Thursday, July 28, 2016

Tiger Bay (1959)


Full Cast & Crew

Directed by 

J. Lee Thompson

Writing Credits  

Noël Calef...(short story "Rodolphe et le Revolver") (as Noel Calef)
John Hawkesworth...(screenplay) &
Shelley Smith...(screenplay)

Cast (in credits order) verified as complete  

John Mills...
Superintendent Graham
Horst Buchholz...
Hayley Mills...
Yvonne Mitchell...
Megs Jenkins...
Mrs. Phillips
Anthony Dawson...
George Selway...
Det. Sgt. Harvey
George Pastell...
'POLOMA' Captain
Paul Stassino...
'POLOMA' 1st. Officer
Marne Maitland...
Dr. Das
Meredith Edwards...
P.C. Williams
Marianne Stone...
Mrs. Williams
Rachel Thomas...
Mrs. Parry
Brian Hammond...
Dal Parry
Kenneth Griffith...
Eynon Evans...
Mr. Morgan
Christopher Rhodes...
Insp. Bridges
Edward Cast...
Det. Con. Thomas
David Davies...
Desk Sgt.

A Polish sailor and a young British tomboy become unlikely allies after she witnesses him commit a crime of passion. With its location shooting and scenes of port city street culture, Tiger Bay presaged the cinema of the British New Wave, while Hayley Mills' starring performance won the 12 year-old a special prize at the Berlin Film Festival and launched her career.

SPOILER ALERT: Although I do disclose much of the plot, it is NOT the case that I reveal the surprise ending.

TIGER BAY is a black and white movie, starring America's former heart-throb, Hayley Mills, that is, during the 1960s. Most of the film takes place at a seaside city in Wales, and the viewer is occasionally treated to the distant sounds of horns emanating from cargo ships. In a nutshell, Hayley Mills witnesses a murder while looking through the mailslot in a tenement apartment. She is pursued by the murderer, who is a handsome young merchant marine. They quickly become close friends, where Hayley's motivation stems from her lack of any father figure. Eventually, both of them escape on a cargo ship, the POLOMA CARACAS. The viewer is treated to great cinematography, bringing to mind the gritty black and white photography of Helen Levitt, who photographed street urchins amidst tenement buildings in New York City. The film is 1 hour and 42 minutes long.

THE TOM-BOY. The initial scenes are of a shipyard in Cardiff, a city in Wales. We see lower class tenement buildings. The protagonist is played by HORST BUCHHOLZ, a handsome man. He plays a Polish seaman, who left his Polish girlfriend behind at their apartment in Cardiff. We see Horst coming ashore, and he is presented as a likeable character. He strides through his neighborhood, expecting to find his Polish girlfriend (Anya) at their apartment. He toussels the hair of an Anglo-African boy, and helps another Anglo-African child on his swing. At 7 minutes, Hayley Mills makes her entrance. She is playing with some boys, and she establishes herself as a tom-boy. She sticks out her leg and trips one of the boys. She gets into a fist fight with the boys, and exclaims, "I'm not a lady!" She likes playing with firecrackers, which her auntie calls "bombs."

FINDING ANYA. Horst discovers that the girlfriend (Anya) had moved away from their apartment. But at the ten minute point in this fast-moving film, he succeeds in finding her in another apartment building. He embraces her, and speaks lovingly in Polish. But Anya rejects him. Horst spots evidence of another man, in Anya's dingy apartment, such as a small table with two plates and two sets of silverware. Horst promises to quit his job at sea, and to find a land-based job. But Anya complains that Horst will always love the sea more than her, and she complains that he will always return to sea for a job on a ship.THE AUNTIE. At 12 minutes into the movie, there is a little scene of Hayley and her auntie, a laundry-lady. She greets Hayley with, "You're late you bad girl, where have you been?" (Hayley had been on a shopping errand.) "Put the change on the table," she tells Hayley. "There wasn't no change," Haley replies. "Sausages, my girl, are nine and a half. I gave you two and six. Now what did you do with the nine," demands the auntie. "I dropped it, it wasn't my fault," replies Haley, which is the first of her many lies that are told in this movie. "All my life is spent struggling to skrimp together a few pennies to bring you up decent, and this is how you repay me. A thief at your age . . . little girls wanting to play with guns and bombs and dressing up like gangsters," complains the auntie. Hayley's job is to deliver the auntie's laundry to customers, and to collect the fee. She brings the freshly ironed pants to the customer (Mr. Williams). When Mrs. Williams opens the door, Hayley hides to the side of the door, and then jumps out, and gives Mrs. Williams a scare. "It's two bob," announces Hayley, requesting payment for the ironed pants. "WHERE'S YOUR MANNERS, DIDN'T ANYBODY TELL YOU TO SAY PLEASE," angrily asks Mrs. Williams. Then, Mrs. Williams requests permission to pay the money a week late. Hayley replies, "Okay," and Mrs. Williams turns to enter her apartment. But immediately, Hayley exclaims, "NO ONE EVER TELL YOU TO SAY THANK YOU?" To add to her mischief, Hayley immediately sets off a firecracker, causing Mr. Williams to cut himself while shaving. "Cut yourself bad!!!" teases Hayley, taunting the man who stand before his shaving mirror, bleeding.
LOVER'S SPAT. Then, in the same apartment building, Haley witnesses an escalating lover's spat between Horst and Anya. The cinematography provides periodic close-ups of Hayley's eyes, as they peek through the mail slot. She sees Horst strike Anya, and she sees Horst kill Anya with a gun. Horst realizes that Hayley had seen the murder, and he goes after her, and she hides in a closet. In the closet, Hayley finds the gun, and she tucks the gun into her apartment, and she escapes from Horst and returns to her auntie.

HAYLEY-THE-LIAR. At 20 minutes in this brisk-moving film, the landlady discovers Anya's dead body. As part of the police inquiry, the police interrogate the auntie and also Hayley. Hayley pretends that she knows nothing, and just states that the suspect is fat, is tall, dresses ordinarily, and has fair skin. The auntie insist that the police leave, because Hayley is scheduled to sing in the church choir.

MORE CAT-AND-MOUSE IN THE CHURCH. And so, Hayley rushes off to the church, quickly dons her white gown, and joins the choir to sing. She brings along the gun, and shows it to a choir boy next to her. In one hand, she displays a bullet. During her singing solo, Hayley notices that the murderer is in the audience in the church. The event is actually a wedding ceremony for an Anglo-African couple, and other people in the audience seated in the pews are also Anglo-Africans. During the solo, Hayley breaks off, because she is shocked by the sight of the murderer. After the ceremony, Hayley dashes up to the attic of the church to hide. The murder follows her, and grabs Hayley, and takes away the gun. But the murderer has a change of heart. He falls to his knees, and starts praying. He calmly explains to Hayley why he killed Anya ("because she said she doesn't want me any more"). Hayley agrees to join the murderer on a cargo ship, because she wants to be employed on a cargo ship. (I told you that the plot moves along rapidly.)

THE MOTLEY PAIR. In the next scene, the police interrogate the choir boy who has the bullet. The boy's mother had discovered the bullet in the boy's pocket. The boy tells the police that Hayley has the gun. (The purpose of this part of the plot, is to depict the fact that several confusing clues are disclosed to the police.) The murderer enters a tavern, with the goal of viewing a schedule of cargo ships. In the bar, the radio announces the fact that Haley is missing, and that she is armed with a gun. The murderer dashes out of the tavern, and is re-united with Hayley, who had agreed to wait outside the bar while he was making his inquiry about the cargo ship schedule. The fact that Hayley is also a "wanted person" makes the plot more dangerous, because now the police are after the murderer (they still have no idea what he looks like) and because the police are also after Hayley. At this point, it is evident that the storyline has taken an improbable turn. The plot is now like a Mark Twain story, where a child befriends an escapee. Haley and the murderer spend the night in a broken-down house, in the nearby countryside. The pair tell happy stories to each other. Hayley rides a white pony, with the murderer walking at her side. (The viewer has no choice but to subject himself to this improbable plot twist, aside from switching off the movie.)

MORE SLEUTHING. The police inquire at the apartment formerly occupied by Anya, now occupied by a different woman (Christine). This woman hands over a cloth bag containing the murderer's belongings, which contains evidence in the form of a photograph of the murderer standing next to Anya. At the time that the police drop by Christine's apartment, it was by coincidence the case that the murderer was also at Christine's apartment, because he wanted to retrieve his cloth bag. Christine lets him hid behind a curtain, and he escapes. Meanwhile, the newspapers have a headline showing Hayley's photograph, proclaiming that she is a runaway who needs to be captured. There is a manhunt, and in short order, Hayley is captured. The police determined that she had not been telling the truth, regarding her earlier pretense of not knowing the physical appearance of the murderer. This further establishes Hayley as a pathological liar.
THE POLOMA CARACAS. Meanwhile, there is a brief scene were the murderer bribes his way onto passage on the ship, Poloma Caracas, where he is to find employment as a seaman.

THE WRONG SUSPECT. At one hour and 14 minutes into the movie, there is a police lineup, where one of the men in the lineup is the primary suspect. The primary suspect is a boyfriend of Anya, who happens to be an older married British man. Hayley is forced to review all of the men in the lineup. She points out that the older British man is the person she saw at Anya's apartment, and she implicates him as the murderer. But the police are able to determine that Hayley is a liar. In recounting what she saw through the mail slot, she states that the couple were Polish and were speaking Polish with each other. This enables the police to establish that their primary suspect (the older British man) is not a suspect at all (because he is not Polish). Meanwhile, the Poloma Caracas is about a mile out to sea, and is headed to the 3-mile boundary that will enable the murderer to be free of British control.
THE CHASE. The police realize that the true murderer is the seaman, and they jump into their police car, and zoom to the docks, with Hayley in tow. The police car is momentarily blocked on a narrow road, by a clunky-looking steam roller. Hayley is in the back seat, and she smiles broadly because the police car is blocked, thereby increasing the probability that the murderer will make good his escape. At any rate, the police with Hayley jump into a small boat, and catch up with the Poloma Caracas, climb aboard, and directly confront the murderer. Hayley repeatedly insists that she never saw the murderer, even though the murderer stands directly in front of her (the murderer tries very hard to remain calm, but he is shown clenching his fists).

SURPRISE ENDING. Don't worry, I will NOT give away the surprise ending. The last few minutes of the movie contain a few surprising about-faces. There is a clever surprise ending. Despite the cleverness of the last few minutes, the ending is somewhat forced, improbable, and not really satisfying. But the fact that the last minute of this fine movie is improbable, should not stop customers from enjoying this rapid-paced, finely-acted adventure. As I mentioned before, the cinematography is extremely good, and at least as good as that as in any Alfred Hitchcock movie. What I have in mind, is Alfred Hitchcock's black and white classic murder mystery, STRANGERS ON A TRAIN.

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