After a recent tour of the Outer Hebrides I thought that it was the right time to revisit, what is regarded as one of the best of the comedies to come from the Ealing Studios, Whisky Galore! It was released in 1949, which was a peak year for the studios with Passport to Pimlico and Kind Hearts and Coronets also released that year.
Based on Compton Mackenzie’s 1947 novel of the same name, which it self was based on a real life incident that occurred in 1941 on the Hebridean island of Eriskay when the SS Politician ran aground with its cargo of malt whisky. The movie is set in 1943 and the Island of Todday is in disaster mode when it runs out of whisky, the staple tipple of the Outer Hebridean Island and because WW2 is still going full swing there is a problem replenishing the islands stock. That is until a freighter on its way to America with 50000 cases of the uisge-beatha runs aground off the foggy coast. After the crew abandon the ship and before it sinks the locals organise to relieve the ship from its cargo. All seems fine until the Sassenach captain of the Home Guard calls in Customs and Excise officers to spoil the Islanders enjoyment of their ill-gotten gains.
Whisky Galore! was directed by American born Scottish director Alexander Mackendrick who also directed other classics including The Man With The White Suit (1951), The Maggie (1954) and The Lady Killers (1955). The film stars Basil Radford as the formidable Captain Waggett, Wylie Watson as the wily storekeeper Joseph Macroon and the sultry Joan Greenwood as his daughter Peggy. Also involved in the shenanigans are James Robertson Justice, a very young Gordon Jackson, John Gregson and Finlay Currie whose voice can be heard narrating the movie. Also seen in a wee cameo role is the novels author as the SS Cabinet Ministers captain.
Although the original incident took place on Eriskay the film was shot on location on the neighbouring island of Barra and main settlement of Castlebay can easily be recognised from the main street heading to the shore with Kisimul Castle in the background and the Catholic Church that overlooks the town centre. The movie brings out the closeness of the islands community and their way of life including the observance of the Sabbath which continues, for example on some parts of the Outer Hebrides where you can not purchase a Sunday paper until Monday. It’s also a grand example of how ordinary working folk can triumph over bureaucracy. Not to be confused with any inferior remakes.
|Eriskay Restaurant named after the original ship.|