Here’s a great seasonal present for all Dambuster film fans. Speaking on Campbell Live, a New Zealand TV show, on Monday 14 December Peter Jackson confirmed that the remake is going ahead, and that shooting is likely to start sometime next year. He is a busy man, and the bulk of the TV interview was about his newest release, The Lovely Bones, which has just concluded a series of premieres around the globe. Also on his studio’s horizon is The Hobbit, with Ian MacKellen lined up to play a role. But towards the end of the interview he said “if all goes well we’ll be shooting Dambusters in 2010″, and confirmed that ten full size Lancaster models are currently in a warehouse in Wellington.
As the moderator of NZ’s foremost aviation forum, Dave Homewood, has pointed out this interview should dispel any doubts that the project has been put on permanent hold: “Maybe you guys aren’t getting the full gen up-over” are his exact words. Thanks, Dave!
Over on the Classic British Flight Sim forum (yes, there is such a thing!) member Trevor Clark has posted a wonderful find:
Whilst installing an internet connection at a friend’s house this morning, she asked if I was interested in seeing ‘aircraft photos’ she came across in a box of old photos.What she showed me, will all be scanned and put up on the internet!!!Her uncle was Erwin Hillier, the director of photography on the 1954 Dambusters film (as well as many other famous films).The photographs are wonderful 8×10 B/W production stills, about 20 odd of them… I am not sure if they have ever been in the public domain before??
Calypsos is right. He has now posted all the pictures and I don’t think some have been seen since the 1950s, as they don’t appear to be in the BFI’s collection.
The picture above is particularly fascinating to me, as it shows the ‘crew’ of aircraft AJ-J (played by unnamed extras, who may have been real life RAF servicemen) standing behind actor George Baker, in the role of Flt Lt David Maltby, my uncle. This scene doesn’t appear in the final cut of the film. It would be fascinating to know if any unseen sequences of film remain — no special extras kept for the DVD release in those days!
Erwin Hillier is a giant in 20th century British cinematography, although his name is largely unknown to the general public, and it was his skill, along with that of director Michael Anderson and writer R C Sherriff, which made The Dam Busters such an iconic piece of cinema. I will be writing more about him another time.
UPDATE November 2014: Link to pictures updated. Click here.
Should you find yourself in the East Riding town of Goole in the next few weeks (and why wouldn’t you want to go there?) then head on down to Goole Museum and take a look at the free exhibition about the work of Barnes Wallis, which opens today. As the press release explains, Wallis was responsible for many other invention, often overlooked, beside the so-called ‘bouncing bomb’:
Widely celebrated for his wartime work on the Wellington bomber and the so-called ‘bouncing bomb’ used on the ‘Dambusters’ raid on the Ruhr dams, his other successes have often been overlooked. During the mid-1920s, Barnes Wallis was based at Howden, working on the successful R100 airship project there. The Yorkshire Howden connection is the starting point for this exhibition, which also covers not only his military work, but his subsequent investigations into supersonic flight, and projects as diverse as the Parkes Telescope in Australia, de-icing systems for Arctic trawlers, and lightweight calipers for polio victims.
The exhibition runs until the end of January – an ideal day trip for the holiday season!
It may well vanish behind a paywall again shortly, but at the moment you can read The Times’s contemporary accounts of the Dams Raid. The page available is from 19 May 1943, two days after the raid. The previous day’s papers had carried the first reports, but the story was to dominate the news agenda for several more days to come – fed by the Air Ministry’s public relations officers, who had become highly skilled at releasing information in several stages.
As I have said before, this blog is mainly concerned with events in 617 Squadron round about the time of the Dams Raid, but occasionally strays into other events during the war. This is another example!
Flg Off Joe Merchant joined 617 Squadron as a bomb aimer towards the end of the war, and was in the crew piloted by Flt Lt Price on one of the squadron’s last wartime operations (and the last one in which it sustained casualties). He dropped the Tallboy bomb which blew a hole in the German pocket battleship Lutzow. You can read the story, written by Joe Merchant’s son Vivian here.