Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Last Escape

A British World War II veteran whose efforts to help prisoners escape from a Nazi camp was immortalised in the film "The Great Escape" has died aged 97, it was announced Wednesday.

Alex Lees was a prisoner at the infamous Stalag Luft III camp in March 1944 when scores of Allied servicemen escaped through tunnels they had dug by hand.

Lees was a gardener at the camp who helped dig the tunnels, but because he was not an officer he was not given the chance to escape himself.

He used an ingenious system to dispose of the soil from the three tunnels, storing it in a bag hidden under his trousers and then dumping it on the camp's vegetable garden.

The story of Lees and his comrades was made into the 1963 film starring Steve McQueen.

The servicemen painstakingly dug three tunnels -- called Tom, Dick and Harry -- around 10 metres (33 feet) underground, using tools made from tin cans. The tunnels' walls were supported with wood scavenged taken from camp beds and old furniture.

The men launched their escape on March 24, 1944. Seventy-six managed to flee Stalag Luft III before the plot was uncovered -- but only three made it back to Britain.
A total of 23 were recaptured and sent back to camp, and the remaining 50 were executed.

Lees praised the filmmakers for producing an accurate version of events, telling the Paisley Daily Express newspaper: "It was just the way it was portrayed in 'The Great Escape' movie.

"I had been given the job of looking after the garden and I would take the dirt out to the vegetable patch, rake away the top soil, dump the earth and then cover it back up.

"The German guards never suspected a thing."

Lees, who spent his final years in a home for former servicemen in Erskine near Glasgow, was cremated on Wednesday.

Millions Like Us

Hi All.

Just a quickie to let you know of an error in pics ml003 and ml004. They should have been take further west than they have. The 'bombed out' building in the original stills is the Cavendish Hotel which is located in Eastbourne on Grand Parade between Devonshire Place and Burlington Place.

The photographer should have realised this as an earlier still shows Devonshire Place through the building's rubble.

I'm not sure if the hotel existed then as it does now (i.e. the whole block wide), but the damaged part of the building was rebuilt in a modern style.

Regards, Ian Bolton.

Hi again Jon & Co,

Further to my previous e-mail could you also note that pic ml001n should be of Devonshire Place and not Terminus Place as spotted by Mike Scott. Please find attached an aerial pic to show the area.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Director Ken Annakin dies at 94

British film-maker Ken Annakin, who directed World War II films "The Longest Day" and "Battle of the Bulge," has died in Los Angeles, it was reported Thursday. He was 94.

This picture taken in 1957 shows US actor Rod Steiger (L) talking with his director Ken.

Annakin, who also directed the "The Swiss Family Robinson" and "Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines," passed away at his home in Beverly Hills on Wednesday, his family told the Los Angeles Times.

Born in Beverley, Yorkshire in 1914, Annakin directed more than 50 films in a five-decade movie career.

He was one of several co-directors on the star-studded 1962 World War II epic "The Longest Day" which featured John Wayne, Gregory Peck, Henry Fonda and Robert Mitchum amongst others.

Robert Wagner, who worked with Annakin on 1968 crime caper "The Biggest Bundle of Them All," described the film-maker as someone who "just loved the movies, and he brought so much enthusiasm to it."

"He had a tremendous curiosity and up until the end of his life, he was still involved with the intrigue and the romance of making movies," Wagner told the Times.

Jill Serjeant, copyright.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Statue of comedy kings unveiled

Hundreds of people have gathered in Stan Laurel's hometown as a statue of the comedian and his sidekick Oliver Hardy was unveiled.

The duo, who captivated early cinema-goers with their slapstick mishaps, have been immortalised with a £60,000 bronze sculpture in Ulverston, Cumbria.

The statue of the pair leaning against a lamppost has been placed in the town's County Square, where Stan brought Ollie in 1947 and the famous duo waved from the balcony of the Coronation Hall to a huge crowd of fans below.

It was unveiled by comic Ken Dodd, who arrived with Stan and Ollie look-a-likes in a vintage Model T Ford.

After the unveiling, the crowd sang the Laurel and Hardy tune, We Are The Sons of the Desert, from the movie Sons of the Desert.

Laurel was born Arthur Stanley Jefferson in Ulverston's Argyll Street in June 1890 and remained there until he moved to North Shields, Tyneside, at the age of seven.

He met Hardy in 1926 when both were working at the Hal Roach Studios in Hollywood.

In a partnership lasting 31 years, Stan and Ollie appeared together in 106 short films and motion pictures, spanning the silent era until the 1950s.

Their career together ended in 1956 when Hardy, who was born in Georgia, US, suffered a heart attack and died a year later.

Laurel was honoured with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Oscars in 1961 and died in February 1965.

Source: Yahoo

Friday, April 17, 2009

Cosh Boy

Luvley stuff but........

Call me a disbeliever:
I think is a set.

Look at the badly painted on brick-work, and where is the big garden bush shown in the long shots?
One can see the top of the basement windows, when it should show greenery.

Look like a set too
The bush is too small.

Logical really, cos the long shots would be a quick take, but all those folk coming in and out of the front door would take days to shoot and light. It would have meant closing off the road and attracting crowds of on-lookers.

Brother Brian

Thursday, April 16, 2009

"Carry On" producer Peter Rogers dies

Yesterday, 06:03 pm Reuters

Film producer Peter Rogers, who was behind the hit British "Carry On" comedy films, has died aged 95, Pinewood Studios announced on Wednesday.

Rogers died at his home in Buckinghamshire on Tuesday following a short illness, according to British media.

"We were saddened to learn of Peter Rogers' passing," Ivan Dunleavy, chief executive at Pinewood Shepperton, said in a statement.

"Peter was an institution at the studios. As a prolific film producer, he worked at Pinewood Studios since the 1960s.

"The 'Carry On' films, for which he was most well known ... were enjoyed by millions internationally and will always remain a part of modern British culture."

The 31-strong "Carry On" franchise, popular for its innuendos and slapstick humour, began with "Carry On Sergeant" in 1958 and went on to feature nurses, doctors, teachers, spies, cowboys and even Henry VIII and Cleopatra.

It starred the likes of Kenneth Williams, Sid James, Barbara Windsor and Leslie Phillips.
According to Phillips, there were arguments between Rogers and the "Carry On" actors over how much they were paid.

"We all argued about the money he paid us, but I am in a fortunate position and I could move on," Phillips was quoted as saying by the Telegraph newspaper.

"Some of the others, who have died, weren't able to and if they were alive today I would be interested to see what they would say.

"Since he made all those people famous the world has changed in every conceivable way. Contracts were not sorted out in those days ... I can afford to say I loved Peter. I was very fond of him and his wife," Phillips told the newspaper. Rogers was married to fellow producer Betty Box, who died in 1999.

(Reporting by Mike Collett-White; Editing by Bob Tourtellotte)

Un Giorno Nella Vita

I know this is a bit of a long shot but I was wondering if you could help me track down a copy of an Italian fim called Un Giorno Nella Vita directed by Alessandro Blasetti and released in 1946.

My late father took part in this film (presumably as an extra) when he was in the British army in Rome at the end of the war. He is prominent in some of the publicity stills which I have. Do you know of any video outlet or fim society which might be able to help me find a copy?

Alan Walker

A loyal and humble subscriber to Reelstreets

Sorry, no. But do any of our readers have a clue?

Here is a picture from the film Un Giorno nella Vita. That's my father on the left in British uniform.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Peeping Tom and Optimists of Nine Elms

Hello John,

Just joined Reelstreets, its a brilliant site, have had great fun looking through the stills especially of Bloomsbury and many other areas in London that I know.

I was brought up in Bloomsbury and upon looking at Pt002, Ptoo29, Ptoo2an and Ptoo2b from the Film Peeping Tom, these stills are listed as Rathbone Street and Percy Street in Bloomsbury. I'm being pedantic, they are actually in the West End i.e. W1.

In the still opo042 from "Optimists of the Nine Elms" with Peter Sellars, the blurb at the bottom says "could this be the steps of the arcade in Russell Square", well I dont think it is, it is actually called "the Brunswick Centre".

The Brunswick Centre steps are situated in Brunswick Square and built on the site of the house I was brought up in.

I am not sure by the way the picture has been shot whether it IS the Brunswick Centre. I'll check it out next time I'm around there.



Sunday, April 12, 2009


"Paisà" picture "psa031b"

The place is in Rome, Via Lutezia 11 (the building with the arch) where Federico Fellini and Giulietta Masina lived (actually the apartment belongs to my family) and where Fellini wrote with Roberto Rossellini, Sergio Amidei and Celeste Negarville the screenplay "Roma Città Aperta".

Excellent personal information from Federico De Rosa, many thanks.

So although the scene is set in Firenze, it apparently was actually filmed in Roma!

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Film sites

Walk in the trail of zombies, visit Sick Boy's pub or peep into Derek Jarman's garden

Oliver Bennett, Catherine Shoard, Bibi van der Zee, Vivien Devlin and Gavin Bell
The Observer, Sunday 5 April 2009
Article history

Derek Jarman in the garden at his home in Dungeness. Photograph: Geraint Lewis/Rex Features

The French Lieutenant's Woman, Cumbria

Broad Leys, a huge house overlooking Lake Windermere, is considered the masterpiece by Arts and Crafts architect FA Voysey, and featured in the film The French Lieutenant's Woman as the house Meryl Streep lives in at the end of the film. It is now the headquarters of the Windermere Motor Boat Club, which allows paying guests to stay in its four bedrooms.

• Ghyll Head, LA23; 015394 43284

Oliver Bennett

Get Carter, Gateshead

Look slippy if you want to tour the dilapidated multi-storey car park in Trinity Square that Michael Caine chucks his enemy off in Get Carter. Tyneside council have slated it for imminent demolition, and even now only seven of the 11 floors are viewable. Many of the sinister boozers visited by Caine in the movie are no more either, but you can have an authentically grim time at the West Road crematorium and at Newcastle racecourse (High Gosforth Park, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE3), both featured in the crime classic.

Catherine Shoard

Michael Winner's nudie films, Hertfordshire

It's the oldest naturist sun-club in the UK, and 1929-vintage Speilplatz - a mini-village of chalets hidden from view in Hertfordshire's leafy lanes - remains open to those who wish to disrobe for the day (you'll have to become a member). Spielplatz also has an illustrious past as the place where many "nudie" films of the 1950s and 60s were shot, including Nudist Paradise, Naked As Nature Intended, The Nudist Story, Sunswept and Some Like It Cool - directed by an ambitious young Michael Winner.

• Lye Lane, Bricket Wood, St Albans, AL2; 01923 672126


Eden Lake and Carry Ons, Buckinghamshire

Eden Lake (2008) is a grisly horror film with a heavily ironic title: what appears to be a forest idyll perfect for a romantic mini-break is actually a lawless deathtrap overrun by homicidal chavs, plus dogs and even more vicious parents. The location was Burnham Beeches, Buckinghamshire - a popular choice for film-makers on account of its ancient foliage and proximity to Pinewood studios. Almost every period rural flick has wheeled its dolly through these trees, including Robin Hood, King Arthur, First Knight, Wind in the Willows, The Company of Wolves, Circle of Friends and no less than four Carry On films. CS

The Ladykillers, Shaun of the Dead and Somers Town, King's Cross, London

Avoid the Harry Potter fans posing by the luggage trolley wedged in the wall at "platform 9½" inside King's Cross station, and head instead up York Way and into the canal-and-skips hinterland that used to be the streets immortalised in Ealing comedy The Ladykillers. Bits and bobs remain: the gas works, that railway signal over Copenhagen Street where Alec Guinness meets his maker. The Goods Yard, off York Way, opposite Copenhagen Street, was where Shaun of the Dead's zombie clubbers went to The Cross nightclub, which has since closed. Walk on, via Cheney Road (as seen in Nuns on the Run and Chaplin), round the back of Camley Street nature reserve (where Jude Law and Robin Penn Wright have a row in Anthony Minghella's Breaking and Entering) and from there into Somers Town, the location of the Shane Meadows film of the same name. The launderette where the boys hang out, as well as the Golden Tulip cafe where they nurse their crushes on a French waitress, are both real, and both located on the fringes of Phoenix Court, a low-rise council estate on Purchese Street.CS

Derek Jarman's garden, Kent

It's hard to stand out on Dungeness peninsula, in a landscape where all is strange, windswept, and in which the nuclear power station looms in the background. But somehow the tiny cottage and garden of the film-maker Derek Jarman, whose films included Caravaggio, The Last of England and The Garden, and who died in 1994, does just that. It is still looked after and preserved in the same form: the same yellow woodwork against the dark timbers of the house, the driftwood and seaweed that seem to unite the garden with the nearby sea. There's no formal way of visiting, and it's too small for that anyway: you just have to gawp from the road and hope that no one is in that day.

• Prospect Cottage, Dungeness Road, Romney Marsh, TN29 Bibi van der Zee

Last Orders, Margate

Increasingly a byword for faded seaside grandeur, bloody-nosed immigrant conflict and seedy backstreet sex, this Thanet town has seen so little investment over recent decades that a daytrip there is indeed like stepping into a scarily authentic film set. The elderly fairground attraction, Dreamland, is now out of action, but you can gaze at the rotting big dipper, and at the crumbling tower block from Pawel Pawlikowski's political asylum romance Last Resort that rises up behind the park. Or else you can trot down the prom where Bob Hoskins scatters Michael Caine's ashes in the last scene of Last Orders. CS

Golden Eye, London

The mausoleum at Brompton Cemetery on London's Fulham Road regularly does a decent close-focus impersonation of Cambridge's sandstone spires. The gravestones are quite something, too - as seen in Eastern Promises, Golden Eye, Guy Ritchie's new Sherlock Holmes film, The Wings of the Dove and Stormbreaker. CS

I Know Where I'm Going!, Mull

Powell and Pressburger's 1945 masterpiece features Wendy Hiller as a headstrong London gal who finds herself stranded on a remote Scottish island and won over by Roger Livesy's secretly-minted laird. But devotees need to be brave to follow in her footsteps: it was filmed largely on the most dangerous and windswept outcrops of Mull, though the mysterious Corryvreckan Whirlpool - one of the largest of its kind on the planet and the most dangerous stretch of water around Britain - lies between Jura and Scarba. From there it's a short, if queasy, boat ride to Barra, where they shot Whisky Galore. CS

Howard's End, south-east England

As well as being a five-star, quintessentially English piece of cinema, Howard's End showcases some of London's best architecture, including Admiralty Arch, Chiswick Mall, Royal Holloway College in Egham, the Baltic Exchange, Wigmore Hall and Borough market, as well as a clutch of bucolic rural retreats in Worcestershire and Oxfordshire. Set piece must-sees are Fortnum & Mason's, on Piccadilly, where Ruth (Vanessa Redgrave) and Margaret (Emma Thompson) do their Christmas shopping, and Simpson's-in-the-Strand, where you can merrily recreate the carvery scene between Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson. You can even spend the night at the St James Court Hotel ( in Westminster, aka the Wilcox's London flat. CS

Trainspotting, Edinburgh

Irvine Welsh's blisteringly bleak portrait of a group of young Edinburgh heroin addicts captured the voice and attitudes of Britain's disaffected, working-class youth. The best way to experience Welsh's colourful Leith landscape is to take the Trainspotting Tour to visit the haunts of Begbie, Renton, Tommy and Sick Boy, exploring the real-life locations of Sick Boy's pub, Central Station and police station, with Tim Bell as your enthusiastic and knowledgeable guide.

• 0131-555 2500

Vivien Devlin

Local Hero, Banffshire

Pennan is home of the phone box made famous in the film Local Hero in 1983. The film features a scene in which Burt Lancaster calls the phone box, which triggered a real-life pilgrimage by people all over the world to the phone box to await his call. The phone box is now a listed building and there were (now defunct) plans in 2006 for it to be the subject of a world record for squeezing the most people inside.

• Pennan harbourside to the right of the car park

Gavin Bell

Top Gear Cancels Italian Job Stunt

A proposed recreation of the last scene in The Italian Job has been cancelled by Top Gear producers due to costs.

The BBC said that the team were "disappointed" but the cash needed to recreate the stunt could "go further elsewhere", reports PA.

The film's cliffhanger ending involves the robbers at one end of the perilously tipped coach with their gold balanced at the other, followed by Charlie Croker's line: "Hang on a minute lads. I've got a great idea."

The idea apparently came about after James May heard that the Royal Society Of Chemistry was asking members of the public to help solve the mystery of saving the gold and the lives of those in the bus as part of a competition.

A corporation spokesperson said: "We thought it would be brilliant to recreate The Italian Job scene, so we were disappointed when, having spent a lot of time researching all the options thoroughly with the Royal Society of Chemistry, we found that the cost of the stunt was massively prohibitive for one short film in one programme.

"We've got a set budget and we think we can make that money go further elsewhere."

The Society said in a statement that it was shocked that "a team of self-proclaimed petrol-heads" had missed a "great opportunity" to celebrate the film.

Article by Sarah Rollo, Digital Spy

Thursday, April 02, 2009

A Kind of Loving

Hi John,

I'm Nick Summers, newly subscribed to your excellent site.

I'm trying to find out the name of the church in the park scenes in the above.I don't think it exists anymore. A chap called Richard Hamer posted some info in september 2006 and i think he could help.

Is it possible you may have a contact number for him, if not could you advise how i could exchange info via the site.