DIRK Bogarde was the star attraction in Portpatrick, in Wigtownshire, when a film crew descended in the summer of 1951, there to shoot scenes for a film, Hunted. He was sporting a “carefully nurtured two-day growth of beard”, which surprised some of the town’s older residents. One of them was overheard remarking to a friend, “My dear, don’t film people ever shave?”

In Hunted, directed by Charles Crichton, Bogarde played a murderer who, while on the run, becomes acquainted with a small boy, played by Scots-born Jon Whiteley. In time, Bogarde’s character cares for and grows to love the boy.

An interesting insight into the making of the film (including the ‘shave’ quotation mentioned above) comes in an article by Ray Cunnington in the November 1951 issue of The Cinema Studio magazine, re-published on the website, dirkbogarde.co.uk.

Cunnington, who had worked in publicity on previous films, says that at the start of the location shoot, Crichton and key crew members set up at Portpatrick Hotel, “making daily sorties to the harbour to film seagulls, harbour exteriors and the like, until the arrival of the cast and main unit from Pinewood”.

It had been 10 months since Bogarde’s last film, and he was enthusiastic about this new role. Over breakfast, he “will tell you with considerable accuracy the direction of the wind, the likelihood of rain or sunshine, yesterday’s price for fish, and whether fleet will come into port”.

Such was the demand for autographs that extra supplies of autograph books had to be fetched from a neighbouring town. Cunnington records that large numbers of lucky holidaymakers “obtained ‘happy snaps’ of the star during one of the greatest exhibitions of mass amateur photography I have ever seen”.

Several locals had roles as extras in Hunted. Some visitors also enjoyed that privilege, including Ian Hunter, a 12-year-old on holiday from Glasgow, who was promised a meaningful walk-on part. He was then told he was not needed, but a change of plan meant that he had to be sent for. He was nowhere to be found, and a hectic search finally discovered him doing his Boy Scout bob-a-job at a local house.

When the film was released in February 1952, the critical reaction was generally positive. “There is the special Scottish interest in ‘Hunted’ – a modestly human thriller in its own right – that its child star is a six-year-old boy, and the scene of its denouement Portpatrick”, wrote our critic.

“The child, Jon Whiteley, plays with that relaxed pathos of the very young which is so much more effective than the best efforts of experienced actors, and one of the pleasantnesses of ‘Hunted’ is the good grace with which Dirk Bogarde, the fugitive who spends the whole action in the company of the boy, surrenders to this natural, and slightly unfair, competition”.

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