When little Geordie MacTaggart sees that ad line, he takes it to heart. Tired of being teased by other kids for his diminutive size and embarrassed that his girlfriend is quite a bit taller than he, Geordie decides to enroll in a bodybuilding correspondence course; the next thing we know, it's ten years later and he's not so wee anymore. In fact, he's now a giant of a man, strong as an ox, and the pride of the Scottish Highlands. Geordie even qualifies for the Melbourne Summer Olympics as a hammer thrower. Once in Australia, he finds himself the object of affection by a blonde, Scandinavian shot-put champion, testing Geordie's devotion to Scotland and his girlfriend.
Based on a novel by David Walker, the warm, gentle comedy Wee Geordie (1955) was written and produced by Sidney Gilliat and Frank Launder, and directed by Launder. The duo had been a filmmaking team for decades, with screenplay credits going back to 1933 and including such gems as The Lady Vanishes (1938), Night Train to Munich (1940) and Green for Danger (1947). They also produced and directed a good number of their scripts, with one man or the other taking the directing reins.
Gilliat later told author Geoff Brown (Launder and Gilliat) that on this film, "we had terrible casting problems. To find a huge man and a huge girl [for the Scandinavian] is very difficult!" After many tests, they found their huge man in actor Bill Travers and their tall blonde in actress Doris Goddard. Travers was committed to making another film first so Launder and Gilliat did another film first as well--The Constant Husband (1955)--before returning to Wee Geordie. For the part of the eccentric Scottish laird on whose estate Geordie's father works as gamekeeper, the filmmakers cast British star Alastair Sim.
Produced for British Lion, Wee Geordie was shot on location in Scotland in the fall of 1954, in challenging weather conditions. Said Gilliat: "The film was made almost on a shoestring, under the most extreme difficulties and in an enormous hurry--which accounts for some of its roughness." Launder remembered "the cameraman saying to me once that there was practically no recording on his light meter, and it was not worth turning the cameras; but I insisted, and he shot the scene under protest. To his amazement and mine it turned out to be one of the best pieces of photography in the film. With the new colour stock, cameramen were in a 'you never can tell' stage at that time."
Indeed, the bright Technicolor footage of scenic Scotland drew as much praise as the actors and the charming story. The picture was acquired for release in the United States by George K. Arthur, who booked it into the Little Carnegie theater in New York City, where it performed well for over six months. After ten weeks, Arthur got another company, Times Film Corp., to handle national distribution.
The movie was very well received: "It isn't often that a movie reviewer comes across a genuine 'sleeper' on the screen," said The New York Times. "One of the most heartwarming and enjoyable films of the season."
By Jeremy Arnold