Marsden Moor and Elland are just two of the places that have helped build Yorkshire’s claim that more films have been made here than in any other county in England. ANDREW BALDWIN reports
THINK of films made in Yorkshire and you might name Calendar Girls, Brassed Off and The Full Monty.
Go further back and there are The Railway Children and Billy Liar.
Delve a little deeper and you can discover that the list is rather lengthy and full of interesting anecdotes.
Did you know, for instance, that Bette Davis made a film in Malham or that Sophia Loren went in front of the camera at Castle Howard?
Tony Earnshaw does.
He is a film critic and head of film programming at the National Media Museum in Bradford and celebrates the county’s celluloid history in a new book, Made in Yorkshire.
From the inception of the moving picture in 1888 through to a Bollywood film shot last year at a stately home this sumptuous book highlights Yorkshire’s place in cinema history.
Earnshaw was hard put to whittle the list of films featured in the book down to 38.
“It is a never-ending and constantly fascinating subject to explore, not least when casually uncovering some of the forgotten gems shot within the Broad Acres and the impressive repertory of stars that has populated them,” he says.
He’s even uncovered a snippet about a moment of fame for two journalists on the Examiner, a story probably not known by any of the present-day staff.
It was in September, 1959, when the gritty crime thriller Hell Is A City was being filmed on Marsden Moor.
An Examiner news editor eager to know what was going on dispatched a reporter and photographer from the Ramsden Street office to the scene on a dismal morning.
Having been given their story they were invited to join in the film as occupants of a vehicle who ignore the pleas of a man who stumbled across a girl’s body.
It was directed by Val Guest and starred Stanley Baker as a world-weary detective. Others in the cast included Billie Whitelaw, Donald Pleasance and Warren Mitchell.
Hell Is A City was compared favourably to American films of the kind and was well received on its gala premiere in Manchester. But who remembers it now?
Some of the biggest names of the screen have filmed in Yorkshire, such as Paul Newman in Lady L (1965), Kevin Costner and Morgan Freeman in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1990) and Juliette Binoche in Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights (1991).
And then, of course, the incomparable James Mason, born in Huddersfield in 1909 and nominated three times for an Academy Award.
Again, the Examiner was characteristically quick off the mark when the newspaper heard he was filming The Water Babies at Denton Hall, near Ilkley, in 1976.
Mason had reached the age of 67 without ever actually making a film in the county where he was born and it was his first visit to Yorkshire since 1972.
“I feel like a stranger when I return to that part of my life,” he confessed.
The Water Babies was to remain the only film made in Yorkshire by Mason, who died at his home in Switzerland in 1984 at the age of 75.
Filmmaker David Nicholas Wilkinson says in the book’s introduction that, barring movies made in studios, Yorkshire has probably had more films shot in its diverse acreage than any other county in England.
“As a location Yorkshire has more to offer the film-maker than any other county in the country,” he says.
Tony Earnshaw admits that tracking down films made in Yorkshire became almost an obsession.
Even he admits to being surprised by his discovery that Hollywood legend Bette Davis filmed Another Man’s Poison at Malham in 1951.
Local lad Bryan Perry posed with her for a photograph taken on a camera owned by Davis. Back home in California she made sure she had the film developed and the snap sent to the boy.
It showed a caring side to the so-called tempestuous star, he says in the book.
After 20 years of reviewing and writing about films Earnshaw has finally appeared in one.
He made his acting debut last year as a gangster named Lentz in Cricket, the first feature film from Daniel, Chris and Matthew Austin.
Shooting of the urban crime thriller took place in and around Manchester and Bolton. It will be released this year.
Tony Earnshaw will be talking about his book at Waterstone’s in New Street, Huddersfield, tomorrow (6.45pm-8.30pm). Entry costs £1 and is redeemable against a purchase of the book on the evening. Made in Yorkshire is published in hardback by Guerilla Books at £25. The book is a collaboration with Jim Moran, who took many of the photos in it.