Films Set In West Dorset Part Four – Weymouth And Portland

Oliver Reed Weymouth 1961

Did you see my other posts about movies with locations around West Dorset?  I’m concluding here with Weymouth and Portland. The films are mainly war films, including the 2017 summer blockbuster, Dunkirk. Not exclusively though, that’s a picture of Oliver Reed in Weymouth above, taken during the filming of Hammer Horror The Damned (see below).

Weymouth and Portland

In Which We ServeWeymouth and Portland have been used for several war and sea based dramas. Noel Coward, John Mills, and Richard Attenborough starred in the wartime drama In Which We Serve, a patriotic war film made in 1942 directed by Noel Coward and David Lean, with scenes filmed around Portland.

Cruel Sea Poster

The film adaptation of Nicholas Montsarrat’s novel The Cruel Sea (Ealing, 1953) gave a first screen role to Donald Sinden and follows the adventures of the frigate Compass Rose, under Captain Jack Hawkins during the Second World War. Barry Norman described it in his list of the Top 100 Films as “a compelling study of ordinary men doing their best in extreme circumstances”. It is not set locally, but Portland was used to film some scenes. Portland Race was used for its rough waters to portray the “cruel sea” itself (the North Atlantic in winter). Portland Docks were seen in the scene where Donald Sinden emerges exhausted after being all night watching the radar plot, and later when Jack Hawkins and Donald Sinden go to inspect their new frigate. The Harbour is seen in the final shots, when the frigate anchors for the last time.

The ship that died of shame - Richard AttenboroughThe Ship That Died of Shame (Ealing, 1955) is a black-and-white crime film starring Richard Attenborough, George Baker and Bill Owen. This story, also by Nicholas Montsarrat (although his book is not set locally), featured three demobbed sailors who rescue their old motor gun boat from the scrapyard and use it for smuggling along the south coast. It was filmed around Poole Harbour, Poole Quay, Weymouth waterfront and other places along the coast.

The Key 1958The Third Man’s director Carol Reed later directed The Key, a 1958 British war film set in 1941 during the Battle of the Atlantic. An American salvage tug captain now in the Royal Navy (William Holden) becomes involved with a beautiful Swiss-Italian woman (Sophie Loren) after being given the key to a flat. Again Portland Docks was used to replicate the wartime dockyard and  the esplanade at Weymouth was converted to look as if it was during wartime too.

The Heroes of TelemarkVarious town, dockside, and ferryboat scenes were filmed at Poole and Weymouth in another war film, The Heroes of Telemark (1965) in which the lead character (Kirk Douglas) hijacks the ship to cross the North Sea so he can obtain British help. The sea crossing / minefield scene was filmed in Weymouth Bay.

Dunkirk PosterIn 2016 filming took place in Weymouth harbour and Swanage for this summer’s blockbuster Dunkirk. Christopher Nolan’s depiction of the 1941 Dunkirk evacuation stars Tom Hardy, Sir Kenneth Branagh, Cillian Murphy,Mark Rylance and and One Direction’s Harry Styles. Having filmed on-location in France and Holland as well as Dorset, Nolan has been at pains to impart an authenticity to the film by using outdoor sets to recreate the sights, sounds and feeling of the operation. Not so accurate though, the Jurassic Skyline, only built in 2012, can be seen for a moment in the film’s trailer!

Colin Firth in The MercyIn 2015 Colin Firth was spotted on Portland filming scenes for The Mercy. It is based on the true story of the disastrous attempt by the amateur sailor Donald Crowhurst to complete in a race to sail around the world  in 1968, and his subsequent attempts to cover up his failure. The film is (finally!) due for release in February 2018. A local paper reported at the time that Colin Firth “appeared at Chesil Cove around 6pm dressed in a yellow sou’wester. A set had been built on the promenade and Firth filmed a scene where he climbs the mast of a yacht in a storm.”

The Damned Poster 1963Oliver Reed, Macdonald Carey and Shirley Anne Field starred in the Hammer Studios “apocalyptic sci-fi classic” The Damned (1963), based on H.L. Lawrence’s novel The Children of Light. The film follows a tourist in Weymouth as he gets mixed up in a military plot where radioactive children are kept hidden from the world in a secret cliff side military base. A biography of it’s director, US expatriate Joseph Losey (a 50s refugee from the Hollywood blacklist), mentions how he was “drawn to the two locations, hand-picked in Dorset: Portland Bill, a strange, bleak peninsula, and Weymouth, the old-fashioned seaside town.”  The film is generally reckoned to be the strangest Hammer one ever made. Filmed in May and June 1961, it was not released in Britain for two years, and only then in a cut-down version. It has since become something of a cult film.

And finally, back with the 1967 adaption of Far from the Madding CrowdBathsheba and Troy meet up again on the seafront in front of the Royal Hotel on the Esplanade in Weymouth, and make a sudden decision to get married.

Have a look at this short video to see Weymouth seafront in the movie, plus a dashing Terence Stamp in his prime. Not a bad sight to finish on!

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this round-up of films with West Dorset locations. Maybe you’ve been reminded of a film you haven’t seen in years? Next time you watch one see if you can spot any of the local sights. If you’re a film fan why not combine your interest with some holiday sightseeing. Explore the Jurassic Coast and beautiful countryside whilst you track down a film location or two.

West Bay is Snooty-on-sea (apparently)!

Daily Mail West Bay Photo

Well I never. Yesterday West Bay was included in a Daily Mail article about how the rich and famous are colonising Britain’s seaside hotspots. Read below what the Mail has to say about West Bay, one of the “poshest seaside towns in Britain”.

West Bay, Dorset

Celeb spotting: Pauline Quirke , Billy Bragg, Fiona Phillips.

Where to hang out: Riverside, the fish restaurant near the harbour.

Best for: Fans of TV crime dramas.

West Bay, just outside Bridport, is where TV series Broadchurch and Harbour Lights were filmed – and where Leonard Rossiter walked into the sea in The Rise And Fall Of Reggie Perrin, making the cliffs there Britain’s most famous after Dover’s white ones.

It’s on the fossil-laden Jurassic Coast, which used to attract natural history enthusiasts.

Now, the crowd is more likely to be wearing Manolo Blahniks than sandals and socks, and be celeb rather than fossil hunting.

West Bay is getting steadily more upmarket, thanks to hipsterfication of Bridport, a mile away, with its Arts Festival, and Saturday flea market, selling outrageously priced junk that Londoners insist will look fabulous in their Shoreditch flats.

In case you want to read about the other posh seaside spots too, as judged by the Mail, here’s the whole article.

Does it sound like West Bay to you?

I am a little baffled by the West Bay snooty label, the idea that the place is teeming with the rich and famous. Have you ever spotted a celebrity there? I’m not sure Pauline Quirke fits the bill of snooty celeb anyway! Surely everyone is not swanning around the local caravan holiday park wearing their Manolos? I don’t think the comment that “hipster” Bridport’s eclectic street market sells “outrageously priced junk” is true either. I love the jumble of old and new, craft and bric-a-brac. Did the reporter who wrote the article ever actually visit West Bay and Bridport? Poshest seaside town? Snooty-on-sea? No fear. I like West Bay just the way it is. A mix of places to eat, a choice of activities. Something to suit every pocket and every taste, whether snooty or not!

Films Set In West Dorset Part Three – Lyme Regis

The French Lieutenant's Woman 1981

Did you see my previous posts about films with scenes in West Dorset? This time we head west to Lyme Regis, most notably seen in adaptations of John Fowles and Jane Austen books, and in particular that famous scene. Why not head to Lyme Regis where you can check out the film locations in real life?

Lyme Regis

West Dorset is the central setting and a backdrop for a relentless manhunt by German agents operating on British soil in London and Dorset in the classic thriller novel Rogue Male written by Geoffrey Household in 1939. The book was reissued in 2014 to mark it’s 75th anniversary. The geography of West Dorset described in the book can be followed on a real map, including a local holloway.

Manhunt Poster 1941This first screen version, renamed Man Hunt (1941), was directed by the great German director Fritz Lang and shot entirely on soundstages and Hollywood-backlot studio sets. These were described as “hilariously inaccurate English backgrounds” in Halliwell’s Film Guide. The film is of local interest for the finale. Unlike the novel only the climactic final reel is set in Dorset, on Lyme Regis Undercliff, where cornered rogue-gentleman Walter Pidgeon cleverly dispatches smooth-talking Nazi agent George Sanders.
Peter 0Toole in Rogue MaleA more authentic remake, called Rogue Male, was produced in the 1970s by the BBC, starting Peter O’Toole.

In 2016 it was announced that Benedict Cumberbatch is to star in a new film adaptation of the book.

French Lieutenant's Woman 1981Lyme Regis resident John Fowles saw his book The French Lieutenant’s Woman made into a classic film (1981) starring Meryl Streep and Jeremy Irons, all filmed in Lyme Regis. One of the most memorable moments in cinema history, the scene with a solitary Meryl Streep standing at the end of the Cobb wall, in her hooded cape and waves crashing all around, made Lyme world-famous. Rumour has it that it was actually a stunt man dressed in her cloak!

Persuasion 2007Jane Austen’s last great novel, Persuasion, is in part set in Lyme Regis. Chapters 11 to 14 are set in the seaside town with the characters, who arrive in November, describing the out-of-season holiday resort. A cautionary tale with the character Louisa Musgrove “taken up lifeless” after falling on the pavement of the Lower Cobb when jumping off steps there. The 1995 BBC film and the 2007 ITV film versions of Persuasion both filmed scenes there.

The Boat that Rocked poster 2010The Boat That Rocked, a 2009 British comedy film written and directed by Richard Curtis, was filmed at Portland Harbour, Castletown on Portland, Lyme Regis and Kimmeridge. Philip Seymour Hoffman, Bill Nighy, Rhys Ifans, Nick Frost and Kenneth Branagh all play pirate radio DJ’s. It is set in the 1960s when the pirate radio stations broadcast music from ships moored just outside British territorial waters.

Films set in West Dorset will return!  Weymouth and Portland the finale…