Claude Whatham’s classic film adaptation of ‘Swallows & Amazons’ (1974) is available on BBC iPlayer until 1st February – please click here for the link.
You can discover what it was like to appear in the movie, in ‘The Making of Swallows and Amazons (1974)’, an illustrated paperback published by the Lutterworth Press. Although written for adults, it is suitable for all ages and quite fun for anyone interested in acting or keen on visiting the Lake District. It can be ordered online, from good bookshops or your local library. If you already have a copy, do add a review to the online sites or email a photo – it is always great to hear from readers.
The second edition of the ebook, entitled ‘The Secrets of Filming Swallows & Amazons (1974)’, is similar but includes a few more stories from the Lake District and links to behind-the-scenes cine footage. It is out on Kindle, Smashwords, iTunes, Nook/Barnes&Noble from £2.99 If you already have the first edition you can re-load the up-dated version free of charge.
Filed under 1973, Acting, Arthur Ransome, Autobiography, Biography, British Film, Cinema, Claude Whatham, Emi film, Entertainment news, family Entertainment, Family Film, Film, Film Cast, Film History, Film production, Filmaking
If you enjoyed the original film adaptation of Arthur Ransome’s book ‘Swallows and Amazons’ broadcast on BBC Two today, do think of getting a copy of ‘The Making of Swallows and Amazons’, published by The Lutterworth Press or the ebook entitled ‘The Secrets of Filming Swallows and Amazons’. You can read the first section for free on Kindle here. Quite fun!
It’s surprising ‘Swallows and Amazons’ hasn’t been re-made a number of times. The 1974 movie was sold all over the world and has been screened so often it’s become regarded as iconic, labelled ‘a cult classic’ or ‘enduring success’. You can listen to Wildfred Joseph’s film score here:
Thanks to Claude Whatham’s extraordinary skill in creating a period film that never dated, cinema audiences emerge asking if it was made last summer.
The Danish poster of ‘Swallows & Amazons’ 1974 giving the Swallows a Jolly Roger or pirate flag
Although it was shot 45 years ago, fan mail still arrives from Australia, the USA and Japan. Families can quote David Wood’s script fluently, having watched the DVD thirty times or more. The biggest complement is that they talk of being ‘Titty-ish’ or ‘just like Titty’, the little girl whose imagination gave her the strength and courage to excel.
-A carefully made fan letter showing Sophie Neville playing Titty Walker in 1974-
When I went to watch the 2016 film of ‘Swallows and Amazons’ being made on location, I warned the actors they were in for the long haul. Although the new adaptation has older children in the cast, and additions to the plot, it was heralded as a great British film, a landscape movie of significance about the thrill of exploring the great outdoors. Broadcast on BBC Two earlier this December and it is out on both Blu ray and DVD. For the Hanway Films billing of ‘Swallows and Amazons’ 2016, please click here.
A Czech poster of ‘Swallows & Amazons’ 1974
Filed under 1973, Acting, Arthur Ransome, Autobiography, Biography, British Film, Cinema, Claude Whatham, Cumbria, David Wood, Entertainment news, family Entertainment, Film, Film History, Film production, filmography, Lake District, Memoir, Movie, Movie stories, sailing film, Sophie Neville, Swallows & Amazons, Swallows and Amazons, titty, truelife story, Uncategorized, Vintage Film
This summer marked the 45th Anniversary of filming the original film ‘Swallows and Amazons’ on Derwentwater when Ronald Fraser was obliged to walk the plank in a solar topi in July 1973.
To celebrate the anniversary, Sophie Neville, who played Titty, introduced a screening of the 1974 film at the Alhambra Cinema in Keswick on Saturday 28th July.
She demonstrated how one of the visual effects was achieved and signed copies of her book ‘The Making of Swallows and Amazons’ after a Q&A.
‘I brought one of the original arrows that the Amazon pirates fired over my head. It looks so dangerous on film that the shot was cut from the television version but is included in the re-mastered cinemascope edition that we are now able to watch on the big screen. You might be able to spot a few other things that went wrong while we were filming, such as the time I inadvertently slipped up to my waist in water.’
‘The elegant Lakeland steamer, the Lady Derwentwater, had the starring role as Captain Flint’s houseboat. She was adapted for the part by the award-winning set designer Ian Whittaker, who went on to receive an Oscar for Best Art Direction on ‘Howards End’ starring Sir Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson. His astonishing list of nominations can been seen here
Swallow, the 1930s sailing dinghy used in the original film ‘Swallows and Amazons’ was at the lakeside for Arthur Ransome enthusiasts to admire. She is looked after by Rob Boden, from Kendal, who is happy to take people for a sail by prior arrangement via the SailRansome website here.
Filed under 1973, Acting, Arthur Ransome, Autobiography, British Film, Cinema, Claude Whatham, Cumbria, Dinghy sailing, Emi film, Entertainment news, family Entertainment, Family Film, Film, Film Cast, Film History, Film production, Filmaking, Lake District, Memoir, Movie, Movie disasters, Movie stories, questions about filmmaking, sailing film, Sophie Neville, Suzanna Hamilton, Swallows & Amazons, Swallows and Amazons, Titty in Swallows and Amazons, truelife story, Uncategorized, Vintage Film, Virginia McKenna, Zanna Hamilton
On Saturday 21st October, local ITV News interviewed Griff Rhys Jones and myself at Pin Mill in Suffolk. We were taking part in a marathon reading of Arthur Ransome’s iconic book ‘We Didn’t Mean To Go To Sea’ with other authors including Libby Purves, Francis Wheen, Christina Hardyment, Julia Jones and Marc Grimstone. Ivan Cutting of Eastern Angles and Dan Houston, editor of Classic Sailor, also read chapters. You can read more about the event here.
~Pin Mill on the Owell ~ photo: Anthony Cullen(c)~
The story begins at Pin Mill where the Swallows – John, Susan, Titty and Roger Walker, along with their mother and Bridget-the-ship’s-baby, are waiting for their father to take up a Naval posting nearby at Shotley. The four children didn’t mean to go to sea at all but somehow ended up sailing to the Netherlands in a terrific storm. I was asked to read the last chapter.
~Gryff Rhys Jones and Sophie Neville appearing on Anglia Television~
The reading, which lasted nine hours, was held to celebrate the 80th anniversary of the book’s publication in 1937. It has been profiled in the magazine Classic Boat and on the BBC News website. The event was organised by Peter Willis of The Nancy Blackett Trust who spoke at length to Lesley Dolphin on BBC Radio Suffolk
~Julia Jones, Francis Wheen and Sophie Neville with a photograph taken by Arthur Ransome when his yacht Selina King was being built. Photo: Anthony Cullen~
You can read about our adventures sailing Nancy Blackett this summer in Country Life magazine:
There are also photos of our cruise through the Netherlands on the Nancy Blackett Trust website, as well as a six page colour feature in Classic Sailor magazine. You can watch the ITV News clip here.
Going back twenty years: Members of The Arthur Ransome Society alerted me to a BBC Children’s Television programme, which shows Griff Rhys Jones at Pin Mill in 1997 when he met Taqui Altounyan who knew Ransome when she was a girl. The Swallows were originally based on her family who learnt to sail in two clinker-built dinghies called Swallow and Mavis when they stayed at Bank Ground Farm (Holly Howe) above Coniston Water in the Lake District. I recently discovered the secret that Taqui was also the model for Captain Nancy in Ransome’s well-loved books. This episode also contains clips from the 1963 television adapation of ‘Swallows and Amazons’, with Susan George playing ‘Kitty’. Forgive the series titles – it is worth viewing:
The long-awaited second edition of ‘The Making of SWALLOWS AND AMAZONS (1974)’ is being published in paperback by The Lutterworth Press on 25th May. Pre-orders are now available from their website here
This memoir of an odd thing that happened in the early 1970s is similar to the first edition but has a new cover and includes a few more stories, photographs and names from the ‘seventies that have floated to the surface. It compliments StudioCanal’s 40th Anniversary DVD and Blu-ray
and makes a good present for anyone who has grown up watching the 1974 film.
Sophie hopes to be signing copies at events around the country this summer.
Please click here for details
Last weekend Sophie was signing copies of her books at the Tavistock Festival and gave a talk at the Roseland Festival in St Mawes before a screening of ‘Swallows and Amazons’ (1974) on Sunday evening at the lovely Hotel Tresanton cinema.
this Saturday 22nd May at 2.00pm
Filed under Acting, Arthur Ransome, Autobiography, Biography, boating, British Film, Cinema, Claude Whatham, Cumbria, David Wood, Diary, Dinghy sailing, Entertainment news, Film, Film Cast, Film History, Film production, filmography, Memoir, Movie, Movie stories, Sophie Neville, Swallows & Amazons, Swallows and Amazons, Titty in Swallows and Amazons, truelife story, Uncategorized, Vintage Film, Virginia McKenna
The new Harbour Pictures film of ‘Swallows and Amazons’ starring Rafe Spall, Andrew Scott and Kelly Macdonald is now available on DVD and Blu-ray in the UK.
Saga are giving away one copy on Blu-ray. Please go to the Saga Facebook page and follow the instructions – you just might win the prize draw!
or you can attempt to win a copy by entering their prize draw competition on Twitter, which you can reach by entering the #SwallowsandAmazons into your Twitter search box.
You can order the film from Amazon by clicking here (also available from other outlets).
It makes a great Christmas present.
Filed under Arthur Ransome, boating, British Film, Cinema, Cumbria, Dinghy sailing, Entertainment news, family Entertainment, Family Film, Film, Lake District, sailing film, Swallows & Amazons, Swallows and Amazons, Uncategorized
by Hayloft Publishing, written by David Banning with a forward by Sophie Neville.
‘This is the finest comprehensive guide to the history of movies filmed in Cumbria and the Lake District, since the early twentieth century to the present day… it will take you on a journey through the filmic landscape of one of the world’s most beautiful places.’
‘You will be able to immerse yourself in the lush green world where Star Wars created an alien landscape or take a trip around Swallows and Amazons country, not to mention joining the ranks of Withnail and I pilgrims or sampling the nostalgic Breif Encounter tea rooms where a tiny piece of grit kick-started an enduring romance.’
To read more, please click here for Cumbria Today or click on this image for a review in the Cumberland & Westmorland Herald:
There is also a feature in the Westmoreland Gazette here
For more information from Hayloft Publishing, and to buy this book, please click here
Terry Abraham, who made the film Life of a Mountain, writes: There are countless books covering aspects of the most beautiful corner of England but none which reveal little known facts regarding it as a location for filming. David thoroughly and interestingly brings to light the great number of films both large and small that have featured Lakeland on camera. Some less obvious than others but no less absorbing, you may well wish to seek out and visit where productions have captured the scenic delights of Lakeland. David’s book is an engaging and enlightening read and definitely one for the shelf alongside other works celebrating England’s finest landscape.
Be the first to review this book on Amazon.co.uk
David Banning lists ten of the best films made in Cumbria. Please click on these links for the International Movie Database details and film trailers:
Brief Encounter, 1945
The Dambusters, 1955
Swallows and Amazons, 1974
The French Lieutenant’s Woman, 1981
Withnail & I, 1987
28 Days Later, 2002
Miss Potter, 2006
Star Wars Episode VII – The Force Awakens, 2015
You can see a shot of Derwent Water at 1.23 mins into the official film trailer for Star Wars after ‘This Christmas’ graphics, here:
Filed under Acting, Arthur Ransome, British Film, Cinema, Claude Whatham, Cumbria, David Wood, Entertainment news, family Entertainment, Family Film, Film, Film Cast, Film crew, Film History, Filmaking, filmography, Lake District, Landscape Photographs, Movie, Movie disasters, Movie stories, questions about filmmaking, Richard Pilbrow, Sophie Neville, Steam train Haverthwaite Railway Station, Suzanna Hamilton, Swallows & Amazons, Swallows and Amazons, Titty in Swallows and Amazons, truelife story, Uncategorized, Vintage Film, Zanna Hamilton
A second edition of the ebook ‘The Secrets of Filming ‘SWALLOWS & AMAZONS'(1974) is now avaialble on Amazon Kindle, Smashwords, itunes, Kobo, and Nook for £2.99 . You can download this free of charge if you already own the first edition.
If you would like a copy but don’t have a Kindle, worry not. We have added a link whereby you can download a free Kindle app. Please go to my Book Page and scroll down for the details.
If you already have a copy of the ebook, contact a Customer Advisor and ask for a free update. You just need to give Kindle the ebook’s ASIN number. The ISBN for all online editions except Kindle is: ISBN 9781311761927
Since being contacted by others who were involved in the filming, I have been able to add a few more anecdotes and images, including this beautiful shot of Virginia McKenna in 1973 kindly sent in by the photographer Philip Hatfield.
I found a copy of my original contract for the film and when Jean McGill rang from Bowness, a few more secrets floated to the surface.
CBBCTV’s Cinemaniacs interviewed the screenwriter David Wood and myself on how the original movie of Arthur Ransome’s ‘Swallows and Amazons’ was made back in the summer of 1973. The idea was to use 30 second clips, so please excuse my over-the-top reactions, but you can watch the whole recording below.
‘This has to be one of the most delightful interviews in my recent memory.’ Tim Lewis, USA
Filed under 1973, Acting, Arthur Ransome, Autobiography, Biography, boating, British Film, Christian, Cinema, Claude Whatham, Cumbria, David Wood, Diary, Dinghy sailing, e-publication, Emi film, Entertainment news, family Entertainment, Family Film, Film, Film Cast, Film crew, Film History, Film production, Filmaking, filmography, Kindle, Lake District, Memoir, Movie, Movie disasters, Movie stories, News, Richard Pilbrow, sailing film, Sophie Neville, Suzanna Hamilton, Swallows & Amazons, Swallows and Amazons, titty, Titty in Swallows and Amazons, truelife story, Uncategorized, Vintage Film, Virginia McKenna, Zanna Hamilton
A British film starring Talulah Riley, Martin Compston, and Joe Thomas of In Betweeners fame, has come out on DVD. It also features our tame otters. I travelled up to Dunoon in Scotland to help with the scenes that, in the story, entail an injured otter brought into a wildlife conservation centre set in a beautiful location outside Glasgow.
Belinda the Otter with Sophie and Daphne Neville
The romcom is written and directed by Talulah Riley who was keen to use our very energetic young male otter Rudi in a scene where the otter is released back into the wild. To achieve this on film, without losing him altogether, was quite a feat but he enjoyed himself and the result looks endearing.
When one of the producers asked if I had worked on any other films featuring animals, I had to admit there have been quite a few. We once had a baboon in the studio and I became quite used to filming with trained elephants. I worked with a whole variety of exotic animals on the vet series ‘One by One’ from a pelican to a full grown leopard. In the mid 1980’s I was lucky enough to spend four months on Corfu making the first BBC adaptation of Gerald Durrell’s autobiography ‘My Family and Other Animals’ with Brian Blessed and a huge number of tortoises. As it happens, Rudi appeared in the second series of The Durrells, playing both the male and female otters.
To see more about what the otters have been up to, please go to Daphne Neville’s website here.
You can read about living with tame otters in my book ‘Funnily Enough’ available in the UK here in paperback or on Kindle here
There are more photographs of the otters here
The DVD, which will be released on 3rd October, is available for pre-order here
One of our hand-reared otters who stars in ‘Scottish Mussel’