"Lonely Road" is the first of Nevil Shute's novels to be made into a film. It was produced at Ealing Studios by Basil Dean, Associated Talking Pictures, directed by James Flood, and starred Clive Brook and Victoria Hopper, well known actor and actress of that period. In his autobiography, "Slide Rule", Nevil mentioned that he enjoyed watching the film being made. Several of the scenes were shot on a beach near where he lived. The film followed the book reasonably well right up to the end, where Nevil's tragedy was turned into a suggestion of "happily ever after". In spite of the popularized ending, it is an entertaining film and a good example of British cinematography of that era. This film is also listed in several references under the alternate title of "Scotland Yard Commands".
The library owes huge debts of gratitude to Shutist Derek Hill, and to Member of Parliament Richard Spring, for their key roles in obtaining this video tape from the British Film Institute. The tape was copied directly from a remastered 35mm film.
"Lonely Road" is now available commercially on DVD and can be purchased from Amazon. It is also now available in the UK library (UK055B).
LONELY ROAD (1968)
This is the second version of Lonely Road and is, in many ways, superior to the first. It is a made-for-television BBC production dramatized by Elwyn Jones, directed by John Mathews, and starring John Gregson as Commander Malcolm Stevenson, Jayne Sofiano as the lovely Mollie Gordon, Paul Grist, as her brother Billy Gordon, Bernard Archard as Jenkinson, the urbane solicitor, Frederick Hall as the despicable Professor Ormsby, and Jerome Willis as the almost-equally-despicable Major Norman.
This version of Lonely Road sticks much closer to the book, and avoids several of the pitfalls of the first version, including the suggestion of a happy-ever-after ending. The written Lonely Road was a tragedy, and this version ends equally tragically. In addition, the quality of the film, made in 1968 as opposed to the 1936 version, is far superior.
"The Pied Piper" is the second of Nevil Shute's novels to be filmed. It was produced in the United states at 20th Century Fox by Nunnally Johnson, directed by Irving Pichel, and starred Monty Woolley, Anne Baxter, Otto Preminger, in perhaps his only acting role, and a very young Roddy McDowall, as one of the children led to safety through war torn Europe.
This film, like the book, was pure propaganda against the Nazi war machine. Still, it is classic Nevil Shute - the epitome of an ordinary man, faced with extraordinary circumstances, and accomplishing extraordinary things.
"Pied Piper" is not available commercially, but it is available for loan through the UK and US Branches of the Foundation Lending Libraries on DVD and tape.
"Landfall" is the second of two Nevil Shute wartime novels that were made into films, although it was not filmed until after the war. It was produced by Victor Skutezsky at Pathe Studios, directed by Ken Annakin, and starred Michael Denison, as the dashing young RAF pilot, and Patricia Plunkett, as the pure as the driven snow girlfriend, barmaid. The film closely follows the book, with the exception of one or two unnecessary twists, and a bit of hokey, period music thrown in. (Remember when almost all movies had at least one singing scene?) It is a good example of Nevil's view of wartime England's "ordinary people doing extraordinary things". It also has some very good shots of the Wellington Bomber which was designed by Barnes Wallis of R100 and Dambusters fame.
The Foundation was fortunate to find a copy of "Landfall", still in the film can, at Pinewood Studios in the United Kingdom. We were even more fortunate in that the curator there, Mr. John Herron, was kind enough to make a very good quality video tape of the original for the Foundation.
"Landfall" is available on loan at any time through the US or UK Branches of the Foundation Lending Libraries, and can be purchased on Amazon (UK)
"No Highway in the Sky" is the film based on Nevil Shute's famous novel "No Highway", which predicted the effects of metal fatigue in modern aircraft and foretold the tragedy that befell British Comets several years later. It was produced by Louis D. Lighton at 20th Century Fox, and directed by Henry Kostner. It starred (rather improbably) James Stewart, as the eccentric Professor Theodore Honey, who predicted the disaster of the newly commissioned Reindeer aircraft, Marlene Dietrich as an aging film star, and Glynnis Johns, as the flight attendant who grew to love the eccentric Mr. Honey. This is more good period film making, with horrible special effects and a few very trite final scenes. However, it is vintage Shute, and well worth seeing.
The Foundation's copy of "No Highway in the Sky" is a commercial video, of very good quality. It is available on loan at any time through the US Branch of the Foundation Lending Library. It is also available for sale through Critic's Choice Video, 800-993-6357
This version of "A Town Like Alice" was produced at Rank Films, directed by Jack Lee, and starred Virginia McKenna and Peter Finch. It might best be described as a film based on one half of a Nevil Shute novel. It is well done, but only covers the book through Jean's discovery that Joe Harmon is alive, and their first meeting thereafter in Australia. Their blossoming love, and the creation of 'a town like Alice' is not covered. Still, this is more vintage Shute and very worthwhile.
The Foundation's copy of this version of "A Town Like Alice" is a commercial video, of very good quality. It is available on loan at any time through the US Branch of the Foundation Lending Library. It is also available for sale in Canada at Lear Media.
The first "On The Beach" is the film that made Nevil Shute a household word
in the United States and elsewhere. It was produced by Stanley Kramer at United Artists, directed by Stanley Kramer, and starred Gregory Peck, Ava Gardner, Fred Astair, and Anthony Perkins. The story probably brought more dedicated readers to Nevil Shute than any of his other novels. It is also given credit for playing a major part in the international protest against nuclear weapons. In spite of its many accolades, Nevil Shute hated the film. He was enraged by its production to the extent that Shirley Norway believes his anger over the film hastened his death.
Like all his best stories, "On The Beach" was about ordinary people faced with extraordinary circumstances, rising to the occasion, and behaving very well. The problem was that Nevil felt behaving very well included remaining true to one's dead spouse. In the book, Captain Dwight Towers refused to give in to his passion for the Australian beauty Moira, and she was above trying to seduce him into betraying his dead wife. In the film, Towers, played by Gregory Peck, and Moira, played by Ava Gardner, left no doubt about whether or not their relationship was consummated. Nevil felt that this destroyed the central message of the book.
Notwithstanding Nevil's dislike of the film, it is a classic, and the power of its message is as strong today as it ever was.
The Foundation's copy of this version of "On The Beach" is a commercial video, of very good quality. It is available for loan through the US Branch of the Foundation Lending Library. It is also available for sale through Critic's Choice Video, 800-993-6357.
Ava Gardner comments about shooting On The Beach.
The second version of "A Town Like Alice" was produced by Henry Crawford at the Australian Film Commission, Victoria, directed by David Stevens, and starred Helen Morse, Bryan Brown and Gordon Jackson. It is a five hour miniseries first shown on PBS Mobil Masterpiece Theater, and it is truly a masterpiece. With the exception of a few changes and additions that most purists found to be unnecessary and distracting, it is true to the book, and to Nevil Shute's message. Most Shutists believe that it is the best dramatization ever based on a Nevil Shute novel.
The Foundation's copy of this version of "A Town Like Alice" is a commercial video, of very good quality. It is also available for sale in Canada at Lear Media.
"The Far Country" is a Crawford Production, produced by John Barningham, directed by George Miller, and starred Michael York and Sigrid Thornton. It is not necessarily a bad film. It is just that it is far removed from the plot of Nevil Shute's book by that name, and it completely distorts Nevil's message. One of the essentials of Nevil Shute's novels that separates them from the writing of other popular novelists, is that Nevil never dealt with villains. He never set his hero/heroine against evil people. He set them against circumstances. In the film version of "The Far Country", every other character is turned into a bad guy that the hero must confront and best. That might be good theater, but it isn't Nevil Shute.
The Foundation's copy of " The Far Country" is a commercial video, of very good quality. It is available is available for loan through the US Branch of the Foundation Lending Library. It is also available for sale through Critic's Choice Video, 800-993-6357.
"Crossing to Freedom" is a television remake of "Pied Piper", produced at Proctor and Gamble Productions by Craig McNeil, directed by Norman Stone, and starred Peter O'Toole and Mare Winningham. Unlike most remakes, this one is worthwhile. Although it has the typically poor special effects that are to be found in many low budget, made for television films, the performances by Peter O'Toole and Mare Winningham make up for those shortcomings. This version is considerably different from the original but, like the original, it sticks to the story line and to Nevil Shute's message.
The Foundation's copy of "Crossing to Freedom" was made from a commercial videotape of the film, and is of very good quality. "Crossing to Freedom" is not available commercially, but it is available for loan through the UK and US Branches of the Foundation Lending Libraries.
This version of "On The Beach" was produced in Australia at Southern Star Productions by John Edwards, directed by Russell Mulcahy, and starred, if that term may be used very loosely, Armand Assante, Rachel Ward, and Bryan Brown. There is nothing good that can be said about this production. If the first version of "On The Beach" distorted Nevil Shute's message, this attempt at a remake completely destroys it. If you want to see Armand Assante taking liberties with Rachel Ward while Bryan Brown looks on in anger, and the remainder of the Australian population behave like children whose puppy just got run over, this is the film for you. Otherwise, I would recommend a trip to the dentist for an evening's entertainment.
The Foundation's copy of this version of "On The Beach" is a commercial video. In the unlikely event that any Shutist would like to watch it, it is available for loan through the US Branch of the Foundation Lending Library.
It is also available for sale through Critic's Choice Video, 800-993-6357.
In addition to the above films and television dramatizations, there is a fifteen- minute tape of The R-100 Airship in Canada. This tape was made from what appears to be an amateur motion picture film taken during the R-100's visit to Canada. It is not commercially available, but a copy is available for loan through the US Branch of the Foundation Lending Library.
A video documentary of the 1999 Nevil Shute Centennial Celebration is also available for loan through the US Branch of the Foundation Lending Library, and available for sale through Paper Tiger - website is www.papertig.com. International telephone number is 001-845-626-5354.
Nevil Shute Norway