The Yellow Balloon


1h 16m 1953

Brief Synopsis

One of two young boys accidentally falls to his death when playing in a bombed-out London neighborhood. Frankie, the survivor feels guilty about his friend's death. Len, a petty thief who has just killed a pub owner during a botched robbery, learns of the accident. He poses as Frankie's friend and blackmails the boy into stealing from his parents to finance Len's escape. When Len decides that Frankie may know enough to connect him with the murder, he decides to silence the boy in a tense "hide and seek" chase through the ruins.

Film Details

Release Date
Nov 1953
Premiere Information
London, England opening: 16 Feb 1953
Production Company
Allied Artists Productions, Inc.; Associated British Picture Corp., Ltd.; Marble Arch Productions
Distribution Company
Monogram Pictures Corp.
Country
Great Britain and United States
Location
Ellstree, England, Great Britain; Ellstree, England, Great Britain; Elstree, England, Great Britain

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 16m
Sound
Mono (RCA Sound System)
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
7,157ft

Synopsis

In post-World War II London, after young Frankie Palmer loses the ten-pence coin his father Ted has given him to buy a yellow balloon, he teasingly grabs one just purchased by his friend, Ron Williams. As Ron runs after Frankie, the two boys enter the rubble of a bomb-destroyed building, and Ron accidentally falls to his death. After going to Ron's body, the stunned Frankie becomes terrified when Len Turner, a petty thief who has witnessed the accident, convinces the boy that the police will charge him with murder. Pretending to be sympathetic, Len promises not to reveal the incident to the police and convinces Frankie not to tell his parents. At home, Frankie is further disturbed when his mother Em is visited by Mrs. Stokes, a neighbor who tells her that Ron's body was found in an abandoned building. Frankie then goes to the café where Len had taken him after the accident. There Len again plays on the boy's fears by saying that they must get away for a while to hide from the police, but he has no money. Wanting to help, Frankie tries to pawn a pen Ted gave him, but the pawnbroker tells him it is against the law for him to buy anything from a child. Later Frankie returns a wallet dropped by a wealthy man but the man's wife prevents her husband from giving a reward. Frankie almost takes change from a newsvendor, but stops when a policeman approaches. Frankie then steals a pineapple from a fruit vendor and offers it to Len, who claimed he had no money for food. Len asks him to promise never to steal again, but immediately says that he has heard the police "are on to" them and they must get money. Frankie mentions the teapot in which his mother keeps savings for family holidays, and after Len suggests that they could use that money, Frankie leaves. Em and Ted try to be sympathetic when Frankie returns home late, but Em worries about her normally obedient son. In the middle of the night, Frankie sneaks out of bed, steals the money, then falls off a chair. His parents think he has been having a nightmare and return him to bed, after which he sobs himself to sleep. The next morning, Frankie takes the money and leaves for Sunday school. When Em finds the teapot empty, she and Ted cannot believe that Frankie has taken their savings, but when she discovers that money is also missing from her purse, they realize that he has stolen it. When Ted brings Frankie home, he gives the boy a spanking, but Frankie remains silent about his reason for taking the money. When Frankie later goes to tell Len that he cannot get the money, Len asks Frankie to help him out with something. He takes Frankie to an arcade, where he meets his girl friend Iris to discuss a robbery of her pub-owner employer, Potter. Len then concocts a story for Frankie, telling him he needs to see someone who lives above a pub but cannot because the pub owner dislikes him. He asks Frankie to help by going to the pub door after closing time and telling the owner that he needs brandy for his sick mother. Frankie reluctantly complies, and when Potter opens the pub door, Len enters, pretending to have a gun in his coat pocket. Potter soon realizes that Len has no gun and the men start to fight. Despite Iris's screams to stop, Len chokes Potter to death. Frankie runs away, and Iris refuses to go through with the robbery, but Len persuades her to call the police and report a burglary. A few minutes later, Mary, a woman out walking her dog, finds Frankie cowering in an alley and takes him to her flat when he refuses to reveal where he lives. Mary senses that Frankie is keeping something from his parents and gently tells him that if her little boy had done something bad, she would always forgive him, no matter what. Frankie then confesses everything that happened, from Ron's death to the robbery. She tries to reassure him that the police will help, but he is still terrified, so she takes him home in a taxi. Em and Ted, distraught that Frankie is not home, have meanwhile gone out to look for him. After Frankie says goodbye to Mary and enters his building alone, he is confronted by Len, who cajoles him by saying that he merely lost his head and was trying to defend himself against Potter. He lies that Potter is fine but will certainly identify them to the police. Frankie just wants to go home, but Len says they must hide and takes him to an abandoned underground station. At the same time, Mary goes to the police station to tell them about Frankie and meets Em and Ted there. Mary tries to reassure them that Frankie is now home, but when Ted and the police go to the flat, it is empty. At the underground station, Frankie suddenly realizes that Len is about to push him off a platform and runs away. As Len pursues the boy through the station's dark tunnels, Frankie yells for help as a train passes through. At the next stop, the motorman calls the police, who rush to the abandoned station. Len catches up to Frankie just as the police arrive, then falls to his death after they corner him on a scaffold. When Em and Ted arrive moments later, the tearful Frankie runs to their waiting arms.

Film Details

Release Date
Nov 1953
Premiere Information
London, England opening: 16 Feb 1953
Production Company
Allied Artists Productions, Inc.; Associated British Picture Corp., Ltd.; Marble Arch Productions
Distribution Company
Monogram Pictures Corp.
Country
Great Britain and United States
Location
Ellstree, England, Great Britain; Ellstree, England, Great Britain; Elstree, England, Great Britain

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 16m
Sound
Mono (RCA Sound System)
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
7,157ft

Quotes

Trivia

Notes

The opening credits list William Sylvester, Kenneth More and Kathleen Ryan above the title, in that order. Additional opening credits list several other cast members, ending with the statement "and Andrew Ray as Frankie." The end credits list all cast members in order of their appearance. The actor listed in the onscreen credits as "Sydney James" is the well-known British character actor most often billed as either Sidney or Sid James.
       According to information contained in the file on the film in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, Monogram Pictures, parent company of Allied Artists, first submitted Anne Burnaby's script for the film in late February 1952. Evidence in the file indicates that Monogram had a co-financing agreement for the film with Associated British. As noted in reviews, when the film opened in London, it received an "X" certificate, indicating that it was unsuitable for children below the age of sixteen.