The Big Sleep 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, The Mechanic) and stars an array of acting talent including Sarah Miles (Blow-Up, Hope and Glory, The Servant), John Mills (Gandhi, Bean, Great Expectations), Oliver Reed (Gladiator, Oliver!, Tommy), Edward Fox (The Day of the Jackal, Never Say Never Again, The Bounty), James Stewart (Rear Window, It’s a Wonderful Life, Vertigo) and Joan Collins (Benidorm, Dynasty, The Bravados).
The production visited The Royal Harbourin 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 was released in 1978 and is now available on DVD.
Based on: “The Big Pickup” by Trevor Dudley Smith, and “Dunkirk” by Major J.S. Bradford and Lt. Col. Ewan Butler
Starring: John Mills, Robert Urquhart, Ray Jackson, Meredith Edwards, Bernard Lee, Richard Attenborough, Sean Barrett, Maxine Audley
Production Company: Ealing Studios
Kent Filming Locations: Teston Bridge
In the summer of 1940, over 300,000 troops were evacuated from the shores of Dunkirk. Ten years later, Dunkirk was filmed, commemorating this iconic event.
As the Blitzkrieg starts, a squad of British infantry led by Corporal “Tubby” Binns (played by John Mills) 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.
The film was released in 1958 and is now available on DVD.
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 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, Dead of Night, Father Brown), the film stars John Mills (Gandhi, Bean, Great Expectations), John McCallum (Skippy, Boney, Attack Force Z) and Elizabeth Sellars (The Barefoot Contessa, The Chalk Garden, The Day They Robbed the Bank of England).
Queen Street and Granby Road in Gravesend feature in the film as the locations for the two Tim Pewsey residences.
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).
Written By: Charles Dickens (Novel) & David Lean (Adaptation)
Starring: John Mills, Valerie Hobson, Tony Wager, Bernard Miles and Martita Hunt
Production Company: Cineguild, National Symphony Orchestra
Kent Locations Used: St Mary’s Marshes, The River Medway
Great Expectations was the first of David Lean’s two adaptations of Dickens’ classic novels (Oliver Twist followed in 1948). The film tells the story of young Pip (Tony Wager), a good natured orphan, who lives with kind blacksmith Joe Gargery (Bernard Miles) 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 Dicken’s, the production carefully reproduced Restoration House in Denham Sudios 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 Paddlesteamer to arrive. Their boat later crashes into the Paddlesteamer in one of the most dramatic scenes in the film. The Paddlesteamer 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” Paddlesteamer 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 was released in 1946 and is available on DVD.
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