Mentioned in Dispatches

Unless your books are selected for review, authors of books about the movies are very rarely mentioned in the major media, so it was with some delight I noticed that a new article on the making of The Guns of Navarone had chosen to mention me and the book I had written on the film.

Tom Fordy in British national upmarket daily newspaper The Daily Telegraph in an extensive article on Friday, November 5, entitled “The Guns of Navarone: how David Niven’s epic blew up the war movie” argues that “sixty years later the spectacle still blows any Marvel-made CGI smackdown out of the water” and that the film set news standards for special effects, star-studded casts and seriously dangerous stunts.”

It’s a very good article and apart from myself calls on contemporary reports from the likes of Cosmopolitan magazine, David Niven’s memoirs,and Steven J. Rubin author of Combat Films.

He quotes from my and my book:

As detailed by Brian Hannan in his book on the film, MacLean’s novel was one of several from British books snapped up by Columbia – part of a drive to make more films in Britain and take advantage of the Eudy Levy tax break.

But the film needed US stars. As Brian Hannan wrote: “Americans did not like British war movies. They never had. No matter how well British war movies did on home soil, they just did not survive the journey across the Atlantic.” Potential stars included Cary Grant, William Holden, and Dean Martin. Carl Foreman scored huge publicity for the film by casting opera singer Maria Callas – and got yet more publicity when Callas quit the production.

The original novel was all-male, but Foreman changed two of the characters into women – two Greek resistance fighters (played by Irene Papas and Gia Scala) who join forces with the men – to draw female viewers to the cinemas.

Peck was sold on the film instantly. Brian Hannan details how casting Peck – a booming, square-jawed pillar of classic Hollywood – was a risk, with fewer box office hits in the Fifties than in the decade previous, 10 years since his last Oscar nomination, and industry criticism for making films abroad for the tax perks. His career at the time, said Hannan, was “patchy”. Biographer Gary Fishgall made a similar assessment, but maintained that to the public, Peck was still a major star.

Carl Foreman considered making the film in Cyprus, but the country was in a politically turbulent moment – on the brink of civil war. Foreman instead turned to the Greek island of Rhodes and met with the Greek prime minister, Konstantinos Karamanlis, for support. Greece supplied 1,000 troops as extras. But Rhodes was a demilitarised zone, so amendments had to be made to a treaty between Greece and Turkey, allowing the Greek troops to land there for the production.

Foreman even persuaded authorities to remove scaffolding from the acropolis at Lindos to capture some of the film’s grandest shots. The Greek military supplied more personnel and hardware: specialist mountain-climbing corps, destroyers, planes, helicopters, launches, armoured vehicles, tanks, howitzers, mortars and machine guns. An abandoned German fortress was also repurposed. “Virtually the entire manpower, and senior commanding officers, of the Greek army and navy were at the film’s disposal,” wrote Hannan. There were British advisors too, including Brigadier DST Turnbull, who had commanded raiding operations in the Aegean Sea.

You can find the full article here:

Author: Brian Hannan

I am a published author of books about film - over a dozen to my name, the latest being "When Women Ruled Hollywood." As the title of the blog suggests, this is a site devoted to movies of the 1960s but since I go to the movies twice a week - an old-fashioned double-bill of my own choosing - I might occasionally slip in a review of a contemporary picture.

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