Friday, February 12, 2021

John Mills, Horst Buchholz, and Hayley Mills struggle in “Tiger Bay”

Tiger Bay (1959) is a British crime drama directed by J. Lee Thompson and starring John Mills, Horst Buchholz, and Hayley Mills in her first major film role.

The plot centers around a young Polish sailor named Bronislav (“Bronek”) Korchinsky (Buchholz) who returns from a voyage to visit his girlfriend, Anya (Yvonne Mitchell). He discovers that she is no longer living in the apartment he was paying for, he tracks her down at her new flat. There she tells him that she no longer wants him and is involved with a married man (Anthony Dawson). They argue and in a fit of jealously, he hits her. She defends herself with a gun, but Bronek takes the gun from her and shoots her dead. 

Unbeknownst to Bronek at the time, a young tomboy named Gillie (Mills) watches the whole scene through the letterbox. Gillie at first fears for her life when Bronek confronts her, but instead the two develop a bond that will change both their lives.

Hayley Mills and Horst Buchholz

J. Lee Thompson (1914 - 2002) was a British film director. He made pictures in England and Hollywood and is best remembered for Cape Fear (1962) and The Guns of Navarone (1961). Thompson began his career as a screenwriter and dialogue coach. After a stint in the RAF during World War II, he went back to screenwriting. In 1950 he directed his first feature Murder Without Crime (1950) in England. Other Hollywood films directed by Thompson include What a Way to Go! (1964), John Goldfarb, Please Come Home (1965), and Mackenna’s Gold (1969).

John Mills (1908 - 2005) was an English actor who made over 100 films in the United States and in Great Britain. He won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance in Ryan’s Daughter (1970). Mills worked on the stage in London in the Noel Coward revue Words and Music (1932). He made his film debut in the U.K. in 1932 and appeared with Ida Lupino in The Ghost Camera (1933). He had a supporting role in Goodbye Mr. Chips (1939) starring Robert Donat. Mills starred as Pip in Great Expectations (1946) to great acclaim and popular box office. Mills continued acting into the 2000s.

Horst Buchholz (1933 - 2003) was a German actor who was once called “the German James Dean” was an international movie star and voice artist. In America, he starred in The Magnificent Seven (1960), On, Two Three (1961). He starred opposite Leslie Caron in Fanny (1961) and Nine Hours to Rama (1963). He’s almost as famous for the roles that got away. He was offered the roles of Tony in West Side Story (1961) and Sherif Ali in Lawrence of Arabia (1962) but scheduling conflicts prevented him from starring in those films.

Hayley Mills (1946 - ) is an English actress and at one time was one of the biggest child stars in the world. The daughter of actor John Mills and Mary Hayley Bell and younger sister of Juliet Mills, she got her start in films playing Gillie in Tiger Bay (1959). It was her performance in that film that brought her to the attention of Walt Disney and international stardom. Mills made her American movie debut in Pollyanna (1960), winning the Academy Juvenile Award in the process. Other films she made at Disney include The Parent Trap (1961), In Search of the Castaways (1962), Summer Magic (1963), and That Darn Cat! (1965).

Tiger Bay trivia:

  • The role of Gillie was meant to be a boy, but when the director met John Mill’s daughter Hayley, he thought making Gillie a girl would improve the movie.
  • This was the English-speaking movie debut of Horst Buchholz.
  • John Mills said that Hayley received no film offers in the U.K. after her acclaimed performance.
  • John and Hayley Mills worked together again in The Chalk Garden (1964).

To watch the film on YouTube, click on the link below.

To join the discussion on Zoom on Tiger Bay on February 16, 2021, at 6:30 p.m. Central Time click on the link here. Once you RSVP, you will get an email with a Zoom link.

Questions for discussion:

  1. Do you think the film would have been different if the role of Gillie had been played by a boy?
  2. Why do you think Gillie bonded with Bronek?
  3. Did anything about the film surprise you?
  4. What do you think happened to Bronek after his arrest at the end?

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