Tag Archives: Film publicity

Questions I am asked about being in Swallows & Amazons

Sophie Neville - a portrait by Sylvain Guenot

I am always interested by the questions I am asked on the making the feature film of the 1974 film of ‘Swallows & Amazons’, in which I played the part of Titty  when I was twelve years old.

Did you have to wear make-up?

What did you do about school?

Did you still live in a tent?

These are some of the questions I’ve been asked recently by a journalist:

How different do you think your life would have been if you had not been in Swallows & Amazons?  I am not an actress but working on Swallows & Amazons, as well as a subsequent adventure movie called The Copter Kids, gave me enough experience to gain a graduate placement at the BBC and work behind the scenes on interesting television dramas including the adaptations of ‘Coot Club’ and ‘The Big Six’, written of course by Arthur Ransome.  Funnily enough, it was only when I was producing a documentary in Cumbria that anyone recognised me as Titty.

How different do you think your life would have been without the publicity that the film has brought you? While publicity generated by the film did not count one jot amongst my peers in television production, it does help me as an author since fans of the film appreciate the books I’ve written and often invite me to give talks.

Sophie Neville

Do people expect you to be an expert on Arthur Ransome? Are you?  I’ve just been elected President of The Arthur Ransome Society, which is a great honour. Although I have read many biographies about Arthur Ransome and grew up reading his series of twelve Swallows and Amazons books, I only claim unique knowledge of the 1974 film and the BBC series ‘Coot Club’ and ‘The Big Six’, which I worked on as an adult over nine months in 1983.

There is huge interest in how these adaptations of the well-loved stories were made, especially since both are being restored and re-leased on DVD this summer. Being a landscape movie, Richard Pilbrow’s movie of Swallows & Amazons looks amazing on the big screen will be shown in cinemas from July in celebration of its 40th Anniversary.

Sophie Neville - a portrait by Sylvain Guenot - May 2014 JPG

Are you surprised that there’s still such an interest in the film?  The film of Swallows & Amazons has gained in popularity over the years. This seems unusual but parents, and now grandparents, want their children to see the same film they loved growing up. They trust it as a baby-sitting DVD.

I hope its popularity has kept Arthur Ransome on the shelves of bookshops as they are truly inspirational. Together, the film and books seem to have figure-headed a ‘Swallows and Amazons lifestyle’ advocated in magazines, along with camping and picnic food, themes for weddings, knit-wear and even cat-walk fashion. ‘Very Swallows and Amazons…’ is the often used phrase, alongside a black and white photograph of me as a little girl, heaving on an oar.

Tomboy style icons in the Telegraph Magazine

Telegraph Magazine

Are you surprised that you are still so involved in it?  I wasn’t much involved until we clubbed together to buy Swallow, the original dinghy used in the film. After displaying her glorious new coat of varnish at the London Boat Show in 2011 there has been an endless stream of requests to know more about how the film was made. Looking back through my diaries there were a surprising number of film-making secrets. I’ve only just remembered the funniest one.

Sophie Neville - a portrait by Sylvain Guenot taken 2014

What’s it like to be famous?  This is the most difficult question as I always dreaded becoming celebrity. We all loathed publicity as children and found projecting ourselves excruciating. I now wish that it had been explained to us that it was part of our work to sell the film as I could have understood the need for that. Instead I felt desperately self-conscious about appearing on television or radio,  especially as I wasn’t a glamorous actress and didn’t want to be one.  It’s my character that is well-known. Titty is loved worldwide. Forty years on, I am still receiving fan mail, more so than ever since the advent of social media. I have just received a sweet tweet saying:  hello titty :o) the family are enjoying the book, thank you. We have watched the film, conservative estimate, 20 times.

If you have any questions, please ask them in the comments blog below.

To read Sallie Eden’s review of ‘The Secrets of Filming Swallows & Amazons’ please click here

Portrait photographs by Sylvain Guenot

from Country Life, July 6th 2010

from Country Life, July 6th 2010

 

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Filed under Acting, Arthur Ransome, Autobiography, Cinema, Film, Film History, Memoir, Movie, Movie stories, Richard Pilbrow, Sophie Neville, Swallows and Amazons, truelife story, Uncategorized

What the press said after ‘Swallows and Amazons’ was released in 1974

Kit Seymour, Lesley Bennett, Simon West, Sophie Neville, Stephen Grendon, Ronald Fraser and Virginia McKenna on the newspaper advertisement for ‘Swallows and Amazons’ released in April 1974

A school friend of mine sent me this advertisement. She had found it in a teenage magazine we all read at the time called Tammy and Sandy. There was a similar one in The Sunday Times newspaper – and no doubt many others. Film posters hung in the London Underground and at cinemas throughout the country. Swallows and Amazons was to come out, on general release for the Easter Holidays.

My mother subscribed to a press clippings agency called Durrant’s ~ Durrant’s of Herbal Hill London ECI ~ who, for a fee of £50, sent her all the articles written about the film.  The Prince of Wales told a friend of mine that he never reads the newspapers. I know why. Reading about yourself is upsetting – or can be, especially if the facts are incorrect.  My mother didn’t mind.  She highlighted the bits about me, filling four albums.

After entertaining the Daily Express so nicely in the Lake District this is what they printed about the film. I would  think this is written by Ian Christie (1927-2010) the jazz clarinetist, who had formed the Christie Brothers Stompers with his brother Keith, and became a member of Humphrey Lyttelton’s band. He worked as a theater and film critic for the Daily Express for twenty-six years. Born in Blackpool and a habitue of Fleet Street pubs he held fiercely Left-wing views.

The same black and white photograph of me appeared on the front cover of The Daily Telegraph with the title ‘One Swallow won’t make a Summer’. Were they right?  The Scotsman said:

The Scotsman ~ 1st July 1974

However, Russell Davies of The Observer, another jazz musician who now presents Brain of Britain on BBC Radio 4,  saw that the film of Swallows and Amazons  had niche. (If you click on the article it will enlarge).

Jack Woolgar, Simon West, Suzanna Hamilton, Sophie Neville and Stephen Grendon in a review by Russell Davies in The Observer 7th April 1974

Others recognised it as an innocent nostalgia trip ~

Others just loved it:

Stephen Grendon and Sophie Neville appearing in Chelsea Post 12th April 1974

Rosemary Caink said that her three children, ‘completely identified themselves with the children in the story.’

My favorite article wasn’t found by Durrant’s. It was written in The Brownie and must have been sent to me by a fan.

Suzanna Hamilton, Stephen Grendon, Sophie Neville and Simon West, appearing in an article published in ‘The Brownie’ ~ 27th March 1974
Please click on the article to find out more about the Brownies.

I have many more articles ~ please let me know in the Comment box if you would like to see more. Otherwise I will move on to write about how the public responded and what happened next.

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Filed under Acting, Arthur Ransome, Autobiography, Biography, Cinema, Claude Whatham, Film, Film Cast, Film History, Sophie Neville, Suzanna Hamilton, Swallows and Amazons, truelife story

The Film of ‘Swallows and Amazons’ as it was promoted in London in 1973 ~

Suzanna Hamilton, Stephen Grendon, Leslie Bennett, Simon West and Kit Seymour sailing the streets of London in 'Swallow'

Suzanna Hamilton, Stephen Grendon, Leslie Bennett, Simon West and Kit Seymour sailing the streets of London on polystyrene waves. 

Our first major public appearance for the promotion of ‘Swallows and Amazons’ was The Lord Mayor’s Show . For the first time since the filming we climbed into our costumes and then into Swallow who had been mounted on low-loader.  Afloat on a float, we made ready to sail through the City of London.

Sophie Neville, Suzanna Hamilton and Lesley Bennett

It must have been early November and was so very cold before we set off that we needed to keep our own coats on. We were anxious this would spoil things for people. I’m sure it would not have made much difference. Did anyone know who we were?  The film hadn’t come out. We were riding on the wave that Arthur Ransome and his books were so well loved by the people of our nation.

Stephen Grendon, Suzanna Hamilton, Lesley Bennett, Simon West, Kit Seymour and Sophie Neville in Swallow. What is the building behind us?

What was fun, if a little odd, was that it was the first time, indeed the only time, that the Swallows and the Amazons had been in a dinghy together. As we were taken through the streets of London passers-by started to wave at us and we waved back. Soon it was waves all round. Being Titty, I had Swallow’s flag to fly. John let Nancy take the tiller.

Kit Seymour, Sophie Neville, Simon West and Suzanna Hamilton together with huge crowds of Londoners ~ photo: Daphne Neville

We were amazed to find huge crowds of people had gathered and that it was all rather fun. I don’t know why but Sten must have joined my mother on the pavement by the time this shot was taken. I can see the back of his head in this next photograph. He is wearing the tartan hat Claude Whatham bought him at Blackpool fun-fair.

Jeremy Fisher Frog was leaping about in front of us, which was rather amazing. With him danced other representatives from the Tales of Beatrix Potter, The Royal Ballet’s wonderful feature film that also came out in 1973/4.  We were marking the 35th anniversary of EMI, whilst bringing the Lake District to London Town, which is something we all could celebrate.

Tamzin Neville meeting Mrs Tittlemouse

Since we didn’t have to talk to anyone, we were able to enjoy being involved in the pageant, which included so many icons of British Life.

I hadn’t met a Pearly Queen before, but there was a whole clan of them in their glorious suits, lovingly embroidered with mother of pearl buttons. I resolved to collect enough to adorn my own jacket. My favorite view was of HM the Queen’s gold state coach pulled by her lovely white horses, six in hand. I’d been to see them at the Royal Mews when we came up for my first interview at Theatre Projects offices in Longacre when I first met our director Claude Whatham.

My mother took a photograph of the Queen’s Drum Horse. Much later she found that he was a stallion, on offer as part of a British Horse Society breeding improvement scheme. He was brought over to service her Irish mare Gerty. The result was a lanky skewbald called Nimrod, an enormous gelding who Andrew Parker Bowles rejected on behalf of the British Army. This proved an error. Like most heavy horses Nimrod was just slow to grow. He eventually became a national dressage champion, although not in our hands.

The Queen’s drum horse who sired our foal, Nimrod

We have one last photograph which shows that the float in front of us depicted an EMI film crew, with 2K lights, a camera and technicians. It is studing this photograph that made  me feel that we were not in Swallow as the transom seems so differnet. I don’t suppose anyone else noticed.

Funnily enough I was in a boat for the Lord Mayor’s Show this year.  We rowed up the Thames in the Lord Mayor’s procession on Saturday 12th November.

I am on the crew of the Drapers’ Barge, Royal Thamesis a 33  foot shallop, which I last rowed on the tideway for the re-creation of Nelson’s funeral covered by Sky TV. You may have seen her taking part as the in the Queen’s Jubilee Pageants. We have been asked to take part in the procession of boats that heralds the Lord Mayor’s Show this coming November.

Sophie Neville rowing The Drapers Barge

The Drapers’ Barge ‘Royal Thamesis’ taking part in the Lord Mayor’s Show

This colour footage shows various aspects of the Lord Mayor’s procession in 1973 including the Queen’s Gold State Coach built in 1762 and a float with Daleks, which must represent Doctor Who, a series I worked on about ten years later when at the BBC.

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Filed under 1973, Acting, Arthur Ransome, Autobiography, Biography, British Film, charity, Cinema, Claude Whatham, Emi film, Family Film, Film, Film Cast, Film History, Memoir, Movie, Movie stories, sailing film, Sophie Neville, Suzanna Hamilton, Swallows & Amazons, Swallows and Amazons, Titty in Swallows and Amazons, truelife story, Uncategorized, Zanna Hamilton