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Feature
A Secret History Of Passport To Pimlico
Behind the scenes on the Ealing classic

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For British cinema, 1949 was an annus mirabilis. It was the year of The Third Man and the year that Ealing Studios, under the watchful eye of Sir Michael Balcon, released not one but three comic masterpieces: Kind Hearts And Coronets, Whisky Galore! and Passport To Pimlico.

Funny and gently satirical in that arch way Ealing perfected, ‘Pimlico’ was arguably the smallest leap from the studio’s wartime propaganda efforts – at least in terms of its bomb-blasted location and the barbed wire twisting around its perimeter. In this case, though, the wire wasn’t to keep Jerry in but furious locals out. Cast member Barbara Murray took up the story when Empire delved into the Ealing archives...

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A Secret History Of Passport To Pimlico |

If gems were rolling off the Ealing production line in 1949, there was little initial confidence that Passport To Pimlico would be one of them. Barbara Murray, who plays Shirley Pemberton in the film, recalls plenty of on-set anxieties. “The rumour was that it was a bummer,” she explains. The problem wasn’t the story – a tale involving unexploded bombs, parchment McGuffins and a small corner of London that would be forever Burgundy – so much as director Henry Cornelius’s overruns. “There was an awful lot of friction between Cornelius (pictured) and Michael Balcon,” Murray explains. “It was supposed to take six weeks to make. I think it took six months.”

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