Caravan (1946 film)

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"Caravan" (1946 film).jpg
Detail from Italian poster
Directed by Arthur Crabtree
Written by Roland Pertwee
scenario editor
H Ostrer
Based on Caravan
by Eleanor Smith
Produced by Harold Huth
Maurice Ostrer
Starring Stewart Granger
Jean Kent
Anne Crawford
Dennis Price
Robert Helpmann
Gerard Heinz
Cinematography Stephen Dade
Cyril J. Knowles (location photography)
Edited byCharles Knott
Music by Bretton Byrd (uncredited)
Distributed by General Film Distributors (UK)
Release date
  • 3 June 1946 (1946-06-03)(UK)
August 1949 (USA)
Running time
117 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom
Box office649,800 admissions (France) [1]

Caravan is a 1946 British black-and-white drama film directed by Arthur Crabtree. It was one of the Gainsborough melodramas and is based on the 1942 novel Caravan by Eleanor Smith. [2]


Stewart Granger later called the movie "terrible". [3]


In late 19th-century London, destitute Richard Darrell (Stewart Granger) rescues Don Carlos (Gerard Heinz) from two robbers. When Richard returns for the manuscript he inadvertently left behind, he is encouraged by Don Carlos to talk about his background. The son of a poor country doctor, he met the upper class Oriana Camperdene and Francis Castleton during their childhood; he and Francis became rivals for Oriana's affections. Oriana and her father left for Spain, but the couple were reunited as adults and agreed to marry, much to Francis's disgust. However, they postponed the wedding for a year so that Richard could go to London and make his fortune as a writer. However, though he has completed a novel, no one wants to publish it and his year is almost up. Don Carlos offers to publish it and asks him to take a valuable necklace, which once belonged to Queen Isabella of Castile, to Granada.

Bidding farewell to Oriana (Anne Crawford), Richard sets out. On the way, he meets Wycroft (Robert Helpmann), who assaults, robs and nearly kills Richard on behalf of his dastardly master, Sir Francis Castleton (Dennis Price). Oriana thinks Richard is dead and, with her father recently dead, marries Francis, whilst Richard loses his memory as a result of the assault and marries a gypsy girl named Rosal (Jean Kent). However, everyone meets again...



Original novel

The film was based on a novel by Eleanor Smith which was published in 1943. [4] It was one of several novels by Smith to feature gypsies. [5] Film rights were purchased by Gainsborough Pictures who had enjoyed success during the war with a series of melodramatic movies, starting with The Man in Grey (1943), also based on a novel by Smith. Later Gainsborough melodramas included two which were written by Roland Pertwee and directed by Arthur Crabtree, Madonna of the Seven Moons (1944) and They Were Sisters (1945). The two men worked together again on Caravan.


The film's four leads were all under contract to Gainsborough and were well known for appearing in melodramas at the studio. Stewart Granger and Jean Kent had previously appeared together in Fanny By Gaslight and Madonna of the Seven Moons, and Anne Crawford who had been in They Were Sisters. Kent had normally played support roles but Maurice Ostrer, then head of Gainsborough, offered Kent a new contract just before filming which promoted her to star billing. [6] Dennis Price had been in A Place of One's Own (1945) and was used by Gainsborough in the sort of villainous roles that James Mason used to play. [7]


The film was meant to follow The Magic Bow , but that was postponed due to the illness of Phyllis Calvert so, Caravan had to be rushed into production. [8] Filming began in June 1945 on location in North Wales, with Snowdon standing in for Spain. [9] The unit then transferred to Gainsborough's studios at Shepherd's Bush in London. [10] Jean Kent met her future husband during the making of the movie. [11] She was described as Gainsborough's backup Margaret Lockwood. [12] Smith died in November 1945, aged only 43. [13]


Box office

The film was one of the most popular British releases of 1946. [14] According to trade papers, the film was a "notable box office attraction" at British cinemas. [15] [16]

Another source says it was the most successful film at the British box office in 1946 after The Wicked Lady , The Bells of St Marys , Piccadilly Incident , The Captive Heart and The Road to Utopia . [17] According to Kinematograph Weekly the 'biggest winner' at the box office in 1946 Britain was The Wicked Lady, with "runners up" being The Bells of St Marys, Piccadilly Incident, The Road to Utopia, Tomorrow is Forever, Brief Encounter, Wonder Man, Anchors Away, Kitty, The Captive Heart, The Corn is Green, Spanish Main, Leave Her to Heaven, Gilda, Caravan, Mildred Pierce, Blue Dahlia, Years Between, O.S.S., Spellbound, Courage of Lassie, My Reputation, London Town, Caesar and Cleopatra, Meet the Navy, Men of Two Worlds, Theirs is the Glory, The Overlanders, and Bedelia. [18]

Critical reception

The film was not released in the US until 1949. The New York Times wrote, "Granger and the rest of the cast alternate between grappling with stilted lines and an embarrassingly archaic situation with neither the players nor plot making much entertainment, while 'Caravan' moves with the speed of an oxcart." [19]

TV Guide noted "strong direction, brilliant individual performances, and production values far above the usual run of British films work beautifully together as one melodramatic situation is piled on another." [20]


A 2003 article in Film History called it "so wild and unrestrained in its melodrama as to approach the near-burlesque level of the Tod Slaughter melodramas. Much of its fun is centred in the villains, with Dennis Price... and dancer Robert Helpmann teamed to make a bizarre but tremendously effective British Greenstreet/Lorre teaming. The lot throws in just about everything in terms of stock situations and characters, and even turns itself into a Western on occasion. The artificiality of many of the sets, and the fairly obvious back projection, don't add to the conviction – but realism is hardly a strongpoint in a film like this, though it does benefit from far more location shooting than most of its ilk." [21]

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  1. Box office information for Stewart Granger films in France at Box Office Story
  2. "Caravan" Monthly Film Bulletin; London Vol. 13, Iss. 145, (Jan 1, 1946): 44.
  3. Brian MacFarlane, An Autobiography of British Cinema, Methuen 1997 p 230
  4. "NEW FICTION". The Sydney Morning Herald . 28 August 1943. p. 6. Retrieved 14 June 2020 via Trove.
  5. "LADY ELEANOR SMITH". The Age . Victoria, Australia. 15 August 1953. p. 14. Retrieved 14 June 2020 via Trove.
  6. "Jean Kent Star of "Caravan"". Glen Innes Examiner . New South Wales, Australia. 25 February 1948. p. 4. Retrieved 14 June 2020 via Trove.
  7. Brian MacFarlane "Price, Dennis (1915-1973)", BFI screenonline, reprinted from MacFarlane (ed.) Encyclopaedia of British Cinema, London: Methuen/BFI, 2003, p.534
  8. C.A. LEJEUNE (24 June 1945). "BUSY BRITONS: Two Down and One to Go". New York Times. p. 27.
  9. "Menuhin music in British film". The Sun . No. 2201. Sydney. 17 June 1945. p. 3 (SUPPLEMENT TO THE SUNDAY SUN WEEK END MAGAZINE). Retrieved 27 October 2017 via National Library of Australia.
  10. "Divorce Spotlight". The Sun (LATE FINAL EXTRA ed.). New South Wales, Australia. 26 July 1945. p. 9. Retrieved 14 June 2020 via Trove.
  11. "FILM CABLE FROM LONDON". The Sunday Times . Perth. 17 March 1946. p. 13 Supplement: The Sunday Times MAGAZINE. Retrieved 2 February 2014 via National Library of Australia.
  12. Vagg, Stephen (29 January 2020). "Why Stars Stop Being Stars: Margaret Lockwood". Filmink.
  13. "LADY ELEANOR SMITH'S DEATH". The Advocate . Melbourne. 21 November 1945. p. 18. Retrieved 14 June 2020 via Trove.
  14. "Britain's Best Films". The Sunday Times . Perth. 16 February 1947. p. 12 Supplement: SUPPLEMENT TO THE SUNDAY TIMES. Retrieved 2 February 2014 via National Library of Australia.
  15. Robert Murphy, Realism and Tinsel: Cinema and Society in Britain 1939-48 2003 p209
  16. Thumim, Janet. "The popular cash and culture in the postwar British cinema industry". Screen. Vol. 32, no. 3. p. 258.
  17. "Hollywood Sneaks In 15 Films on '25 Best' List of Arty Britain". The Washington Post. 15 January 1947. p. 2.
  18. Lant, Antonia (1991). Blackout : reinventing women for wartime British cinema. Princeton University Press. p. 232.
  19. A.. W. (21 April 1949). "Movie Review – Caravan – Meredith Documentary, 'A Yank Comes Back,' at Symphony – 'Caravan' at Beacon". NY Times. Retrieved 24 July 2014.
  20. "Caravan Review". 28 November 2012. Retrieved 24 July 2014.
  21. Anonymous (2003). "CARAVAN". Film History. Vol. 15, no. 3. Sydney. p. 289.