Shooting a Picture Under the Bombs (1942)

When they were filming 49th Parallel Leslie Howard went to his home a few hundred yards away from the studio for a few hours sleep. This is what happened then, described by Leslie Howard in a letter:

“I was awakened by the sound of an aeroplane. I jumped to the window and saw what I took to be a British bomber flying right over the studios.
“I was about to return to bed when, to my amazement, I heard a big caliber bomb descending. I was just in time to see it explode over the roof of the studio and scatter hundreds of small balls of fire.
“I slipped on a pair of trousers and coat and rushed over. The fire fighters and the studio Air Raid Precautions men were already at work extinguishing the incendiaries. Even in the few minutes it had taken me to get to the studio, the incendiaries had got hold of the administrative block (including my dressing room and the whole wardrobe for The Invaders) and this was blazing furiously… It spread quickly. The chief fireman decided to send to a nearby village for help…
“Another German plane came roaring down. He had evidently dropped his bombs on London proper for he began machine-gun the studio. He peppered the place for five or ten minutes. All the fire fighters bundled into the first aid room, and then a third Jerry put in an appearance.
“He commenced to dive and in a second we heard the shriek of a descending bomb, then another, then a fourth. The fire-fighters fell flat, but the stick missed us.
“Jerry turned and we could hear him roaring back. This time he unloaded five, and then the fifth landed right on top of the studio.
“Everyone fell flat and waited for the explosion. It never came. After what seemed like an eternity, somebody sat up and exclaimed, ‘Well, we’re all right, fellows. That was a delayed action.’
“It was, in fact, a time bomb, but nobody felt like going to deal with it. Another cyclist went off to ring up the army, and the fire brigade returned to wrestle with the blaze.
“They got it under control a couple of hours after dawn had broken. The bomb dispersal men arrived and, dismantling the bomb, carried it away in a lorry.
“Fortunately, the next day was a Sunday. There was no shooting on the picture. All through the night the one idea uppermost in everybody’s mind was that the studio would be unfit for any work for several weeks.
“But the remarkable thing is that we got everything repaired to resume the work at 10 o’clock on Monday, only two hours lost on our schedule because of the bombs.”

49th Parallel

A dramatic scene in 49th Parallel

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