Friday, November 22, 2013

Swallows and Amazons meet DEBAUCHED pirate!

Along with many boaters in blighty I have fond memories of the Swallows and Amazons series of books by Arthur Ransome.

Rather than having our eyes glued to playboxes or xstations our heads were full of phrases like "better drowned than duffers" (call child protection services NOW!) and "we didn't mean to go to sea" (honest mum!) before being pushed out of doors to get some fresh air while parents reveled in the peace and quiet.

There was even a film (trans. movie for you yanks) of the first book which was ok but not great, partly because it's the first of the books and you got the feeling Ransome was learning the writing ropes and discovering his characters.

While the children, their mums, the lake and the boats were all as I imagined them, the uncle, aka retired pirate Captain Flint, wasn't quite right.

But according to an ebook recently published by the woman who was Titty (above front, titter ye not) it turns out he was channeling the pirate spirit all right with numerous drunken sessions. The grown up multi-talented Sophie Neville said:

“The film ends with Ronald Fraser playing 'What shall we do with the drunken sailor?' on his accordion. As a twelve-year-old I noted in my diary that he was completely sloshed at the time.”

As you might expect when shooting in the Lake District, rain stopped play (or rather filming) rather a lot.

There's more over on the Telegraph web site and some real gems on Sophie Neville's site including a catch-up with the actor who was Captain John. She asked how he spent the fee they earned and he replied:

‘Oh, sailing dinghies.  It was good to know I had £500 in the bank around the time I was heading towards the British Championships. You know, at first we had ply board hulls but the time came when I needed to buy a fibreglass boat.’ 

It was with this that he became the National Optimist Champion.

Ransome would so have approved!


Tillerman said...

What wonderful stories about the filming. I especially like the bit about Captain John spending his 500 quid on a fiberglass Optimist and winning the nationals.

JP said...

Apparently he wasn't happy that they faked some of the sailing shots by doing them by a jetty.

Good lad!

Tillerman said...

Unfortunately the DVD of the movie is not available in the US.

Did you know that John Paul played Captain Flint in the TV adaptation?

JP said...

I never knew there was a tv series until you mentioned it and then googled it. I was thrown by its IMDB entry with a new character called "Kitty" Walker and then it clicked....

The TV series of the "Big Six" was rather confusingly called "Swallows and Amazons for ever" and as every ful kno neither group are in that book. However that TV series had two Doctor Who's in the cast and had as researcher the girl who had been Titty so maybe worth a look.

Sophie Neville said...

So glad that you are enjoying the story of how the film of 'Swallows & Amazons' was made in 1973. Have you managed to get hold of the ebook yet?

If you live in the USA you can play the DVD of the movie on your computer screen.

If you go to my blog
you can find posts about making the BBC adaptation of 'Coot Club and 'The Big Six' broadcast under the title 'Swallows and Amazons Forever' (as we were hoping to dramatise more of the books). Julian Fellowes played one of the Hullabaloos, so you can see him as he was in 1983. There is a DVD available on Amazon. The opening titles are a bit dated but otherwise it great - a pretty timeless story. I'm pretty sure Arthur Ransome wold have approved.

Do leave comments on my blog; its great to have feedback. The last few posts include comments from Ronald Fraser's driver. It's a good thing the Telegraph didn't interview him.


Sophie Neville

JP said...

Hi Sophie - thank's for the comments!

I've just bought the eBook and am reading it now - very enjoyable. It's making want to see the film again and no doubt it will come round again on a wet bank holiday or something.

Must admit I did find the BBC's show's use of S&A for the two books not including the S&As a bit odd but that must be the magic that is TV

Graeme Edgeler said...

Must admit I did find the BBC's show's use of S&A for the two books not including the S&As a bit odd but that must be the magic that is TV

It was planned as a series - they were going to do other books later, but it became too expensive so that was scrapped.

Sophie Neville said...

Good to hear you are enjoying the ebook. People keep writing in to ask for a print version, but it was good to be able to include the home-movie clips.

It was confusing that 'Coot Club' was given an S&A title but the series was quite good, certainly for its time. I worked on the production for 9 months - three times as long as I worked on the feature film as a child. Everyone is urging me to write about how that drama was made now.

You can find DVDs of both pretty cheaply on eBay or Amazon.

Do let me know what you think of the eBook when you reach the end!