Tiger Bay (1959 film)

Tiger Bay
Directed by J. Lee Thompson
Produced by John Hawkesworth
Written by John Hawkesworth
Shelley Smith
Noël Calef (short story)
Starring John Mills
Horst Buchholz
Hayley Mills
Music by Laurie Johnson
Cinematography Eric Cross
Edited by Sidney Hayers
Distributed by Rank Organisation
Release dates
March 1959
Running time
103 minutes
Country United Kingdom
Language English

Tiger Bay is a 1959 British crime drama film based on the short story "Rodolphe et le Revolver", by Noel Calef. It was directed by J. Lee Thompson, produced by John Hawkesworth, and co-written by John Hawkesworth and Shelley Smith (pseudonym of Nancy Hermione Bodington). It stars John Mills as a police superintendent investigating a murder; his real life daughter Hayley Mills, in her first major film role, as a girl who witnesses the murder; and Horst Buchholz as a young sailor who commits the murder in a moment of passion.

The film was shot mostly on location in the Tiger Bay district of Cardiff, at Newport Transporter Bridge in Newport (12 miles from Cardiff) and at Avonmouth Docks in Bristol. It features many authentic scenes of the children's street culture and the black street culture of the time, along with many dockside shots and scenes in real pubs and the surrounding countryside. It marks a vital transitional moment in the move towards the British New Wave cinema exemplified a few years later by A Taste of Honey.

Plot summary

In Cardiff, a young Polish sailor named Bronislav Korchinsky (Horst Buchholz) returns from his latest voyage to visit his girlfriend Anya (Yvonne Mitchell). After he finds a woman named Christine (Shari) living in her apartment, the landlord tells him that he evicted Anya and gives him her new address, which is also the home of a young girl named Gillie Evans (Hayley Mills), an orphaned tomboy who lives with her Aunt. Gillie's angelic face hides the fact that she is a habitual liar. She dearly wants a cap gun so she can play "Cowboys and Indians" with the boys in her neighbourhood. Korchinsky arrives shortly after she gets into a fight; she begins to like him as she leads him to her apartment building.

Korchinsky finds Anya in her new flat, but she wants nothing to do with him. Dissatisfied with waiting while he is at sea, she has been seeing another man, a married sportscaster named Barclay (Anthony Dawson). When Korchinsky, furious with jealousy, assaults her, she defends herself with a gun, but he takes the gun from her and shoots her dead. Gillie witnesses the incident through the letter box in the apartment door. When the landlord investigates the noise, Gillie hides in a cupboard, and when Korchinsky hides the gun near her, she takes it and runs into her apartment. Barclay then arrives to visit Anya, but, finding her dead, quickly flees. A neighbour discovers the body shortly afterward and summons the police.

Wanting to keep the gun, Gillie lies to police superintendent Graham (John Mills) about what she saw. Korchinsky follows her to a wedding at her church, where she shows the gun to a boy who sings with her in the choir and gives him a bullet; Korchinsky subsequently chases her into the attic. After he takes the gun from her, they become friends and he agrees to take her to sea with him when he flees the country. He learns that a Venezuelan merchant ship, the Poloma, will leave port the next day, so Gillie leads him to a hiding place in the countryside, where he entertains her by re-enacting his overseas adventures. When the Poloma is due to sail (the scene of the vessel departing is actually filmed at Avonmouth), he persuades Gillie to let him go alone, retrieves his identification papers from Christine, and signs on with the ship.

Meanwhile, the police investigation of the murder continues, and Gillie is reported missing. The mother of Gillie's choir friend finds the bullet Gillie gave him, and the boy tells Graham about the gun. Christine brings a photograph of Korchinsky to the police, Barclay admits to owning the gun and having visited Anya's apartment after she had been shot. Some picnickers find Gillie at the country hideout and take her to the police, where she continues to lie, identifying Barclay as the murderer. With Barclay as a suspect, she admits to having seen the crime and re-enacts it for Graham at the apartment, but accidentally reveals that she knows the killer is Polish. She still denies knowing Korchinksy, but Graham drives her to the station at Barry Docks and takes her on a Pilot Boat to the Poloma as the ship approaches the boundary of territorial waters, three miles from shore.

At this point, Gillie is obviously trying to obstruct Graham's progress. When he confronts her and Korchinsky aboard the Poloma, they deny knowing each other. Nevertheless, Graham attempts to arrest Korchinsky, but the ship's captain prevents him, saying that his navigation officer has plotted Poloma's position as just outside the three-mile limit, and therefore beyond the jurisdiction of the British police.

Finally, Gillie falls overboard while trying to stow away on the ship in the hope of remaining with Korchinksy. Being the only person to see her fall, Korchinsky ignores the risk of arrest and dives into the water to save her and they are both rescued by the police boat. Korchinsky admits his guilt after Gillie hugs him, and Graham commends him for his bravery in saving her.



The film was popular at the box office.[1]



  1. J. LEE THOMPSON DISCUSSES CAREER: 'GUNS OF NAVARONE' DIRECTOR TOOK DEVIOUS PATH TO FILMS By MURRAY SCHUMACH Special to The New York Times.. New York Times (1923–Current file) [New York, N.Y] 25 July 1961: 18.
  2. "Berlinale: Prize Winners". berlinale.de. Retrieved 2010-01-10.


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