on 7 June 2011
A mild wartime comedy drama, Tawny Pipit (1944) was written and directed by the legendary Mermaid Theatre creator Bernard Miles in collaboration with the little-known helmer Charles Saunders, who is mainly remembered today (if at all) for his later work on lurid B-movies like Womaneater (1958) and Naked Fury (1959). The slight storyline concerns a convalescent fighter pilot played by Niall MacGinnis (The Edge of the World, Night of the Demon), who is doing a spot of countryside birdwatching with his nurse Rosamund John, and discovers in a field a pair of nesting tawny pipits, which are rarely seen in England. Together, the two enlist the local villagers to protect the nest against such threats as the imminent ploughing of the field, and an attempted theft of the birds' precious eggs...
Though it seems very 'twee' when viewed today, in 1944 Tawny Pipit was seen as a welcome morale booster and a light, gentle entertainment for a country still under the threat of invasion from Europe. Vaguely reminiscent of more famous `England-your-England' propaganda efforts like the brutal Ealing classic Went the Day Well? (1942) and The Archers' rather more profound A Canterbury Tale (1944), this is nevertheless a much lighter confection than either of those films. Charming, harmless viewing.
on 20 December 2011
I first saw this film when I was about to leave my home country for England. It gives a rose coloured view of an England that probably never existed but which was almost certainly more proudly national and unsophisticated that it has latterly become. I mention this as I have a personal affection for this film and am consequently a bit biased. Nevertheless, it is great to see it finally available on DVD.
It's a film of another land and a different time. I cannot see it appealing to the young of today, used to much more sophisticated themes and film techniques. But for the 'oldies' who like to revel in the assumed nostalgia of a largely forgotten yesterday, this might well be for you.
If by some miracle you happen to read this, then that is great. If not then it is not the end of the world. Like a literary Robinson Crusoe I write the words down because they bring me pleasure. A footstep if you like on the desolate beach of an uninhabited Island. Read on internet voyager.
I will agree with a sellers comment that this old VHS is extremely rare. I have been looking for it for a long time without success and may eventually have to bite the bullet and pay the high price asked for at the time of this review. Who knows, someone may have the foresight to bring out a DVD. The price also probably reflects the fact that it is a sought after film, and there is a good reason for that. It is actually a wonderful little film. It is a film that I would dearly love to have in my collection.
The film captures all that is best in pure Englishness. It is set during the second world war. Jimmy Bancroft (Niall MacGinnis) and his sweetheart Hazel Broome (Rosamund John) are walking in the Countryside. They are both keen birdwatchers and see a pair of very rare Tawny Pipits on a nest. They hurry to the nearby fictional village of Lipsbury Lea and inform the locals of the treasure on their doorstep. The locals lead by the Colonel (Bernard Miles) react with great enthusiasm. A plot to steal the eggs is foiled and a plan to plough the area by the local Agricultural committee is also averted by cunning means.
Like the later "Titfield Thunderbolt" it evokes an Elysian fields image of a beautiful unspoilt England. Pretty cottages, friendly villagers, cows in the meadow, lush hedgerows and above all the haunting sound of birdsong in the air. The film was made in 1944 and seemed to be a Blake like hymn to England. This was the sceptred Island that we fought to protect against the great evil that was Nazi Germany. Was it worth it? You bet your life it was.
There are some interesting facts to this film. Apparently there were two ornithological advisors. The actual birds filmed were Meadow pipits and not Tawny pipits. I guess they are so rare they couldn't find any to film. Seems reasonable to me, but some twitchers may be put out. The film was made on location at Lower Slaughter in the Cotswolds. It is picture postcard pretty to this day and visited by throngs of tourists for that very reason. Quite rightly so as it is stunningly beautiful.
Well I found those facts interesting any way!!
Watch this film if you possibly can. It has not been shown on TV for a very long time. The price is very steep but as Paul Newman playing Butch Cassidy said to the bank security guard when he asked what had happened to the old bank, the guard replied "It kept getting robbed". Cassidy responded "Its a small price to pay for beauty".
on 21 April 2013
I've always loved this film and was so pleased when it was released on DVD a short while ago. It was shot in the Cotswold village of Lower Slaughter, one of the most beautiful little villages in England. However, I recall on original viewing that there was a sequence where the squire, Bernard Miles, addressed the gathered villagers from the upstairs window of one of the cottages. This scene appears to be missing from this version (Although I may be wrong, but I have watched it several times. It's an England that we, unfortunately, will never see again. For this reason, and the quaint story, I recommend that you buy a copy soon at the very reasonable price through Amazon.
I honesty never thought this film, one of my all time favourites, would ever be released on DVD and yet here it is, in all its glory as good as it gets.
The Tawny Pipit is yet another propaganda film made during the second world war to stir the audience into even more fervour. Winston Churchill once said that the film Mrs Miniver was probably the greatest propaganda film ever shown during the war and did more for morale that almost anything else. If so, then The Tawny Pipit must also be up there, together with Went the Day Well.
The story is about a rare visitor to our shores, found by a convalescing pilot and his nurse - surely pilots didn't have their own nurses did they? - who were taking a break in the Cotswolds. The film begins with the couple finding a pair of Tawny Pipits nesting in the grass. In actual fact when the film was made they had to be happy using Meadow Pipits as the Tawny Pipits were not around that year. Indeed when filming they had to make sure that the birds breasts were never seen as that would give the game away - Meadow Pipits have speckled breasts and Tawny Pipits have white ones (I hope that's right).
As the birds have only very rarely bred on these shores, it is decided to mount a campaign to protect the pipits and their eggs from egg thieves (and tanks - you have to see the film) and the whole village get together to look after the them. The eggs thieves (boo, hiss) manage to get the eggs but are caught (hooray) and the eggs replced in the nest where they hatch open and everyone lives happily ever after. Yes I know, it sounds very twee, but there is a strong message.
This was made in the war and the underlying message is simple. The nest and eggs represent our nation which has to be protected at all costs. The egg thieves are the Nazis, stealing our way of life as much as anything and there is no way we, the British, can allow that. Bernard Miles starred in and produced the flim and has given it a quaintness that only ever comes across in these wonderful old British films. Niall MacGinnis is the pilot and Rozamund John plays his nurse, both very English and very middle class, but in a gentle way.
The Tawny Pipit is one of those Sunday afternoon films that were shown on the BBC in the 50's and 60's and is a constant reminder of what we have lost over the last 50 years. A film to make you feel good inside, to make you smile, a film to watch many times.
on 18 June 2011
Another great little war time film from the golden age of British film making
The story is used as a parable..to the fighting and indominable spirit of the british
people, when their backs are against the wall
on 25 June 2013
Time against me, so , I'll simply say, please do try this film, as you should enjoy it very much; great character study and location footage of an English countryside quiet, still, after the R.A.F. planes have passed by, despite all the wartime activity occasionally seen overhead.
Now to this review's real purpose.
I just wanted to let it be known, should it be lost to history, that Bernard Miles released an e. p ., which to those who are too young to know, was an Extended Play small record, in 1961, which is very rare, and could very well be forgotten about; to justify mentioning it here, they are country monologues, and might be enjoyed as an comedic accompaniment to a film SET in the countryside; it's very rare, and, after looking on this site, it's possible that one song on it has not been re-released, though about that I may be mistaken. It was called, simply , ' Bernard Miles', issued on the Decca Label, and claims to have the following recordings on : At the Rose and Crown; Still Going Strong; As I was Driving; and, The Titlark Song. All have 'Miles' , as the song credit, and, the catalogue no., is : DFE 6415.; fascinatingly, though, the only copy I've seen doesn't have 'Still Going Strong 'on Side One : were they all like this ? Also, Was Kenneth Williams' Rambling Sid Rumpo NOT the first rambling rustic , as generally supposed ? And, who, if either, was inspired by whom ? A cultural subject worthy of investigation.
I cant really justify wholeheartedly placing this information here, but have no computer at home, am not allowed to edit Wikipedia at work, and, Wikipedia has been vandalized so much, that now, at the library, you have to create an account at home, and then return and log on, which I can't do. Forgive me, but, I didn't want this information to be lost.
The record is very rare. It's being sold on this site, and is dated 1957, but the copy I have is dated 1961; were E.P.'s dated by their manufactured date, or, by their recording date ? Perhaps a better-informed person could say.
Once again, try the film, you should like it very much.
Tawny Pipit is written and directed by both Bernard Miles and Charles Saunders, and Miles also stars in the piece. It also stars Rosamund John, Niall MacGinnis, Jean Gillie, Christopher Steele, Lucie Mannheim, Brefni O'Rourke and George Carney. Music is by Noel Mewton-Wood and cinematography by Eric Cross.
The village of Lipsbury Lea suddenly springs to life when it is discovered that a pair of rare Tawny Pipit's are nesting in one of the local fields. As outside forces threaten to destroy one of nature's great achievements, the villagers rally around to stand defiant in Mother Nature's corner.
Dated? Yes absolutely. Even twee? For sure. Unsubtle propaganda? Too right mate! Wonderful? Yes indeed.
Anyone would think we were fifth columnists!
The Brits were great at this sort of thing, at showing a slice of old fashioned life, where quaintness rules the day and nature's wonderful pastures envelope an assortment of colourful characters rallying around for a collective cause. Tawny Pipit is basically a metaphor for standing up to the bad guys, in this case during war time, Nazi Germany. The message is simple, if we stand together then you shall not have her!
All things bright and beautiful, all creatures great and small.
The backdrop is quintessential Britain, a place of rolling hills, country lanes, of one public house, one grocery shop, one post office, one vicar who actually serves a purpose to the community and one copper who no doubt gets around on his bicycle. Into this British ideal comes those villagers, each with their own ticks and traits, be it stoic men of straight backs refusing to bend an inch, or pretty ladies doing their bit for the cause - such as stopping tanks in their tracks! And of course pesky villains who would gladly steam roller a birds nest or filch the eggs for financial gain. You shall not pass, unity is powerful. Doesn't matter if it's 1944 or now, it's whimsy with relevance and it's a jolly good show. 7/10
on 23 April 2012
A black and white masterpeice from the British wartime film industry, what other nation would have put out a peice of propergander about protecting a rare birds nest. As a propergander film it has nothing to do with war, it is about the rights and wrongs of rural life (if somewhat idealised!) in mid 20th century Britain it is a good watch even for those who dislike war films.
on 25 March 2009
I can't add much to the above review. Some twenty years ago the British Council had the good taste to offer us, in our Paris Cinémathèque, some British gems. They were not the usual REED/LEAN/ELSTREE films, so they were few spectators but enthusiast ones who must wait, as I do for a DVD release. I still don't know anything about the screenwriters/directors of this 1944 TWO CITIES/GFD film, BERNARD MILES and CHARLES SAUNDERS, but I would be glad to meet them in heaven.
I know only two of the three stars: NIALL MACGINNIS and BERNARD MILES, not ROSAMUND JOHNS. The friends of the tawny pipits: a nurse, the vicar
and a wounded pilot (who could ask fo anything more British?) win at the end, thanks to the Ministry of Agriculture. Good days! and during the war too!