The Clouded Yellow

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The Clouded Yellow
The Clouded Yellow FilmPoster.jpeg
Directed by Ralph Thomas
Produced by Betty E. Box
Written by Eric Ambler
Janet Green
Based on story by Green
Starring Trevor Howard
Jean Simmons
Sonia Dresdel
Music by Benjamin Frankel
Cinematography Geoffrey Unsworth
Edited by Gordon Hales
Carillon Films
Distributed by Rank Film Distributors (UK)
Columbia Pictures (USA)
Release date
  • 21 November 1950 (1950-11-21) (UK)
  • 12 November 1951 (1951-11-12) (US)
Country United Kingdom
Language English

The Clouded Yellow is a 1950 British mystery film directed by Ralph Thomas and produced by Betty E. Box for Carillon Films.

Plot synopsis[edit]

After leaving the British Secret Service, David Somers (Trevor Howard) finds work cataloging butterflies at the country house of Nicholas and Jess Fenton. (The "clouded yellow" of the title is a rare species of butterfly.) After the murder of a local gamekeeper, suspicion wrongly falls on their niece, Sophie Malraux (Jean Simmons).

Somers helps Sophie to escape arrest and they go on the run together, Somers using his secret-service skills and contacts to evade the police. After a cross-country chase they arrive at Liverpool with the intention of leaving the country by ship. The true identity of the murderer is revealed in a climax on a warehouse roof.




Ralph Thomas and Betty Box had both worked for Sydney Box, first collaborating when Thomas did the trailer for Miranda (1948). They found they had a rapport, so when Shepherd's Bush Studio shut down, and Thomas left Sydney Box to go under contract to the Rank Organisation, Betty Box came with him. Their first film together was The Clouded Yellow. It was made for Box's company, Carillon Films.[1]

The Clouded Yellow was based on an original script by Janet Green. It was developed by Sydney Box but he had decided to take a year long absence and gave the project to Box and Thomas.[2] Green was paid £1,000.[3]

Betty Box managed to secure a distribution contract with Rank, which enabled her to borrow enough money to finance 70% of the budget. Box managed to raise the rest from Rank and the National Film Finance Corporation, each putting up fifty percent.[4]

Jean Simmons, who had made So Long at the Fair with Box, agreed to play the lead. Trevor Howard was borrowed from Herbert Wilcox, who had him under contract, to play the male lead. Betty Box had signed all 48 of the contracts required by the bank when James Laurie of the NFFC decided he did not like the contract and withdrew his company's finance until that was done. Rank refused to provide Box with finance to tide her over, so the producer borrowed the money against her own home. "I obviously wasn't happy about the situation, particularly as it was through no fault of my own", Box later wrote.[4]

"It was a brave thing for her to do and she didn't tell me until the picture was finished", said Thomas.[5]

Thomas and Box wanted further work done on the script by Janet Green was unavailable. Eric Ambler was hired to do work on it.[4]


Shooting took place in Newcastle, Liverpool and the Lake District. Production coincided with a crisis in the British film industry – Betty Box says it was the only film being made in England in the first half of 1950.[6] Finance did not come through until five weeks into the film. Nonetheless Thomas later says "I quite enjoyed making" the movie.[7]

Maxwell Reed said his role was "not a big part but it's the best I've ever had."[8] The supporting cast features a young Kenneth More.[9]

A significant proportion of the action in the middle of the film was shot on location in Newcastle upon Tyne, featuring scenes on the quayside, the area around the Castle Keep and the Central Station, and the suburb of Jesmond. Some scenes were filmed in Liverpool's China Town, Toxteth, Liverpool Docks and on the Liverpool Overhead Railway. The railway closed in 1956 and later dismantled.


The movie benefited from publicity arising out of Jean Simmons' engagement and marriage to Stewart Granger.[10] It was also helped by the fact Trevor Howard and Simmons were among the most popular stars at the British box office.[11][12]

Box later wrote "the film finally opened to very good press notices and even better business, and the teething problems were forgotten as the tills started ringing sweet music. I found I'd done a better deal for myself than I realised – every time I'd had to put up another unit of finance I was due for an extra percentage of profit – and I felt that at last justice was being done. The profits were useful for keeping my head above water as Ralph and I prepared our next production and I looked out for good film stories to buy."[13]

"I'm rather proud of that film", said Thomas. "Jean Simmons was lovely in it, so was Trevor Howard; it was a very good movie. And Sonia Dresdel was very good value for money; they don't make them like her any more – wonderful bravura."[5]

The Observer called it "a very foolish picture".[14] However, the New York Times was one of the film's many admirers, saying that 'A first-rate job of fast film-making in a crisp, naturalistic style, up and down the actual face of England, has been accomplished by all hands.'[15]

Thomas and Box would make a number of other thrillers in their career, including The Venetian Bird.[16]


  1. ^ "She Still Governs the Stars". The Age (29,887). Victoria, Australia. 10 February 1951. p. 9. Retrieved 30 May 2016 – via National Library of Australia. 
  2. ^ Andrew Spicer, Sydney Box, p 138
  3. ^ Women Screenwriters: An International Guide edited by Jill Nelmes, Jule Selbo p 633
  4. ^ a b c Box p 55
  5. ^ a b Brian McFarlane, An Autobiography of British Cinema 1997 p 557
  6. ^ Box p 54
  7. ^ Collected Interviews: Voices from Twentieth-century Cinema by Wheeler W. Dixon, SIU Press, 2001 p109
  8. ^ "The King Has Been Kept Waiting, Too". Truth (3151). New South Wales, Australia. 18 June 1950. p. 44. Retrieved 30 May 2016 – via National Library of Australia. 
  9. ^ Thompson, Howard (29 May 1955). "From The 'Windmill' to the 'Sea'". New York Times. Retrieved 16 November 2016. 
  10. ^ "Wedding bells mean journeys for Jean Simmons". The Australian Women's Weekly. 30 December 1950. p. 31. Retrieved 30 May 2016 – via National Library of Australia. 
  11. ^ "Hope tops list for popularity". The Mail. 40 (2,013). Adelaide. 30 December 1950. p. 5 (Sunday Magazine). Retrieved 30 May 2016 – via National Library of Australia. 
  12. ^ "Bob Hope Best Draw in British Theatres". The Mercury. CLXVIII (24,969). Tasmania. 29 December 1950. p. 4. Retrieved 30 May 2016 – via National Library of Australia. 
  13. ^ Box p 56
  14. ^ LEJEVNE, C A (26 Nov 1950). "At the Films Lost M the Snow". The Observer. London (UK). p. 6. 
  15. ^ New York Times review, 13 Nov. 1951, in
  16. ^ HOWARD THOMPSON (14 Sep 1952). "BY WAY OF REPORT: Box -- Thomas Activities -- Cinema 16 Plans --". New York Times. p. X5. 

External links[edit]