The Big Sleep (1978)

The Big Sleep film poster- a man pointing a gun at the camera, with a women looking at his behind. Smokey red background with Big sleep written in white

The Big Sleep film poster © Incorporated Television Company (ITC)/Winkast Film Productions

Director: Michael Winner
Writers: Raymond Chandler (novel), Michael Winner (screenplay)
Starring: Sarah Miles, John Mills, Oliver Reed, Edward Fox, James Stewart, Joan Collins
Production Company: ITC Films, Winkast Film Productions
Kent Locations Used: The Royal Harbour in Ramsgate

The Big Sleep (1978) is a film adaption of Raymond Chandler‘s 1939 novel of the same name. Set in 1970’s London, private eye Philip Marlowe (Robert Mitchum) is asked by a retired general (James Stewart) to investigate who is blackmailing his family.

The detective mystery film is directed and written by Michael Winner (Death Wish, The Sentinel) and stars an array of acting talent including Sarah Miles (Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines, Blow-Up), John Mills (Dunkirk (1958), The Long Memory), Oliver Reed (The Shuttered Room (1967), Gladiator), Edward Fox (The Mirror Crack’d (1980), A Bridge Too Far), James Stewart (It’s a Wonderful Life, Vertigo) and Joan Collins (Dynasty, Esther and the King).

A black classic car parked at Ramsgate Harbour with cast members walking towards it, Boats and sea can be seen behind

The Big Sleep screenshot at Ramsgate Harbour © Incorporated Television Company (ITC)/Winkast Film Productions

a car being pulled out of the water at Ramsgate Harbour- a boat is in the water behind

The Big Sleep screenshot at Ramsgate Harbour © Incorporated Television Company (ITC)/Winkast Film Productions

The production visited The Royal Harbour in Ramsgate to film the scenes where General Sternwood’s chauffeur (Martin Potter) drives his car into the sea.

Ramsgate is a historic coastal town with England’s only Royal Harbour, stunning Victorian architecture, a sandy beach, amusements, arcades as well as shops and eateries. Ramsgate has previously been used as a film location in Big Bad World (2013), True Love (2012) and Gypo (2006).

The Big Sleep (1978) was released on Monday 13th March 1978 and is now available on DVD.

For more information about Kent’s Filming History please visit our Movie Map.


Dunkirk (1958)

Dunkirk Movie Poster - a line of soldiers walking through the water, with planes in the sky, Dunkirk written in red in the sky

Dunkirk Movie Poster © Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM)

Director: Leslie Norman
Writer: David Devine and W.P. Lipscomb
Starring: John Mills, Robert Urquhart, Ray Jackson, Meredith Edwards, Bernard Lee, Richard Attenborough, Sean Barrett, Maxine Audley
Production Company: Ealing Studios
Kent Locations Used: Teston Bridge

In the summer of 1940, over 300,000 troops were evacuated from the shores of Dunkirk. Ten years later, Dunkirk (1958) was filmed, commemorating this iconic event.

As the Blitzkrieg starts, a squad of British infantry led by Corporal “Tubby” Binns (John Mills (Great Expectations (1946), The Family Way) is sent into Belgium to face the German forces. But as the Allies are slowly pushed out of Belgium into France and the German army advances towards Calais, the British troops have to retreat. Left behind without their commanding officer, the squad barely manage to stay ahead of the advancing enemy. But their biggest challenge is yet to come as the Luftwaffe repeatedly bombs the harbour where the soldiers are meant to embark for home.

Early in the film, scenes show the soldiers in Belgium where they blow up a bridge as German troops advance over it. However, eagle eyed viewers will recognise that it is in fact in Teston near Maidstone! The Grade I listed bridge was constructed in the 14th or 15th Century and crosses the River Medway.

Like many districts in Kent, Maidstone has its fair share of historic locations and villages. Near Maidstone is the picturesque village of Harrietsham. The historic village contains a number of listed buildings and featured in the 1949 classic Kind Hearts and Coronets.

Dunkirk (1958) was released on Thursday 20th March 1958 and is now available on DVD.

For more information about Kent’s Filming History please visit our Movie Map.

The Long Memory (1953)

The Long Memory film poster- a man and women hugging, the man is faced away from the camera. The Long Memory written in yellow

The Long Memory film poster © General Film Distributors (GFD)

Director: Robert Hamer
Starring: John Mills, John McCallum, Elizabeth Sellars
Production Company: J. Arthur Rank Organisation, Europa, British Film-Makers
Kent Locations Used: Gravesend, Stangate Creek

The Long Memory (1953) is a black and white 1953 film based on the 1951 novel of the same name by Howard Clewes. The crime thriller is about Philip Davidson (John Mills) who is wrongfully convicted for murder and given parole after 12 years. Will Philip choose revenge upon the witnesses who lied during the trial, or give himself a fresh start?

Directed by Robert Hamer (Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949), The Loves of Joanna Godden (1947)), the film stars John Mills (The Big Sleep (1978), Dunkirk (1958)), John McCallum (Lady Godiva Rides Again (1951), The Loves of Joanna Godden (1947)) and Elizabeth Sellars (The Barefoot Contessa, Forbidden Cargo).

Queen Street and Granby Road in Gravesend feature in the film as the locations for the two Tim Pewsey residences.

black and white image of Stangate Creek, with a wooden fence in front

The Long Memory screenshot at Stangate Creek © General Film Distributors (GFD)

 Gravesend street at night with a man in a trench coat walking away from the camera down the middle

The Long Memory screenshot at Gravesend © General Film Distributors (GFD)

The marshes of the Medway Estuary around Stangate Creek and Iwade were used as the location where Phillip Davidson’s (John Mills) barge is moored.

The historic market town of Gravesend is on the south bank of the River Thames and boasts a cast iron pier, promenade and high street. The area is easily accessible with train links at the nearby Ebbsfleet International station and is close to the M25. The Gravesend area has previously welcomed film productions such as The Interceptor (2015), Babylon (2014) and Age of Heroes (2011).

Stangate Creek is part of the River Medway and has been used as a film location by productions such as Mr Turner (2014), feature film adaption Great Expectations (2012) and the BBC’s Great Expectations (1999).

The Long Memory (1953) was released on Friday 23rd January 1953 and is now available on DVD.

For more information about Kent’s Filming History please visit our Movie Map.

Great Expectations (1946)

a man holding a boy up by his collar in front of graves in a cemetery

Great Expectations (1946) © Cineguild

Director / Writer: David Lean
Starring: John Mills, Valerie Hobson, Tony Wager, Bernard Miles, Martita Hunt
Production Company: Cineguild, National Symphony Orchestra
Kent Locations Used: St Mary’s Marshes, The River Medway

Great Expectations (1946) was the first of David Lean’s (Lawrence of Arabia, The Bridge on the River Kwai) two adaptations of Dickens’ classic novels (Oliver Twist followed in 1948).  The film tells the story of young Pip (Tony Wager (Runaway Island, Silent Number)), a good natured orphan, who lives with kind blacksmith Joe Gargery (Bernard Miles (The Man who Knew Too Much, Tawny Pipit)) and his often abusive wife “Mrs. Joe”. Whilst visiting the graves of his deceased parents he meets an escaped convict named Abel Magwitch. In fear for his life Pip agrees to get the man some food before he is discovered and captured again.

Pip’s fortunes appear to change with the arrival of Miss Havisham (Martita Hunt) in his life. A tragic recluse, Miss Havisham lives in one room in her large house surrounded by memorabilia from her ill-fated wedding. Inviting Pip to her home to amuse her, she encourages her spiteful daughter Estella to break his heart. Eventually Pip (John Mills) attracts the attention of a mysterious benefactor who pays for him to travel to London and learn to be a gentleman in the hope of him achieving his “great expectations”.

Restoration House in Rochester was Dicken’s inspiration for“Satis House”, the decaying mansion of Miss Havisham. Faithful to Dickens, the production carefully reproduced Restoration House in Denham Studios in Buckinghamshire. Restoration House is the amalgamation of two medieval buildings that were combined in the 16th or 17th century. A Grade 1 listed building, it is rumoured that Charles II stayed there the night before he was restored to the throne, thus giving the building its name.

The River Medway and the adjacent St Mary’s Marshes appear in scenes where Pip and his friend, Herbert Pocket, row their boat to a small inn whilst waiting for the Paddle Steamer to arrive. Their boat later crashes into the Paddle Steamer in one of the most dramatic scenes in the film. The Paddle Steamer used in the film is called the The Empress which was owned by Weymouth Company Cosens & Co and brought down to Kent especially for the shoot. It is often confused with the Kent based “Kingswear Castle” Paddle Steamer that featured in the BBC 1999 drama of Great Expectations and the 1998 drama of Our Mutual Friend. The Kingswear Castle is still in use today and offers members of the public tours along the river starting at its base at The Historic Dockyard in Chatham.

Sheila Townsend’s Grandad, Jimmy Ennew, was a freeman of the river Medway and rented his row boat ‘The Ivy’ to the production team for filming.  Sheila was 14yrs old at the time and remembers the excitement of sitting on the pier watching the filming.

Although the film features several important Kent locations, the novel on which the adaptation was based showcases many more. The church where Pip visits the graves of his deceased parents and has his first terrifying encounter with Magwitch was based on St James’ Church in Cooling. In the novel, Dickens mentions 5 lozenge shaped graves where Pip’s brothers were buried. It is believed that he was inspired by the 13 graves of the same shape within the church graveyard.

The tranquil park behind Rochester Cathedral, once a vineyard planted by monks from St Andrews Priory, is a convenient route for modern day tourists visiting the Cathedral to visit Restoration House in Crow Lane. In Dickens’ time the location was an open space and in his Great Expectations novel he chose it to form the last part of Pip’s regular route to visit Miss Havisham and Estella. Dickens based the character of Miss Havisham on an old woman who was his neighbour at his childhood home of Number 2 (now number 11) Ordnance Terrace in Chatham.

Great Expectations (1946) was released on Monday 16th December 1946 and is available on DVD.

For more information about Kent’s Filming History please visit our Movie Map.