70 years of The Titfield Thunderbolt

70 years of The Titfield Thunderbolt classic Ealing comedy

Happy Birthday to “The Titfield Thunderbolt” which turns 70 today!


Today marks 70 years to the day since the classic 1953 Ealing comedyThe Titfield Thunderbolt” premiered in London.
On this day in 1953, “The Titfield Thunderbolt” had its Gala Premiere at London’s Leicester Square Theatre as part of the British Film Academy’s award ceremony, before going on general release from the 6th of March 1953.
Titfield Thunderbolt poster stylish pop art print by Art & Hue
A classic Ealing comedy, much-loved by film fans and train enthusiasts alike, “The Titfield Thunderbolt” was the first Ealing Comedy to be made in colour, Technicolor in fact, and the fourth to be directed by Charles Crichton.

Pre-empting the savage cuts to the railways made by Beeching’s axe in the 1960s, “The Titfield Thunderbolt” sees a group of villagers attempting to keep their branch line running after it’s earmarked for closure.

Inspired by the Talyllyn Railway, which was restored and preserved as a heritage railway, the charming film features a regular Ealing trope of the underdog, in this case the villagers, battling a larger bureaucratic enemy, represented by the freshly-nationalised British Railways.

A picturesque snapshot of rural England in the 1950s, the film stars Stanley Holloway, John Gregson, George Relph, Naunton Wayne, Jack MacGowran, Hugh Griffith, Sam Kydd & Sid James.

Filmed in the Bath area, in Monkton Combe, Freshford, Limpley Stoke & Camerton, the station at Bristol Temple Meads was used as the fictional Mallingford.

Renowned artist Edward Bawden created the film’s poster & pressbook with original illustrations & lettering which Art & Hue has remixed into a new pop art print.

One of the official artists serving with the British Army, Bawden’s style was in demand by companies before and after the Second World War.

Titfield Thunderbolt Group of 4 stylish pop art prints

A contemporary of Eric Ravilious, and a notable figure within the community of Great Bardfield Artists, Bawden’s art caught the eye of many businesses who commissioned him to create unique artwork, including Fortnum & Mason, the London Underground, Imperial Airways (which became part of BOAC), Westminster Bank, Penguin Books, Twinings Tea, Poole Potteries, and, of course, Ealing Studios.

Ealing engaged Bawden to create the poster for the 1947 Ealing comedy “Hue & Cry” starring Alastair Sim, and again for the classic train film “The Titfield Thunderbolt” released in 1953.

Bawden also created eleven murals for the First Class lounge onboard the P&O cruise ship Oronsay, exterior footage of which was used in the nautical Carry On film “Carry On Cruising“.

The Ealing Comedies employed a regular cast similar to repertory theatre with actors being used across several films. For example, Alec Guinness, Joan Greenwood, Barbara Murray, Gordon Jackson, Peggy Cummins, Meredith Edwards, and Basil Radford, all appeared in more than one of the films.

“The Titfield Thunderbolt” cast includes Stanley Holloway who also appeared in Ealing comedies “The Lavender Hill Mob“, “Meet Mr. Lucifer” and “Another Shore“; John Gregson who was also in “Whisky Galore!” and “The Lavender Hill Mob“; George Relph and Campbell Singer, both also in “Davy” with Harry Secombe; Naunton Wayne also in “Passport to Pimlico“; Gabrielle Brune also in “A Run for your Money” and “Touch & Go” with Jack Hawkins; Michael Trubshawe also in “The Lavender Hill Mob“; Ewan Roberts and John Rudling, both also in “The Ladykillers” and “The Man in the White Suit“; Hugh Griffith also in “Kind Hearts & Coronets” and “A Run for your Money“; Frank Atkinson also in “The Man in the White Suit“; Sid James also in “The Lavender Hill Mob“; and Sam Kydd who was also in “Barnacle Bill“, “The Magnet” and “Passport to Pimlico“.

Behind the scenes also, a regular team of writers, directors, and producers were utilised by the legendary Ealing boss Michael Balcon to create the memorable and enduring films, including writers T.E.B. (“Tibby”) Clarke & William Rose; and directors Charles Crichton, Basil Dearden, Charles Frend, Robert Hamer, & Alexander Mackendrick.

As well as directing “The Titfield Thunderbolt”, Charles Crichton directed the Ealing comedies “Hue & Cry“, “Another Shore“, “The Lavender Hill Mob“, and “The Love Lottery“.

The film’s writer T.E.B. Clarke also penned “Passport to Pimlico“, “Barnacle Bill“, “The Magnet” with James Fox, Meredith Edwards & Gladys Henson, “The Lavender Hill Mob“, “Who Done It?” with Benny Hill, and “Barnacle Bill“.

Cinematographer Douglas Slocombe was also the director of photography on Ealing comedies “Hue & Cry“, “Another Shore“, “Kind Hearts & Coronets“, “A Run for your Money“, “The Lavender Hill Mob“, “The Man in the White Suit“, “His Excellency”, “The Love Lottery“, “Touch & Go”, and “Barnacle Bill“.

Future director Seth Holt worked in the editing department on “The Titfield Thunderbolt” as well as “The Lavender Hill Mob“, “His Excellency”, “The Love Lottery“, “Hue & Cry“, “A Run for your Money“, and “Kind Hearts & Coronets“.

The unique sound of the Ealing comedies was created by French composer Georges Auric who scored “The Titfield Thunderbolt” as well as “Hue & Cry“, “Passport to Pimlico“, “The Lavender Hill Mob“, and “Another Shore“.

70 years of The Titfield Thunderbolt

Art & Hue had the pleasure to delve into the archives of the Ealing Comedies to create a collection of stylish pop art prints related to the films, all available in three sizes and many colour options.

To mark 70 years of The Titfield Thunderbolt, the Trains pop art collection features the classic Ealing comedy as well as other railway-related films.

As Stanley Holloway’s character Walter Valentine was keen to invest in the train, particularly the buffet car, charge your glasses with a whisky & soda, gin & tonic, or perhaps a beer drawn from the buffet’s firkin, and raise a toast to “The Titfield Thunderbolt” and the 70th anniversary!

Happy 70th to “The Titfield Thunderbolt”!


Discover the full Ealing Comedies collection here, and the Trains on Film collection here, and, if this blog post has given you the urge to rewatch the classic film, or discover it anew, you can order “The Titfield Thunderbolt” from Amazon on DVD or Bluray or watch on iTunes now.


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