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Sunday, April 7, 2013

Whistle Down the Wind (1961) Hayley Mills, Alan Bates


Whistle Down the Wind (1961) Hayley Mills, Alan Bates

Whistle Down the Wind is a 1961 British film, directed by Bryan Forbes, screenplay by Keith Waterhouse and Willis Hall, from the novel by Mary Hayley Bell.

Hayley Mills as Kathy Bostock
Bernard Lee as Mr. Bostock
Alan Bates as The Man
Norman Bird as Eddie

The script was based on a novel of the same name by Mary Hayley Bell, and her daughter, Hayley Mills, played the leading role. Alan Bates, in his first starring film role, played the man in the barn. Local schoolchildren from the villages around Burnley and Clitheroe, Lancashire were used as extras and in particular children from Chatburn Primary School played the "disciples" in the film. The theme music from the film, by Malcolm Arnold, became a classic.

The film contrasts the children's innocent faith with the pragmatic and suspicious adults in the town. Heavy in allegory, many of the characters and events parallel those found in historical Christian literature. In one scene, a child is mocked and beaten into denying he had seen Jesus. After the boy's third denial, a train whistle is heard (representing Peter’s denial in Luke 22).

The strains of 'We three kings' can be discerned in the score as Kathy, her brother and sister march with the food 'gifts' they have acquired for the man in the 'stable'. They are spotted and followed by a group of country children (shepherds). The early core of children who are in on the secret number a dozen and are specifically called The Disciples in the cast list.

The secret comes out at the end of a children's party/Last Supper. When the apprehended Blakey is being frisked by police, his posture, with arms outstretched to his sides, is a clear reference to the Crucifixion.

The film was favourably reviewed upon its original release, including praise from The New York Times. The film was nominated for four BAFTA (British Academy of Film and Television Arts) awards:

Best British Actress, Hayley Mills
Best British Film, Bryan Forbes
Best British Screenplay, Keith Waterhouse and Willis Hall
Best Film from any Source, Bryan Forbes

The film was popular at the box office. By 1971 it had earned a profit of over £240,000.  Bryan Forbes later said it was the most popular and profitable film he ever made.


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