Hanwell – The Water Gipsies (1932)

The Water Gypsies (1932) | Hanwell

Quota quicke. Ann Todd plays the daughter of bargees, who longs for a life away from the river. Set on the canals surrounding the capital, like ‘The Bargee‘, a rare glimpse of transport for London before underground trains. One shot is of Lock 96 near Hanwell, on the Grand Union Canal behind St. Bernard’s Hospital.

Director Maurice Elvey was the most prolific director in British cinema history, making almost 200 features from the silent period in 1913. He continued to work in the industry till 1957. Elvey mentored directors including Carol Reed, David Lean and Ronald Neame, and talent-spotted Petula Clark for film roles.

‘The Water Gipsies’ was Ann Todd’s second feature. She went on to fame in Hollywood starring opposite James Mason in ‘The Seventh Veil’ (1945). Producer David O. Selznick is said to have given her the highest-paying contract for an English woman actor up till that time, of $1 million.

Her first feature was ‘The Ghost Train‘ (1931), thought to have been lost but now partly recovered following a BFI campaign to find lost British movies. Based on author Arnold Ridley’s experience of being stranded overnight at Mangotsfield railway station (a “lost station” on the closed Midland Railway main line), it gave rise to the genre of plays and films about a group of characters thrown together when they’re stuck in a train carriage, a genre which includes the Amicus ‘Dr Terror’s House Of Horrors‘ (strictly speaking “Dr Terror’s standard class train carriage of horror”). The very first ghost train amusement ride had been imported to Blackpool Pleasure Beach in 1930, the year before the Ann Todd film, from the Pretzel Amusement Ride Company (‘The Pretzel’ being its signature pretzel-shaped single track “dark ride” attraction). The Pretzel company was based in Bridgeton, New Jersey.