Dedicated to the work of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger and all the other people, both actors and technicians who helped them make those wonderful films.
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IKWIG 60th Anniversary
28 - 31 November 2005
Submitted by Nicolas Maclean:
60th anniversary of I Know Where I'm Going
By Nicolas Maclean
This year is the centenary of the birth of Michael Powell, one of Britain's greatest film directors, an event celebrated at the 2005 Cannes Film Festival, but it is also the 60th anniversary of the first showing of one of his most famous and influential films I Know Where I'm Going!. It was not only included in Barry Norman's 'Hundred Greatest Films' and declared a key formative influence by US Director Martin Scorsese, but was also probably Powell's favourite. That is doubtless why he called his son Columba, born seven years after the making of the film. Mull and Iona had left a lasting impression. The film has an extraordinary power, beauty and magic, and reveals more of its mystery with each viewing. Most of it was filmed on Mull during 1944 and 1945, though some at Denham Studios.
As several scenes were filmed in the Western Isles Hotel in Tobermory, the hotel's Resident Proprietors Vivien and Paul Thomson supported the initiative of Robert Beveridge of Napier University, Edinburgh, and Steve Crook, Head of PaPAS, the Powell Pressburger Appreciation Society, to commemorate the anniversary with a three-day gathering of over 40 fans, including from Hollywood and Connecticut in the USA and from Australia and New Zealand, as well as from all over the UK, including people from Mull and other parts of Argyll connected with the making of the film such as Jimmy Robb, Katie Turner and Allan MacInnes. Jessie and Ronnie Gordon had brought their photograph album of the making of the film at the then Pennycross House (now Carsaig House) and Carsaig Pier, which provoked keen interest.
The weekend started on a Friday evening with the famous Gin and Dubonnet cocktails portrayed in the film and a screening at the Western Isles Hotel, and the following day was devoted to a tour of key Mull locations in the film. The most significant was Moy Castle at Lochbuie, outside which Val Simpson and Nicolas Maclean of Pennycross were asked to reenact the scene from the film where 'Kiloran' reveals himself to 'Joan Webster'. Wendy Hiller and Roger Livesey starred in the original roles, though Livesey's West End acting commitments in London meant that he never actually visited Mull for the making of the film.
Jim Corbett had kindly arranged for Jimmy Robb and Tom Mangnall to show the visitors the inside of Moy Castle in a succession of small groups, though one or two fans preferred to stay outside for similar reasons to Kiloran's until the film's end. There was also time for brief visits to the Johnson and Boswell plaque, the druid circle, and St. Kilda's Church. The party then moved on as a long convoy of cars to Carsaig House, via the famous telephone box next to a waterfall from which Kiloran had booked Joan into the Western Isles Hotel.
Mark Horton had given permission for the Gathering to view the outside of Carsaig House in whose interior so much of the film had been shot, and the party then moved on to the famous Carsaig pier, where so much of the drama of the film is acted out. Just as in the film, wind and driving rain were the main features of the day, both at Lochbuie and Carsaig, and just as in the film carefully prepared sheets of paper were blown into the water at the pier as seals played. This time not Joan Webster's typed schedule for reaching the Isle of Kiloran, (Colonsay), but the reenactment script for that particular part of the tour. Strong support was expressed for any efforts to save the pier from further deterioration, and its current condition was much regretted.
The visitors would then have taken the long road back to Tobermory wet and dejected, but for the spontaneous Highland hospitality of Cleodi Mazur, who welcomed everyone to tea, cakes and an open fire at Inniemore Lodge, just as 'Catriona Maclaine of Lochbuie/Mrs. Potts' had welcomed 'Joan' and 'Kiloran' in from the terrible weather early in the film. For some of the visitors this was the highpoint of the weekend and a sign that the essence of Highland tradition was as alive today as in 1945, a sign of the timeless quality of the film.
A further warm welcome was provided the next day at 'Sorne Castle' (Duart), where Andrew and June Saul had arranged a special tour on behalf of the Chief, and on the Sunday, just as in the film, Mull's final face was one of bright autumn sun.
However, the weekend was not only taken up with visits. In between excellent meals at the Western Isles there were talks by Robert Beveridge, Steve Crook, and Nicolas Maclean, as well as an IKWIG quiz and the screening of an analytical documentary about some of the mysteries of the film. There was also discussion about how Emeric Pressburger, Powell's partner, had been able to capture so accurately the spirit of the people of Mull with not a little social commentary, although himself of Hungarian Jewish origin.
One theory of how the film came to be shot at Lochbuie and Carsaig, or indeed made at all, was that Kenneth Maclaine of Lochbuie may well have been the inspiration for 'Kiloran', and elements of his clan and personal history seem to be woven into the fabric of the film. He had gone on the stage after the loss of his family estate to Sir Stephen Gatty, (no relation to the Corbetts), following a series of historic court cases. Lochbuie had been a friend of many stars of stage and screen, including David Niven, who served with him in the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders. This theory emerged from brainstorming among experts late into the night, but at least Catriona Maclaine will be taking it back to Tasmania!
More IKWIG detail will appear through PaPAS on www.Powell-Pressburger.org, including plans for the next anniversary and reunion on Mull in 2010.
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