The Maggie

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The Maggie
The Maggie original poster.jpg
Original British quad-sized poster
Directed by Alexander Mackendrick
Produced by Michael Balcon
Michael Truman
Screenplay by William Rose
Story by Alexander Mackendrick
Starring Alex Mackenzie
Paul Douglas
Cinematography Gordon Dines
Ealing Studios
Distributed by GFD (UK)
Universal Pictures (US)
Release date(s)
  • 25 February 1954 (1954-02-25) (UK[1])
  • 30 August 1954 (1954-08-30) (US)
Running time 92 minutes
Country United Kingdom
Language English

The Maggie (released in the U.S. as High and Dry) is a 1954 British comedy film. Directed by Alexander Mackendrick and written by William Rose, it is a story of a clash of cultures between a hard-driving American businessman and a wily Scottish captain.

It was produced by Ealing Studios at a time when rural Scotland was seen as a popular backdrop for light family entertainment (other examples include I Know Where I'm Going!, Whisky Galore! and Geordie, and British Transport Films such as The Coasts of Clyde).

The story was inspired by Neil Munro's short stories of the Vital Spark and her captain, Para Handy.[2][3]


The Maggie is a small, aged boat, a typical Clyde puffer. MacTaggart (Alex Mackenzie), a rascal of a captain, is in dire need of 300 pounds to renew his licence. By chance, he meets Mr Pusey (Hubert Gregg) at the office of a shipping firm. Pusey, a proper Englishman, complete with bowler hat and umbrella, is trying to arrange for the transportation of some personal furniture for his boss, American Calvin B. Marshall (Paul Douglas), but the big company has no ships immediately available. MacTaggart gets the job when Pusey mistakenly believes that he works for the reputable shipping company and that the more modern vessel docked next to the Maggie is MacTaggart's.

Marshall eventually learns the truth and sets out in pursuit of the boat by aeroplane and hired car. When he catches up with MacTaggart, he puts Pusey on board to ensure the cargo is transferred to another boat. But his underling is no match for the captain; he ends up in jail on a charge of poaching. Marshall realizes that he will have to handle the matter personally. After another costly chase, he boards the boat himself to spur its progress. However, the route and timing of the voyage is determined by local community priorities.

Marshall's hostile attitude gradually softens somewhat. He is particularly touched by the loyalty of the "wee boy", Dougie (Tommy Kearins), to his captain. At one point, when Marshall threatens to buy the boat from the owner, MacTaggart's sister, and sell it for scrap, Dougie drops a board on him, knocking him unconscious.

At one of the stops, to attend the one hundredth birthday of a man, Marshall chats with a nineteen-year-old girl who is pondering her future. She has two suitors, an up-and-coming, ambitious store owner and a poor fisherman. The American advises her to choose the former, but she believes she will marry the latter, explaining that he will give her his time, rather than just things. This strikes a chord with Marshall. He is having marital difficulties and the furniture is an attempt to patch things up with his wife.

As they finally near their destination, the engine stops working and the boat drifts onto some rocks. The only way to save the Maggie is to jettison the cargo. Despite this setback (and MacTaggart's failure to insure the furniture), Marshall allows him to keep the money he so desperately needs. In appreciation of his magnanimity, Mactaggart renames his boat the Calvin B. Marshall.



The Maggie was played by two Hays boats in the film, the Boer and the Inca. Much of the film was shot on location at Islay.

The film uses real placenames as far as the Crinan Canal, then switches to fictional placenames once they get through it.

DVD releases[edit]

The film is available as part of the Region 2 Ealing Comedy DVD Collection, released in April, 2003. Other movies in the set include Whisky Galore!, Champagne Charlie, and It Always Rains on Sunday.

In Region 1, it is part of the Ealing Studios Comedy Collection, released in April, 2005, along with Whisky Galore!, Passport to Pimlico, A Run for Your Money and The Titfield Thunderbolt.


  1. ^ Times Digital Archive: First advert in The Times, 25 February 1954, page 2
  2. ^ Osborne, Brian D.; Armstrong, Ronald (1998). Echoes of the Sea. Canongate. p. 405. 
  3. ^ Jack, Ian (2003-09-20). "Letting off steam". The Guardian (Guardian News and Media). Retrieved 2008-11-25. 

External links[edit]