Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Barnacle Bill

Published on Thursday 24 October 2002 08:46

When Sunny Hunny was awash with stars

TINSELTOWN and Hunstanton are not two words that normally go together, but the seaside resort we know and love was once awash with some of England's finest stars.
Alec Guinness, Warren Mitchell, and Jackie Collins were regular sights in the town while filming the 1957 comedy Barnacle Bill.
Hunstanton residents were struck with film fever when the crews moved in, and around 400 locals auditioned for parts as extras.
Those who won a part were given time off work, and those who didn't simply enjoyed watching the filming.
Scenes were shot all over Hunstanton, on the cliffs and the beach, but most of it was filmed on the pier, a dominant feature of the town before it was destroyed in the 1978 floods.
The Golden Lion Hotel became a hive of actors, both top-name stars and extras, who all gathered there for make-up calls.
Hailed as the last Ealing comedy, Barnacle Bill is a quaint, sweet film, that is pure light entertainment.
Also known as All At Sea (for the benefit of the American audience), it tells the tale of William Horatio Ambrose, a Naval seafarer played by Sir Alec, who has one major problem he gets seasick.
In a bid to have his own vessel, he buys a dilapidated pier from the Sandcastle town mayor, and runs it like a ship.
He transforms it into a hotel for sailors, only to find out the mayor is running a scam to place a compulsory purchase order on the pier and claim it back.
A war between the two men emerges, which sees Ambrose cutting his "ship" away from the land to avoid paying taxes.
It results in a sea battle on pedalos and the end of the pier collapses into the sea.
Proud and defiant, Ambrose stays with his ship, which is now a raft, and drifts across the channel to France where he is hailed a national hero.

* TWO Hunstanton men who appeared in the film were West Norfolk Deputy Mayor Charles Matkin, and George Raines, of Church Street.
George Raines on the seafront at Hunstanton where Barnacle Bill was filmed.
Here they share their memories with the Lynn News.
Mr Matkin, played a small, but important role in the film.
He said: "Sir Alec Guinness's chauffeur and myself carried him off the raft when he arrived in France at the end of the film.
"The tide was out, and they had to take the shot many times to get it right.
"The first time they did it, the sea was up to our ankles, the second time it was up to our knees, the third time it was up to our thighs, and the fourth it was up to our tummy buttons. It was perishing cold.
"I remember going down to Brancaster for the filming of a scene. It was cold and Sir Alec was going round and round in a coracle dressed as a caveman. It was the only time I heard him lose his temper because he was really fed up and he looked freezing.
"But he was the perfect gentleman. When people asked him for his autograph he would always give it providing they asked politely.
"We used to go through the Golden Lion Hotel quite early in the morning for make-up. I remember one time meeting Sir Alec as we were both going into the hotel. He was the star and he was always very courteous.
"He was fairly bald in those days. When he came out of make-up he had a nice head of hair, and I remember him putting his toup e on and saying: 'How do you like that then?'
"They were happy times.
"A lot of people belonged to unions at the time and there were a lot of strikes. I remember the carpenters striking because their shoes got wet! How the film ever got finished I don't know."
Mr Raines (83), said: "I had a smashing time. It was quite an experience. Alec Guinness was a lovely man, as was Warren Mitchell.
"My little part had three lines. Three of us dressed up as pierrots at the beginning of the film.
"The film started in 1957 and I had just started running my shop.
"I had done quite a lot of amateur dramatics, but I didn't apply for a part.
"But then one day the producer or director, I can't remember which, came in my shop and bought some tomatoes and said he had seen me acting and asked why I hadn't auditioned. He said he wanted me to have a part!
"It was great. My part was shot in the town hall, although the inside of the town hall was supposed to be the pavilion of the pier.
"I have got very happy memories. I will definitely try to see it when it is on."

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