Brighton Rock

Julian leading the Brighton Rock Tour, Brighton Fringe Festival 2006
Photo courtesey of Julian

I’m actually doing a walk during Brighton Festival Fringe this year. It’s based on Brighton Rock the film and the book, which is one of my sort of loves I suppose.

Lively gang fights at Race Hill
Brighton Rock [has] always put into peoples’ mind the terrible race gang fights up at Race Hill in Brighton which I’m not quite sure were ever quite that horrific but in the film they were quite lively. In the 1930s there were something like 14,000 off-course bookmakers throughout the country who were dealing in betting, which obviously made the crime in terms of unlawful betting very high and people, like Pinky from Brighton Rock, obviously thrived on these sort of extortion rackets and things that went on in the town.

Converting literature into f ilm
I think most of my research has been about the book and the film. … the book and the film are interesting in that obviously if you know Brighton Rock you’ll know that the film takes some quite large liberties and creates things that never ever happened in the book. But of course they had a sort of 90 minute runtime to make a film and they had to make it as attractive as possible to the audience.

Brighton Rock and the Catholic faith
It’s a film that obviously I’ve seen time and time again during my research and if you can read the book and then watch the film it brings home the differences. The book has got a lot of deeper meaning, it’s got a lot more about Brighton in it, a lot of religion in it, a lot of religion in Brighton Rock that never comes really out in the film – the Roman Catholic faith and the fact, of course, that Pinky Brown is a Roman Catholic and Rose who is the waitress, who he ends up marrying, of course is a Roman Catholic. There’s a lot of religion in the book that of course in the film is pretty much left out.

Filmed on location?
A lot of people think that Brighton Rock was totally filmed in Brighton. Well 99 per cent of Brighton Rock was actually filmed at Welwyn Studios, at MGM at Elstree. They came down for a very short period in the summer months of 1947 to actually make the film. So, actually the amount of Brighton that’s actually featured in the film is small which is actually location shots.

Filming in the summer sun of 1947
It was 1947 that they did the actual filming in Brighton, so the war had been and gone. But it wasn’t that far away, because when they were making the film in Brighton, a lot of the crew, who’d just come out of the Services, actually because the summer of 1947 was an extremely hot summer and the crew, the Boulting Brothers and people making the film were, a lot of them were actually wearing their ex Summer Services kit in order because they were on the pier etc and it was blisteringly hot.

Walking through the story
My walk goes round different locations which were featured in the film. I use stills from the film … [because] people coming on the walk probably won’t remember a lot of bits of the film so I’ve got stills which actually bring it to life and then we can sort of talk about what happened at this location …

Julian hopes to run more Brighton Rock tours in the 2007 Brighton Fesitval.

Julian interviewed by Sue Craig on 15th April 2006.

Comments about this page

  • Yes, the race gangs were as bad if not worse than depicted in the film. At the time the policemen on the beats back from Edward Street up to Carlton Hill and north, patroled in pairs and always carried their trunceons in their hands. Late at night there were times when the area was a no go area, although most of the gangs did not make trouble for people not involved in the criminal activites.

    By Ken Ross (09/01/2007)
  • Brighton Rock was filmed at Welwyn Studios in Welwyn Garden City, not at MGM Elstree.

    By David Whitehead (15/02/2007)
  • I well remember the actual filming in Brighton in 1947. The film company mounted the camera on a large van to follow the pursuit of Fred Hale (Alan Wheatley) through North Street and Queens Road to Brighton Station.

    By George Ginn (04/03/2007)
  • I am hosting the same “Brighton Rock” guided walk this year during Brighton Festival Fringe 2008.

    By Jules (22/04/2008)

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