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Barnacle Bill (1957 film)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Barnacle Bill
American poster
Directed byCharles Frend
Written byT. E. B. Clarke
Produced byMichael Balcon
StarringAlec Guinness
CinematographyDouglas Slocombe
Edited byJack Harris
Music byJohn Addison
Distributed byMetro Goldwyn Mayer
Release date
  • 11 December 1957 (1957-12-11)
Running time
87 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom
Box office$950,000[2]

Barnacle Bill (released in the US as All at Sea) is a 1957 Ealing Studios comedy film, starring Alec Guinness. He plays an unsuccessful Royal Navy officer and six of his maritime ancestors. This was the final Ealing comedy (although some sources list Davy as the last), and the last film Guinness made for Ealing Studios. His first Ealing success was in Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949), in which he also played multiple roles.[3] The film was written by the screenwriter of Passport to Pimlico.[4]

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William Horatio Ambrose wants desperately to live up to his family's Royal Navy tradition; however, he has a debilitating problem. He suffers from seasickness. As a result, his contribution to the Second World War consists of testing cures for the malady. After the war, he retires from the navy as a captain and purchases a dilapidated late Victorian era amusement pier. At last, he has his own command. Unfortunately, his workers are an apathetic bunch, led by an insolent malcontent who quits when the new owner imposes discipline. With the assistance of a navy veteran and much hard work by bored local teenagers, Ambrose soon repairs his pier.

Every time Ambrose comes up with an ingenious way to make his business profitable, however, the local town council, headed by crooked Mayor Crowley and a hostile Arabella Barrington, act as foils to his success. So when Crowley decides to confiscate and demolish Ambrose's pier and Barrington's bathing huts (under compulsory purchase), she resigns from the council and informs Ambrose. He counters by registering his property as a "foreign" naval vessel (christened the Arabella), under the flag of convenience of the easygoing country, Liberama. This puts it outside the town's jurisdiction. Ambrose soon attracts many happy, paying passengers for his stationary inaugural "cruise."

Thwarted, Crowley hires a dredger to demolish the pier late at night. But Ambrose adopts a seasickness remedy suggested by Barrington and takes to sea to battle Crowley's underlings. In the process, part of the pier becomes detached and floats away. Ambrose remains aboard to prevent salvagers from claiming it and drifts across the channel to France, where he is hailed as a naval hero.


As appearing in Barnacle Bill, (main roles and screen credits identified):[5]


Guinness appeared in the film as a favour to the director. In later years, he recalled it as "wretched, (a film) ... I never wanted to do and only did out of friendship to Charley Frend."[7] Although Barnacle Bill was the last Ealing comedy, it was shot at Hunstanton Pier[8] and Elstree Studios, as Ealing Studios had closed and was sold to the BBC for television production.[4]


Barnacle Bill opened at the Empire Cinema in London on the 11 December 1957[1] and was released under the title All At Sea in the United States.

Barnacle Bill (as All at Sea) was reviewed in The New York Times by Bosley Crowther. His review was sympathetic to the failings of the film and script but he did see redeeming qualities in Guinness's performance. "Mr. Clarke's whimsical notion doesn't sail quite the untroubled sea that Mr. Guinness' pier does. It runs into roughness, now and then, which requires rather diligent overacting and farcical behavior by all hands. But Mr. Guinness, who has made an art of underplaying, never goes too far overboard ..."[9]

Box office

According to MGM records above, the film cost $659,000 to make (see budget note 1 above) and earned $405,000 in the US and Canada, plus $545,000 elsewhere, ($950,000 in total, see note 1 above) resulting in a return on investment of 44%, and a profit of $291,000.[2]

See also



  1. ^ Guinness actually served in the Royal Navy in the Second World War.[6]


  1. ^ a b "Art & Hue presents Jackie Collins". Art & Hue. 2019. Retrieved 11 April 2019.
  2. ^ a b c The Eddie Mannix Ledger, Los Angeles: Margaret Herrick Library, Center for Motion Picture Study.
  3. ^ Guinness 2001, p. 224.
  4. ^ a b McGee, Scott. "This Month: All at Sea." Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved: 3 August 2013.
  5. ^ "Credits: All at Sea (1957)." IMDb. Retrieved: 3 August 2013.
  6. ^ Houterman, J.N."Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve (RNVR) Officers 1939–1945." Retrieved: 3 August 2013.
  7. ^ Read 2005, p. 301.
  8. ^ James, Derek (5 April 2022). "Remembering when Hollywood arrived in a Norfolk seaside town". Eastern Daily Press.
  9. ^ Crowther, Bosley (23 December 1957). "The Screen: 'All at Sea'; Guinness Is Starred in T.E.B. Clarke script". The New York Times.


  • Guinness, Alec. A Positively Final Appearance: A Journal, 1996–1998. London: Penguin Books, 2001. ISBN 978-0-14-029964-9.
  • Read, Piers Paul. Alec Guinness: The Authorised Biography. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2005. ISBN 978-0-7432-4498-5.

External links

This page was last edited on 19 May 2023, at 17:18
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