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CHRISTOPHER RALLING'S 'SHACKLETON'

AN OUTSTANDING, UNSUNG BBC SHACKLETON FILM

The Recent success of both the IMAX and the Channel 4 Shackleton films has somewhat eclipsed a fine earlier Shackleton feature film made by BBC TV in association with The Entertainment Channel, Seven Network Australia and Television New Zealand.

Shackleton, written by Christopher Ralling, produced by John Harris and directed by Martyn Friend (with original music by Francis Shaw) starred David Schofield as Shackleton, John Watts as Frank Worsley and David Rodigan giving a particularly strong and memorable performance as Frank Wild.

In particular, Ralling's film made strenuous efforts to do justice to the boat journey aboard the James Caird and the mountain crossing of South Georgia, neither of which, some have suggested, felt wholly satisfactory in more recent versions such as the Imax and Endurance films.

The BBC pioneer, producer and filmmaker Christopher Ralling (photo BBC)
Christopher Ralling, whose selection of writings by Shackleton was also published as a BBC book in 1983, has a long line of credits to his name, including films on Sir Henry Morton Stanley (Find Livingstone), Darwin (The Voyages of Charles Darwin, 1978) and Thor Heyerdahl (Kon-Tiki Man). He directed The Two Coasts of China (1992), produced The Fight against Slavery (series of six 50 minute films, 1974; co-directed Africa - Mastering a Continent (1984), Conflict of the Gods (the story of the native American religions' struggles with the Conquistadors), The Buried Mirror, about the North American Indians (1991); The Pacific Century (a series of 60 minute films, 1992); Chasing a Rainbow : The Life of Josephine Baker (l986); and more recently narrated Challenge of the Seas (1997).

Christopher Ralling's book 'Shackleton ' Greatest of all Polar Explorers'

 

SHACKLETON - THE SUPERB TV SERIES BY CHRISTOPHER RALLING

NOW AVAILABLE ON YOU TUBE

An important and valuable message has been received from John Atkins:

Members and Shackleton enthusiasts may want to know that two of the four parts of the in many resepects brilliant 1983 BBC2 TV drama Shackleton, written and directed by Christopher Ralling (and previously mentioned on the JCS website), have now been posted on YouTube.

They are: Episode 2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=16RmWaHYFrk

and Episode 4: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iotptQeXCs4

John asserts, 'This Shackleton series from the early 1980s is first class in so many ways it really ought to be released on DVD, especially as the same production team’s The Voyage of Charles Darwin (1978) has recently been released to acclaim.'

LInk to Episode 4

Link to Episode 2

I hope this is of interest and useful.
(John Atkins)

The outstanding filmmaker Christopher Ralling

 

MORE ON FRANK WILD

SUNDAY 22ND APRIL 2012 AT 7.00 ON BBC2 TV

The striking new hour-long film Frank Wild: Antarctica's Forgotten Hero, presented by Paul Rose and produced by Paul Greenan, will be shown on BBC 2 on Sunday 22 April at 7.00 p.m., and will be available on BBC i-Player for a week thereafter.

Memorial Plaque to Frank Wild
The veteran of five major expeditions (Discovery, Nimrod, Mawson's Aurora, Endurance and Quest), and Shackleton's chosen deputy on the Endurance expedition, John Robert Francis (Frank) Wild, CBE, RNVR, FRGS was one of the most significant figures among the flurry of expeditions which made up the 'Golden Age' of Antarctic and Polar exploration.

Read all about the BBC Film

Ever dependable, Frank was most stalwart and reliable of the three who accompanied Shackleton on the 'Furthest South' journey of 1909; deputy on Endurance, he was the one who maintained the spirits of the men on Elephant Island while Shackleton fetched help in 1916. And after the death of the 'Boss' Frank Wild took charge of the Quest expedition so it could fulfil some of its scientific aims.

Frank Wild pals up with the Endurance dogs
Wild later served in the RNVR and, like Shackleton and Worsley, on the northerly Russian front, before turning to farming in Zululand and then various enterprises, none of which thrived in the economic climate, in Southern Africa. It was this distant location that caused people to lose touch with him and for him latterly to be more or less 'forgotten'.

Wild in uniform
The film looks in detail at Frank's life, his North Yorkshire background and his crucial role on these expeditions, and seeks to pay due homage to a man who was quite literally indispensable on each of Shackleton's expeditions. Wild was a one-off: characterful, good company, a man of determination, firm and even ruthless loyalty, and a man of scrupulous good sense on whose judgment and second opinion the sometimes headstrong Shackleton increasingly relied.

View a gallery of photos associated with Frank Wild

Read a full BBC article on Frank Wild

Watch a 3 minute clip of the Frank Wild film

As Rose points out, 'At these key moments of Polar history, Frank was in the thick of it. During intense periods of hardship he showed incredible courage and resourcefulness. He was a true great, standing shoulder to shoulder with Shackleton. The two made the perfect team, with Shackleton’s great leadership skills, and Frank’s cool head and experience, they were able to handle almost anything that the Antarctic could throw at them.'

The famous picture of Frank Wild in snow goggles -  vital equipment for the Nimrod expedition - forms part of the BBC logo for the new film
Focal to the film is the reinterment of Wild's ashes. When he died in 1939 the intention was that they should be laid alongside those of Shackleton. But war intervened and their location was then forgotten, and they only reemerged in 2011 in a Johannesburg vault thanks to researches by Wild's biographer Angie Butler. In the film, they are reunited with Wild's descendants who accompany them to their new last resting place alongside Shackleton in Grytviken Whalers' Cemetery on South Georgia.

Frank Wild in later life
Grytviken cemetery in South Georgia, where Frank Wild's remains are now safely interred Frank Wild's great-niece, Julie George, lays his ashes in their final resting place

 

NEW REPLICA OF THE JAMES CAIRD AND FILM TRIBUTE TO FRANK WORSLEY

NEW ZEALAND FILM CREW HONOURS THE OUTSTANDING CAPTAIN AND NAVIGATOR

Craig Parker as Frank Worsley, with colleagues below deck on the James Caird
James Heyward with the New Zealand-built new replica of the James Caird
The acclaimed Film Producer James Heyward, of Making Movies in New Zealand, has brought the good news that in preparation for a major film, Shackleton's Captain, about New Zealand-born Frank Worsley, the makers have produced a fine new replica of Shackleton's boat the James Caird. James has also very kindly sent some photos of it and stills from the forthcoming film.

The hull takes shape, prior to adding the superstructure The James Caird replica, with sails to be added
James Caird NZ3 448 336The James Caird replica in all her glory, ready to reenact the terrible boat journey
The James Caird replica is a very handsome and impressive reproduction of the famous vessel which Frank Worsley navigated with incredible skill and precision to South Georgia, thus making it possible for Shackleton to rescue his trapped men.

Careful finishing work in the construction studioRigged and ready to take to the water
Making Movies, in co-production with Gebrueder-beetz Film Produktion, Germany, is embarking on a truly epic project, making a 90 minute docu-drama, designed for television, originally named Ice Captain and now entitled Shackleton's Captain, written by James Heyward, Leanne Pooley and Tim Woodhouse, closely examining the absolutely critical role played by 'Skipper' Frank Worsley, as navigator, on the 1914-16 Endurance expedition, including during the escape from the ice and the James Caird voyage to South Georgia, shedding new light upon the expedition.

The Making Movies film documentary website

View an early progress teaser of the film Shackleton's Captain

The first film ever to focus on the unique story of Worsley, Shackleton's Captain (which is also the title of John Bell Thomson's outstanding biography of Worsley) will include elaborate recreations with actor Craig Parker playing Captain Worsley and high definition-quality archive material, bringing the story to life as never before and paying proper due respect to the achievements of this neglected hero.

At odds with the ice: Craig Parker as Frank WorsleyThe others hold Frank Worsley as he struggles to get a bearing on South Georgia: an incredibly exhausting and hazardous business
The film will draw on a wide range of sources, including interviews with informed experts, so as to tell an old story from a new perspective. Leanne Pooley directs and James Heyward is executive producer. Other cast include Charles Pierard as Sir Ernest Shackleton and John Seymour as Ernest Holness. James Heyward has also notified us of the fascinating news that a key member of the James Caird's crew, Tim McCarthy, will be played by Peter McCarthy, Tim's great-grandson, who lives in Christchurch, New Zealand and works at the Christchurch Antarctic Centre. James Heyward's film company will be gifting the James Caird replica to an Education Programme based on the expedition, to be run by Peter McCarthy.

The hauling of the James Caird across the ice, subject of a famous Frank Hurley photoJohn Seymour as Endurance crew member Ernest Holness
Shackleton’s Captain reveals the truth behind the spectacular rescue of Shackleton's Imperial Transantarctic Expedition of 1914-16. One man gave everything and made it possible: Frank Worsley, the captain of the expedition ship. The crew looked to Shackleton to lead them, Shackleton looked to Worsley to save them!

As captain, Worsley was faced with seemingly insurmountable odds when Endurance became trapped in the pack ice off the coast of Antarctica. The ship was slowly crushed, forcing Worsley and his entire ship's crew to abandon the ship. They spent the next ten months living on the ice, then an ice flow, before rowing three life boats (Worsley skippering one of the three, the Dudley Docker) to a desolate rock called Elephant Island. The men were facing slow starvation in the freezing cold and with no rescue in sight.

The tension and exhaustion of sailing the James Caird in appalling seas for 18 days begins to tellConversations even below deck are almost impossible: they must rely on shouting and brief, snappy exchanges
The boat party huddles beside a fire. They remained at King Haakon Bay for many days before attempting the crossing (pictures all courtesy of James Heyward, Making Movies, NZ)Frank Worsley, with Shackleton and Tom Crean, makes the climb over the South Georgia mountains. They waited 8 days at King Haakon Bay before attempting the dangerous crossing
Worsley was forced to risk everything by sailing the James Caird, the largest of the tiny life boats, 800 miles across the Southern Ocean to the small island of South Georgia where they hoped to find help at a Norwegian whaling station.

Twenty eight lives were in the balance as Worsley braved the worst conditions imaginable; rogue waves, ice bergs and a hurricane in a three week journey modern sailors still consider to be one of the greatest sailing voyages of all time. When a hurricane and prevailing winds forced them to land at a beach at the opposite side of the island, Worsley had to prove his skills a second time: no map of the island existed. Without alpine equipment, with totally inadequate clothing and almost no food and water, they have to cross the island. They succeeded, and the fourth attempt at a rescue succeeded. After nearly two years on the ice not a single man had perished. The expedition was a disaster, but the rescue the greatest in history.

Frank Worsley (centre) with Shackleton and Tom Crean at Punta Arenas, Chile after their arduous journey aboard the James Caird
Gratifyingly, the film, which reached the final shoot and post-production stages in 2011, has received very substantial financial backing from New Zealand Television.

Visit Making Movies' Worsley film page

It is not always realised that Worsley commanded 21 vessels in his day, as well as five warships; in the latter guise he was a celebrated and successful hunter of enemy U-boats.

Frank Worsley with his friend & colleague Joseph Stenhouse (later DSO, OBE, DSC), who captained Shackleton's ship the Aurora. He later served with Shackleton in Murmansk. Born in Scotland, Stenhouse achieved Royal Navy distinction in both World Wars.
Worsley with Shackleton in San Francisco, November 1916 before sailing across the Pacific to rescue their other companions with the Aurora
Frank Worsley's home in his birthplace of Akaroa, near Christchurch, New Zealand
John Bell Thomson, adviser to the film and author of Shackleton's Captain, the superbly authoritative biography of Frank WorsleyShackleton's Captain, John Bell Thomson's landmark biography of Frank Worsley

 

A FURTHER FILM ON YOUTUBE

ENDURANCE, SHACKLETON AND THE ANTARCTIC

This edited film grippingly evokes the stark atmosphere facing Sir Ernest Shackleton and his men as they faced up to the darkness and icy temperatures of a polar winter, and doubts about how they would get home at all.

Among those interviewed in the first section are McNish's and Orde-Lees' grandsons; there are some striking moving sequences from Hurley's filming, close-ups of members of the crew (including Hurley himself), extended sequences featuring the dogs, and comments from Roland Huntford, Peter Wordie and South Georgia historian Tim Carr.

Even Mrs. Chippy, McNish's cat, features, along with the story that she once fell overboard and had to be retrieved by the ship.

The film goes on to tell the full story of the Endurance expedition, with atmospheric filming of Antarctica, a first-rate narration and striking contributions from members of the crew, either speaking in retrospect or convincingly performed by actors. The techniques used even with still photos add much to the impact of the film, which is reproduced here in 11 sections, thus giving ease of access to different stages of the journey.



 

SHACKLETON ON YOUTUBE

AN EFFECTIVE MOVING PICTURE

The story of the Endurance has found its way onto Youtube, the popular information sharing website.

An eight-minute well-narrated film covering the outward journey, the trapping of the ship and the crew's escape from the ice is gathered together in a sequence of black and white stills. The only drawbacks are a rather inadequate treatment of the boat journey and mountain crossing and some slightly overubiquitous Tchaikovsky music.

The film can be viewed following the link below:



 

LEONARD HUSSEY'S BANJO - RADIO 4 DOCUMENTARY

TUES 7 AND SAT 11 DECEMBER 2010 (IPLAYER TILL SAT 18)

On Tuesday 7th December at 1.30 pm BBC Radio 4 will be airing a documentary programme about Leonard Hussey's Banjo.

The documentary is entitled Vital Mental Medicine - Shackleton's Banjo, and is narrated by the folk musician Tim van Eyken.

The programme will be repeated on Radio 4 at 3.30 pm on Saturday 11th December and will also be available on BBC iPlayer for a week after the broadcast, till Saturday 18th December.

Tim van Eyken tells the story of how on the 1914-16 Imperial Transantarctic Expedition Sir Ernest Shackleton instructed that the banjo belonging to meteorologist Leonard Hussey (1891-1964), which had given much enjoyment during the time when the Endurance was trapped, be rescued from the ship when was crushed by pack ice and sank in 1915.

The musician explains how Shackleton hoped the lively music and entertainment provided by the instrument might help preserve the sanity of his stranded crew, and examines the life of Hussey, whose songs helped his fellow sailors keep their spirits up both when encamped on the ice and on Elephant Island, and ultimately to return home safely.

 

THE SHACKLETON FOUNDATION

INSPIRED BY THEIR ANCESTORS 100 YEARS AGO

The successful launch and completion of the Shackleton Centenary Expedition (1909/2009) coincided with the launch of The Shackleton Foundation, which exists to support and encourage people who might not have the chance to reach their own Antarctic - especially those who are disadvantaged.

An introductory film was made to outline the aims of the Foundation.

 

SAT 4 APRIL BBC2 8.40 P.M. 'TIMEWATCH - 'IN SHACKLETON'S FOOTSTEPS'

LANDMARK PROGRAMME TRACKING THE SHACKLETON CENTENARY EXPEDITION

On Saturday 4 April the BBC 'Timewatch' programme will focus on Sir Ernest Shackleton and his successors.

A century ago on his Nimrod expedition, Ernest Shackleton and his team of four made an attempt on the South Pole. In January 1909, just 98 miles from their destination, they turned back - and survived. Juyst two years later Roald Amundsen, the first to reach the South Pole, completed the journey. Captain Scott and his team, who made the journey only to discover they had been pipped to the post by the Norwegians, succeeded but died on the return.

This hour-long programme produced by Sean Smith traces the efforts of a team of Nimrod party descendants a century later to cross 900 miles of frozen wastelands and reeenact and complete Shackleton, Wild, Adams and Marshall's historic journey.

Lt. Col. Henry Worsley a distant relation of Shackleton's l;ater captain Frank Worsley; Henry Adams, 33, shipping lawyer, from Snape, Suffolk, great-grandson of Jameson Boyd-Adams, Shackleton's youthful number two on the Nimrod expedition; Will Gow, 35, city worker, from Ashford, Kent, and related to Shackleton by marriage Patrick Bergel, 36, from London, Shackleton's great-grandson, who works in advertising; Tim Fright, 24, from Billingshurst, West Sussex, great-great-nephew of Frank Wild, the only explorer to accompany Shackleton on all his missions. He works as a PA to Cobra Beer founder Lord Bilimoria. David Cornell, 38, from Andover, Hampshire, a City fund manager and another great-grandson of Jameson Boyd Adams;

Henry Worsley, Will Gow and Henry Adams left the edge of the Ross Ice Shelf on 29 October, as Shackleton and his team did a century earlier.



 

WILDERNESS MEN: ANOTHER VIEW OF SHACKLETON

An interesting message has been received on the Forum from Giles Hobson, who draws attention to another important Shackleton film. He writes:

'Previous contributors to the Forum have made reference to the elusive 1982 BBC film, 'Shackleton' (a.k.a. 'Icebound in the Antarctic'). However, I have not [hitherto] been able to find a reference on the website to another BBC programme about Ernest Shackleton.

The film was originally broadcast in the UK in June 2000 as part of a three part series entitled 'Wilderness Men'. The drama documentary was called 'Shackleton - A Story of Survival' and featured the actor David Yelland in the title role. The other two episodes detailed the North American trade route pioneers, Lewis and Clark and the German naturalist and explorer, Alexander von Humboldt.

'At fifty minutes long it does not have the opportunity to expound at such length on the 'Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition' as, for example, George Butler's film, 'The Endurance'. Critics may submit that it skirts round some of the more insalubrious elements of the odyssey, such as Shackleton's confrontation with Harry McNeish.

However, to my mind, this is one of the finest programmes on Shackleton, with a very humane construal of the man by Yelland and some valuable contributions from, among others, Dr. Mike Stroud and the late Sir Edmund Hillary.

The series has recently been released on DVD in the USA; not under its original title of 'Wilderness Men' but buried under the label 'Lewis and Clark and Other Adventurers', in deference to the episode that will doubtless have greatest resonance with American viewers.

However, it is easily obtainable through various vendors in the UK. I have just received my copy via Amazon UK. It arrived from the USA in a fortnight and cost less than £10, including postage.

Please note that if you are interested in obtaining a copy, you will require a North American or multi-region DVD player and NTSC compatible TV in order to be able watch it.

 

'ENDURANCE' VIDEO AT THE FRENCH SHACKLETON EXHIBITION

The French Shackleton exhibition 'Survivants des Glaces - Avec Shackleton vers le pôle Sud - 1914 - 1917'at the La Corderie Royale museum - Centre International de la Mer, Rochefort, Charente-Maritime (near La Rochelle), which runs from December 2006 to 30 June 2007, includes a short video about the Endurance expedition, using mostly Hurley stills, with splendidly presented atmospheric effects and a haunting commentary in French, which can be viewed online. See the full Feature further down this page; or to go straight to the video, click on the picture or on the link below:-

 

ONE OF THE BEST SHACKLETON DOCUMENTARIES EVER MADE

WATCH AND HEAR SHACKLETON FILM ONLINE

Inevitably the Endurance story in its various film versions has found its way onto the web, where it makes gripping viewing.

One of the best is to be found on YouTube, and appears to be drawn from 'The Endurance - Shackleton's Legendary Expedition' (2000). Here it is described as 'Endurance, Shackleton and the Antarctic'.

It is posted in several parts, mostly of 8-10 minutes, the URLS of which can be accessed below. The Ice formations in the early parts make an impressive start, but the quality of the narrative, quotes and selected images is top-notch throughout. Two of the prime interviewees are Shackleton's biographer Roland Huntford and Peter Wordie, son of James Wordie.

 

FRANK HURLEY: THE MAN WHO MADE HISTORY

BBC 4 TELEVISION DOCUMENTARY : MONDAY 23 AUGUST 2004

Shackleton's photographer Frank Hurley left behind a collection of striking and daring photographs. His most famous images are of Shackleton's Endurance expedition, but he also took remarkable photographs during World War I and in his native Australia.

Using extensive archive footage shot by Hurley, as well as many of his photographs, this one hour documentary, to be shown on BBC 4 on Monday 23 August 2004 (9pm-10pm, repeated at 12.10am-1.10am; 3.05am-4.05am), traces the photographer's life and work.

We return to the Antarctic with the photographer's twin daughters and also hear about the controversy surrounding some of his pictures.

Frank Hurley was born in Australia in 1885 and ran away from home when he was 14 to work on the docks. He bought his first camera when he was 17
He made six trips to the Antarctic, including the expedition led by Shackleton on the Endurance.

When the team, was forced to abandon the Endurance , Hurley had to leave behind 400 of his 520 glass negatives because they were so heavy.

After working as an official photographer on the Western Front during the Great War of 1914-18, Hurley travelled to Palestine to film the Australian troops.

Following his anthropological film Pearls and Savages, Hurley faced charges of having exploited the people of New Guinea. His star dimmed further as he made a couple of lacklustre feature films, including The Jungle Woman in 1926.

Towards the end of his life Hurley returned to Australia and made his name once more as a pictorial photographer.

He died in Australia in 1962.

 

JUST LIKE THE REAL THING

The Crew of the original Endurance
The picture of the Endurance crew, taken by Frank Hurley on the ice in 1915, is one of the most enduring images of the ill-fated 1914-16 expedition.

The fine promotional shot below comes from the widely-praised film starring Kenneth Branagh as Shackleton, directed by BAFTA award-winning director Charles Sturridge.

Members of the Endurance crew from the Charles Sturridge film starring Kenneth Branagh (sixth from left, middle row) as Shackleton
Many of the key figures in the Endurance saga figured prominently in the film. Those in the picture include Matt Day as Frank Hurley (standing, far left); Pip Torrens as Dr. McIlroy (second from left); Celyn Jones as the stowaway Perce Blackborow (left of Branagh); Lorcan Cranitch as Frank Wild (kneeling with goggles, below Blackborow); Nicholas Rowe as Orde-Lees (standing, third from right); Kevin McNally as Worsley (front, second from left, below McIlroy), Mark McGann as Tom Crean (front, second from right) and Ken Drury as 'Chippy' McNish (front, between Worsley and Wild). The film also starred Phoebe Nicholls as Emily Shackleton, Robert Hardy as Sir James Caird, Elizabeth Spriggs and Corin Regrave.

 

CHANNEL 4: ANOTHER INVALUABLE OUTLINE OF SHACKLETON'S LIFE AND DEEDS

Among a number of websites containing a large amount of well-researched information on Shackleton's life and achievements is the Channel4 Television Website.'

It focuses especially on his most famous expedition, the ill-fated voyage aboard Endurance in 1914-16, but also looks at earlier events in his life, examines many aspects of the Antartic and has a short section on Captain Scott, under whom Shackleton served in 1901-4 on his first Antarctic Expedition.

The website relates to a programme made some time ago, but almost all of the information is intriguing and still holds good.


 

THE SEARCH FOR THE NORTHWEST PASSAGE

The search for the Northwest Passage
On Thursday 24 March 2005 from 9.00 to 11.10 p.m. Channel 4 Television in the U.K. showed for the first time The Search for the Northwest Passage, the acclaimed film which tells of Sir John Franklin's doomed expedition in 1845 to locate a route through the northern ice above Canada to the Far East and China, and of Roald Amundsen's success half a century later in finding one.

Franklin and all his men were lost on this expedition, having (all bar two) abandoned ship and attempted to cross the ice and snowy wastes on foot, in the hope of finding help. Amazingly some of the documents, diaries and logs of the expedition were later found.

The ships Franklin used were the Erebus and the Terror, which were previously used on Sir James Clark Ross's 1841 expedition to the Antarctic. Prior to that, Ross's uncle Sir John Ross had been one of the most recent searchers for the North West Passage, and had been frozen in over four winters. J.C.Ross, who had accompanied his uncle, was invited to lead the ill-fated Canada expedition, but declined. When Amundsen eventually charted a way through (1903-6), he wisely traced out a more southerly, safer route.

The Northwest Passage at Channel 4 TV

 

SHACKLETON DOCUMENTARY WINS TOP TELEVISION AWARD

The film Shackleton's Voyage of Endurance, a two-hour documentary made for the U.S. public television series WGBH/NOVA, won the ‘Emmy’ Award for Best Historical Documentary at the awards ceremony in New York in September 2003.



 

SWISS SLIDE SHOW ABOUT ANTARCTICA

Antarctica, a multivision-slide show, recently launched a tour of 43 cities and towns of Switzerland, sponsored by Quark Expeditions.

The show, which started in Zurich at the end of September 2001, is the work of photographer Heiner Kubny, whose hobby developed into a passion after he took part in five expeditions to Antarctica. Out of his desire to share the beauty he encountered there, the Antarctica multivision-slide show was put together, featuring original music and German narration. The show moves around Switzerland until February 2002, finishing in St. Gallen; if successful, there are plans to export the show to other European countries.

 

ENDURANCE : SHACKLETON AND THE ANTARCTIC

The well-received documentary on Shackleton Endurance : Shackleton and the Antarctic, filmed by George Butler, based on the book by Caroline Alexander, written by Joseph Dorman and Jeremy Evans, with major contributions from his biographer Ronald Huntford and James Wordie's son Peter, was repeated on UK Channel 4 Television on 12 January 2002 (it was previously shown in November 2000).

Endurance : Shackleton and the Antarctic is a White Mountain Films/Nova Co-production in Association with Telepool Germany, SVT Sweden, Discovery International, The American Museum of Natural History, Zegrahm Expeditions and Shackleton Schools.

 

THE ENDURANCE : IMAX SHACKLETON FILM

George Butler's new 93 minute film The Endurance : Shackleton's Legendary Antarctic Expedition, a White Mountains Film distributed by WGBH Enterprises/Giant Screen Films (USA/worldwide) / Cowboy Booking International (North America), was released in North America on 5 October 2001. Produced by Edward R.Pressman and Terence Malick, written by Joseph Dorman, with advice from Shackleton's biographer and James Caird Society member Caroline Alexander.

 

KENNETH BRANAGH IN "SHACKLETON" : WORLD PREMIERE

Shackleton, an epic two-part, four-hour-long drama starring Kenneth Branagh and written and directed by the acclaimed, BAFTA award-winning director Charles Sturridge (who also directed Longitude and won international praise for his Granada adaptation of Evelyn Waugh's Brideshead Revisited) received its US premiere on Sunday April 7th (8:00-10:00pm EST) and Monday April 8th 2002 (9:00-11:00pm EST) on A&E Television Network and its UK premiere on Channel 4 Television on Wednesday 2nd and Thursday 3rd January 2002.

Paid up subscribers to The Times archive can read Erica Wagner's preview and Jo Joseph's review of the film at The Times online.

Shackleton, directed by Charles Sturridge, stars Branagh in a stirring performance as Sir Ernest Shackleton, with Matt Day (Hurley), Pip Torrens (McIlroy), Phoebe Nicolls (Emily Shackleton), Ken Drury (Thomas McNish), Lorcan Cranitch (Shackleton's deputy, Frank Wild), Kevin McNally (New Zealand skipper Frank Worsley), Nicolas Rowe (Thomas Orde-Lees), Rick Warden (John Vincent), Robert Hardy (Sir James Caird), Corin Redgrave (Lord Curzon) and Elizabeth Spriggs (Dame Janet Stancomb-Wills). The film has been widely acclaimed, not least for the authenticity of its script and for Branagh's highly credible performance as Shackleton, 'The Boss'.

This four-hour drama focuses on Shackleton's abortive 1914 attempt to reach the South Pole, and his heroic efforts to save his ship and crew from the treacherous icy waters. As Sturridge tells it, this is not just a story of men against the white ice and sea but of the background of the expedition and the incredible qualities that allowed Shackleton to lead his men through the most extreme conditions, and bring them back alive.

Produced by Longitude's producer, Selwyn Roberts, for Sturridge's own company, Firstsight Films, Shackleton has taken over a year to bring to the screen. Basing it on public records, unpublished documents, ship's logs and original diaries of crew members as well as the published accounts of Shackleton and others, Sturridge also contacted 17 sets of relatives of the expedition members, who provided personal information and previously unknown documentation. He also received unprecedented co-operation from members of Shackleton's own family, including the James Caird Society's President, the Hon. Alexandra Shackleton, and from Shackleton's biographer, Roland Huntford.

The result is a momentous drama which begins in London in 1914 with Ernest Shackleton trying to raise funds for his expedition on the eve of the First World War - as well as struggling with a complex personal life and his brother's imprisonment for fraud - and ends on the frozen wastes of the Antarctic.

Filming took place over six months across London and on the sea-ice off Eastern Greenland, where the cast and crew spent nearly five weeks living on an ice-breaker filming the exterior Antarctic scenes. Sets were being built at Shepperton studios in England, including a replica of the Endurance's interior decks which were required to tilt 45 degrees and flood with water.

Sturridge says, 'This is a film about a man, his men and an incredible journey. Shackleton had to fight just to get finance for the expedition, and it was all happening at a time when he was also facing desperate problems in his private life. But in the Antarctic, against seemingly hopeless odds, he managed to keep his 27-man crew alive for two terrifying years, while millions of men were being sacrificed defending civilisation on the battlefields of France.

'He is, without doubt, one of the great leaders of all time'.

On Monday 3 December at 6.30 Kenneth Branagh and Charles Sturridge gave a lecture to fellows of the Royal Geographical Society entitled The Drama of Exploration.

The video of Shackleton is available for purchase (in US format) from the exclusive A&E Shackleton Shop. In addition to the movie on VHS and DVD, the shop features a wide variety of other Shackleton items, including books, t-shirts and hats, Frank Hurley posters, maps of Antarctica and more!

While offers last, spend $100 in the A&E Shackleton Shop and get a free oversized Shackleton map (retail value $25).

CAST

Ernest Shackleton : Kenneth Branagh
Emily Shackleton : Phoebe Nicholls
Frank Wild : Lorcan Cranitch
Frank Worsley : Kevin McNally
Tom Crean : Mark McGann
Dr. James McIlroy : Pip Torrens
Sir James Caird : Robert Hardy
Lord Curzon : Corin Redgrave
King George V : Rupert Frazer
Dudley Docker : Mark Williams
Dame Janet Stancomb-Wills : Elizabeth Spriggs
Meteorologist Leonard Hussey : Christian Steel
Photographer Frank Hurley : Matt Day
George Marston : Chris Larkin
Thomas Hans Orde-Lees : Nicholas Rowe
Navigator Hubert Hudson : Shaun Dooley
Dr. Alex Macklin : Nicholas Hewetson
Ship's carpenter Harry McNish : Ken Drury
Seaman William Bakewell : Nigel Whitmey
Seaman John Vincent : Rick Warden
Expedition Cook Charles Green : Paul Bigley
Bakewell : Nigel Whitmey
Stowaway Perce Blackborow : Celyn Jones
Geologist James Wordie : Jamie Lee
Fireman Ernest Holness : Ian Mercer
Rosalind Chetwynd : Embeth Davidtz
Eleanor : Eve Best
Frank Shackleton : Mark Tandy
Perris : Danny Webb
Captain Thoralf : Rolf Arly Lund
Jacobsen : Sven Nordin
Sorlle : Bjorn Floberg


 

ULSTER ROLE FOR BRANAGH

Kenneth Branagh has been appointed honorary president of the Northern Ireland Film Commission, the Belfast Telegraph reports. Ulster's best known film actor and director said that he was delighted to have taken on the role : "I relish the opportunity to make a contribution to the development of the film and television industry in Northern Ireland and to help promote Northern Ireland on the international stage," he said. Colin Anderson, chairman of the NIFC, said that Branagh "has a special place in the hearts of Northern Ireland people, who still talk about his earlier screen role in BBC Northern Ireland's The Billy Plays (1982) by Graham Reid."

Branagh, who recently appeared at London's Royal National Theatre, appeared to acclaim onstage in Shakespeare's Richard III at the Crucible, Sheffield during March and April 2002, and is to play Professor Gilderoy Lockhart in the second Harry Potter movie Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, released in November 2002.

Branagh's recent UK television appearance, as SS General Reinhard Heydrich in the BBC television drama Conspiracy, which coincided with his appearance on Channel 4 as Shackleton, and for which he won an Emmy Award, likewise earned him wide praise. A new recording of King Lear was issued on 21 January 2002 (Paul Scofield's 80th birthday). The recording, made 40 Years after Schofield's original stage triumph in the title tole, features Alec McCowen as Gloucester and Kenneth Branagh as the Fool.

 

TRIUMPHANT SUCCESS OF IMAX SHACKLETON FILM

The IMAX Film Shackleton's Antarctic Adventure, produced by White Mountain Films in conjunction with NOVA/WGBH (Boston) produced by WGBH/Nova (Boston), sponsored by the polar cruise experts Quark Expeditions and narrated by Kevin Spacey, mixes original Hurley footage with modern day re-enactments of the party's escape to Elephant Island and crossing of South Georgia to convey the drama of Shackleton's survival against all the odds.

The film opened in the presence of Her Royal Highness the Princess Royal on 18 October in London, at the British Film Institute's London IMAX Cinema, opposite Waterloo Station.

The IMAX cinema was packed and the showing was introduced by the Hon. Alexandra Shackleton, the explorer's granddaughter and President of the James Caird Society, by the film's Executive Producer, Susanne Simpson, and by Dr. John Heap, former Chairman of the Scott-Polar Research Institute and presently Chairman of the U.K. Antarctic Heritage Trust.

Shackleton's Antarctic Adventure, which has grossed over $4m in America since its release on 9 February 2001, has recently been seen at several IMAX cinemas throughout the US. These include the Mugar Omni Theater at the Museum of Science, Boston (New England premiere, sponsored by Mercury Computer Systems, Inc.), the Metro IMAX cinema, Detroit, the Humphrey IMAX Dome Theatre, Milwaukee and the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, Denver, Colorado. A massive success in America and the UK, where it has also been seen at the National Museum of Photography, Film and Television in Bradford, and at the IMAX Theatre At-Bristol, Anchor Road, Harbourside, Bristol, it is now being distributed to IMAX cinemas throughout the world.

Shackleton's dramatic bid to rescue his men marooned on Elephant Island. From the IMAX feature film Shackleton's Antarctic Adventure. Photos courtesy of WGBH/Nova

Stephen Venables' striking account of the mountain crossing can be read in the catalogue of the Dulwich Exhibition Shackleton, the Antarctic and Endurance.

Shackleton's Antarctic Adventure has also been seen in Germany (under the title Gefangen im Eis : Die Shackleton-Expedizion) at the Forum der Technik, Museuminsel 1, D-80538 München, Tel. +49 (0)89 211250, Fax +49 (0)89 21125120, email fdtseka@fdt.de


 

GSTA AWARD FOR IMAX FILM

On 22 September at its 2001 conference held at the Navy Pier Grand Ballroom in St.Paul, Minnesota, the Giant Screen Theater Association proudly announced the winners of the Film and MAC (Marketing Achievement and Creativity) Awards 2001.

This year's awards for Best Film and Best Cinematography went to the IMAX film Shackleton's Antarctic Adventure (a co-production of White Mountain Films and NOVA/WGBH Boston).

GSTA headquarters is located in St. Paul, MN, USA. For more information on GSTA or the GSTA Achievement Awards, contact Mary Ann Henker, Executive Director, +1 (651) 292-9884.

 

BRANAGH'S SHACKLETON ROMANCE

The acclaimed UK Channel Four Television drama Shackleton, written and directed by Charles Sturridge, which cost an estimated £27m, is reputed to be the most expensive film ever made for Channel Four.

Branagh spent six weeks in the Antarctic to familiarise himself with conditions there in advance of filming. In a recent interview he admits to a fascination with the Antarctic explorers ever since he first saw John Mills playing Scott in the film Scott of the Antarctic. He also added to his already encyclopaedic knowledge of Shackleton by reading unpublished accounts of the Endurance expedition by members of the crew.

The Irish press reports that 'Belfast-born actor Kenneth Branagh has found love again while playing the role of Shackleton. The lady in question is art director Lindsey Brunnock. The pair met on the set of the $40m production of Channel 4's drama Shackleton. Lindsey is the actor's first love since his split with Helena Bonham Carter in September 1999 after five years together. Before that Branagh was married to the actress Emma Thompson.'

 

SHACKLETON IN HOLLYWOOD

A planned new film about Shackleton, to be directed by the Hollywood-based German director Wolfgang Peterson, is either delayed or shelved.

Prior to the emergence of the Channel 4's Shackleton, the rumours were rife that Peterson, already in possession of dramatic heavy seas footage from The Perfect Storm, was all but ready to embark on thje project. At that time, available information on Peterson's projected film Endurance (Radiant / Columbia / Sony Pictures Entertainment) was that it would run for around 90 minutes and would have a screenplay by Jeff Maguire, Ronald Bass and Steve Zaillian (who scripted Schindler's List).

Names mentioned to star, at various times, have included Mel Gibson, George Clooney, Russell Crowe, Jeremy Northam and Clive Owen, but one website reports (July 2001) that Crowe was the candidate most favoured by Peterson, and has edged ahead of rival contenders.

However the speculation was premature : Peterson, already acclaimed also for In The Line of Fire, Airforce One, Outbreak (with Dustin Hoffman) and Das Boot, the terrifying serialised story of the tribulations of a German World War II Submarine, as well as The Perfect Storm, is currently preoccupied with a new project, a film based on Homer's Trojan story The Iliad.


 

A GREAT AMERICAN AT THE SOUTH POLE

With Byrd to the South Pole, an 82 minute feature film by Joseph Rucker and Willem van der Veer, was named one of the 10 best films of 1930 by the New York Times and won an Academy Award for Best Cinematography.

Some 70 years later, this acclaimed documentary is being rediscovered by new audiences thanks to a stunning DVD transfer. The film follows Rear-Admiral Richard Byrd and his team at the Little America base in Antarctica from 1928-30, and includes footage of his spectacular first flight over the South Pole. Described as part publicity stunt and part scientific milestone, Byrd's achievements are generally taken to mark the end of the heroic period of Polar expeditions.

Byrd spent an Antarctic winter alone in an underground hut, and nearly died of Carbon Monoxide poisoning. He retailed the story in Alone (l938), which according to a recent review 'can get a little scientific at times, but is well worth reading.' Both Alone and To the South Pole, Byrd's diary and notebook of 1925-7, are available from Amazon.com.


 

ESCAPE FROM ANTARCTICA

Escape from Antarctica - On the Trail of Shackleton, a one hour film documentary commissioned by TG4, Ireland, was a finalist in the history documentary section at the "Worldfest" Television Festival, Arizona and the Celtic Film Festival. It records the story of Shackleton's escape from Antarctica in 1916 seen through the eyes of five Irish adventurers who set out to recreate the voyage of the James Caird and also Shackleton's famous traverse of South Georgia. The story is told using Frank Hurley's original archive footage combined with modern footage.

 

POLAR MANIA

We're in the grip of polar mania. And a new film about Shackleton's 1915 expedition is as close as you'll get to being there, says Roderic Dunnett

The Independent, 29 October 2001


It hits you in the solar plexus. First, a deafening scrunch, then the blinding flash of a photographer's flare. Suddenly Britain's biggest cinema screen is flooded with the image of Ernest Shackleton's doomed ship, Endurance, crippled and frozen, berthed on its bed of polar ice, dazzlingly lit up and filmed in 1915 by the expedition's Australian photographer, Frank Hurley.

Seconds later you are airborne, winging towards a Technicolor modern Antarctica. Its vastness assails you : a bird's-eye view, like some polar Out of Africa. The effect is as startling as it is exhilarating.

Shackleton's Antarctic Adventure, which has just opened at the British Film Institute's London IMAX Cinema, is the first in a spate of new films about the polar explorer. Next January, Channel 4 plans to screen its two-part extravaganza Shackleton, starring Kenneth Branagh in the title role, Robert Hardy as Sir James Caird (after whom Shackleton's 23-foot escape vessel, the James Caird, was named), with Kevin McNally, Mark McGann, and Phoebe Nicolls as Emily Shackleton, the explorer's long-suffering wife. Charles Sturridge (of Longitude fame) will direct.

Two short movies about Shackleton are currently touring the United States, along with a larger-than-life Endurance exhibition. Meanwhile, Hollywood is agog to see when Wolfgang Petersen (who directed The Perfect Storm, Das Boot and In the Line of Fire) will size up to the challenge of Endurance, his projected Radiant/Columbia/Sony Pictures feature film, scripted by, among others, Steve Zaillian (who was Steven Spielberg's scriptwriter on Schindler's List).

With Shackleton's Antarctic Adventure, WGBH/Nova and IMAX have done the explorer proud. It is painstakingly accurate (one of the film's advisers was Shackleton's biographer Caroline Alexander), and what it lacks as scripted drama it makes up for in visual delights: Reed Smoot's photography, like Hurley's, is a feast.

Five thousand men volunteered for Shackleton's Endurance expedition. This film gives a sense of what those who didn't make it missed. Some of its most effective moments come from the juxtaposition of Frank Hurley's black and white/sepia original (meticulously restored over four years at the BFI's J.P.Getty Conservation Centre, and now available on VHS) with new colour wide-angle shots, filmed on location off South Georgia and Elephant Island. Huge floes seem to explode around you as the Endurance scythes through the ice, only (in January 1915) to become stuck fast. Nine months later, cruelly crushed, they abandoned ship. It was 27 October 1915. Endurance lasted four more weeks, then sank. Perhaps not for ever: plans are afoot to locate and recover her.

Shackleton was Anglo-Irish (cue Irish fiddle music: Sam Cardon's sentimental score feels more cliché-ridden than enlightening). But the constant hubbub of voices, barking of dogs and ice chunterings, abetted by Kevin Spacey's well-spoken narration (Michael Gambon speaks the words of Shackleton), constantly bring Hurley's professional footage alive. The mock-ups of their desultory bases at Ocean Camp (after a Hurley photo) and Patience Camp (from a Marston picture) are particularly effective. Unexpected faces keep peering out as if you'd bumped into them yesterday: "Chips" McNish, the carpenter who made the James Caird seaworthy and built (from the other two lifeboats) their stifling Elephant Island hut, nicknamed "The Ritz", and John Vincent (the expedition's two "bad" boys, whom Shackleton took on the perilous crossing but denied a polar medal for their truculence); or "Perce" Blackborow, the young stowaway, who should never have been there, and whom Shackleton famously promised to eat first of all in an emergency.

The film is never better than when the chips are down: the zany football games over, the frozen tents finally struck, three boats and 28 men, rowing for their lives for six days in the fraught, perilous escape to Elephant Island, splendidly reconstructed with the help of George Marston's paintings (Marston being one of the original crew).

This was the first crux; the other was the boat journey, when Shackleton and five others aboard the James Caird, after three weeks of impossible odds (a hurricane, a tidal wave, icing over and umpteen near-capsizes) finally made land on South Georgia. Sadly, apart from some strong under-deck footage, this rescue dash proves one of the film's weaker links: for the plucky James Caird's journey, best await the Channel 4 and Petersen efforts. The landing at Peggotty Bluff and Cave Cove seemed well enough suggested; the immediately preceding crisis was far too tame: a force-11 gale needs Perfect Storm-type effects.

There is disappointment, too, at the treacherous mountain crossing of South Georgia. Nova/WGBH, the film's makers, boldly secured three of the world's most brilliant climbers (the Briton Stephen Venables, the American Conrad Anker, who recovered George Mallory's body on Everest, and the German Reinhold Messner - the first to cross Antarctica on foot and to conquer Everest solo and without oxygen), but then restricted them to scarcely a minute of footage; much superb material (145 rolls of film were shot) was edited out. Even that (and the story of T S Eliot's famous "fourth man") is tacked on to some plodding costume shots, like limp period drama. One feels that the cameras, like Shackleton, were in a tearing hurry to get back to civilisation.

But the big-screen (20m high and 26m wide) experience is stunning. Imax's 11,600-watt digital surround-sound system and looming visuals make you feel as if you are there, sharing in the crew's horrors, washed by icy spray and finally waving in open-mouthed disbelief as Shackleton returns, as though from the dead, aboard a Chilean vessel to rescue his 22 marooned men.

Shackleton mania (as the Wall Street Journal dubbed it) seems here to stay. So is the polar fad: there is even an Antarctic musical (staged in Australia) - not to mention the new play based on Scott's Northern party by the Canadian David Young, currently running at London's Savoy Theatre. New biographies and editions are emerging every day. A spanking new Shackleton Library is now a major resource at the Scott-Polar Research Institute in Cambridge.

I should declare an interest: my father, a boy at Dulwich when the James Caird was given to the school in 1924, wrote the story of the boat and founded the James Caird Society (the international Shackleton society, with 670 members). Thanks to him, and to Dulwich, I got to know Hurley's extraordinary photographs (now available on Shane Murphy's CD-ROM Shackleton's Photographer), first heard the explorer's voice on tape, glimpsed the crew's letters and diaries (which are being edited and published), beheld Shackleton's sledge harness and Worsley's sextant and, above all, the boat. I count myself lucky.

Shackleton's Antarctic Adventure can be seen at the BFI London IMAX Cinema, London SE1 (020-7902 1234). The James Caird can be viewed at Dulwich College (020-8693 3601).

 

CHRISTIE'S TRAVEL AND POLAR SALE IN SEPTEMBER 2006

The Annual Travel and Exploration Sale took place at Christie's, South Kensington on Wednesday 21 September 2006.

As usual, there were many items of particular interest to Shackletonians.
These included a dinner menu signed by Scott, Wilson, Nansen and others to mark the departure of Shackleton's 1907-9 Nimrod Expedition (Valued at £1,400-1,600); the Visitors' Book used aboard SY Nimrod, including signatures of prominent members of the expedition (valued at £10-15,000); a superb watercolour painting by Gregory Robinson of the Nimrod under tow; and an oil painting by George Marston of a sledging camp in a blizzard.

Other items included Shackleton's well-preserved marching navigational compass, with fitted case and brass mount, inscribed 'Carried by Sir Ernest Shackleton on his Antarctic Expedition 1909'; a copy of the limited edition of 'The Heart of Antarctic'; various photographs depicting sledges and the Arrol-Johnston motor car taken on the expedition; and an original copy of Aurora Australis, the expedition magazine produced in 1908.

Various ephemera relating to the 1907-9 Nimrod expedition included a fine photo portrait of Shackleton in cameo mount; an eight-page pamphlet entitled 'Souvenir of the lecture: 'Nearest to the South Pole' by Sir Ernest Shackleton (1909); and two sheets signed by Shackleton and the 15 other members of the shore party.

Three of Sir Ernest Shackleton's medals were sold: the Royal Victorian Order, the Polar Medal and the Legion d'Honneur. There was also a 1911 edition of the South POlar Times (vol. III, part 1); and several substantial collections of Frank Hurley's photographs and slides.

A portrait photograph of Shackleton presented in advance of the Endurance expedition carried a dedication saying 'To Frank Houlder with Ernest Shackleton's kindest regards, August 1914'.

Of two copies of South dated 1920, one was a presentation copy inscribed by Shackleton to Charles Green, Endurance's cook. The inscription reads 'C.J.Green from Ernest Shackleton in remembrance of all sorts of cooking places but always well cooked food. 1920.' and bears the signatures of several other crew members. There was also a collection of photographs and memorabilia amassed by Green.

Of especial interest was a letter from 'Skipper' Frank Worsley to the firm of Petersen's, Ltd., of Christchurch, New Zealand, thanking them fo their attentiveness in repairing the chronomoter used by Worsley in navigating Shackleton's expedition of 1914-6 aboard Endurance. It was Worsley, of course, who navigated the James Caird on its 800-mile journey from Elephant Island to South Georgia.

There was a memoir of the other half of the 1914 expedition: the Ross Sea Party, based at Scott's old hut. This was the diary of Rev.Arnold P.Spencer-Smith, who was the first ordained clergyman to set foot on the Antarctic continent. He was the photographer of the party, and was involved in laying out supply bases to thr Beardmore glacier before he and others succumbed to bad scurvy in appalling conditions.

Another attractive item was an oak-mounted 8-inch diameter silver swallow with the (poignant) inscription 'Quest RYS 25th Sept 1921-5th Jan 1922', which formerly belonged to Sir Ernest Shackleton.

Two flags were put on sale: a White Ensign from the Quest, which belonged to Lt.Cdr. Douglas Jeffery. He had volunteered for the Endurance expedition, but then withdrawn upon the outrbreak of war. After serving with distinction he leapt at the chance in 1921 to sail with Shackleton again and was signed up as navigating officer aboard Quest; and the Union Jack presented to the Quest expedition himself by King George V and later passed by His Majesty to John Quiller Rowett, the main sponsor of the expedition.








 

 

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