headlines - 'Puffer on Subway' ! Though in the film, the 'puffer' was in fact a beautifuuly detailed full-size mock- up, the incident was based on real fact for Warnock’s puffer “Faithful” had indeed once grounded at low tide on top of the Glasgow subway tunnel, near Glasgow's suspension bridge.
Here, the "Maggie" is seen approaching Greenock's old Albert Harbour, it now part of Greenock's Container Berth - Laid up inside, yet again because of engine trouble, is the 5
diesel-electric paddle vessel "Talisman", she re-engined the following year and, taking up the Wemyss Bay - Largs - Millport service, surviving till scrapped in 1967.
Also laid up in Greenock's Albert Harbour is the MacBrayne's post-war built and last steampowered cargo ship "Loch Frisa", she formerly the Dutch-registerd "Marleen" and serving with MacBrayne's till scrapped in 1963. When the chase begins, it is by air and a de Havilland Rapide bi-plane and to Kintyre. Then up, but photographed 'down', 'The West Road' of Kintyre to The Crinan Canal where poor Mr Pussey (Hubert Gregg), Marshall's 'side-kick', gets arrested for poaching and pushing the local laird into the canal !
de Havilland 'Rapide' G-AJXB low-flying over the "Maggie" off Crinan
This interior shot of the de Havilland 'Rapide' shows just how small and cramped it was in the aircraft's cockpit, only room for the lone pilot.
We next find the "Maggie" in 'Inverkerran', in actuality Bowmore, at the head of Loch Indaal in Islay, the round church, 'to keep The Devil out of corners', at the head of the street and Bowmore's Imperial Hotel, to where the crew of the puffer have adjourned, framed between the puffer's mast and funnel - The scene above was shot in the morning, the sun casting the shadows of the buildings on to the street and the tide was low, the high water marks seen on the white-painted wall at the left of the picture and the small beach area uncovered.
Here, purely out of 'historic interest', for they have nothing whatsover to do with the plot of the film of "The Maggie", are two rare WWII photographs of two of Islay's then Loch Indaalbased flying boats exercising over Bowmore.
Though the "Maggie", like many ships in these days, still hadn't got a radio transmitter, she did have 'radar', the ship's 'wee boy' Dougie throwing pieces of coal from the bunkers ahead of the ship in fog, "If it plops, it's O.K., but . . . " !
"High and Dry", as the Americans re-titled the film, the "Maggie", played by the 1941 Kirkintilloch-built puffers "Boer" and "Inca", had beautiful lines , the curvature of her stern section fairly clear here, one of her three propellor blades also clearly on view.
Here 'Loch Mora' and its pier, in real life Crinan, the earlier remarked on 'four baths on the island' awaiting re-shipment on the quay and the 'cut-away' section of the pier, where there are no piles to block any view of the puffer's stern, ready for "the accident" and, below, MacBrayne's "Loch Carron" as she supposedly arrives to take away the Highland cattle.
Here the forlorn-looking beasts and pier, after "the accident" and this view from the bridge of the "Loch Carron" revealing her unusually-positioned engine room telegraph, it at 'rightangles' to convention and its handle, here to starboard, at 'Slow Ahead', the lever going to port for 'Astern' engine orders.
And then of course there is the ceilidh, the 100th birthday party for the old, now toothless mate of the “Maggie”. Outside the party, Mr Marshall - his name from the well-known Greenock puffer owners, Ross & Marshall - gains something of an insight into decision making when in conversation with a girl, played by Fiona Clyne, who is being wooed by the local shop-keeper and a fisherman, ‘I’ll marry the fisherman because, even if we’re poor, we’ll be together and he won’t be away with his mind away on other things like the shop-keeper building up his business(es)’ !
While Fiona Clyne, here, was the 'dream air hostess' of the 1950's, playing that part uncredited in two films, 'Out of The Clouds' (1955) and 'The Third Man' (1959) and in a television episode of 'The Best Policy' (1959), she may be better remembered for playing the part of Katie in 'The Bridal Path', made in 1959, Campbeltown's Gaelic Choir specially flown down to London to record parts of the sound track, the music score written by then well known Cedric Thorpe Davie, a regular examiner at Glasgow's Royal Scottish Academy of Music, he also writing the score for 'Rockets Galore', but Greenock's Gaelic Choir's performance nowhere near as good as that of Campbeltown's own choir at the time.
Journey's end, 'Kiltarra', better known as Port Askaig and seen here before the intrusions of the vehicle ferries
Tommy Kearins, who played 'the wee boy' Dougie, was selected for the role after being spotted in a Scouts "Gang Show", Tommy working backstage. After being interviewed by Ealing, he spent three months filming on Islay and was paid three times what his father making in the Clyde shipyards, his breakfast fry up hard to forget.
Jameson Clark, who played Dirty Dan, the publican, lived in West Kilbride and mixed his career between acting and reporting for the BBC, an interview with a wee girl on the island of Foula proving at best problematic, "Ah've telt ye afore that it's 'FOO-LA', NO 'FOWL-LA' an' ah'll no speak tae ye if ye dinna get it right this time' !
Meg Buchanan, who played the puffer skipper's sister, was one of those who took part in that not yet forgotten Saturday night radio favourite the "McFlannels", it all about a working-class family in a Glasgow tenement block and Scots glued to their very own 'soap' long before EastEnders or Coronation Street ever became a glint in some TV producer's eye, all the characters enjoying surnames linked to different fabrics, like McCotton and McTweed and the minister going by the name of the Rev David McCrepe, the signature tune being, appropriately enough, 'The Glasgow Highlanders'.
Hubert Gregg (1914 - 2004), who, below, pushed the laird into The Crinan Canal and got a night in Ardrishaig police station's cells for his part in the film, was probably later best known for his BBC Radio 2 "Oldies" music shows, such as 'Thanks For The Memory'. Less well known is the fact that he spoke German well and, during the war, worked for the BBC German service to such good effect that Goebbels assumed Gregg must be a German traitor, Goebbels perhaps even less amused if he had known that when Gregg, actually born in London's Islington area, had seen the German Doodlebugs flying over London, he had composed the song 'Maybe It's Because I'm A Londoner', it to become almost an immediate hit and, in 1947, became recognised as the London 'folk anthem'.
Looking forward in the puffer's Engine Room, the light rectangle left of centre being the door to the deck and the boiler's fire door being almost directly below the swinging oil lamp above Paul Douglas' head
No longer will there be 'the four baths on the one island'
Despite the fact that Alexander Mackendrick was not personally very satisfied with the finished copy of "The Maggie", he feeling that it concentrated too much on his own personal concerns and not enough on anything relevant to anyone else, the film http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0047085/ has stood the test of time, Mackendrick undoubtedly one of The World's most talented film directors, he too being responsible for making “Whisky Galore !“ “The Man in The White Suit” and “The Ladykillers” in the Ealing Studios. Alexander Mackendrick was born in Boston, Massachusetts, on September 8, 1912, the only child of Francis Robert Mackendrick, a ship builder and a civil engineer and Martha Mackendrick, they having emigrated from Glasgow to America just the previous year, in 1911. When Mackendrick was six, his father fell victim to the influenza pandemic that swept the world just after World War I and his mother, in desperate need of work and having decided to 19
take up dress designing, felt the only way she could succeed was by hand over her only son to his grandfather, he taking the young MacKendrick back to Scotland when he was seven years old and Mackendrick, destined to have a very sad and lonely childhood, never seeing or hearing from his mother again, Mackendrick attending Hillhead High School, from 1919 to 1926 and then spending three years at The Glasgow School of Art. In the early 1930's, MacKendrick moved to London to work as an art director for the advertising firm J. Walter Thompson and, between 1936 and 1938, scripted five cinema commercials, these short advertising films for Ovaltine. He later reflected that his work in the advertising industry was invaluable, in spite of his extreme dislike of the industry itself. He then joined The Ministry of Information where he made a short film on 'V.D.' which earned him promotion to the Psychological Warfare Branch and then, at the end of WWII, he oversaw the re-launching of the Italian film industry before returning to London and then Ealing Studios. Shortly after making “The Ladykillers”, Mackendrick went to America where he directed the film noir classic “Sweet Smell of Success” with Burt Lancaster and Tony Curtis and then, after directing several films unsuited to his talents, he retreated to teach his film skills to other rising stars in California where he died, aged 81, on December 22, 1993. Mackendrick was keen to emphasize that everything in a film should be at the service of the narrative Lighting - What mood and emotional tone can be established through the use of light and shadow ? Editing - If I cut here, what will be revealed to the audience, what will be left out and how will this help tell the story ? Framing and Shot Size - If I use a close-up here rather than a long shot, what am I asking the audience to think about ? Camera Movement - If I move the camera, from whose point of view will the audience be experiencing the action ? Acting - How can I use this prop to convey a particular story beat to the audience without saying anything ? "Every bit of a film", wrote Mackendrick in 1953, necessary part of the whole effect". while still at Ealing, "ought to be a
"A true movie", wrote Mackendrick, "is likely to be 60% to 80% comprehensible if the dialogue is in a foreign language. A story told in 'shot-to-shot' images with imaginative use of camera movement, lighting and sound and also through the actor's ability to take advantage of props and costumes, is likely to be more memorable than a dialogue-driven screenplay" and for such reasons Mackendrick had his students study what he called 'the pre-verbal language of cinema', in other words, all 'the conventions' (and implied rules) laid down by the silent film-makers in the first few years of the twentieth century, "I'm not sure I have any answers but, if I do have anything, it's an instinct for how to organise the questions", Mackendrick's assertion borne out by one student who said, "If I turned in a ten-page short film script, Sandy would come back the next day with eleven pages of hand-written notes - I 20
think the most important thing he taught me was just how much hard work goes into filmmaking, he was leading by example of industriousness".
After Mackendrick's death, Faber and Faber, in 2004 and Farrar, Straus and Giroux, in 2005 published a 300-page collection of his writings and sketches, edited by Paul Cronin, 'On FilmMaking : An Introduction to The Craft of The Director', its introduction by reknowed film director Martin Scorsese ISBN-10 : 0571215610 or ISBN-13 : 978-0571215614 . In Part One : Dramatic Construction - The Pre-Verbal Language of Cinema - What is a Story ? Exposition Modernist Trends - A Technique for Having Ideas - Slogans for the Screenwriter's Wall Exercises for the Student of Dramatic Construction - When Not to Write a Shooting Script Once Upon a Time … - Activity versus Action - Dramatic Irony - William Archer Revisited Plausibility and Willing Suspension of Disbelief - Density and Subplots in Sweet Smell of Success - Cutting Dialogue - The Solomon Exercise - The Director and the Actor In Part Two : Film Grammar - The Invisible Imaginary Ubiquitous Winged Witness - How to be Meaningless Mental Geography - Condensing Screen Time - Drawing Lesson - Point of View - The Axis - Shot-to-Shot Relationships - Camera Coverage - Camera Movement - Citizen Kane Epilogue
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