Seven Days to Noon is a 1950 British drama/thriller film directed by John and Roy Boulting. Paul Dehn and James Bernard won the Academy Award for Best Story for their work on the film.
|Seven Days to Noon|
|Directed by||John Boulting|
|Written by||Paul Dehn (story)|
James Bernard (story)
Frank Harvey (screenplay)
Roy Boulting (screenplay)
|Produced by||John Boulting|
|Edited by||John Boulting|
|Music by||John Addison|
London Film Productions
|Distributed by||British Lion Films|
In 1950, the British Prime Minister receives a letter from a man who says he has stolen a nuclear weapon and will destroy the centre of London next Sunday at noon,[a] unless the British government declares that the country is going to stop making such devices. The letter is signed "Professor Willingdon", which is the name of the senior researcher at Britain's atomic weapons development facility, the Wallingford Research Centre,[b] so, on Monday, Detective Superintendent Folland of Scotland Yard's Special Branch is charged with investigating whether the letter is a fraud or represents a genuine threat.
At the Research Centre, Folland finds that Willingdon has gone missing, as has a UR12[c] nuclear bomb, which is small enough and light enough for an individual to carry. He recruits Stephen Lane, Willingdon's assistant, to help with the search, and they go to Willingdon's house. Neither Lane, nor Willingdon's wife or daughter, Ann, had noticed anything unusual in the Professor's recent behavior, but troubling notes are found among his papers which, coupled with some remarks he made to the local vicar, who is the last person known to have spoken with Willingdon, indicate he had come to believe that his life's work was being used by the government for evil purposes.
On Tuesday, Willingdon, who is carrying the bomb around with him in a Gladstone bag, sees his picture in the newspaper (though it is not stated why he is wanted), so he has a barber shave off his moustache before looking for a place to stay. He rents a room from Mrs Peckett, but spooks her by pacing around his room all night. After he has left the next morning, she sees an article about the hunt for someone who is killing landladies, so she calls the police. A quick-thinking constable realises the description matches Willingdon, and a car is sent to the boardinghouse. Willingdon returns, but he sees the police car parked outside the building and is able to make a quiet getaway.
Willingdon throws away his overcoat and goes to a pawn shop to buy another one. There, he meets Goldie, an actress whose best days are behind her, and her dog, Trixie. The trio are reunited that evening when Trixie gets away from Goldie and leads her to Willingdon. They go to a pub and, when it closes for the night, Goldie invites Willingdon to her apartment, as he has no lodgings. He sleeps on her spare bed and leaves before she wakes up in the morning.
The recent unscheduled Cabinet meetings and indications of an impending mass mobilisation have not gone unnoticed by the press. By Thursday, rumours of war are circulating and there is a growing crowd outside 10 Downing Street, so the Prime Minister decides to finally make a statement over the radio. He reveals the threat and announces an evacuation of the 12 square miles around Parliament, to begin the next morning. When this is complete Army units will begin a search of central London, beginning at the edge of the evancuation area and moving toward the centre.
Goldie sees one of the increasing number of posters with Willingdon's face on it and goes to the police. When she gets home, she finds Willingdon waiting for her—the ever-intensifying search has made him nervous, so he has decided to hold Goldie hostage in her apartment, saying he will blow up the bomb prematurely if she calls for help.
The evacuation (of people, as well as important cultural artifacts) proceeds smoothly. When the systematic military search reaches Goldie's street on Saturday night, Willingdon escapes out a window. Shortly before noon on Sunday, he is found, praying in a church that was destroyed during The Blitz. Folland and Lane rush over, bringing Ann to try to talk Willingdon out of his plan. He says it is too late to change his mind, but she sees his bag across the room and calls for help. Willingdon is restrained and Lane begins to defuse the bomb. Screaming that it is "Too late", Willingdon breaks free, runs from the church, and is killed by a nervous soldier. As the clock strikes twelve, Lane finishes disarming the UR12. Goldie, who is on Westminster Bridge attempting to hitch a ride to Aldershot hears the all-clear sirens and heads for home.
- Barry Jones as Professor John Willingdon
- Olive Sloane as Goldie Phillips
- André Morell as Superintendent Folland
- Sheila Manahan as Ann Willingdon, Professor Willingdon's daughter
- Hugh Cross as Stephen 'Steve' Lane
- Joan Hickson as Mrs Emily Georgina Peckett, a landlady
- Ronald Adam as Honorable Arthur Lytton, the Prime Minister
- Marie Ney as Mrs Willingdon, Professor Willingdon's wife
- Wyndham Goldie as Reverend Burgess, the vicar of Wallingford
- Russell Waters as Detective Davis
- Martin Boddey as General Willoughby
- Frederick Allen as himself, a BBC radio announcer
- Victor Maddern as Private Jackson
- Geoffrey Keen as Alf, the loudmouth in the pub
- Merrill Mueller as himself, the American NBC radio commentator in London
- Joss Ackland as Young Policeman at the Police Station (uncredited)
- Jean Anderson as Mother at Railway Station (uncredited)
- Ernest Clark as Barber (uncredited)
- Colin Douglas as Soldier in House Search (uncredited)
- Sam Kydd as Soldier in House Search (uncredited)
- Bruce Seton as Brigadier Grant (uncredited)
- Marianne Stone as Woman in Phone Box (uncredited)
- Ian Wilson as Sandwich-Board Man (uncredited)
The film was based on a story by journalist Paul Dehn and musician James Benard, neither of whom was a screenwriter at the time. Roy Boulting produced, while John directed and Roy edited (though, in the credits of the film, both brothers are credited with performing all three tasks). The brothers described the story as "Guy Fawkes in modern dress", and deliberately did not cast any stars in the leads, as they felt the story would be more believable that way. During filming, John Boulting said: "We don't want any stars. They would be a positive hindrance. Those old familiar faces, and old familiar tricks and gestures, would entirely destroy the illusion we have created. Only my brother and I know the full story of Seven Days to Noon. Even our players haven't seen the entire script. We're keeping it secret until it's ready for sale."
Production began in July 1949, with the cooperation of the War Office and the police. Location filming took place in London over several weeks, including at Westminster Bridge, Lambeth Grove, and Trafalgar Square Underground station; walkie-talkies were used to help control traffic on the bridge. For the film, Gilbert Taylor was influenced by the photography of The Naked City.
Reception and awardsEdit
The film performed reasonably well at the box office. It was one of a string of financially successful films from Alexander Korda's production and distribution companies following a series of flops (other hits from 1950 included State Secret, The Happiest Days of Your Life and Odette).
The film received the Academy Award for Best Story at the 24th Academy Awards, which were held in 1952 at the RKO Pantages Theatre.
André Morell portrayed Superintendent Folland again in High Treason, a film directed by Roy Boulting in 1951.
Seven Days to Noon became available on DVD in 2008.
- ^ Hence, the film's title.
- ^ This facility is fictitious, but may have been inspired by the Atomic Weapons Research Establishment (AWRE) at Aldermaston.
- ^ Also fictitious.
- ^ Watts, Stephen (24 September 1950). "London Notebook: Tenor". New York Times. p. X5.
- ^ Pryor, Thomas M. (17 December 1950). "Two of a Kind From England: Or an Introduction to the Identical Boulting Twins, John and Roy, Who Now Loom Large in the World of Movies Pause for TV Change Interruption Approach". The New York Times. p. X5.
- ^ "New Actors Get Chance". Truth. New South Wales, Australia. 17 July 1949. p. 28. Retrieved 9 April 2020 – via Trove.
- ^ "Even the actors don't know the full story". The Daily Telegraph. Sydney. 2 October 1949. p. 46. Retrieved 9 April 2020 – via Trove.
- ^ "Atom-bomb film stir". The Daily Telegraph. Sydney. 17 September 1950. p. 58. Retrieved 9 April 2020 – via Trove.
- ^ Enley, Frank (1 January 1950). "FILM IN THE MAKING: "Seven Days to Noon"". Sight and Sound. Vol. 18, no. 72. London. p. 13.
- ^ "Margaret Aylward's BRITISH FILMS". The Sun. New South Wales, Australia. 28 August 1949. p. 38. Retrieved 9 April 2020 – via Trove.
- ^ Murphy, Robert (2005) . Realism and Tinsel: Cinema and Society in Britain 1939–48. London & New York: Routledge. p. 212. ISBN 9781134901500.
- ^ "Six British films get top box-office rating". The Daily Telegraph. Sydney. 10 December 1950. p. 62. Retrieved 9 April 2020 – via Trove.
- ^ STEPHEN WATTS (22 October 1950). "LONDON STATUS QUO: Production Remains Subject of Optimism And Gloom--Korda Hits and Misses Korda Active Cooperation Coming Up Documentary Approach". New York Times. p. X5.
- ^ "WRITING (MOTION PICTURE STORY)". THE 24TH ACADEMY AWARDS – 1952. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. 20 March 1952. Retrieved 21 October 2014.
- The Great British Films, pp 144–146, Jerry Vermilye, 1978, Citadel Press, ISBN 0-8065-0661-X
- Seven Days to Noon at the British Film Institute
- Seven Days to Noon at IMDb
- Seven Days to Noon at AllMovie
- Seven Days to Noon at the TCM Movie Database
- Seven Days to Noon at Rotten Tomatoes
- Review of film at DVD Savant
- Review of film at Variety
- Seven Days at Noon at BFI Screenonline