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Whisky Galore! | Ealing 1949 | Basil Radford, Catherine Lacey

Basil Radford and Joan Greenwood star in this classic Ealing comedy about a bunch of Scottish Islanders determined to hold on to a cargo of shipwrecked whisky, whatever the cost

On 5 February 1941, the SS Politician, en route to Jamaica, sank during bad weather off the coast of Eriskay, in the Outer Hebrides. It was carrying 250,000 bottles of whisky, which the locals gleefully looted before authorities arrived. Bottles still surface to this day, carried in by the tides to the beach. It must be a wonderful place to live.

Whisky Galore!, an adaptation of the novel based on the true incident by Compton Mackenzie, uses the same premise, but – importantly – the interlopers (or "meddling colonialists"), in the shape of Basil Radford’s Captain Waggett and his Home Guard, are already in place. On the Island of Todday whisky is everything – the "water of life" binding the community together. When wartime rationing spells its depletion, the locals are only too delighted to relieve the "SS Cabinet Minister" of its cargo. Confrontation between the wily Islanders battling (literally) for survival, the pompous, uncomprehending Captain (a forerunner to Dad’s Army’s Captain Mainwaring), and the Gestapo-like Customs and Excise men is a foregone conclusion.

To Ealing head Michael Balcon’s consternation, the movie was produced by a novice (Ealing’s publicist Monja Danischewsky) and helmed by first-time director Alexander Mackendrick, emerging over-budget, due to (coincidentally enough) bad weather. Mackendrick, a strict Scottish Calvinist, also deliberately imposed a moralistic comeuppance-style ending. But Balcon shouldn’t have worried. Scarily similar to The Wicker Man in places, this wonderful movie is a joy to watch from start to finish, with Basil Radford, in particular, in his element.

production details
UK | Ealing | 82 minutes | 1949

Art Direction: Jim Morahan
Director Of Photography: Gerald Gibbs
Camera Operator: Chic Waterson
Wardrobe Supervisor: Anthony Mendleson
Special Effects: Geoffrey Dickinson, Sydney Pearson
Director: Alexander Mackendrick
Assistant Director: Harry Kratz
Continuity: Marjorie Owens
Editor: Joseph Sterling
Producer: Michael Balcon
Associate Producer: Monja Danischewsky
Production Supervisor: Hal Mason
Unit Production Manager: L.C. Rudkin
Original Music Composer: Ernest Irving
Sound Recordist: Leonard Bulkley
Conductor: Ernest Irving
Sound Supervisor: Stephen Dalby
Screenplay: Angus Macphail
Novel: Compton Mackenzie

cast
Basil Radford as Captain Paul Waggett
Catherine Lacey as Mrs. Waggett
Bruce Seton as Sergeant Odd
Joan Greenwood as Peggy Macroon
Wylie Watson as Joseph Macroon
Gabrielle Blunt as Catriona Macroon
Gordon Jackson as George Campbell
Jean Cadell as Mrs. Campbell
James Robertson Justice as Dr. Maclaren
Morland Graham as The Biffer
John Gregson as Sammy MacCodrun
James Woodburn as Roderick MacRurie
Jame Anderson as Old Hector
Jameson Clark as Constable Macrae
Duncan Macrae as Angus MacCormac
Mary MacNeil as Mrs. MacCormac
Norman Macowan as Captain MacPhee
Alastair Hunter as Captain MacKechnie
Henry Mollison as Mr. Farquharson
Frank Webster as First Mate
Compton MacKenzie as Captain Buncher

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