April 2017: Document of the month goes to the movies

To coincide with the Belfast Film Festival, PRONI has selected as its document of the month, a Ministry of Commerce file which cautions against financial support for the filming of the movie, Odd Man Out.

The file which is entitled: "Application by Two Cities Films Ltd" to film in Belfast contains a letter from one of the Arthur Rank Companies and dates from 1946.

Picture of a page out of a Ministry of Commerce file which cautions against financial support for the filming of the movie, Odd Man Out Stephen Scarth, Head of PRONI Public Services, said: “I selected this file to coincide with the 2017 Belfast Film Festival as it deals with a request from ‘Two Cities Films Ltd.’ asking the Ministerial support for the making of a movie called ‘Odd Man Out’ in Belfast.

Two Cities stressed that their movie adaption would have substantively differed from the original book on which it was based, and that references to political organisations would not have been included.

However, it is the response from the Ministry of Commerce which is of particular interest. The Permanent Secretary wrote that he could see no commercial opportunities for making a film in Belfast.

The Permanent Secretary redirected the request to the Stormont Cabinet Office, stating that it had “no commercial significance whatever, direct or indirect, such significance as there might be being political and propagandist.”

Stephen highlights that this contrasts starkly with the position today where the local film industry is a major success for Northern Ireland, drawing in thousands of tourists and producing internationally successful brands such as Game of Thrones and Line of Duty.

‘Odd Man Out’ did eventually get made in Belfast.  It was directed by Carol Reid and starred James Mason and it is now widely regarded as a major achievement of British film making.

The Two Cities letter can be viewed in PRONI under the reference COM/7/86 and other associated material can be found under HA/32/1/640.

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