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The Making Of The Guns Of Navarone The First In A Major Opus

The 70mm Newsletter
Written by: Brian Hannan Date: 26.04.2013
Scottish film historian Brian Hannan is rewriting film history – literally. And the first book – The Making Of The Guns Of Navarone - of a planned massive one-million-word opus under the general title of ‘The Magnificent 60s’ gets its ‘world premiere’ at the Bradford  Widescreen Festival on Sunday April 28. Hannan is introducing the restored 4K version of the film as well as doing a book signing.

‘I discovered that Hollywood history was not what it seemed so I’ve had to rewrite it,’ says Hannan. ‘For example, I found out that Gregory Peck, between being signed up for the leading role for "The Guns Of Navarone" and the film’s release, had gone from being a guarantee of box office success into a major liability after Beloved Infidel, in which he played writer F Scott Fitzgerald, was a commercial disaster. Of his previous six films, only two had been hits. I also found out the movie was beset with calamity. In short order the producer lost his preferred leading men William Holden (the biggest star in the world at the time) and Cary Grant, scriptwriter Eric Ambler and two leading ladies. Towards the end of shooting Oscar-winning actor David Niven, one of the stars, nearly died. The set they built for the guns was the biggest ever made in Britain, but it collapsed and had to be rebuilt at great cost.’

The budget rocketed by 25%. The launch of the movie was postponed by nearly a year after rows between producer Carl Foreman and the studio Columbia Pictures. For its US launch Foreman wanted the movie to be shown first as a prestigious roadshow, but Columbia got cold feet about going down this route for such an expensive movie. And so it went straight into release, although it was roadshown overseas.

‘There was consternation,’ adds Hannan, ‘among fans of the original bestseller written by Alistair Maclean when they discovered there were leading ladies in the movie because there were no women in the book. The producer had switched two of the male roles into female. The film was originally meant to be filmed in 1957 but did not appear until four years later.

‘Hollywood had a habit of writing its own history that nobody bothered to check. But I have and, to my surprise, discovered much of what I believed turned out not to be true.’

The ‘Making Of’ books are part of the ‘The Magnificent 60s’ series which looks at classic films of that era, examining how they were made, and the conflicts and disasters created along the way, as well as how they were released and the success or failure, thereafter, of the principal players.

The series is a ten-year project. It is estimated that books will be released at the rate of two-three a year. The series will encompass 20-30 of the major films of the period, movies that set precedents, broke taboos or became iconic favourites, including David Lean’s Oscar-winning "Lawrence Of Arabia", Fellini’s ground-breaking "La Dolce Vita", "Never On Sunday", classic westerns "The Magnificent Seven" and "The Wild Bunch", the scorching Paul Newman dramas "Hud" and "The Hustler", Elizabeth Taylor’s Oscar winners "Butterfield 8" and "Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf" as well as guilty pleasures like "The Dirty Dozen".

Hannan has already has two books published on Alfred Hitchcock – Darkness Visible: Hitchcock’s Greatest Film and Hitchcock’s Hollywood Hell.
More in 70mm reading:

70mm Blow Up List 1963 - by in70mm.com

John Wayne Was Set To Play Lawrence Of Arabia

Widescreen Weekend 2013

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This morning in the Amazon Kindle Top 100 Chart for Film & TV - your proud author had FOUR books in the Top Thirty. The Making Of The Guns Of Navarone was at No 19, The Making Of Lawrence Of Arabia was at No 24, Hitchcock's Hollywood Hell was at No 27 and Out Of This World:Spielberg's Greatest Film was at No 30.


I've now got all FIVE of my published kindle books in the Amazon kindle Film & Video chart - as of this evening the Making of Lawrence of Arabia was No 2, Making of Guns Of Navarone was No 10, Hitchcock's Hollywood Hell was No 26, Out of This World ; Spielberg's Greatest Film was No 29 and Darkness Visible: Hitchcock;s Greatest Film was No 44. In the US Lawrence is at No 69.

All star cast of "The Guns of Navarone". Columbia 1961

‘This is the classic story of turning your hobby into something bigger,’ says Hannan. ‘I’ve been working on these books for years. I’m a massive movie fan and go every week – I went more often when I was younger. The strange thing is that I grew up in a town without a cinema, which was very unusual in Scotland, which was famous for its cinemagoing habit. I did not see "The Guns Of Navarone" till I was about sixteen years old. When I went to university I got into movies in earnest, ending up as president of the film society and therefore able to programme all the old films I wanted. I also spent a lot of time in the Mitchell Library in Glasgow, a famous reference library, and was amazed to discover they took in copies of the weekly movie trade magazines so in a sense I was a movie researcher from an early age and so researching has always been a joy.’

How he finds the time is another wonder for he is kept busy with his full-time job as the chief executive of The Cookery School in Glasgow. ‘When your hobby is such fun it’s not hard to make the time,’ he says. ‘My job is also a joy. Food and movies, what more is there to life?’

In fact his first published books related to food. He edited the bestselling recipe book The Flavour Of Scotland and wrote Great Scots In The Cookery Business. He also organised the Official Dinner for the Opening of the Scottish Parliament.

‘I’m a massive fan of the Bradford Widescreen Festival. The museum does a fabulous job of showing these old movies in their original format and I’m delighted to be taking part.

‘Although Bradford had already scheduled the film before they heard of my book, what’s most rewarding of all is that, apparently, because of my book coming out, other UK cinemas are starting to book "The Guns Of Navarone", which has been restored in 4K, as a special Father’s Day attraction this year. The Glasgow Film Theatre, for example, has already booked it.’

Brian Hannan has also written The Making of Lawrence Of Arabia, Hitchcock’s Hollywood Hell, Darkness Visible – Hitchcock’s Greatest Film and Out Of This World – Spielberg’s Greatest Film. He is currently working on The Making Of The Magnificent Seven.

The Making Of The Guns Of Navarone is available on Amazon Kindle in Britain, the US and across Europe (on various amazon sites) and direct form the publisher Baroliant Press and in British bookshops.

Contact Brian Hannan
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Updated 21-01-24