Hoots mon, laddie: classic
kitsch from Brigadoon with Gene Kelly
in the 1950s the Hollywood producer Arthur Freed came to Scotland to look for
locations for Brigadoon, a spectacular musical about a Scottish village that emerges
from the mists for just one day in every 100 years.
A local film critic took him on a tour of some of Scotland's most atmospheric
and picturesque towns and villages. Scotland has a long tradition of providing
stories and locations for film-makers from Hollywood and England, but sadly on
this occasion Freed concluded there was nowhere in Scotland that looked quite
Scottish enough for his needs. He went back to Hollywood, created Scotland in
the studio and filled it with Americans in tartan.
The ghosts of Brigadoon (1954) and Freed's mythical version of Scotland have haunted
the nation ever since. Four decades later Shallow Grave finally emerged out of
the mists of the Scottish film industry, a deliciously dark and modern comedy-thriller,
about three flatmates who find a suitcase full of money and resort to murder to
With Shallow Grave (1994), Scotland not only threw off the kilt and the cobwebs
of history, but laid the foundations of a native film industry that would in a
few short years produce such talents as Peter Mullan and Lynne Ramsay, making
films with a distinctively Scottish perspective. During the Eighties there were
years in which no feature films were made in Scotland. Last year there were a
record 15, and half involved Scottish production companies.
For a century cinema has borrowed Scottish scenery and plundered Scottish history,
and then made up the rest. Braveheart (1995) employed an international image of
kilted warriors and heathery glens that was already established when Mary Pickford
produced and starred in Pride of the Clan in 1917, ten years before the arrival
of the "talkies".
By 1913 there had been at least three versions of Rob Roy, one of which shot in
Scotland, a rare instance of a "story film" made by a Scottish production company
in the first half of the century. It is perhaps appropriate Rob Roy should be
the subject of a 1995 film produced, written and directed by Scots, just as the
Scottish film industry was beginning to get going - though they needed United
Artists's dollars and cast Irishman Liam Neeson as Rob Roy. Some critics would
argue the opposite of course - that Rob Roy was an ironic choice for Scottish
film-makers at a time when their peers were discovering new and very different
Scottish stories and characters.
tartanisation continues >>