Dunkirk (film)

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Dunkirk
Dunkirk VideoCover.jpeg
Directed byLeslie Norman
Produced byMichael Balcon
Written byJ.S. Bradford (book)
Ewan Butler (book)
David Divine (screenplay)
StarringJohn Mills
Richard Attenborough
Bernard Lee
Music byMalcolm Arnold
CinematographyPaul Beeson
Editing byGordon Stone
StudioEaling Studios
Distributed byMGM
Release dates10 September 1958 (1958-09-10)
Running time134 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom
LanguageEnglish
 
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Dunkirk
Dunkirk VideoCover.jpeg
Directed byLeslie Norman
Produced byMichael Balcon
Written byJ.S. Bradford (book)
Ewan Butler (book)
David Divine (screenplay)
StarringJohn Mills
Richard Attenborough
Bernard Lee
Music byMalcolm Arnold
CinematographyPaul Beeson
Editing byGordon Stone
StudioEaling Studios
Distributed byMGM
Release dates10 September 1958 (1958-09-10)
Running time134 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom
LanguageEnglish

Dunkirk is a 1958 British war film directed by Leslie Norman and starring John Mills, Richard Attenborough and Bernard Lee.[1][2] It was based on two novels: Elleston Trevor's The Big Pick-Up and Lt. Col. Ewan Hunter and Maj. J. S. Bradford's Dunkirk.[3]

Plot[edit]

The film relates the story of Operation Dynamo, the evacuation of surrounded British and French troops from the beaches of Dunkirk. It does so principally from the viewpoints of two people: a newspaper reporter and a soldier.

Corporal "Tubby" Binns (John Mills), Lieutenant Lumpkin and their platoon return to their camp after blowing up a bridge, only to discover that their company has left during the night, leaving them alone in France. One man and a truck have been left to wait for them, but he and Lumpkin are killed in a bomber attack, leaving Tubby in charge with no idea what the situation is. It is up to Tubby to keep his increasingly demoralised men on the move. Unsure of where to go, they dodge the advancing Germans and reach a Royal Artillery battery camp. They receive some food, before being ordered to go to Dunkirk, where the rest of the British Expeditionary Force and tens of thousands of French soldiers are gathering, hoping to be evacuated. Eventually, they get a lift in an RAF lorry and reach the beaches.

Parallel to this action is the story of Charles Foreman (Bernard Lee), a pessimistic journalist who tries unsuccessfully to rouse his complacent readers before it is too late. With the Germans rapidly winning the Battle of France and threatening to destroy the Allied forces bottled up around Dunkirk, the British Admiralty commandeers all available civilian boats to aid the evacuation. Foreman insists on taking his motorboat Vanity himself, despite warnings of the danger. Others follow his example. An acquaintance, Holden (Richard Attenborough), a motor engineer and businessman, self-satisfied with the profits he has made from the Phony War, does the same with some reluctance. However, as time goes by, his lack of commitment melts away.

The men on the beaches are subjected to regular aerial bombing and strafing. Tubby and his men get aboard a ship, only to have it blown up and sunk before it can depart.

After ferrying soldiers to the larger vessels, Foreman's boat is destroyed by a bomber. He survives and is picked up by Holden in the Heron. When Heron's engine malfunctions, one of Tubby's men effects repairs, while Foreman and teenage crewman Frankie go ashore to survey the scene. Foreman and Tubby discuss who is responsible for the debacle. During a Sunday morning church parade, Foreman is fatally wounded in an attack by German aeroplanes. However, Holden, Tubby and his men arrive safely back in Britain.

Cast[edit]

Production[edit]

The film's beach sequences were shot at Camber Sands in south east England. The scene where the bridge was blown during the early part of the film was on the River Medway at Teston Bridge, Teston in Kent.[4]

The wartime Dunkirk town centre was recreated using part of Rye Harbour in Sussex, England. A canal-type bridge was temporarily constructed over the upper harbour, leading on to the quayside. It was over this bridge that the refugees and troops poured into the 'town centre'. Several scenes take place at this location, particularly a tracking shot following two British Army officers as they discuss the situation. In the background, the viewer can make out Rye Church, and also some old warehouses which still exist, albeit in much restored condition. One of the warehouses was used as the interior for the 'Barn Scene'.

Reception[edit]

The film was the second most popular production at the British box office in 1958.[5]

In popular culture[edit]

A still from the film, showing Sean Barrett's character Frankie praying, was used as the cover art for the 1985 UK release of the single How Soon is Now? by The Smiths. The band's US record company judged that the still appeared to show Barrett holding his crotch, and substituted a different design.[6]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Variety film review; 26 March 1958, page 6.
  2. ^ Harrison's Reports film review; 23 August 1958, page 134.
  3. ^ http://www.allmovie.com/work/dunkirk-90149
  4. ^ Kent Film Office. "Kent Film Office Dunkirk Film Focus". 
  5. ^ Alec Guinness "world's biggest box-office attraction" The Manchester Guardian (1901-1959) [Manchester (UK)] 2 Jan 1959: 5.
  6. ^ David Bret (2004). Morrissey: Scandal & Passion: p.58

External links[edit]