Forgotten London films: The Boy and the Bridge (1959)

The bridge in question is Tower Bridge, where the boy, played by nine-year-old Iain Maclaine, flees after he sees – or believes he sees – his drunken father get arrested for murder. At heart, this is a rather tender film, as Maclaine’s character works resourcefully to live hidden away in one of the towers, with moments of both pathos and gentle comedy. (A young Arthur Lowe plays one of the tower’s engineers.)

For those interested in the tower itself, there is some wonderful footage of its interior, including dramatic scenes shot in the bascule chambers which house the great – not to say terrifying – counterweights that swing down whenever the bridge opens.

Hailed at the time as a new child star – John Huston declared him the greatest find since Jackie Coogan – Iain Maclaine seems never to have acted again. The son of an aircraft worker at De Haviland’s Hatfield plant, Maclaine won the part after an exhaustive search which saw the production team interview some 3,000 local boys.

The film was written and directed by Kevin McClory, whose career was dominated – perhaps blighted – by a dispute with Ian Fleming, and subsequently Fleming’s estate, over the film rights to James Bond. McCrory co-write the script for what would have been the first Bond film, Thunderball, which Fleming subsequently novelised without either crediting or recompensing McCrory. Although the initial dispute was settled in 1963, further disputes were still being litigated in the early 2000s.

The Boy and the Bridge is available to watch on the BFI website here.

The other films I have written about under the Forgotten London Film series are: Night and the City, Pool of London, No Trees in the Street, London Belongs to Me, Waterloo Road, Run for your Money, The Happy Family, St Martin’s Lane, and Underground.

My brief introduction to the series is here.

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