Fort Augustus

Vincent Minnelli, USA, 1954, 108 mins, Cert U

Screening at: Strontian, Sun 2nd August 6:30pm   |   Nairn, Fri 7th August 5pm

Still from the movieThe producer of this MGM musical famously came to Scotland but it bucketed down, and he decided not to film here. So the movie was shot in a studio and what we get is a fantasy Scotland reflected in Hollywood’s mind’s eye, colourful and glittering like a Christmas tree bauble.

Gene Kelly plays an American tired of city life who comes to Scotland with his pal (Van Johnson). They happen upon a mysterious village that seems lost in the mists of time. A beautiful hielan’ lass, played by Cyd Charisse in a fabulous Iren Sharaff frock, lives in the village. (Moira Shearer was offered the part, but Sadlers Wells wouldn’t release her.) Gene is smitten, but there’s the little matter of the girl back home…

Acres of tartan and flocks of sheep are strewn across the cinemascope screen – the DP was Joseph Ruttenberg, who shot The Philadelphia Story and who tried to light the film’s interiors like a Flemish painting. It’s hard not to laugh at the accents and daftness, but director Vincent Minnelli had the whole of Brigadoon constructed on a single vast set, so some of his shots are sinuous and beautiful, and choreographer Gene Kelly turns the song The Heather on the Hill into an ecstatic and moving dance between him and Charisse. Plus a real Scot, George Gibson, born on Spittal St in Edinburgh, painted the sets. Charisse’s character was born in 1732, which makes her the Culloden generation; the whole idea of protecting the village from modern life by putting it to sleep for 100 years is a Calvanist fantasy!

If ever there was a countryside natural to the random appearance of supernatural, legendary happenings – from the splash of water beasts to the twinkle of a kilt with lurex thread, it would have to be our beloved Scottish Highlands. We feel sure, as you are here with us this magical summer, you will agree..

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