I was very young when the film ‘Whistle Down the Wind’ was released, and I guess the impact it made on me was because although it was about a group of children it wasn’t completely a children’s film. The story is quite a simple one, a group of children find a run-away prisoner, a murderer, hiding in a remote barn on a remote farm and mistakenly think he is Jesus. They keep him hidden from the police who are searching for him until one of them betrays him. Seeing it now I’m as much struck by the portrayal of country life in the 1950’s as the actual story.
The film was based on a book by the author Mary Hayley Mills; she was born in 1911 in Shanghai and was an actress and playwrite as well as writing ‘Whistle Down the Wind’; she co-wrote another memorable film (maybe because of its’ memorable title) ‘Sky-West and Crooked’. The star of ‘Whistle Down the Wind’ was Mary Hayley Bell’s daughter Hayley Mills, who is also the daughter of John Mills the esteemed and renowned actor who was married to her mother for sixty-four years (they both died in 2005)The film also starred Alan Bates, a remarkable actor who I was lucky enough to see on stage. The music from the film was very popular; written by Malcolm Arnold it became what’s described as ‘a classic’.
The story was revived three times, by the band Toto, as a stage production for the National Youth Music Theatre, and then as a musical by Andrew Lloyd Weber and Jim Steinman. In his latter production the most popular and famous song was ‘No Matter What’ which became a massive hit for Boyzone.
What has put this into my mind is the fact that we have had really windy weather – we have had Storm Brian, which has certainly been whistling down the wind!
PS The film was shot in Lancashire and rest of the children who appeared were just local from the schools there; I actually know someone who was a child in the film!