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Happy Birthday Roger Livesey: 25th June 1906 - 4th February 1976

He was one of the rare actors that really listens to you - Wendy Hiller

I had seen Roger Livesey at the Old Vic and had been very impressed by this broad-shouldered, golden haired Viking…I vowed to myself that one day I would make Roger’s husky voice beloved all over the world - Michael Powell

His acting ability of course was well known to the profession and public alike; what, perhaps, was not so generally known was his generosity and kindness to the smaller fry - Kenneth More

I’m quite ready to continue my screen work. I enjoy acting for films. It is a different technique from the stage of course; but it fascinates me - Roger Livesey, in 1938

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Roger Livesey, playing Torquil MacNeil, never came within five hundred miles of the Western Isles. I know that those of you who have seen the film won’t believe it, but it’s true.

I’m not sure, but I think it’s one of the cleverest things I ever did in movies. To double the leading man in all the exterior scenes of the film and intercut them with studio close ups with such a distinctive person as Roger Livesey, was a miracle. We tested twenty young men before we found one who had Roger’s height, and could copy his walk, which was very distinctive. Roger came to the studio and took endless trouble teaching him to walk and run and hardest of all, stand still. Then there was the little matter of wearing the kilt. No two men walk the same way in a kilt.

The secret of doubling an actor is not to run away from the camera or turn your back on it; on the contrary, you walk straight up to it. The camera is just as easily fooled by calm assurance as people are.

- Michael Powell, A Life In Movies

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- I’ll take that as a compliment.

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OTP Advent Calendar 

day 17: Torquil MacNeil/Joan Webster - I Know Where I’m Going! 

Although I get my kicks as an enthusiastically dedicated slasher, I’m also a pretty straight hopeless romantic; something that’s more than catered for in all forms of art. I could easily choose 24 heterosexual romantic pairings that make me giddy, but somehow they occupy a different area of my brainpan. 

But these two. They’re here because (like Wimsey/Vane) not only are they canon (yay!) they also send my heart racing like few others. It’s one of my favourite ever films, for a start. It’s Roger, looking quite the most handsome he ever does (even if Frank Reeves edges Torquil, whenever I watch this I forget that and lie around happily thinking about knees and kilts). But he’s not just handsome: he’s snarky and understated and quietly confident and really quite BAMFy. He’s like Gilbert in The Lady Vanishes, which if you know me, you know that’s the height of desirability. And Wendy/Joan is just glorious, in all her wrongheadedness and increasing desperation. 

I believe in these two. They’re real, even if the film has a little of the fairytale about it (which makes it even better). The chemistry is amazing, but it’s not an easy, simple romance, in fact it’s the opposite. If you entrust your heart to any filmmakers, then Powell & Pressburger are the ones to choose. Except, of course, you can’t choose who you lose your heart to. It just happens, and there’s no fighting it. 

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Second stop on my IKWIG! homage tour (first stop being the hotel I am in, which I have not yet taken pics of) was Duart Castle today. Now, you are kindly asked not to take photos in the castle, hence the wonkiness of this stealth pic. Don’t dob me in, okay? They were nice folk there. Also the cake in the teashop was tremendous. 

Duart is well worth a visit as it has that lovely randomness you get in the best of museum/castle/homes. A ton of historical firearms and silver, medals galore, and centuries of photos of all the members of the Clan Maclean. As well as amazing views and cannons. I love a cannon. 

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Six weeks prior to shooting James Mason dropped out, moaning that he was too old to play boy scouts in the Western Isles. Roger Livesey, who had read the script and loved it, begged to replace him. When The Archers complained that, at almost 40, he was too old and too portly for the part, Livesey lost 20lb and transformed his appearance. Michael and Emeric relented, despite the added complication that Livesey had a prior engagement, to appear in Peter Ustinov’s West End Play, Banbury Nose, which would prevent him from travelling to Scotland for the exteriors. Michael contrived to blend long shots with a double and back projections so that it is almost impossible to tell that the actor never came within 500 miles of the Highlands. Hiller adored working with Livesey: ‘He was one of the rare actors that listens to you.’ 

Kevin Macdonald - Emeric Pressburger The Life and Death of a Screenwriter


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Carsaig Pier as well today, and it’s all kinds of rubble - very nice rubble, I like a bit of ramshackle. You can just about see the outline of it left. 

What you can’t see here (and in the film) is that the coastline is beautiful. Pretty much all of Mull is beautiful, and if it’s not mountain or hill or forest its coastline or beach or lake. It’s just breathtaking. 

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It’s lovely staying at the Western Isles, and not just because it’s in IKWIG! (although that was the reason, last time, that I chose it. Even if Roger didn’t really touch any of it.) It’s got a lovely lounge with squashy sofas and a proper fire, the view from both dining rooms is amazing (as it’s right high up on the harbour) and the food is really rather nice. I only have one wee problem. 

Every morning, on the way to breakfast, (before I’ve even had any TEA) I have to walk past THIS:

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and I have to act NORMAL in front of NORMAL people and not do massive wonky bonkers squeeing at the glory that is Roger. These people have NO IDEA. Seriously, even though people (mentallers like me) do come for the IKWIG! thing, most folk here are just proper people having a proper holiday in a beautiful part of the world. They are not flailing inside over Torquil bloody MacNeil. 

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