Northern Ireland

Odd Man Out makers get thumbs down over Belfast location

James Mason (centre) in Odd Man Out, 1947 Image copyright Alamy
Image caption Odd Man Out starred James Mason (centre) and the moody backdrop of Belfast city

There's no money to be made from shooting a film in Belfast, a government letter dating from 1946 suggests.

But fast forward 70 years and what a difference there is.

Back in 1946, Arthur Rank companies had asked the British government for funds to shoot what later became the seminal film, Odd Man Out.

Image copyright ITV/Rex/Shutterstock
Image caption Odd Man Out is seen by some as a seminal film in the history of film-making

It starred James Mason, Kathleen Ryan and Cyril Cusack.

It also starred the moody backdrop of Belfast, with much of the film being shot in the city - although the Crown Bar's famous interior was recreated in a studio in Denham, Buckinghamshire.

Mason later said his leading role in Odd Man Out was the best performance of his career.

Image caption Northern Ireland's Dark Hedges as seen in the HBO hit, Game of Thrones, have become a major visitor attraction

As Belfast celebrates its 2017 film festival, that letter, released by the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (Proni), paints a black and gloomy picture of the city.

The permanent secretary for the ministry of commerce at that time said he could see no commercial opportunities for making a film in Belfast.

"This contrasts starkly with the position today where the film industry is a massive draw for tourists and Northern Ireland is home to internationally successful brands such as Game of Thrones," said Proni's Stephen Scarth.

"Even now, Odd Man Out remains a seminal movie in the history of film making."

Image caption Odd Man Out starred various Belfast landmarks, including the Crown Bar

In his letter, the permanent secretary redirected a query for funding from Arthur Rank Companies to the Stormont Cabinet Office.

"As the question of whether these people make a film with Belfast as a background has no commercial significance whatever, direct or indirect, such significance as there might be being political and propagandist, the minister feels that this is a matter for you rather than for us," the letter said.

There are other files in Proni including those in the Ministry of Home Affairs archive which also reference this request and include correspondence from the Inspector General who says that the minister would feel it undesirable to provide armoured cars as requested by the company.

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