|Directed by||Leslie Norman|
|Produced by||Michael Balcon|
|Written by||J.S. Bradford (book)
Ewan Butler (book)
David Divine (screenplay)
|Music by||Malcolm Arnold|
|Edited by||Gordon Stone|
|Release date(s)||10 September 1958|
|Running time||134 minutes|
Dunkirk is a 1958 British war film directed by Leslie Norman and starring John Mills, Richard Attenborough and Bernard Lee. 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.
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.
Meanwhile a pessimistic journalist named Charles Foreman (Bernard Lee) tries unsuccessfully to rouse his complacent readers on the home front from the notion of a Phoney War before it is too late. The Germans rapidly take the initiative in the Battle of France threatening to destroy the Allied forces bottled up around Dunkirk.
In response the British Admiralty commandeers all available civilian boats to help evacuate the troops from the beaches. 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 Phoney War, does the same with some reluctance. However, as time goes by, his lack of commitment melts away.
The soldiers 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.
- John Mills as Cpl. "Tubby" Binns
- Robert Urquhart as Pte. Mike
- Ray Jackson as Pte. Barlow
- Meredith Edwards as Pte. Dave Bellman
- Anthony Nicholls as Military spokesman
- Bernard Lee as Charles Foreman
- Michael Shillo as Jouvet, a French reporter
- Richard Attenborough as John Holden
- Sean Barrett as Frankie
- Victor Maddern as Merchant seaman in pub (Maddern himself was a wartime merchant seaman)
- Maxine Audley as Diana Foreman, Charles' wife
- Bud Flanagan as Himself
- Chesney Allen as Himself
- Kenneth Cope as Lt. Lumpkin
- Denys Graham as Pte. Fraser
- Barry Foster as Despatch Rider, who directs Tubby to the artillery camp
- Warwick Ashton as Battery sergeant major
- Peter Halliday as Battery major in France
- Ronald Hines as Pte. Miles (battery crew)
- Roland Curram as Pte. Harper (battery crew)
- John Welsh as Staff colonel
- Lloyd Lamble as Staff colonel
- Cyril Raymond as General Viscount Gort, VC
- Nicholas Hannen as Vice-Admiral Ramsey at Dover
- Eddie Byrne as Commander (Tough's Yard)
- Patricia Plunkett as Grace Holden, John's wife
- Michael Gwynn as Commander at Sheerness
- Michael Bates as Froome
- Christopher Rhodes as Sergeant on the beaches
- Lionel Jeffries as Medical colonel
- Harry Landis as Dr. Levy, a military doctor working on the beach
- John Horsley as Padre
- Patrick Allen as Sergeant on parade ground
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.
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'.
The film was the second most popular production at the British box office in 1958. According to MGM records it earned only $310,000 in the US and Canada but $1,750,000 elsewhere, resulting in a profit of $371,000.
- The Eddie Mannix Ledger, Los Angeles: Margaret Herrick Library, Center for Motion Picture Study.
- Variety film review; 26 March 1958, page 6.
- Harrison's Reports film review; 23 August 1958, page 134.
- Kent Film Office. "Kent Film Office Dunkirk Film Focus".
- Alec Guinness "world's biggest box-office attraction" The Manchester Guardian (1901-1959) [Manchester (UK)] 2 Jan 1959: 5.
- David Bret (2004). Morrissey: Scandal & Passion: p.58
- Dunkirk at the Internet Movie Database
- Dunkirk at AllMovie
- Dunkirk (film) at the TCM Movie Database
- Dunkirk at BFI Screenonline