The filming of Whistle Down the Wind, one of the most iconic films of the 20th century, has been documented in a book to mark its 60th anniversary
Author Neil Brandwood has been praised for his ‘evocative account’ of the filming of Whistle Down the Wind, with world renowned actors and producers recalling the ground-breaking move to use local children from Downham, with no acting experience, in the movie.
Meticulously researched and four years in the making, Whistle Down the Wind: A 60th Anniversary Celebration has been classed as the definitive account of the classic British film.
It is a fascinating insight into a much-loved story – from its origins as a children’s novel, which went on to become a film starring Alan Bates in the lead role and then an Andrew Lloyd Webber musical.
At the heart of Neil’s book is what it was like to be a part of a magical film, which continues to charm audiences the world over.
A small group of children from Downham were chosen by producer Richard Attenborough and director Bryan Forbes to co-star alongside Hayley Mills who was, at the time, the biggest child star in the world.
Now pensioners, those children reflect on their unique experience and take the reader behind the scenes, as Neil explains: “Whistle Down the Wind has always been a favourite film of mine and I was curious as to what happened to the children who appeared in it.”
When Neil discovered it had been filmed in the tiny Ribble Valley village of Downham, he visited the local ice-cream shop – only to discover that he had just missed Diane Poole one of the actors who played Hayley Mills’ sister, Nan, in the film.
Diane recalls: “Whistle was very special to us. I’m delighted that Neil has been able to document our collective experience.”
Through Diane, Neil tracked down other child actors who had appeared in the film: “The more I spoke to people the better the insight I got into the filming,” adds Neil, who was invited to Surrey to the home of Nanette Newman, the wife of the film’s director Bryan Forbes: “Through Nanette I got in touch with Michael Attenborough, the son of Richard Attenborough, the film’s producer, who gave me access to his father’s personal archives.
“I was then able to contact Hayley Mills, whose mum had written the book in the 1950s. I learnt how they came to adapt the book to a film and how they went about finding local children to appear in the film. They told me all about their experiences – apart from Hayley Mills and Roy Holder all the other child actors had no experience at all. The authenticity it brought to the film was truly ground-breaking.
“They didn’t have scripts. The director just had a quiet word with them before filming started and they often left the camera running,” adds Neil, who has received praise for his book from the likes of Judi Dench, Alan Bennett and Ben Kingsley.
With a foreword written by Hayley Mills, Whistle Down the Wind: A 60th Anniversary Celebration is available in paperback and ebook from Amazon
All profits will go to Marie Curie