The Making of Whisky Galore

A press article released by Ealing Studio around the premiere of the film (1949):

Every inch of WHISKY GALORE was made ON LOCATION!

WHISKY GALORE! is a unique film in many ways - uniquely amusing, uniquely beautiful and unique in the way in which it was made.

It was decided to shoot the entire film - interior as well as exterior - on location; and the location was the remote and primitive Hebridean island of Barra.

As a first step the biggest ever unit had to leave London for this location. They poured on to the slab of rock 8miles long and 4miles wide, complete with equipment, props and materials for converting one of the village halls into a temporary studio and then practically took over the whole island.

So Barra became a vast open air film studio; its social and private life was turned completely upside down, its homes were opened to receive the film-makers, its inhabitants appeared in the film as extras.

There was plenty of hospitality and friendliness and good food, but they live a hard life up on Barra, and the city spoilt Londoners had to accustom themselves to hard iron bedsteads and straw mattresses, outdoor sanitation and no running water.

The 2000 inhabitants of the island were all affected, one way or the other. They saw their village hall at Craigstone take on a complete new look. Workmen arrived with great piles of slag wool and felting to make the hall sound proof. They changed all the exits to make the doors open outwards. They blocked up all ten windows. They put in extractor fans for ventilation. And the hall became the worlds smallest film studio, only 50 feet long and 25 feet wide.

The islanders were most interested in the author of the novel "Whisky Galore" Compton Mackenzie was one of themselves, and he had come home again. He had a house, which he had built himself, on Barra, until the end of the war. It overlooked the unique, mile long stretch of beach known as cockle strand, which is used as a landing ground for the planes coming over from Glasgow - surely one of the most romantic runways in Britain.

Mackenzie was enthusiastic about the filming of his book. He has had novels screened before, but he took a personal interest in this one, helped with the script and persuaded producer Michael Balcon to let him play one of the roles.

The presence of the film unit on the islands provided several acute problems, however, one of which was the drain on the islands water supply. Another was the over taxing of the local transport. But far the most worrying was the addition of 70 people on an island which was already short of cigarettes and liquor.

Whisky Galore has a cynical ring about it.

(extracted from www.filmhebrides.com/ stories/making/)