The Railway Children (film)

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For the book, see The Railway Children. For the 2000 TV adaptation, see The Railway Children (TV film).
The Railway Children
TheRailwayChildren.jpg
DVD cover
Directed by Lionel Jeffries
Produced by Robert Lynn
Written by Lionel Jeffries
Starring Jenny Agutter
Gary Warren
Sally Thomsett
Dinah Sheridan
Bernard Cribbins
William Mervyn
Ann Lancaster
Narrated by Jenny Agutter
Music by Johnny Douglas
Cinematography Arthur Ibbetson
Edited by Teddy Darvas
Production
company
Distributed by MGM-EMI (UK)
Universal Pictures (USA)
Release dates
  • 21 December 1970 (1970-12-21)
Running time 110 minutes
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Budget £500,000[1]

The Railway Children is a 1970 British drama film based on the novel of the same name by E. Nesbit. The film was directed by Lionel Jeffries, and stars Dinah Sheridan, Jenny Agutter (who had earlier featured in the successful BBC's 1968 dramatisation of the novel), Sally Thomsett and Bernard Cribbins in leading roles. The film was released to cinemas in the United Kingdom on 21 December 1970.

The film rights were bought by Lionel Jeffries. It was his directorial debut, and he was also responsible for writing the screenplay for the film. The Railway Children turned out to be a critical success, both at the time of its release and in later years. It has gone on to gain a place in several surveys of the greatest films ever made, including surveys conducted by the British Film Institute and Total Film magazine.

Plot[edit]

The story follows the adventures of the Waterbury children, who are forced to move with their mother (Dinah Sheridan) from a luxurious Edwardian villa in the London suburbs to "Three Chimneys", a house near the fictional 'Great Northern and Southern Railway' in Yorkshire, as the father (Iain Cuthbertson), who works at the Foreign Office, has been imprisoned as a result of being falsely accused of selling state secrets to the Russians.

The three children, Roberta (Bobbie) (Jenny Agutter), Phyllis (Sally Thomsett) and Peter (Gary Warren), find amusement in watching the trains on the nearby railway line and waving to the passengers. They become friendly with Albert Perks (Bernard Cribbins), the station porter, and with the Old Gentleman who regularly takes the 9:15 down train. Meanwhile, to earn money to survive during her husband's absence, Mother writes and sells stories to magazines.

After many adventures, including saving the lives of dozens of passengers by alerting a train to a landslide, rescuing a Russian dissident, Mr Szczepansky, and uniting him with his family, and caring for Jim, the grandson of the Old Gentleman, who is injured whilst participating in a paper chase, Bobbie eventually discovers the truth of her father's absence and appeals to the Old Gentleman for his help. He is eventually able to help prove their father's innocence, and the family is reunited.

Cast[edit]

End credits[edit]

The entire cast break the fourth wall and perform a curtain call as the credits roll. The camera moves slowly along a railway track towards a train which is decked in flags, in front of which all of the cast are assembled, waving and cheering to the camera.

At the start of the credit sequence, a voice can be heard shouting "Thank you, Mr Forbes" as an acknowledgement to Bryan Forbes, who put up a security for the film to be completed.[citation needed] Meanwhile, Jenny Agutter holds up a small slate on which "The End" is written in chalk and says "Goodbye" as the credits conclude.

Production[edit]

Sally Thomsett was cast as the 11-year old Phyllis, despite being 20 years old at the time. Her contract forbade her to reveal her true age during the making of the film and she was also not allowed to be seen smoking or drinking during the shoot.[2] 17-year old Jenny Agutter played her older sister, Roberta, and Gary Warren played their brother, Peter. Dinah Sheridan was cast as Mother, and Bernard Cribbins as Perks the porter.

Filming locations[edit]

Lionel Jeffries used the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway, and its station at Oakworth, as the backdrop for the film, referring to it as the "Great Northern and Southern Railway".[3] At the time of filming there were still very few heritage railways in Britain, and only the KWVR could provide a tunnel, which is important in a number of scenes. The tunnel is a lot shorter in reality than it appears in the film, for which a temporary extension to the tunnel was made using canvas covers.[4]

A number of working locomotives were used in the making of the film, including MSC67, 5775 (L89), 52044 (Preserved as L&Y 957) and 4744 (69523/1744), all of which survive. They were painted in fictional liveries for the filming; 5775 in brown, reminiscent of the Stroudley livery of the London Brighton and South Coast Railway, 957 in apple green, similar to liveries used by the North Eastern Railway, Great Northern Railway and London and North Eastern Railway, and 4744 and MSC67 in plain black, as used by most railway companies in Britain at one time or another. 67 is now at the Middleton Railway, Leeds, and 4744 is now with the Great Central Railway at Loughborough. 5775 and 957 are still on the Keighley & Worth Valley Railway. As of 2014, 4744 is the only locomotive that remains operational as 957, 5775 and 67 are on static display at the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway, National Railway Museum Shildon and the Middleton Railway respectively.

A wide variety of vintage rolling stock was used in the film, including examples from the Metropolitan and London and North Eastern railways. Although different carriages appeared in different liveries, the dominant one is white and maroon, which is reminiscent of the livery of the Caledonian Railway. The most important carriage in the film, the Old Gentleman's Saloon, was a North Eastern Railway Director's Saloon, that has been used since in the stage production of the book. It and all the other carriages seen in the film are still at the KWVR, but tend to be used at special events only, due to their age.

A number of different locations were employed for various scenes. The house called "Three Chimneys" is in Oxenhope, just north of the Oxenhope railway station. The Bronte Parsonage in Haworth was used as the location for Doctor Forrest's surgery. The scenes of the children sitting on a bridge were filmed at Wycoller near Colne. Mytholmes Tunnel near Haworth, and the railway line running through it, were used extensively in the film, including being the location for the paper chase scene, as well as the one in which the children wave the girls' petticoats in the air to warn the train about a landslide. The landslide sequence itself was filmed in a cutting on the Oakworth side of Mytholmes Tunnel and the fields of long grass where the children waved to the trains are situated on the Haworth side of the tunnel. A leaflet, "The Railway Children Walks", is available from KWVR railway stations or the Haworth Tourist Information Centre.[5]

Release[edit]

The film was the ninth most popular movie at the British box office in 1971[6] and recouped its cost in that country alone. It was one of the few financial successes of Bryan Forbes' regime at EMI Films.[7]

Critical reception[edit]

Since its release, the film has received universally good reviews; it holds a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 6 reviews.

Home media[edit]

A 40th anniversary Blu-ray and DVD was released on 5 May 2010 with a new digitally remastered print. It includes new interviews with Sally Thomsett, Jenny Agutter and Bernard Cribbins. The planned commentary by director Lionel Jeffries was not completed due to his death in February 2010.

Awards and nominations[edit]

The Railway Children received three nominations for awards at the 24th British Academy Film Awards ceremony. Bernard Cribbins was nominated in the category of Best Supporting Actor. However in a category also featuring John Mills, Colin Welland and Gig Young, the award went to Welland for his role in the film Kes. Sally Thomsett received a nomination for Best Newcomer in a Leading Role but again lost out to an actor from Kes, in this case David Bradley. Johnny Douglas was also nominated for the Anthony Asquith Award for Film Music but the award was won by Burt Bacharach for his film score for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.[8]

Merchandise[edit]

Hornby Railways produced a 00 Gauge train set of the train from the film. It had a London, Midland and Scottish Railway 0-6-0 tank shunting locomotive in GN&SR livery with Synchrosmoke, two period coaches, an oval of track and a station. It was very popular with children,[citation needed] and it is highly sought after today as a collectors' item.

In 2010, to coincide with the 40th anniversary, a book was brought out called The Making of the Railway Children by Jim Shipley - a former volunteer station master of Oakworth Station. It detailed events that took place during filming and interviews from local people associated with it. In November 2012, a second updated version was printed with added information, in particular about Gary Warren who disappeared in the mid 70's after retiring from acting. He had been tracked down by a member of the Official Catweazle fanclub and the author had permission to write a more updated version of what had happened to him.

Legacy[edit]

The film has left a lasting impression on the British film industry and audiences. In 1999, the British Film Institute (BFI) put The Railway Children in 66th place in its list of the Top 100 British films of all time. Five years later, the film magazine Total Film named it the 46th greatest British film of the 20th century. In 2008, the film made it onto Channel 4's list of the 100 Greatest Family Films at number 30 just behind Men in Black and Ghostbusters. On 28 March 2010 the Bradford International Film Festival concluded with a new restoration of The Railway Children film with the 40th anniversary digital premiere.[9]

Jenny Agutter also starred in a made-for-TV remake of The Railway Children in 2000 in the role of Mother. Much of the publicity for the 2000 film focused on Agutter's involvement in both films made a generation apart.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Merete Bates, 'Look, no sex: MERETE BATES on the filming of 'The Railway Children' ',, The Guardian (1959-2003) [London (UK)] 4 June 1970: 10.
  2. ^ The 100 Greatest Family Films. Granada Television. 2005. 
  3. ^ "screenonline: Railway Children, The (1970)". screenonline. British Film Institute. Retrieved 27 November 2009. 
  4. ^ "Keighley and Worth Valley Railway". Haworth Village. Retrieved 2013-06-02. 
  5. ^ "The Railway Children Walks". Keighley and Worth Valley Railway. Retrieved 2013-06-02. 
  6. ^ Peter Waymark. "Richard Burton top draw in British cinemas." Times [London, England] 30 Dec. 1971: 2. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 11 July 2012.
  7. ^ Walker, Alexander, Hollywood England, Harrap and Stein, 1974 p 426-432
  8. ^ "IMDb: BAFTA Awards: 1971". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 27 November 2009. 
  9. ^ "The Railway Children - Bradford International Film Festival 2010". [Yorkshire Daily Photo]. Retrieved 30 March 2010. 

External links[edit]