The Long Good Friday

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The Long Good Friday
Theatrical release poster
Directed by John Mackenzie
Produced by Barry Hanson
Written by Barrie Keeffe
Starring Bob Hoskins
Helen Mirren
Music by Francis Monkman
Cinematography Phil Meheux
Black Lion Films
HandMade Films
Calendar Productions
Distributed by Paramount British Pictures
Release date
Running time
114 minutes
Language English
Budget £930,000

The Long Good Friday is a British gangster film[1] starring Bob Hoskins and Helen Mirren. It was completed in 1979,[2] but because of release delays, it is generally credited as a 1980 film. The storyline weaves together events and concerns of the late 1970s, including low-level political and police corruption, IRA fundraising, displacement of traditional British industry by property development, UK membership of the EEC, and the free-market economy. It was voted at number 21 in the British Film Institute's list of the top 100 British films of the 20th century, and provided Bob Hoskins with his breakthrough film role.


Harold Shand is the kingpin of the London organised crime underworld and is trying to convince the American mafia to go into partnership with him, with plans to redevelop the London Docklands, including building a casino. However, his world is suddenly destabilised by a series of unexplained murders (including Harold's best friend, Colin) and exploding bombs from an unknown foe. He and his henchmen try to uncover his attackers' identity while trying not to worry their American visitors, who Harold believes will not go into business with him if they think he's not in full control of his affairs. The situation worsens when a pub in which they are about to have dinner at is blown up and Harold's partner, Victoria, tells the Americans that they are under attack from an unknown enemy. She suspects that Harold's right hand man, Jeff, knows more than he has been letting on about the attacks, while Jeff simultaneously starts to fear that Harold might be onto him and tries to prevent people from talking through intimidation.

After some detective work, Harold confronts Jeff, who confesses that he sent Harold's friend Colin on a job to Belfast to deliver money raised by Irish Navvies (construction workers) to the IRA. When Harold discovers Jeff accepted a job to deliver funds to the IRA, he becomes extremely angry and vows to destroy the IRA in London. Jeff advises against this and explains that the IRA aren't just annoyed about some of the money which had gone missing, but also wrongly hold Harold responsible for the murder of three IRA men. Under intense questioning, Jeff confesses that the IRA threatened to kill him and he was so scared that he "put the finger" on Harold, who loses his temper and kills him with a broken whisky bottle. Harold forces Councillor Harris to organise a meeting with the IRA, and appears to offer them £60,000 in return for a ceasefire but double-crosses them by having them shot and killed along with Harris.

Having taken out the top men, Harold believes his problem is solved and travels to the Savoy Hotel to share the news with his Mafia partners. When he arrives, he finds the Americans are preparing to leave, spooked by the attacks from the IRA. Harold snubs them with a short but powerful speech, saying he has lost all respect for the Mafia and accuses them of American arrogance. He finishes by telling them he has new German partners and that their services are no longer required. Harold leaves the hotel and gets picked up by his chauffeur and bodyguard, only to find the car has been commandeered by two IRA men who hold him at gunpoint. He sees Victoria being held in another car by more IRA men and, realising he is sure to be murdered, sits in silence, displaying a range of emotions.


Main roles[edit]

Minor roles[edit]

Many of the actors playing these un-named parts became famous for their later work.


The film was directed by John Mackenzie and produced for £930,000[3] by Barry Hanson from a script by Barrie Keeffe, with a soundtrack by the composer Francis Monkman; it was screened at the Cannes, Edinburgh and London Film Festivals in 1980.[4]

Under the title "The Paddy Factor",[5] the original story had been written by Keeffe for Hanson when the latter worked for Euston Films,[3] a subsidiary of Thames Television. Euston did not make the film but Hanson bought the rights from Euston for his own company Calendar Films.[3] Although Hanson designed the film for the cinema and all contracts were negotiated under a film, not a TV agreement, the production was eventually financed by Black Lion, a subsidiary of Lew Grade's ITC Entertainment for transmission via Grade's Associated TeleVision (ATV) on the ITV Network.[4] The film was commissioned by Charles Denton, at the time both Programme Controller of ATV and Managing Director of Black Lion.[3] After Grade saw the finished film, he allegedly objected to what he saw as the glorification of the IRA.[2]

The film was scheduled to be televised with heavy cuts on 24 March 1981.[4] Because of the planned cuts, in late 1980, Hanson attempted to buy the film back from ITC to prevent ITV screening the film. The cuts, he said, would be "execrable"[3][4] and added up to "about 75 minutes of film that was literal nonsense".[2] It was also reported at the same time that Bob Hoskins was suing both Black Lion and Calendar Films to prevent their planned release of a US TV version in which Hoskins' voice would be dubbed by English Midlands actor David Daker.[4]

Before the planned ITV transmission the rights to the film were bought from ITC by George Harrison's company, Handmade Films, for around £200,000 less than the production costs.[2] They gave the film a cinema release.[6]


  1. ^ Guardian review
  2. ^ a b c d Mark Duguid "Long Good Friday, The (1979)", BFI Screenonline
  3. ^ a b c d e "Association of Independent Producers' magazine, September 1980.
  4. ^ a b c d e "Producer seeks a £1m buyer...": news report in movie trade magazine Screen International, 22 November 1980.
  5. ^ Bloody Business: The Making of The Long Good Friday, documentary film, 2006
  6. ^ Robert Sellers, Always Look on the Bright Side of Life: The Inside Story of HandMade Films, Metro, 2003, pp. 56–70.

External links[edit]