Cast & Crew
Joan Webster is a very modern woman (in the 1940's), "She knows where she's going", she has her life carefully planned out from a very young age. She gets engaged to a rich industrialist who has taken a lease on an island in the Hebrides, so she travels up to Scotland to marry him. However, in the Western Isles, life beats to a different drum. A storm prevents her immediate journey to the island so she stays for a while with some of the locals including a young Naval officer, Torquil MacNeil, who turns out to be the local clan head and the true owner of the island. The magic of the local land, it's history and the eccentric people she meets begin to have an effect on Joan and she wonders ... does she really "Know where she's going".
Captain C W R Knight
I Know Where I'm Going
I Know Where I'm Going! might never have been made if it hadn't been for wartime restrictions. In 1944, Powell and Pressburger were planning to make a big-budget Technicolor film to cement Anglo-American relations, but couldn't get access to Technicolor cameras because the U.S. Army was using them to make training films. While they were waiting, they decided to make a smaller, personal film. In his memoirs, Powell writes that Pressburger said he had always wanted to make a film about a girl who wants to go to an island, but is delayed by weather, and once the weather clears, she no longer wants to go. Powell asked why she wanted to go to the island in the first place. "Emeric smiled one of his mysterious smiles. 'Let's make the film and find out.'"
Pressburger reportedly wrote the story for I Know Where I'm Going! in five days. Both men worked on the script, and finished it in three weeks. Wendy Hiller, who had lost the leading role in their film, The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943) to Deborah Kerr, was their first choice for Joan. They offered the part of Torquil to an up-and-coming young actor, James Mason, and Powell met with Mason, enthusiastically describing the rugged location where they would camp, and the climactic storm and whirlpool sequence. Mason was not amused, and soon after, Powell got a telegram from him saying he "did not propose to play Boy Scouts for anybody, and would expect first-class transportation and accommodation." Powell began looking for another actor.
Roger Livesey, who had played Colonel Blimp, wanted the role, but at first Powell resisted. Torquil was supposed to be in his twenties, and physically fit. Livesey was over forty and overweight, but he wanted the part so badly that he lost weight and bleached his hair, so he looked the part. There was one other problem. Livesey was in a play in London, and the producers would not release him to go on location. So as it turned out, Livesey played the part, but never left London. Powell used a double in the Scottish exteriors, intercutting close-ups of Livesey shot in a London studio. "I'm not sure, but I think it was one of the cleverest things I did in movies," Powell recalled. "What a pity James Mason didn't trust me more. He need never have gone on location at all, and the rest of us could have played Boys Scouts to our hearts' content." Powell and Mason would finally work together twenty-four years later in Powell's final film as director, Age of Consent (1969).
Livesey's double was only one example of I Know Where I'm Going!'s technical wizardry. Most of the Vorryvreckan Whirlpool sequence was shot in a studio tank, supplemented with shots of real whirlpools that Powell himself had filmed while tied to a mast, and rear-projection shots of Livesey and Hiller.
Hiller didn't want to play Boy Scouts either, and stayed in a hotel during the location filming, but Pamela Brown, who played the self-sufficient Catriona, roughed it with the crew, even though she suffered from arthritis and was in constant pain. She and Powell fell in love during filming. Both were married, but their relationship would last until her death more than thirty years later.
Also in the cast was a precocious thirteen-year-old girl who had become a singing star entertaining the troops during the war, and had recently started a film career. Her name was Petula Clark, and she would become a child star in British films, then would re-invent herself as a pop singer in the early 1960s.
Executives at the Rank Organisation, where Powell and Pressburger had their production company, The Archers, didn't like I Know Where I'm Going!, and especially didn't like all the island culture in the film -- the music, the Gaelic language, the mysticism. According to Powell, "They weren't very sure that the public wanted a strange wayward story loaded with Celtic sounds and voices, and which seemed to them to have no relation to the facts of 1945." But audiences and critics found its love story, picturesque setting, anti-materialism message, and Erwin Hillier's stunning cinematography captivating. I Know Where I'm Going! received excellent reviews, especially in America. Novelist Raymond Chandler wrote in a letter to a friend, "I've never seen a picture which smelled of the wind and rain in quite this way nor one which so beautifully exploited the kind of scenery people actually live with, rather than the kind which is commercialized as a show place."
A few years later, Powell and Pressburger were in Hollywood, and Pressburger had lunch with a friend at Paramount, who told him that the studio had a copy of I Know Where I'm Going! "which they showed to writers as an example of how a perfect screenplay should be constructed," according to Powell.
Powell and Pressburger eventually made their big-budget Technicolor fantasy, A Matter of Life and Death (1946), and its message of Anglo-American cooperation was effective and respectfully received. But it is their small, personal black-and-white afterthought of a film that has become a well-loved masterpiece. To Powell, I Know Where I'm Going! was simply, "the sweetest film we ever made."
Director: Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger
Producer: Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger
Screenplay: Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger
Cinematography: Erwin Hillier
Editor: John Seabourne
Art Direction: Alfred Junge
Music: Allan Gray
Cast: Roger Livesey (Torquil MacNeil), Wendy Hiller (Joan Webster), Pamela Brown (Catriona Potts), Nancy Price (Mrs. Crozier), Finlay Currie (Ruairidh Mur), John Laurie (John Campbell), George Carney (Mr. Webster), Walter Hudd (Hunter), Murdo Morrison (Kenny), Margot Fitzsimons (Birdie), Petula Clark (Cheril).
by Margarita Landazuri
I Know Where I'm Going
Wendy Hiller, 1912-2003
Wendy Hiller was born on August 15, 1912, in Bramhall, and raised in Manchester, where her father was a cotton-cloth manufacturer. Educated at Winceby House, a girl's school in Sussex, Hiller found herself drawn to the theater, and after completing secondary school, Wendy joined the Manchester Repertory Theater, where she was a bit player and later an assistant stage manager. In 1934, she earned critical acclaim and stardom when Manchester Rep cast her as the lead in the popular drama, Love on the Dole, written by her future husband, Ronald Gow. The play was such a hit, that Hiller would repeat her role in London and triumphed on Broadway.
Back on the London stage, she was playing the lead in George Bernard Shaw's St. Joan, when she caught the eye of the playwright himself. He cast her as the beloved cockney flower girl Eliza Doolittle in Pygmalion (contemporary audiences will no doubt be aware of the musical version - My Fair Lady) on stage in 1936 and in Anthony Asquith's screen adaptation two years later co-starring Leslie Howard. The film was a smash, and Hiller earned an Academy Award nomination for her striking and original Eliza. Shaw would cast her again as an heiress turned Salvation Army worker in the classic Major Barbara for both stage and the 1941 film version.
The ensuing years could very well have been Hiller's time for screen stardom, yet despite her blazing acting ability, regal presence and distinctive voice, her film forays were too few, as she concentrated on the stage and spending time with her husband Gow and two children. Still, when she did make a film appearance, it was often memorable: a materialist turned romantic in Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger's glorious, I Know Where I'm Going! (1945); a lonely hotelkeeper in Delbert Mann's Separate Tables (1958), which earned her an Academy Award as best supporting actress; an obsessive mother in Jack Cardiff's Sons and Lovers (1960); a unfaltering wife to Sir Thomas More in Fred Zinneman's brilliant A Man for All Seasons (1966); and as a compassionate nurse who cares for the deformed David Merrick in David Lynch's The Elephant Man (1980).
Ill health became an issue for Hiller in her later years, but she made one elegant return to the camera when she was cast as a former society beauty who is interviewed 50 years after her fame in Moira Armstrong's The Countess Alice (1992). In a performance that was touching, but never maudlin, Wendy Hiller proved that few could match her for presence, integrity and dignity. Her contribution to her craft did not go unnoticed, as she was made a Dame of the British Empire in 1975. She is survived by her son, Anthony, and daughter, Ann.
by Michael T. Toole
Wendy Hiller, 1912-2003
You'll stay here tonight of course.- Catriona Potts
Well I don't want to be any trouble.- Joan Webster
Oh it's no trouble at all. Besides I haven't heard any intelligent female nonsense for months.- Catriona Potts
Have you got any beams in your room?- Torquil MacNeil
Yes, why?- Joan Webster
Count them before you go to sleep and your wish'll come true.- Torquil MacNeil
As easy as that?- Joan Webster
Only the first night under the roof.- Torquil MacNeil
Still got those half starved hounds? How on earth do you manage to feed 'em?- Torquil MacNeil
Oh we live off the country. Rabbits, deer, a stray hiker or two.- Catriona Potts
She wouldn't see a pound note from one pensions day to another.- Torquil MacNeil
People around here are very poor I suppose.- Joan Webster
Not poor, they just haven't got money.- Torquil MacNeil
It's the same thing.- Joan Webster
Oh no, it's something quite different.- Torquil MacNeil
Captain C.W.R. Knight was a real life falconer and trained the golden eagle "Torquil" in this film.
'Powell, Michael' 's golden cocker spaniels Erik and Spangle make their third appearance on film when Joan goes to visit Mr. & Mrs. Robinson.
Roger Livesey was starring in a West End play at the time, so he could never go on location to Scotland. All his scenes were shot in the studio.
'Powell, Michael' wanted to make Matter of Life and Death, A (1946) at this time but had to wait for access to Technicolor cameras.
'Mason, James' was originally cast as Torquil but declined when told he would have to "live rough" in the islands. Ironically Roger Livesey never went to the islands because he was in a West End show at the time. A double was used for long shots and all close ups are shot in the studio.