Friday, October 30, 2020

TV/Movie Set: Bedknobs and Broomsticks ( 1971 )

It has been a long, long time since we have featured a TV/Movie set article, so to bring the series back to life, my sister and I selected a house design that we have loved for years - the Bedknobs and Broomsticks manor. It's so fitting for this time of year, too. 

This beautiful English Tudor belonged to Eglantine Price ( Angela Lansbury ), the heroine of Bedknobs and Broomsticks, a bewitching 1971 musical from Walt Disney Studios. The film tells the story of a would-be witch who attempts to learn the secret of the missing spell of "Substituiary Locomotion" in order to help England defeat the Nazis during World War II. 

Miss Price's secluded house overlooked the chalky white cliffs of Dover. It was an ideal place for her to practice witchcraft without the citizens of Pepperinge Eye knowing what she was doing. She was disappointed to get saddled with three orphaned evacuee children from London, but once they learned that she was an apprentice witch, they come to her aid and help her to locate the missing spell.

Here is a quick sketch of the layout of the interior of the house. Since only one side of the living room was shown, I left that part of the sketch undone. 

Let's take a look at the house more closely with some screenshots......

EXTERIOR

John B. Mansbridge, a fabulous art director who was in charge of many of Walt Disney's productions throughout the 1960s and 1970s, was the art director of this film and he did a beautiful job of recreating a World War II-era English manor. Peter Ellenshaw is also credited as art director for the production, but since he was a matte artist, most of his work was probably painting the exterior shots of the house ( see the two screenshots above ). 

Like many old manor homes, Mansbridge designed the house to look like it had a number of additions added to it over the years. The "original" house did not have a kitchen, so as you can see in the sketch, it is one of the additions and located off the living room instead. 


When Miss Price first arrives home with the children in tow, we see a glimpse of a stone wall behind her. Later in the film, this would be the wall that the Nazis attempt to climb when they attack her house. 

Miss Price's house is very strongly built. The local clergyman ( Roddy McDowall ) knows this, too, and when he comes to deliver a telegram for Miss Price he tests out her porch by jumping up and down on it! He wants to have her house as his own, although the reason why is never expanded upon in the script. 

LIVING ROOM

Our first view of the interior is the living room. Isn't it charming? Miss Price's house is filled with numerous chairs, bric-a-brac, and lots of pictures hanging on the walls. The old beams add character to the place and it makes one think of the interior of an old inn. 


In this scene, Miss Price is heading towards a closet to stow away her new broomstick and below we see the stairs leading up to the room which she will give to the children to use. 

You can see the dining room behind Miss Price in this screenshot:

When the Nazis take over her house ( because of its prime location overlooking the Channel ), they make the living room their "headquarters". That's John Ericson as the handsome young Nazi captain. 


Emile Kuri and Hal Gausman were responsible for the set decoration and they did such a wonderful job. Both Kuri and Guasman had worked as set decorators on other Disney productions such as The Parent Trap ( 1961 ), Mary Poppins ( 1964 ), That Darn Cat ( 1965 ), The Secret of the Pirates Inn ( 1967 ), and Blackbeard's Ghost ( 1968 ). 


As Miss Price leads the children up the staircase we see lots of prints of hunt scenes and animals on the wall and, in the children's room, there is a picture of a military officer and battle scenes which gives us a hint into the character of Miss Price's father ( it was once his house ). 

CHILDREN'S ROOM


The fact that Miss Price left his room unchanged and told the children to "be very careful of everything in it" tells us a little bit about her character. 

Carrie is given the devon to sleep on and the boys will share the brass bed. Later, this becomes a traveling bed when the famous "traveling spell" is applied to one of the brass bedknobs. 

It's a plain room, but it gets plenty of light from the window. It could do with some new wallpaper, however. 

"Now how's a ruddy big bed like that going to get out of this room with those little windows?" asks Charlie. He's at the "age of not believing" and doubts magic altogether. But as you can see, the bed does indeed whisk itself away!

DINING ROOM

We don't get to see much of the dining room in the film. It's small but cozy. Miss Price serves the children cabbage buds, rose seeds, and other vegetarian goodies. The kids naturally like Mr. Brown's cooking better - he makes sausages and mash!

KITCHEN



Speaking of Mr. Brown, here he is. This floundering magician helps Miss Price in her hour of need and the more time they spend together the fonder she grows of him. He was portrayed by that wonderful English actor David Tomlinson ( Three Men in a Boat, Mary Poppins ). 

The kitchen is very bright and cheerful and has a beautiful hearth stove in one corner. Miss Price also keeps the pantry well stocked with garlic ( does she believe in vampires, too? )

THE WORKSHOP


Just off the kitchen is a storage room which we only get a glimpse of when the door to the workshop is open. This is the entry way leading to Miss Price's "witching room". She practices all of the latest spells from Mr. Brown's Correspondance College of Witchcraft here. 

She was especially excited when she got to fly her first broom. Cosmic Creepers, her cat, watched as she came tumbling down from the sky after her first attempt. It takes some practice to work a broom properly. 
Miss Price didn't have too much luck the first time she tried the Substituary Locomotion spell either and the household wardrobe began to take on a life of its own. 


At the end of the film we see this view from the front of the manor. I wonder if Miss Price knew what a prime piece of property she owned! Perhaps she did, and that was why she wanted to defend her corner of England...even via witchcraft. 

3 comments:

  1. That was a lot of fun and very informative.

    For years, we used to switch the TV on to see the end of this film whenever it was playing, because the finale was so amazing. I guess people will never be astounded by special effects in that way again.

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  2. Ebert was dead wrong on this one. I, and many other people, remember this film fondly from our childhood.

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  3. Sometimes, when all else is gone the memory of the setting remains. Thanks for this most enjoyable morning read.

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