Mr. Forbush and the Penguins

Mr. Forbush and the Penguins (also known as Cry of the Penguins) is a 1971 British film, directed by Arne Sucksdorff, Alfred Viola and Roy Boulting. It stars John Hurt, Hayley Mills, Dudley Sutton and Tony Britton.[2]

Mr. Forbush and the Penguins
Directed byRoy Boulting (uncredited)
Al Viola
Antarctica sequences
Arne Sucksdorff
Written byAnthony Shaffer
Based onnovel by Graham Billings
Produced byHenry Trettin
StarringJohn Hurt
Hayley Mills
CinematographyEdward Scaife
Music byJohn Addison
EMI Films
PGL Productions
Distributed byBritish Lion Films
Release date
December 1971 (UK)
1981 (US)
CountryUnited Kingdom


A brilliant biology student, Richard Forbush, is sent to study a penguin colony. At first he does it mostly to impress a girl he is chasing, Tara.




The film was based on a 1965 novel by Graham Billing, who had worked for the New Zealand Antarctic Division.[3]

The film was a co-production between EMI Films, PGL Productions and British Lion Films. It was part of the initial slate of movies greenlit by Bryan Forbes who had been appointed head of EMI.[4]

Director Al Viola had won awards for his commercials and this would be his feature film debut. The novel was adapted by playwright Anthony Schaffer, doing his first script. Swedish filmmaker Arne Sucksdorff was hired to shoot footage in Antarctica.[5]


Filming started 4 November 1969 at Palmer Peninsular in Antarctica.[6]

Making the film was a turbulent experience. Penguin footage shot by Arne Sucksdorff on location in Antarctica did not cut smoothly into scenes involving humans. Roy Boulting of British Lion replaced director Al Viola, and he replaced Susan Fleetwood, the original female lead, with his then-wife, Hayley Mills. John Hurt was angry at this and Bryan Forbes of EMI had to spend an entire evening persuading him not to quit.[7]

Schaffer, the screenwriter, recalled it as "a fairly chaotic movie which had the young John Hurt capering about the Atlantic slinging rocks at Skuas with a Roman balista, in a vain attempt to protect penguins' eggs from their deprivations. I'm not sure that it all added up, though my younger daughter assures me... it's her favourite film of mine." He added that the female lead "was replaced after the first rough assembly and it was the only film I know of in which a stage direction was delivered as spoken dialogue. It didn't matter. No one noticed - which should generally tell you something about the respect accorded the screen writer's craft."[5]


The Guardian said the film "isn't as bad as we'd been led to believe."[8]

The film failed to recoup its considerable cost.[9]


  1. ^ Moody, Paul (2018). EMI Films and the Limits of British Cinema. Palgrave MacMillan. p. 75.
  2. ^ MR. FORBUSH AND THE PENGUINS Monthly Film Bulletin; London Vol. 39, Iss. 456, (Jan 1, 1972): 11.
  3. ^ Books of The Times: The Man Who Loved Penguins By ORVILLE PRESCOTT. New York Times 18 Mar 1966: 37.
  4. ^ In the Picture Sight and Sound; London Vol. 38, Iss. 4, (Fall 1969): 181.
  5. ^ a b THE WICKER MAN AND OTHERS Shaffer, Anthony. Sight and Sound; London Vol. 5, Iss. 8, (Aug 1, 1995): 28.
  6. ^ Nichols Meets Jules Feiffer: Mike Nichols By A. H. WEILER. New York Times 26 Oct 1969: D17.
  7. ^ Bryan Forbes, A Divided Life, Mandarin Paperbacks, 1993 p 221-222
  8. ^ BOND IS FOREVER Malcolm, Derek. The Guardian 30 Dec 1971: 8.
  9. ^ Walker, Alexander, Hollywood England, Harrap and Stein, 1974 p433-434

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